Faith, like love, is a relationship

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 02 October 2022
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4 ><}}}}'> 1 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 ><}}}}'> Luke 17:5-10
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Celebration in our former parish assignment, November 2020.

Our gospel this Sunday may be short and brief but so power-packed that can put us into a knock out. In fact, the scene is very disarming that can throw off all our previously held beliefs to give us fresher perspectives on discipleship and faith.

Recall how these past consecutive Sundays that Jesus taught us the importance of God and persons above material wealth like money and possessions. Notice how these lessons were directed by Jesus to the Pharisees and scribes who were known as so obsessed with money. Hardly did we hear any reactions from the Twelve – nor from most of us – until now when they asked Jesus to “increase our faith” (Lk.17:5).

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:5-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

When we talk of faith, 
it does not really matter how long 
we have known each other, 
or how much we have given and received, 
or how much we have shared.  
Faith is being one, being together, 
of going the extra mile 
because we believe, we trust, we love. 

What elicited a reaction from the apostles? Or from us? Let’s admit the fact that many of us have felt the parables last two Sundays were not directly meant for us considering our professed “poverty” and “simplicity” in life. But, when Jesus spoke of the need to forgive those who sin against us every time they come saying sorry, the apostles realized that needed a lot of faith.

And rightly so.

When it comes to hurting our pride and ego, something deeper is at play, something so close to our person is involved than when we lose a material thing. Like the apostles, we have felt how much faith in God is demanded from us to forgive especially those who repeatedly offend us, that on our own we cannot do it.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.

Hence, their request (that is also ours) to “increase our faith” because forgiving requires a lot of faith, a lot of love; however, faith is like love that cannot be quantified nor measured because like love, faith is also a relationship.

Our relationship with God and with one another is seen always in the kind of intensity we have for each other. My generation used to call it as “vibes” or vibrations, of how we are one with the other person, of how we are in communion or aligned and attuned with the other person. When we talk of faith, it does not really matter how long we have known each other, or how much we have given and received, or how much we have shared. Faith is being one, being together, of going the extra mile because we believe, we trust, we love.

This is the reason that Jesus followed up his answer to the Twelve’s request with a parable of the unworthy servants who came home after working from the field and still waited on their master at dinner; then, after fulfilling their tasks, they simply told their master “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do” (Lk. 17:10). There was no real relationship between the master and slaves except their job or task and responsibility. If it were a faith relationship, the servants would have done more than just waiting on their master because they would have believed in him!

When our faith is true, when our faith is burning like the reminder of St. Paul to Timothy in the second reading, it means we are focused with the object of our faith who are God and our loved ones. We need not be reminded of things to do, of our obligations; when there is faith in us, our focus is keeping the relationship alive and well that we go the extra mile in lovingly serving our loved ones which is discipleship is all about.


That is how faith as a relationship
 may be described these days:  
like an online class, an online meeting, 
even online Mass when sometimes 
you really wonder if there is somebody listening
 or paying attention at the other side of the screen
 but you just go on...

Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.

People who are deeply in love are first of all one with their loved ones that they are able to do great things because of their intense and vibrant faith that keep them united. With a burning faith inside us, we are able to love the unloveable, forgive the most despicable, achieve what others claim as impossible.

Just think of the saints like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta or the very young St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Or, the great martyrs of Auschwitz, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and St. Maximilian Kolbe. There is no way of measuring how much faith they have in Jesus Christ and humanity but we can learn from their lives the intensity of their faith and love for God and others that they did the impossible!

Very interesting was the faith too of the late Mother Angelica who founded and started EWTN that is now the largest Catholic media organization in the world. She knew nothing about broadcasting yet, all she had was faith in God and in people that she was able to overcome every obstacle to make what EWTN right now.

Think of the big corporations and enterprises around you; they all started so small in material resources but so intense in faith and conviction that they have all grown to become the leading institutions in whatever field they are into. Sometimes, believers are described as visionaries because people with deep faith see beyond what others can perceive. Remember how Jesus would remind his apostles on different occasions to “believe so that you will see” that runs opposite what the world tells us with “to see is to believe”. People who are faithful, those who believe are the ones who can truly see, not the other way around. Faithful people have vision.

Photo by author, Pangsinan, April 2022.

Prayer is the primary expression of our faith as a relationship that we just keep on doing because we believe it is good even if it is so difficult especially when nothing seems to be happening at all. We just keep on praying, believing and hoping that God is with us, very similar to our online experiences these past two years of the pandemic when many times, we wonder if there is somebody listening or paying attention at the other side of the screen! But, call it faith and relationship that we just went on with our classes and work including prayers and Masses online because we believe someone, especially God, is at the other side, even beside us!

We have not seen God but we have all experienced his love and kindness, his mercy and forgiveness that even if nothing happens like Habakkuk in the first reading, we just keep on praying (and loving) because our relationship remains intact with God who is faithfully by our side.

When our faith is alive and vibrant, we get closer to God and with others, we become more loving and caring and kind, understanding and patient and forgiving, finding ways and means to love and serve God in others.

God knows what is best for us. He has gifted us with enough faith. Let us ask him not just to increase our faith but most of all, to deepen, strengthen, and perfect our faith so that our ties and bonds as family and friends and community of disciples be stronger in Jesus Christ, both in good times and in bad. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2014.

Our forgiving God & our lost sense of sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 11 September 2022
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 ><}}}}*> 1 Timothy 1:12-17 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:1-10
Photo by author, 2018.

Last Wednesday morning during breakfast, we heard on television news the interview of the undersecretary of agriculture blaming our farmers for the recent oversupply of garlic in Batanes and cabbage in Benguet, saying “they plant crops but they don’t think about the market for their harvests.”

We have been so used to such comments by many heartless government officials ever since; and, they also happen everywhere like in our schools where teachers blame students, at homes with parents blaming children and siblings blaming one another and of course, not to be left out is our church where priests always blame people for whatever problems and mishaps that happen in the parish.

No wonder, we feel more comfortable with God depicted in the Old Testament like in our first reading today when God was so angry and instructed to immediately get down from the mountain to punish the people who have created a golden calf to worship.

We find it so difficult to fully and truly accept despite Christ’s words and assurances that God our Father finds joy in forgiving as depicted today in our gospel. So often, we are like the Pharisees and scribes who could not understand why we have to share in the joy of God when a sinner repents.

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. So to them he addressed this parable.

Luke 15:1-3
Photo by author, 2018.

Jesus reminded us these past two Sundays of the demands of discipleship, of the need for us to conform to his very person and not just with morality and even religiosity. Discipleship is being like Jesus, always having him as our top priority in life.

This progression of Christ’s teaching on discipleship reaches its peak as we move into the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel account considered as the “heart” of the Gospel in presenting to us three parables showing God full of mercy and forgiveness for sinners. Actually, it does not merely present God as forgiving but in fact as the One who finds joy in forgiving, who is inviting us to share in his joy of forgiving repentant sinners.

There are three parables in Luke chapter 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son known as prodigal son. We have opted to consider the shorter form of the gospel which skips the third parable which we have already reflected in the recent Season of Lent.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Quezon, July 2022.

The first two parables deal with things that are lost, a lamb and a coin; both deal with only one person like “one of you” and “a woman”. On surface, the two parables seem very ordinary but Jesus – and Luke – have a very captivating manner of narrating them, similarly ending each parable with great sense of rejoicing after finding the lost sheep and lost coin.

Simply put, Jesus is appealing to our common experience of how one lost item would surely claim our attention, no matter how small or even insignificant it may be compared with the rest of what we have.

How do you feel when after losing something you were so worried and disturbed searching for it then someone tells you, “para yun lang?”

We feel so mad, like being rubbed with salt on our wounds because such comment “para yun lang?” betrays their lack of concern and love for us, of not knowing at all or at least recognizing how much that missing thing means to us!

How much more with persons like family and friends who have gone wayward in life like the prodigal son and suddenly coming back to us, saying sorry, trying to pick up the broken pieces of our lives to be whole again as friends and family? Would we not also rejoice when they come home, when we finally find them again?

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

In narrating the two parables in such manner so common with us, Jesus now affirms the incomparable value of every repentant sinner. Moreover, Jesus is showing us in these parables the more deeper ties we have with each other that we must rejoice when a sinner is converted. Hence, the demand too on the part of the sinner, of everyone, to recognize our sinfulness first.

Notice how Luke began this new chapter by telling us how “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them he addressed this parable.”

Look at the attitudes of the Pharisees and scribes that are not just snobbish but recriminating against the tax collectors and sinners; for them, those kind of people were hopeless, improbable to change that no one should be socializing with them like Jesus.

But, what really got to their nerves that they were complaining why Jesus was sharing meals with them was the fact that tax collectors and sinners were not turning to the Law but to Jesus himself, following him, and even preferring him more than everything! They felt left out when in fact they were the first to separate themselves from everyone.

That’s what they could not accept, that they were no longer relevant.

And the main stumbling block to that was their lost their sense of sinfulness as they have believed so much with themselves as if they were like God, so pure and so clean. Due to their lost sense of sinfulness, they have been totally detached from God and from others as well because they were playing gods, setting them apart from everyone even from God himself because they believed they were sinless. In that sense, they felt God had nothing to do with them because they were sufficient in themselves.


There is nothing God cannot forgive.  
This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  
Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, 
it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy
 for he has long been searching 
and waiting for us to return to him.

Photo by author, 2019.

This is the problem we have in this modern time, when we have all kinds of excuses and alibis, reasons and arguments in doing just everything, losing our sense of sin that unconsciously, we feel like God, in fact always playing God when we presume to know everything that we would neither rejoice when people change for the better nor sympathize with those suffering and in misery. Like the Pharisees and scribes and those heartless people in power and authority in government and schools, at home and in the church, they have no time to even see and review why and what have caused people to sin.

In the first reading, Moses is teaching us the attitude of a true disciple, of one who intercedes for the people by confessing the tender mercy and fidelity of God to his promises and to his people; Moses did not bargain with God to relent in punishing the people. Notice his language, his manner of praying to God, appealing to him as “Lord” filled with faith in God’s boundless mercy and forgiveness. We all know how in a twist of humor, it was Moses who was so furious later when he saw the people worshipping the golden calf that he threw on them the two tablets of stone of God’s Ten Commandments.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us through Timothy of God’s boundless love expressed in his mercy and forgiveness to us all sinners. We can never experience this unless we first realize and admit and own our sinfulness like St. Paul who may be considered the worst of sinners for having persecuted the early Christians. There are so many other saints who followed after him with so dark and sinful pasts but became great men and women of faith because they first admitted their sins and sinfulness. As the saying goes, there is no saint without a sinful past and there is no sinner who is denied of a saintly future.

There is nothing God cannot forgive. This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy for he has long been searching and waiting for us to return to him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Mount Sinai at the Monastery of St. Catherine, Egypt, 2019.

The joy of meeting God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-C, 03 April 2022
Isaiah 43:16-21 ><}}}*> Philippians 3:8-14 ><}}}*> John 8:1-11
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 20 February 2022.

From the joy of coming home to the Father last Sunday in the parable of the merciful father, we now celebrate the joy of meeting God in Jesus Christ in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

We are now into the final week of Lent, getting closer to the innermost room of the Father’s house but this time with John as our guide as we skip Luke’s gospel. The shift is hardly noticeable as the story of the woman caught in adultery seamlessly jibe with Luke’s parable last Sunday. The Pharisees and scribes are again present but this time more bold in their opposition to Jesus.

From pinterest.com.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

John 8:3-6

Only John records this story of the woman caught in adultery but one can clearly recognize its similar tone and perspective with the parable last Sunday that only Luke had, the parable of the merciful father, more known as parable of the prodigal son. Both stories tell us the gospel of God’s mercy proclaimed in words and in deeds by our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what makes this story of the woman caught in adultery a stand out is its simplicity amidst the profound texts by John often identified as the beloved disciple. He was able to compact in few words and simple gestures the many realities in life we forget and take for granted.

As I prayed over this scene, one word persisted in my reflections: kindness.

Photo by author, 2018, Davao City.
The kindness of God.

The word “kind” is from kin or kindred as in family or tribe. When we say a person is kind, we mean that person treats us as one of his family, of his same kind, that he deals with us like we are not “others” or iba as we say in Filipino (hindi ka naman iba).

How sad that at the start of this pandemic in 2020, that was when all news and stories spread of how we have become so unkind with each other especially the poor, the sick and the old, children and women treated unkindly like Mang Dodong of Caloocan.

How sad that in our country, it has become a sin, an error or a failure to be poor and disadvantaged that even the poor and disadvantaged look down at each other, too! There is always that feeling among us that we are different, that we are not of the same kind that it has become so difficult to find kindness among everybody. We have forgotten we are all human, imperfect and sinful but also beloved children of God.

This is what the Sunday gospel is telling us: the woman caught in adultery is not the only sinner in this scene. John described her as “caught in adultery”, not merely an “adulteress” to show that she was in fact caught into adultery. It is a serious sin but there’s more to be caught in that act than meets the eyes. Here, there is no mention about the woman’s “lover”.

Like in our gospel last Sunday, we have the Pharisees and scribes present again, forgetting their very roles in the story itself. Recall that Jesus told the parable of the merciful father for them last Sunday to remind them that they were both the prodigal son and elder son. And that included us today, of course. Today, they are back and we wonder what were the evidence they have against that woman. Where were they while the woman was committing the sin of adultery? Were they peeping toms? Or worst, have they had some trysts with her too in the past?

Both the woman caught in adultery and her accusers, the Pharisees and the scribes stand for us all – we are sinners. We have all sinned and how dare are we to act like the Pharisees and scribes pretending to be different from others, to be so clean and pure when deep inside us are also rotten with sins that could even be worst than the people we accuse.

This is the reason why Jesus bent twice to show everyone how God had chosen to go down to us, to be like us in everything except sin so we can see again everyone as our kin, our same kind as children of the Father.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

John 8:7-9
Photo by news.ag.org, Jesus writing on the sand in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
Bending to washing of feet to dying on Cross.

In bending down twice, Jesus showed everyone – the accused and the accusers – the kindness of God, his being our kin, his being one of us even if he is Divine. To bend down is to go down, like Jesus coming down from heaven, being born as a child to show us that the path back to God is in being human which is underscored by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus Christ at the start of his Gospel which is proclaimed every December 17 and December 24 Christmas Eve.

Here in this scene we are reminded by his bending as an imagery of the mystery of Incarnation just like his coming down to Jordan River at his baptism by John.

This bending of Jesus will happen again on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of his apostles where he gave his commandment to love (hence, it is called as Maundy Thursday, from Latin mandatum for commandment). It will reach its highest point when he bent lowest on Good Friday by offering himself on the Cross for us all out of his immense love and mercy. And kindness.

That is the greatest expression of God’s love and mercy, in his kindness, in his becoming one of us in Jesus Christ who took upon himself our sins so we may be clean again and be able to rise and stand with dignity and honor as beloved children of the Father.

This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the first reading that God is doing something new for us.

Jesus is not telling us to stop fighting sin and evil, to cease from pursuing criminals and people who have committed crimes and grave sins against us and others. The fight goes on but should always be tempered with being humane.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The beautiful story of how Jesus resolved the case against the woman caught committing adultery assures us of the endless mercies of God to us sinners, not a passport to sin. See how Jesus recognized the sinfulness of the woman when he told her, go and sin no more – the most humane reprimand perhaps in history.

It is only in our being kind like Jesus that we become truly human and humane.

According to John, the first to leave the site after Jesus challenged them to cast the first stone were the elders that may stand for having wisdom, not necessarily being aged. The first to leave the site were the wise, those who must have realized their own sinfulness and saw how gravely wrong they were in being so harsh with the woman.

Many times in life, it is difficult to be kind in this unkind world because we have stopped seeing our commonality, our shared humanity, our links with one another, our relationships. We have become so competitive that we always want to be distinct from everyone to the point that we have ceased becoming humans, playing gods most of the time.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 2019.

The grace of this final week of Lent is the kindness of God that remains with everyone, even with the most harsh among us, the most sinful. Jesus is inviting us to bend down with him, see him even down below when we are in sins. He is not condemning us nor hurting us with words nor actions. Ever the most humble and gentle of all, our most kind Lord Jesus is telling us today to take up his yoke and learn from him, always kind with everyone.

And that begins with our very selves. Many times, we cannot be kind with others because in the first place we are so unkind with our very selves. We cannot see our true selves that we compete within ourselves, that we should be somebody else.

What a wonderful gift to be our true selves again and still loved by God.

Let us heed Paul’s call in the second reading: “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead. I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Have a blessed week ahead, be kind to yourself first of all. Amen.

Lent is restoring our relationships

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent, 22 March 2022
Daniel 3:25, 34-43   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 18:21-35
Image from wallpaperuse.com.
Like your servant Azariah,
I praise and thank you today,
dear God our loving Father,
for delivering us always from many
dangers and trials, enabling us 
to make it through many fires -
still whole, still sane, still blessed.
Yes, like Azariah and his fellow Jews
exiled in Babylon at that time, we have
turned away from you with our many
sins and transgressions:

But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.

Daniel 3:39-42
It is not enough, O God, 
that we be sorry for our sins;
like in the parable and the very
example of your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord, penance and contrition are 
meant to fix and restore our many
broken relationships with you and with
one another, especially those dearest
to us, those closest to us we have hurt or
have hurt us with words and/or deeds.
Like you dear Father,
may we realize that forgiveness is
more than deletion of sins but
most of all, about reconciliation, 
of being one again as brothers and
sisters in Christ.  Amen.

The ghosts within us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week IV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 04 February 2022
Sirach 47:2-11   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 6:14-29
Photo by author, January 2021.
Thank you so much,
dearest God our Father
for being so kind and merciful
to us, so loving and forgiving
which so often we cannot accept
nor believe; like Herod, we keep on
creating ghosts and monsters
within us as we believe more in
our selves, refusing to listen to your
voice in our conscience that bothers
us whenever we sin and do evil.

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah;” sill others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”

Mark 6:14-16
Dearest God,
make me realize 
you are not looking for 
an angel or a saint in me;
that all you are asking me 
is to be like David, a repentant
sinner; how beautiful it is to
recall the many sins of David -
some so serious and grave but
despite his weaknesses, he never 
turned away from you completely;
despite his evil deeds, until now
he is considered Israel's greatest king
for he accomplished much not because 
of his brilliance and courage but largely
because of his love and faith in you.

With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung. He set singers before the altar and their voices he made sweet melody. He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year. So that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound. The Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever; he conferred on him the rights of royalty and established his throne in Israel.

Sirach 47:8-11
Wake us up, Lord,
from our nightmares,
to arise today in your warmth
and light, convinced of your
love and promise of new chances
and opportunities to be better
than yesterday.  Amen.

God’s grace is always more than enough

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Cornelius, Pope, and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs, 16 September 2021
1 Timothy 4:12-16   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 7:36-50
Photo by author, the Pater Noster Church, Jerusalem, May 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father
for the abundant grace you
bless us daily but many times
we take for granted or 
fail to see and realize;
may we heed the words
of St. Paul to the young Timothy:

Beloved: Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.

1 Timothy 4:12, 14
Most of all,
may we nurture
every opportunity you 
give us to be holy and 
better persons
like that sinful woman 
who went into Simon
the Pharisee's home 
to wash and anoint the
feet of your Son
Jesus Christ. 
At the same time, 
make us stop having that 
sense of special entitlement
to your grace and salvation 
for you have sent Jesus for everyone
for all time to forgive our sins, 
and therefore, there is no reason 
too for any of us to have contempt 
on the young nor sinners.

Jesus said to Simon: “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Luke 7:47
May we be like St. Cornelius
 when he was the Pope
supported by St. Cyprian
who was the bishop of Carthage
in welcoming back to the Church
 those who have lapsed
 in their faith during the persecution;
like them, may we recognize
that your grace works best
among the weakest and lowly;
may we stop being rigorists,
of being so stiff and harsh
with sinners and others who are weak
 like the Pharisees
 who see more of themselves
 than you in Jesus Christ
who had come
to make us whole again in you
and with one another.
We pray, dear God,
through these two great saints
during the harsh persecution
periods of the second century
that we learn some leniency
towards others,
to be more kind and understanding
in this time of the pandemic
with those who have less in life
because your grace is always
more than enough for each one of us.
Amen.

The color of Lent is also green

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Third Week in Lent, 12 March 2021
Hosea 14:2-10   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 12:28-34
Photo by author, December 2020.

When we were growing up, you know it so well, God our Father, how we fondly recited a rhyme from “Mother Goose” that says: “Roses are red, violets are blue; Sugar is sweet, so are you. And I love you!”

How lovely is this elementary rhyme for the great truth it imparts even in this season of Lent when our motif is violet for repentance which is also the shade representing fidelity, modesty, humility, and simplicity that to give a violet means “I love you too in response to what a red rose says, “I love you”!

To be sorry for sins is a great expression of love; but, to forgive like you dear God is the greatest expression of love!

And that is why, while violet expresses our love for you by being sorry for our sins this season of Lent, then, it can be rightly said that the color of Lent is also green for wherever there is love flowing from contrition for sins and its forgiveness, then there is found life in you!

When there is love, there is always life — like the verdant shades of green you told Hosea in the first reading today:

I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; they shall blossom like the vine, his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Hosea 14:6-8

Remind us always, Lord, that Lent need not be dry and drab; it is characterized by joy and life because of the love and mercy you have poured upon us through Jesus Christ. What a lovely scene that finally today in the gospel, a scribe came to Jesus not to debate him but be clarified of which is the first of all of the commandments.

May we imitate that scribe to come to you to sincerely seek wisdom and truth with a humble heart so we may realize that to love God above all means loving one’s self and loving others too at the same time. That love of God is always expressed in the face of every person we must see as a brother and a sister in Christ.

Let us return to you, O God in Jesus through others so that life may bloom again in us and around us. Give us the grace of contrition, to be sorry of our sins so our hearts may be cleansed to finally see how roses are red, violets are blue turning to shades and hue of green when life blooms in YOU. Amen.

Photo by author, December 2020.

Prayer for patience

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Third Week in Lent, 09 March 2021
Daniel 3:25, 34-43   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 18:21-35
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, UST High School, 2019.

Thank you, God our Father in heaven, for the gift of Lent. Now we are into its third week, I could strongly feel its character, its impact, making me realize of the need to pray for more patience. From you. And for me.

Patience from You.

Like Azariah in the first reading, we pray for your patience to bear with us for our many sins that have brought us to our lowest point in life. Teach us to pray for mercy and forgiveness like Azariah, to plea for your patience to our hardness of hearts.

For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with a contrite heart and a humble spirit let us be received; as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

Daniel 3:37-40

How wonderful it is, O Lord our God, of your patience — that virtue of enduring suffering and pain — when we are the ones who have turned away from you, we were the ones who have hurt you with our sins and here you are, bearing all the pains for us?

Thank you for bearing with us always.

And forgive us when we lack patience.

Please, grant us patience…now!

But kidding aside, how ironic that we keep on asking for patience from you and from others too when we cannot be patient at all in dealing with our fellow debtors and sinners like that unforgiving servant in the parable today. You have been so patient in forgiving all our debts yet we cannot forgive those who owe us with less.

Methinks maybe we have not suffered that much, we have never been patient at all that we have not truly felt and realized your patience for us.

Like Peter, we would rather be thinking of quantity, of how many times must we forgive those who wrong us that eventually we run out of patience because of the great number of sins against us.

We have never been patient at all if what we do is keep tabs of the wrongs and sins against us. We do not bear any suffering at all but merely count them like Peter.

Teach us to stop counting the sins of others and be like you in being patient with us sinners: you forgive because we are your children, because you love us.

That is perhaps the key to being patient: instead of counting how many times should we forgive, let us see more why we must forgive because we are all forgiven sinners in your Son Jesus Christ. Perhaps if we can keep that in mind, then we can always patient with our fellow sinners. Amen.

Give, forgive, and forgive.

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, First Week of Lent, 23 February 2021
Isaiah 55:10-11     ><)))*>   +   <*(((><     Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by author, the “Our Father” Church at the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples to pray (2017).

Of the many things you have taught us, Lord Jesus, the “Our Father” remains one of the most enigmatic: on the surface it appears so simple but as we dwell and reflect on it, the more it becomes mysterious and fascinating as well that it is rightly called “the Lord’s Prayer”.

Today, I feel so touched, dear Jesus at how you have arranged the order of the prayer in the part of give and forgive:

Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;

Matthew 6:11-12

Give – forgive – forgive.

How amazing at how you have taught us to ask the Father to “give” us only once but asked to “forgive” twice! First to ask the Father to forgive us for our sins and second, that we may be like him to forgive those who sin against us.

There is also something very interesting with giving and forgiving, something deep in meaning and feeling: to give is so simple, as in to grant or bestow or simply, give. But, to forgive in itself is thought provoking, inviting everyone to an inner journey of meanings. Phonetically, it sounds like “four gives” as against just one “give”.

And this is where it gets so beautiful, Jesus: the word forgive is formed from the prefix fore that means first in order or rank or place or time like foreword, forewarn and forward.

We ask Father once only that he may give us our needs for he knows what is best for us.

But, we have to ask him twice to forgive — first that he forgive us for our sins so that we may also forgive others who sin against us.

Teaching them young how to pray (photo by Mr. Red Santiago, 2019).

There is something so deep in forgiving that inspired Shakespeare to write, “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” From the prefix fore, to forgive means to give something first even before you get anything in exchange for whatever you give. And that is what you have done for us, dear Jesus: giving yourself on the cross for us long before we asked forgiveness, long before we give our selves to you in repentance and conversion!

When we ask your forgiveness, what we actually do is claim that forgiveness you have given us without us asking for it!

Here lies the difficult part of the Our Father that makes us divine like you, Jesus: how do we imitate the Father of giving first forgiveness to those who have wronged us even if they have not come to us asking for forgiveness? It is indeed very difficult to follow for how can we give something first even if we have not received anything like a simple sorry in return?

How easy it is to ask you, Jesus, to give us grace to forgive but I think, what we must ask is for you to forgive us so we can forgive. How wonderful to realize that every time you forgive us, you actually give us something fourfold as in “four gives”.

Open our eyes, open our hearts to see this wonder and beauty of forgiving, of giving first even without receiving anything in exchange like the Father. Amen.

To be loved is to be touched by God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year B, 14 February 2021
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46  >><)))*>  1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1  >><)))*>  Mark 1:40-45

The word “touch” is a very touchy one…

It can either be literal or figurative but can mean both at the same time like when we experience that proverbial “pat on the shoulder” – we feel it literally speaking but deeply within we feel so touched that we feel so good, we feel affirmed.

We say “we are touched” by words, by gestures and sights, by acts of kindness and love, by persons, by music, by poems, by so many things that touch both our senses and innermost being.

Touch can be fleeting, sometimes so brief but its impact can last a lifetime. Experts say that 30 seconds of touch is equivalent to more than 300 words of encouragement. That is why in our liturgy and sacraments, we employ the sense of touch extensively in imitation of Jesus in his many healings and interactions with everyone during his time.

And even up to our time, Jesus continues to touch us with his words, with his Body and Blood in the Holy Mass and through our family and friends, even strangers he sends us so we may experience his love through his healing touch, his merciful touch, his tender, loving touch.

Today we hear a very touching story on this Valentine’s day of how Jesus touched a leper and touched his life forever!

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Mark 1:40-42
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, May 2019.

Leprosy: a terrible disease, an image of sin

After healing Simon’s mother-in-law and those who were sick last Sunday, Mark told us how before dawn the following day Jesus went to a deserted place to pray then left Capernaum with his four disciples to preach and heal throughout the whole of Galilee.

As they were walking, a leper came to meet Jesus and begged him to be healed. This scene is very unusual for lepers were not supposed to get near anybody during that time. They have to warn people of their presence so they can be avoided lest others get infected.

But more than the fear of contagion, the first reading tells us why people were not supposed to interact with lepers because leprosy was seen so terrible as an image of sin that anyone afflicted must see the priest first, short of saying a leper was also a sinner. See how Moses described the wounds that evoked memories of those festering boils and lesions that afflicted the Egyptians and their cattle before the Exodus. Such was the gravity and seriousness of this sickness that those afflicted were totally separated from the rest of the populace, literally and figuratively speaking.

In this scene, we find not only a glimpse of another typical day in the life of Jesus but most of all, we see his very person filled with love and compassion for the least in the society like the leper. Here again is the Lord going to unknown territories to find and heal – to touch – the poorest of the poor.

And that is precisely the good news Mark is telling us this Sunday: Jesus wills our well-being, wants to touch us to be cleansed and healed from all our infirmities whether physical or spiritual or emotional.

Like the crowds following Jesus at that time, we also have to follow the Lord in his preaching to be healed from our sickness and be cleansed from sins. Anyone who believes in his power to heal like that leper must rely in his kindness and mercy because Jesus had removed all barriers that prevent us from meeting him, touching him.

See how Mark described Jesus being “moved with pity” which is more than an emotion or feeling but a stirring within called “miserecordia” in Latin and Spanish that means to move (miseor) the heart (cor) or do something with what he had seen and felt.

Do not be afraid or shy to come to Jesus; he is very approachable, no need for appointments like us humans as he welcomes us all, very open to us all, so willing to meet and be with us in our joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, triumphs and miseries.

Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

Mark 1:43-44
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

Jesus is our Savior.

More than a healer, an exorcist, and a doer of miracles, Mark presents to us for the third consecutive Sunday the very person of Jesus Christ as our Savior. One thing we shall notice in Mark’s gospel is his extensive use of the so-called “Messianic secret” wherein he reports Jesus warning those he had healed and exorcised not to tell it to anyone, to keep it a secret lest people regard him as a miracle worker or provider of every human needs.

And that is because who Jesus Christ is really is — our Savior who gave himself up for us all to be healed by sin symbolized by leprosy. His touching and healing of that leper vividly shows us that this Jesus is the Christ who came to renew and bring us back to God as his beloved children. It is the most touching image of God becoming human like us, getting so close to us to touch us and be one with us so we can be cleansed from all dirt of sin and evil because that is how much he loves us.

To be touched by Jesus is to be loved by God. And anyone touched and loved by God becomes a brand new person who finds himself whole and one anew with others around him, sharing with them his newfound love and joy and meaning in life. That is the surest sign of being touched and being loved; hence, the command by Jesus to the leper to present himself to the priests to be reintegrated to the community and eventually commune again with others.

But the leper could not contain his joy that according to Mark, “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter, spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly, remaining outside in deserted places as people kept coming to him from everywhere” (Mk.1:45).

By his very life, the healed leper gave glory to God as admonished by Paul in our second reading today. For Paul, to glorify God in whatever we do is to imitate Jesus Christ (1Cor. 10:31) by dealing with or resolving conflicts and issues among us in the most personal manner instead of theoretical principles.

During that time, the early Christians in Corinth and elsewhere for that matter were confused if the consumption of animals offered by pagans to their idols and later sold in the market constituted their participation to idolatry.

Paul explained that idols are nothing and therefore, the sacrifice of animals in the sanctuaries does not give the meat sold in the markets any particular qualification. Those who can understand this can it eat without scruple but— if it can cause scandal among those weak in faith and understanding, they must renounce this freedom.

For Paul, morality and propriety must have their origin and motivation in God, not just any precepts or standards that sometimes difficult to accept. Again, here we have to consider sensitivity – the touchiness of certain acts and things so that when we give glory to God, even the weakest among us may be encouraged to do the same.

There is no “middle ground” as the wokes are implying these days in the US especially in that recent Super Bowl Jeep commercial with Bruce Springsteen, implying America can only be a ReUnited States through “compromises”.

Love is not like politics or diplomacy that seek detente among different parties of people as Jesus warned us to “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Anything apart from this is from the evil one” (Mt.5:37).

To love is to be touched by someone, especially by God. When we love, when we touch, there are no ifs nor buts, no middle grounds nor compromises because it is either you love or do not love. That is what Jesus showed us when he touched and healed the leper who came to him along the road.

That is also what Jesus showed us later by dying on the Cross for us so we may be cleansed from our sins and be new again so we can reach out to touch others with his immense love that is full of joy.

On this most joyous day of hearts we call Valentine’s, get real with our love by touching someone with the love of Jesus in the most concrete way of kindness and care, mercy and forgiveness. Not with flowers and chocolates that are very temporary. A blessed week to you!

Photo by author, 07 February 2021.