When good is not good enough

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Rock (San Roque), 16 August 2021
Judges 2:11-19   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:16-22
Photo by author, October 2020.
Your words today, O God
our Father are just what we 
needed most in this time when
we feel we are good, when we
are so complacent that all is fine.
Thank you for reminding us today
that we are not that "good" at all!
And worst, so many times our 
being good are not even good enough! 

A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:16-17, 20-22
So many times, dear Father,
 good is not good where better
is expected, when being good
is not enough because in life,
what matters is not only what
we do but also what we have;
like that young man, there is 
something or someone standing 
between us and you, or anything
we cannot let go to be totally yours!
Forgive us, merciful God,
when we think more of ourselves
and forget you and others.
Forgive us when our possessions
posses us; give us the strength
to give up and surrender to you
our many attachments and false
securities that prevent us from becoming
truly free and truly your followers
like St. Rock, the patron of pandemics.
Amen.

True freedom

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr, 01 June 2021
Tobit 2:9-14     <*(((>< + ><)))*>     Mark 12:13-17
Photo by author, inside the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem, 2019.

Glory and praise to you, O God, our loving and merciful Father for this month of June as we go through the last 30 days of this year’s first half. How fast time flies! It is so relieving how we have gone through almost half of this extended year of pandemic.

As we celebrate today the Memorial of your great apologist and martyr, St. Justin, we pray for more enlightenment to always seek and follow and most of all, stand by the truth of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not enough that we merely seek the truth because it can easily be faked like the Pharisees and the Herodians in our gospel today.

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not?”

Mark 12:13-14

Truth can only set us free as Jesus had taught us if in our search for the truth we break away and discard our biases and prejudices. To truly seek the truth is to be empty in order to accept it so we can follow the truth and most of all stand by it.

Forgive us for the times and moments we have been like the Pharisees and Herodians who are not genuinely seeking the truth as they were evidently from the start were seeking a confirmation of a lie they insisted to be true. There are times we are like them even in coming to you not to find the truth but be affirmed with our own beliefs when deep inside us we know it is not right and true at all! It seems it is more difficult for us to discard lies and wrongful assumptions and beliefs than simply accept the bare facts of truth.

At the same time, give us the humility to accept truth because there are times, too, in our deep devotion to you like Tobit, we become blinded with our righteousness that we cannot accept the truth presented to us by others.

Help us masticate today’s responsorial psalm: “The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

Like St. Justin, give us the courage and determination to seek and follow and stand by the truth by understanding it so well, ready to explain it and most of all, defend it even with our lives. Freedom comes from truth when we are not held captive by lies and unfounded beliefs.

Let us trust in you alone and make us not so proud and arrogant nor so righteous that we are enslaved by our ego that blinds us in our search for truth. Amen.

Lent is home in God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Fifth Week in Lent, 24 March 2021
Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95   +++   John 8:31-42
Parish Church of St. Joseph, Baras, Rizal.

We pray most specially today, O God our Father, for all who are sick especially with COVID-19 along with the doctors and nurses and other medical frontliners who take care of them. We pray also in a special way for doctors and nurses getting sick because of this surge in COVID-19.

At the same time, we pray for our good bishops who gallantly stand to continue with the public Masses because our spiritual nourishment is very essential in times like these. Give them the courage and grace to stand their trials like your three prophets in the first reading today.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If our God, whom we serve, can save us from the white-hot furnace and from your hands, O king, may he save us! But even if he will not, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the golden statue which you set up.”

Daniel 3:16-18

Make us at home with you, Father, like those three young men.

Let us remain in the words of your Son Jesus Christ so we may know the truth and be set free from our idols and others gods like persons who make it difficult for us to truly follow you and do your holy will.

Let our lives be centered in you, Father, through Jesus Christ we receive in the Holy Eucharist daily.

In these trying times of the pandemic worsened by leaders chained to their personal interests and foreign powers, make us remain in you in Jesus and set us free, free from fears and biases and free to serve and care for those in need. Amen.

We are the master of the world but God remains our Master

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin, 10 February 2021
Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 7:14-23
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, August 2019.

Praise and glory to you, God our loving Father and Creator of heaven and earth. Yes, we may be so small in this vast universe but it is in our smallness you have made us so great by creating us at the center of all your creation, the master of our world!

the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and he placed there the man whom he had formed. The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it. The Lord God gave man this order: “You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; the moment you eat from it you are surely doomed to die.”

Genesis 2:7-8, 15-17

Forgive us, dear God when we always forget that our freedom is never absolute; that from the beginning there has always been exception in doing everything.

Yes, we are the master of our world but YOU remain our Master; hence, the primary task of keeping this relationship with you always intact, always maintained, always whole and never separated from you.

From this relationship flows everything that is beautiful in your creation, O God: from each one of us who is a microcosm of the universe, a paradise within with all the gifts and abilities to become according to your plan and, on to the whole world you have given to us as a gift we must take care and nurture by responsibly enjoying it, neither harming nor destroying it.

Photo by author, Petra at Jordan, May 2019.

Alas, like what Jesus reminds us today in the gospel, we have defiled our inner selves with evil and sins so that from our hearts come unclean thoughts and actions.

Though we may no longer have those issues of unclean food like during your time, dear Jesus, we remain focus on so many trivial things that we ignore the real evils right in our hearts.

Through the prayers of St. Scholastica, help us to consecrate ourselves to you, O God, to be pure and simple in our thoughts and ideals, words and actions that reflect your true beauty and majesty in simply being good and holy. Amen.

Keeping God’s commandments

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Thursday After Epiphany, 07 January 2021
1 John 4:19-5:4     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 4:14-22
Photo by author, 01 November 2020

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 John 5:3-4

Sometimes in life I really do not still get you, dearest God.

Sometimes I just think this is part of life’s mystery as well as your own mystery as God.

Like today’s letter of your Son’s beloved disciple: he said to love you is to keep your commandments.

Just that. On the surface, how can it be love when there is subjection to commandments that often feel like burdensome?

And then, the beloved disciple telling us that your commandments are not burdensome?

It is difficult to be faithful to you, God! So hard to never use your name in vain, even in jokes. And look at how everybody complains not having enough time for self and family that they skip Sunday Masses!

If we try to dissect the seven remaining commandments, surely you know O God how hard we all strive to keep them from honoring our parents to not coveting other’s wives and goods!

Photo by author, December 2020.

But, again, O God, your words are true: your commandments are not burdensome but actually set us free! That must be the victory the beloved disciple is referring to because the more we break your commandments, the more we are bondaged by sin.

Jesus can boldly proclaim your words are fulfilled upon our hearing because he said them totally free of any inhibitions, of any fear, of any doubts. So free to truly love you and everyone of us.

Enlighten us, O Lord, that your commandments are all summed up in love. It is only when we love that we find the beauty of your commandments meant for us to truly love others. It is when we keep your commandments that we become faithful and loving in you through others. Amen.

Faithful and free

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 10 October 2020
Galatians 3:22-29     ||+||   >><)))*>   ||+||     Luke 11:27-28
Photo by author, 2019.

Glory and praise, O God, our Father for another week that had passed and another new one to start! Thank you so much for everything we have received this week: the beautiful things that have blessed us wondrously and the sad things that have also blessed us with lessons in life.

Thank you for the gifts of faith and conviction, faith and being realistic, faith and consistency.

And so, I pray today for the gifts of faith and freedom for a truly faithful person is always one who is also truly free!

Brothers and sisters: Scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe. Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.

Galatians 3:22-25

You know how so many times, Lord, when we feel imprisoned and chained by our broken and toxic relationships, sickness and handicaps, painful memories, failures and other past sins.

Let us realize and be convinced that you have come to set us free from all of these, that we are now free to love, free to be ourselves, free to grow, free and faithful in you.

Show us the path how we can break the many barriers that continue to imprison us and prevent us from maturing in faith and freedom in you like gender, color, language, social status and even religion.

Help us imitate you, Jesus, who boldly claimed before everyone that true blessedness is not found in affinities or blood ties but in freely receiving and observing the word of God. Amen.

Generous and cheerful

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Lawrence, Martyr and Deacon, 10 August 2020
2 Corinthians 9:6-10 >><}}}*> // + \\ <*{{{><< John 12:24-26
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Dearest Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous and cheerful too, because sometimes our generosity is filled with sadness or bitterness as it is comes from having excess of anything that we have. Worst, it is only when we are forced to become generous by others or due to circumstances.

True generosity is always borne out of joy when our only reason in giving and sharing is due to our faith in you — that no matter what happens to us, you will never abandon us, Lord, providing whatever we need in this life.

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8

Most of all, generosity with cheerfulness is always a choice, a decision freely made in imitation of you, Jesus Christ like St. Lawrence your deacon. Those who give or share anything with a heavy heart, if given the choice, would rather keep whatever they have to remain like a grain of wheat without dying.

Like St. Lawrence, teach us generosity that is naturally human and divine, that like him while being roasted alive, he had the sense of humor to ask his persecutors to turn him so that his grilling may be perfect and even. Amen.

“Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Deacon” by Hipolito de Rioja (16th c.); from commons.wikimedia.org

Prayer to become small

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 19 June 2020
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 ><)))*> 1 John 4:7-16 <*(((>< Matthew 11:25-30
Photo from Google.

O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like yours — make me small and little in standing, hidden and unknown among many, simple and humble in a world now measured in influence, popularity, and following.

On this Solemnity of your Most Sacred Heart, I thank you dear Jesus in choosing to be small and little, always hidden in the simplest things of life like soft voices of kindness and mercy, reason and wisdom, gratitude and love.

You have shown us that to be truly loving like you, we have to be small and little like children.

Most of all, free to be ourselves as beloved children of the Father!

Free from inhibitions and guilt to truly express the love and joy within.

Help us, Jesus, to cast all our worries to you, to take your yoke that is easy, burden that is light.

It is so difficult to love when we are burdened by many concerns and considerations, when we cannot be our true selves that we lack spontaneity, of being natural and easy.

In the same manner, it becomes hard for us too to love or even please someone who sees him or her self bigger than reality, when they see themselves as “big shots” and “heavyweights” who have to be pleased and “followed” or affirmed.

May we always keep in mind the words of Moses so applicable also to us today:

“It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.”

Deuteronomy 7:7

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, you have given us your heart that bleeds due to the thorns of our sins, yet aglow with the fire of your immense love and mercy.

May we come to you, today and always to find rest, to learn from your gentle and humble ways so needed in our heartless world. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Accepting and Owning

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Friday, Wk. XIX, Yr. I, 16 August 2019

Joshua 24:1-13 >< )))*> <*((( >< Matthew 19:3-12

Bangui, Ilocos Norte, 09 March 2009.

Dear God:

Do we really have a choice with you? Of course, you are not forcing us to choose you because you gave us freedom, your most wonderful gift expressing your love for us. You never impose yourself on us and, we are always free to choose you or not!

But, how can we not choose you, O God? You are the only good, the ultimate good. And you never fail to give us the best, nothing less.

Joshua addressed all the people: “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I gave you a land which you had not tilled and cities which you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Joshua 24:2, 13

Problem with us, Lord, is our failure to accept and own your gifts. We keep on looking for something else when you are giving us the very best. We always insist on what we want, on our choices we think to be good but not really good. But, because we are free, you allow us to disregard your gifts and choose something else – and still bless us!

And so we pray today that you teach us to both accept and own your gifts to us, Lord.

It is not enough that we accept gifts but we must also own them to be truly a blessing that can be shared and given to others.

Material and spiritual blessings, life lessons and life-blows, and all the other good gifts from you Lord are easy to accept but unless we own them too as ours, they get wasted.

Anything received but not owned becomes useless because it does not prosper nor grow nor mature and bear fruits. Be it our very selves, our country, our jobs, our family and friends. Everything, especially you, Lord, whom we always receive but never shared because we never truly have you in us. Let us own you, Lord! Amen.

Lent is being free

40 Shades of Lent, Wednesday, Week-V, 10 April 2019
Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95///John 8:31-42
From Google.

If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

John 8:31-32

Very often Lord Jesus, when you talk of us being set free, we feel like the people of your time bragging

…we have never been enslaved to anyone.

John 8:33

Very often, Lord, we feel so proud to claim being one with you, truly serving you when in fact we are enslaved by so many pleasures in life.

There are many ways of serving you, of being free for you, of being faithful to you.

But there is only one sure way of being enslaved: when we desire to please our very selves and others.

Like in the first reading, it is very easy to please King Nebuchadnezzar in serving false gods, thinking these would not harm us, that we can control ourselves, that we would not completely fall into it. There are many instances we think that with these modern times with the modern thoughts and modern ways of life sweeping all around us, just a little pleasure would not mean anything at all, would never have a control over us until we are trapped, enslaved, and have lost everything.

Knowing the truth is being one with you, O Lord: remaining in you, staying with you. Loving you, serving you. Through others. Not pleasing myself. Amen.

Photo by the author, Lent 2018.