Always something, never nothing

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Eight Week of Ordinary Time, 25 May 2021
Sirach 35:1-12  ><)))’> + <‘(((><   Mark 10:28-31
Photo by author, St. Paul Center for Spirituality at Alfonso, Cavite 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O most loving and merciful God our Father, for you never leave us empty-handed even if we always claim to have nothing at all, to be “walang-wala” when we always have something with to offer and share, never without anything at all.

Forgive us in being so preoccupied with the “scarcity mentality” – of how little we have, of not having enough that we refuse to share and give to others, forgetting the reality that to be alive and to always do what is good and pleasing to you is all you want us to offer to you through others.

In works of charity one offers fine flour, 
and when he gives alms he presents 
his sacrifice of praise.  
To refrain from evil pleases the Lord, 
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the Lord empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.

How wonderful, O Lord, are your words through Ben Sirach! Help us remember that true worship, true prayer is always being good and holy before you through our loving service to others.

We do not have to look beyond ourselves to find so many things to offer to you, primarily our good works that you ask from us. We may not have all the material wealth the world has to offer, but you always shower us with every spiritual gifts more needed especially in our world today plunged in the darkness of sin and selfishness.

Sometimes like Simon Peter, we become proud of the little things we give up for you, thinking they are so great without realizing the great rewards you have in store for our sacrifices.

Jesus said,
"Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house
or brothers or sisters or mother or father
or children or lands for my sake 
and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more 
now in the present age:  houses and brothers
and sisters and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life 
in the age to come.
(Mark 10:29-30)

Indeed, you have given us with so much, dear God and we have given so little. Teach us to give more of our kindness and mercy, love and understanding, time and presence and most of all, more of YOU to others. Amen.

True greatness in being small to become part of the whole

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Pentecost, 23 May 2021
Acts 2:1-11  ><}}}*>  Galatians 5:16-25  ><}}}*>  John 15:26-27.16:12-15
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Today we bring to completion our celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery – his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Ascension and Coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Although this mystery is one single reality, we have stretched its celebration over a period of 50 days (hence, Pentecost) or more than seven weeks because it will never be enough to fully grasp its whole meaning for it is a continuing reality and mystery in our midst just like the Ascension last week.

Note the upward movement of the Ascension that calls us to “level up” our relationships with God and one another in Christ; today, the downward movement of the coming of the Holy Spirit calls us to being small in order for us to be broken and shared with others. Whenever there is a downward push, what happens usually is a breaking down into smaller parts to fuse with the larger whole like a mix.


...our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others...  
It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole 
that we truly become great - 
whether in the Church or a community, 
in our personal relationships...

Jesus had taught us in his life and example especially on the Cross that our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others like him. It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole that we truly become great – whether in the Church or a community, in our personal relationships like family and circle of friends and most especially in the union of man and woman as husband and wife in marriage.

That is why the Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church when the disciples after being filled with the Holy Spirit came out in the open to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It was actually more of a “coming out party” of the Church that was established by Christ during his Last Supper.

See that since the very beginning, the Church started as a catholic – a whole – at the Last Supper of the Lord when he also instituted the Holy Eucharist that has become the sign of our unity from then on that enabled the disciples to recognize him at Easter at the breaking of bread.

Jesus promised them at the Last Supper how things would get clear to them when the Holy Spirit comes.

"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you
from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds
from the Father, he will testify to me.  And you 
also testify... I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes,
the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth."
(John 15:26-27. 16:12-13)

Believing in the Holy Spirit, Believing in the Church

Every Sunday in the Mass we profess our faith, declaring “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church” but, do we really understand its meaning? To believe in God is to believe in the Holy Catholic Church, to forget one’s own agenda in life, to submit ones self to her teachings from Christ our Lord and Master.

It is a declaration of the mystery and reality of the Pentecost, reminding us that becoming Christian means receiving and embracing the whole Church!

This is the beautiful meaning of the account by St. Luke at the first reading of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost at Jerusalem when all barriers – physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual – were broken as the disciples went around speaking in various languages to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ.

When the time of Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise
like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house
in which they were.  Then there appeared to them
tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest
on each one of them.  And they were all filled 
with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
(Acts 1:1-4)

Here we find the disciples of Jesus and their converts on that day of Pentecost allowing themselves to be taken up into the Church!

And how did this happen? St. Luke tells us “Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” Each one was parted, was broken down from their sins and selfishness that they became open for each other, trying to understand and accept each one as brother and sister in Christ.

It was a reversal of the story of Babel in Genesis when people were so arrogant and proud building a tower that reaches to heaven who were punished to speak in different languages that led to their confusion and quarrel until they all perished along with their ambitious plan.

Pentecost was different. There were different languages, different peoples with different backgrounds yet they were united and understood each other because everybody tried to become small, to mix into the whole and thus becoming a part of the Church on that day.

Unless we are willing to be parted by the Holy Spirit’s “tongues of fire” and “strong driving wind” like a storm, we can never be filled with God and his holiness to experience his peace and his joy.

It is a lifelong process and that is why Pentecost is a daily reality, happening to us especially when we sometimes have to be shaken by so many events and circumstances that come our way.

In the second reading, we heard St. Paul reminding the Galatians, including us, to “live by the Spirit and not gratify the desire of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). At that time, some missionaries sowed confusion among the Galatians, telling them to follow Jewish practices and Mosaic prescriptions to be fully Christians like circumcision. The issue had long been settled at the Council of Jerusalem but some Jewish converts persisted.

Here, St. Paul teaches us a valuable lesson in resolving conflicts and confusions in daily life in the light of Jesus Christ, of salvation, of the Church. For St. Paul, we always have to ask the Holy Spirit in guiding us in everything, no matter how secular and mundane it may be to find the theological and spiritual implications of our experiences.

What he told the Galatians remains true to our days, that freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but to choose and do what is good. Every person has that tendency to sin, an imperfection in the “flesh” that is always in contradiction with the “spirit”.

As we have mentioned earlier, our greatness lies in our ability to share and give ourselves to others by dying to our sins and selfish motives, precisely what St. Paul is telling us:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.

Galatians 5:19-21

These are the things that the Holy Spirit “part” in us when it comes to us daily especially in our prayers and in the celebrations of the sacraments like the Holy Eucharist. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are unified as a person, we become whole and integrated that we see the value and importance of being one with God and with others. It is not longer the rituals that become the law guiding us but the interior law of love of Jesus Christ that enables us to get out of our selfishness to give ourselves in loving service to others.

When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit guided by this interior law of love, that is when we become truly free and experience the gifts and fruits mentioned by St. Paul like peace and joy.

In our world today marred by sin and so many divisions happening in our society and even in the Church, in our communities and right even in our families and personal relationships, let us pray today to the Holy Spirit to come to us, break down within us the many walls we have and lead us to surrender ourselves to God to be led by his hand in continuing the mission of love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

A blessed week ahead of everyone!

Photo of the stained glass with the Holy Spirit bringing light into the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

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.

“What will there be for us?”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 August 2020
Ezekiel 28:1-10 <*(((><< || + || >><)))*> Matthew 19:23-30
Photo by author, Petra in Jordan, May 2019.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me… And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.”

Matthew 19:27-28, 29

“We have given up everything and followed you, Lord. What will there be for us?”

Oh! how often we tell this to you, Lord Jesus, as if we have given so much for the sake of your kingdom.

Sometimes, it is not really a question we ask but a reminder to you of our “goodness” and “benevolence” with others, of how good we have been when in fact whatever we give and share are all from you.

Forgive us, O Lord, when most specially in the midst of pains and sufferings, we ask you “What will there be for us?” in order to remind you of our rewards, or entitlement as if you forget them or that there is such a thing at all with you.

Photo by author, 2019.

We are sorry Lord in counting the costs and most of all, in demanding so many in return.

“What will there be for us?” is often the question we ask when we doubt your generosity and fidelity to your promises to us.

Like Ezekiel in the first reading, remind us O Lord to keep in mind not to be “haughty of heart”, that “we are not god despite our many achievements brought about by our intelligence or beauty” (Ezekiel 28:1-7).

Dearest Jesus, you have given us with so much and we have given so little; teach us to give more of ourselves, more of our time, more of our treasures, and most of all, more of you to others. Amen.

Understanding the parables is giving up everything for Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 26 July 2020
1 Kings 3:5,7-12 >><}}}*> Romans 8:28-30 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:44-52
Photo by author, 2020.

The other Sunday during our Mass, I saw a man wearing a black t-shirt with these signs:

– = +

Of course, it means “Less is more” because a minus (-) is equal (=) to an addition or a plus (+)!

That is also the meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ wherein it is in giving that we receive, in dying that we live, in losing that we gain more of everything because the cross is a plus sign.

This Sunday, that is essentially the lesson Jesus is telling us on this final installment of his parables wherein we have to lose everything in order to have him, the kingdom of God.

See how the three parables present us with one situation: to get the treasure in a field, its finder has to bury it again, sell all he has to buy the field where he had found the treasure; a trader searching for fine pearls sells everything he has to acquire a pearl of great price he had found; and lastly, not all fish caught in a net thrown in the sea are good to be sold with bad ones that must be thrown.

These parables are reminding us today of the need to exercise our freedom properly by making wise choices in life. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but the ability to choose always what is good.

In every situation in life, we always have to make a choice; it is never true that we have no choice left to make. Choosing not to make a choice is actually choosing what is wrong, what is bad, and what is not good for us and for others.

We are always made by the choices we make in life. And that is why the parables are teaching us to choose wisely like King Solomon in the first reading.

Photo by author, February 2020.

Choosing wisely

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this — not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right — I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

1 Kings 3:5,7,9, 11-12

Here we go back again to that basic reality of a parable which is a simple story of every day life filled with profound meanings. It is something we take for granted because it is so ordinary like the seed forgetting its great potentials in the future.

Many times in life we get distracted like today when we have a plethora of products and services available that we cannot focus on what is really essential and important. Our decisions are clouded even erratic because we are so distracted with the wide array of choices to make, from food to eat to clothes to wear, movies or series to watch on Netflix or cable TV as well as music to listen from thousands of titles in our playlists.

And in our distraction, many times we miss our priorities in life, especially God and our loved ones.

Then, we end up sad and miserable, way too far from what God had envisioned for us since the beginning which is to live in joy in him.

For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30

St. Paul is reminding and assuring us in these short passages we heard from his letter today that God called us to be saved and glorified in Jesus Christ not by chance but by purpose. He willed it, he wanted it so because he loves us so much, assuring us all of future glory in him in eternity.

The key to experiencing that joy from God is to always abide in him like King Solomon of choosing what is good, letting go of everything that will separate us from him like sin and evil. For God’s plan and grace to operate and materialize, we need to cooperate with him like being a good soil that produces fruitful wheat.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Our Christian life of joy

Like the Twelve inside the house listening to Jesus explained and narrated more parables, the Lord is also asking us today the same question:

“Do you understand all these things?”

Matthew 13:51

To “understand all these things” is not about human intelligence like being smart or brilliant but of holy wisdom or spiritual intelligence characterized by humility and simplicity before God and others.

To “understand all these things” and be like “every scribe… or the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt.13:52) is to be one in Jesus Christ, a person learned in the ways of God, who knows how to prioritize things, always making things relevant in the present even if it is an old lesson.

To be truly joyful in life is to just have Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus.

It is easier said than done but we must try even little by little, slowly by learning more to give of our very selves to others.

It is difficult to imitate the main characters in the parables today – the finder of treasure, the pearl merchant, and the fisherman – when we always think of having more than having what is most valuable and important.

Have we noticed during this pandemic that whenever we would count or take tabs of everything we share, we feel sad and even grouchy because we feel we have lost a lot? And if we get too much in return, we cannot rejoice because we somehow feel guilty?

True joy comes when we are able to be generous, of giving without counting the costs, without thinking of what would be left for me because my only concern is what else can I give the other persons so that my joy can be complete when I see them like me – happy, contented, and peaceful with a simple smile or delighted by a hot bowl of soup or a hearty breakfast.

And that’s that greatest parable of Jesus of all that we need to understand and embrace: the less we have of created things, the more we have of the Creator, of himself who is the kingdom of God.

Then, that is heaven.

A blessed Sunday to everyone!

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos at Infanta, Quezon, July 2020.

“Possession Obsession” by Hall and Oates (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 28 June 2020
Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

One reason I have this blog on trying to link secular music with the Sunday gospel is the firm belief that God continues to speak to us through modern means of communications like music and films. Sometimes I feel that if Jesus were with us today, he might be instructing us priests to “feed my geeks” than “feed my sheep”.…..

For this Sunday we have the dynamic duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates — my most favorite group standing side by side with the late Walker Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.

Released in 1984 from their “Big Bam Boom” album, Possession Obsession is one of a kind in their long list of superb music with John Oates taking the front seat in this song unlike in their previous hits where it would always be Daryl taking the lead.

I have listened maybe a hundred times to Possession Obsession but it was only yesterday after preparing my Sunday homily that I have tried to internalize its lyrics, including the music video directed by Bob Giraldi who did Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.

The song perfectly echoes the Sunday teaching today of Jesus Christ who said that

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39

Possession Obsession echoes Christ’s teaching this Sunday on life’s paradox wherein the more we give, the more we actually receive, that life is not about possession and having but about love, of giving and of sharing with others.

You know there's something you need
Right here and now
To fill the space inside of yourself
Money love or power
When you want to have the number one first run anyone
You're crazy 'til you own them

You ought to know better than that
The more that you buy the less you get back
It's a case of possession obsession
Gimme Gimme

The compulsion to count the percentage of time
Spent between two lovers
Can turn an hour into a crime
And all the good times suffer
Though you know it's only jealousy
You can't help but be
Haunted by your passion

Don't you know it's a matter of fact
The more that you take the less you give back
Just a taste of possession obsession
Brings a case of possession obsession
Gimme Gimme

Watch closely too this music video set inside a cab with John Oates as driver, taking different passengers in all the different forms of “love” understood these days, far from the truth witnessed to us by Jesus Christ.

In fact, it is one of the first music video to present two men holding hands as lovers at the back of John’s cab with one of the men looking like the late David Bowie (?).

At the last sequence of the music video is a beautiful presentation of giving and loving when Hall and Oates were in their usual attires in a cafe, competing in “possessing” the sugar dispenser. Hall prevailed and right before putting sugar into his coffee, he changed his mind and slid the sugar dispenser to Oates at the other end of the bar table.

Nice song, nice music, nice video.

For reflections on this Sunday’s gospel, check my homily https://lordmychef.com/2020/06/27/let-christ-possess-us/

Have a beautiful and blessed Sunday.

From YouTube.com

Let Christ possess us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIIIth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 28 June 2020
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16 >><)))*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 >><)))*> Matthew 10:37-42
Photo by author, Dome of the Chapel of Nativity at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Jesus continues his lessons to us his disciples being sent to look for the “lost sheep of Israel”, to be not afraid for he is with us in this journey and mission. But, it is not enough that we have Jesus on our side and be present among us: we have to allow Jesus to take possession of us completely!

From having no fear because Jesus is here, Christ now deepens his presence by inviting us to be possessed by him, to be in communion with him.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:37-39
Photo by author, processional Cross at the altar, 2019.

The Mystery of the Cross

Discipleship in Jesus Christ is more than a total allegiance to him who is neither a demanding nor exacting Lord and Master for he does not arbitrarily impose himself upon us.

Nothing like that of subservience but something more lofty because it is wrapped in a mystery — a mystery of love freely given and shared to us by God even if we do not deserve it all. Remember the mystery of the Blessed Trinity four Sundays ago (June 07)?

Ever since, God has never imposed himself upon us, that we should love him back in return for he does not really need our love. He gave us the gift of freedom so that we may love him freely for he never imposes on us.

And here lies the beauty of discipleship, of this relationship we have with God that is based solely on love expressed to us in the most personal manner by giving us his Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the Cross but rose again on Easter. This we were reminded by the Solemnities of the Body and Blood of Jesus and of his Sacred Heart last June 14 and 19 respectively.

Now you see my dear readers the clearer picture of our liturgical celebrations expressing our concrete experiences of being loved by God in Jesus Christ most especially during times of trials and sufferings like in this COVID-19 pandemic.

It is Christ who made the initiative to be one with us in our pains and sufferings; God did not remove our crosses in life but made them holy in his Son Jesus Christ so that every time we go through life’s many difficulties, we share in the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

That is why, we are invited to take and carry our cross every day for it is through the Cross we are saved. It is not enough to simply believe in the person of Jesus but we need to accept and embrace his Cross because it is through which he had won our salvation by dying on it and rising again.

This is easier said than done. It is so difficult to love Jesus more than our loved ones like family and friends. And it is most difficult to love the Lord more than our selves, when we have to let go of our plans and agenda.

Letting go and letting God in itself is already crucifying — but that is when this mystery of Christ’s love and of his Cross deepens further when we lose ourselves in him!

Celebrating Mass without te congregation during the ECQ, March-April 2020.

Possessed by Christ

To be possessed by Jesus is to receive God and his gift of salvation through the mystery of Christ and his Cross. Like our Christian life, proclaiming the gospel carries with it the sign of the Cross of Christ.

We are not asked to reenact or reproduce his Crucifixion nor is Jesus asking us to be suicidal or go against our natural aspirations and dreams.

To be possessed by Jesus means we continue to take care of ourselves without neglecting the needs of others.

To be possessed by Jesus means being generous to others in the same manner Jesus has always been generous to us.

To be possessed by Jesus means to realize that every act of self-giving is really an act of receiving!

Photo by author, Malagos Park, Davao City, 2018.

That is the paradox of the Cross, of discipleship in Christ: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt.10:40).

And that is also where the mystery of Christ’s love deepens because whatever we give is not really ours but Christ’s.

Every time we give love, it is the love of Jesus.

When we are kind and generous with others, it is the kindness and generosity of Jesus we give and share.

When we are patient and understanding to others, it is still the patience and understanding of Jesus in us.

Even if we give and share material things like money, food, clothing… whatever good we share and give are all from Jesus not from us.

And the more we give, the more we receive!

Have you noticed especially during this pandemic how the generous among us are now more blessed?

Wonder no more because you have allowed yourself to be possessed by Jesus Christ!

This is what the woman at Shumen had realized after welcoming the Prophet Elisha into her home in our first reading. She even gave him a room to stay every time he comes for his mission while the Lord provided all her needs, even rewarded her with a son as promised by Elisha.

When we allow Jesus to take over us, when we enter into communion in him and with him in his very life, we become more free to love, we strengthen our relationships with others, we wander less and worry less in life; most of all, we feel lightened in our burdens with the presence of Jesus giving us fullness of life in him.

This is the grace I hope we have seen from this quarantine period, especially those two months of lockdown when were freed from our usual grind and busyness with more time to be silent and still, to pray and reflect on our relationships with God and with others. It was a difficult and very trying period that had given in return a lot of opportunities to others.

Photo by author, Marcos Highway, 2019.

Dead to sin, alive to God

Brothers and sisters: We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:9-11

It has been four months since houses of worship were ordered closed to help stop the spread of the corona virus. Somehow, the lockdown had made us realize the importance of receiving the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist.

But, sacraments are not everything for we have the bigger roles of putting into practice its reality of being the saving presence of Jesus Christ.

Now that lowly life is beginning to go back to its usual grind especially the traffic, soon we might forget again the more important things in life like God and our relationships in our family and friends that it is hoped we have rediscovered during the quarantine period.

That is why I strongly feel the government must now allow Churches to open so the people may experience again God in the sacraments and in our rites and rituals lest they get busy again with so many things only to miss finding anew the meaning of our lives found in silence and stillness before the Cross of Christ.

It is my hope that in this quarantine period, may we find through the Cross of Jesus that when we learn to submit and surrender to him, that is when we truly become free; and, when we lose and give away our lives to him, that is when we gain fullness of life in him. Amen.

A blessed week and a more abundant July to everyone!

When a small act of kindness is like a pinch of salt

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week X, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 June 2020
1 Kings 17:7-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 5:13-16
“Tiangge” in Carigara, Leyte; photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

When this pandemic struck us and kept us home for two months, Lord, you never failed to bless us with food on our tables. It does not really matter whatever was served but the most important thing is how we have shared meals with family and friends, even with strangers.

And what makes food so glorious and wonderful, Lord, is not merely the food itself, be it meat or poultry, vegetables or fish but the things we take for granted like the people who prepared and gathered together, and not to forget, ingredients that bring out the flavor like the lowly salt.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Matthew 5:13

Like the food we prepare and share, we are good in ourselves because of you, Lord.

But our real goodness comes out when we become kind and generous with others, even a single smile or a pat on a shoulder of someone else can always make a world of difference. Indeed, a small deed is better than the best intention.

Like that widow at Zarephath of Sidon who was so kind and generous enough first to give your prophet Elijah some water and later with a bit of bread.

And you rewarded her kindness with overflowing goodness:

She was able to eat for a year, and Elijah and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:15-16

Teach us, O Lord, to be generous like St. Ignatius of Loyola and make life here on earth more flavorful with just a pinch of salt.

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous, 
teach me to serve you as you deserve. 
To give and not to count the cost, 
to fight and not to heed the wounds, 
to toil and not to seek for rest, 
to labor and not to seek reward, 
except that of knowing that I do your most holy will. 
Amen.
Photo by author, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Monastery, Guiguinto, Bulacan, 2019.

And God said… get real, man!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle A, 07 June 2020
Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9 ><)))*> 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 ><)))*> John 3:16-18
Our empty church at the height of the lockdown in March-April 2020.

Two young ladies attended our 4:00 PM Mass last Sunday. Just before the Lamb of God, the other lady collapsed and fell on the floor. Thank God she suffered no injury; later after the Mass I checked on her to see if she was sick or maybe hungry that caused her to collapse.

She said she could find no other reason for feeling dizzy and later collapsing except that they have walked two kilometers from their home under the intense heat of the sun that afternoon to celebrate Mass in the parish. She added that sometimes they also ran so as not to be late.

Then, they told me something that really touched me and broke my heart: “sawa na po kami magsimba sa Facebook Live kaya po kami nagpunta sa Parokya para magsimba” (we are fed up joining Facebook Live Masses that we decided to celebrate Mass at the parish).

As I prayed this week, reflecting on this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, that story from my two parishioners kept on echoing in my head because that is the reality of God in the Holy Trinity: a God who loves because he keeps on giving, without taking anything in return.

The reality of God in the Holy Trinity

Beginning this Sunday as we resumed Ordinary Time in the liturgy, we are celebrating three solemnities successively: Trinity today, Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi next Sunday and Friday after that, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In a sense, these three solemnities remind us that God is with us always; hence, on this Sunday as we celebrate his being God in three Persons, he is also telling us to “get real” with him especially in this age of virtual realities and media manipulations.

Getting real with God is like my two parishioners who walked two kilometers under the sun just to celebrate Mass in the parish because they were fed up with online Masses that cannot capture entirely the experience of God in an actual Mass.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

When we come to think of it, God does not need to prove himself to us. He simply shows us himself. That is why those two parishioners were willing to sacrifice walking two kilometers because they must have received something, must have experienced something from this God who is so personal, relating and so real that they wanted to experience him personally in the actual Mass.

The same must be true with us all who miss going to actual Masses, who continue to pray at home.

Why do we pray, why do we praise God, why do we ask him for mercy and forgiveness for our sins, why do we ask him for so many things, and the list can go on with one essential question: why do we come to God?

Is it not because he comes first to us? He makes himself known to us by giving himself to us, showering us with many blessings both material and spiritual, surprising us with so many wonderful things and sights like sunset and nature that we praise him? Most of all, he is so kind and loving that we feel sorry when we are mean with others, when we choose to do wrong, when we are not that good like him?

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3:16

That is the essence of God, a personal and relating God who gives everything because he loves us. Only God can adequately “speak” of him to show us he exists in ways so marvelous we cannot even dissect yet jump into conclusion right away that “it is the Lord!” like Peter in Lake Tiberias.

When we speak of a Trinity, of Persons, we speak of relationships that presuppose giving and loving. That is God in himself that he poured out this love in him by first creating everything (Father), then giving us his Son to save us after we have turned away from him, and to ensure that we never get lost again and find our way back to him, gave us the Holy Spirit as Advocate and Counselor.

Here we find God is more than a concept or an abstract and structure in our minds that we have construed or created. He has always been there. He has no need of proving himself to us, unlike us who always have to prove ourselves with others.

God is the giver and the gift himself because he is perfect and complete unlike us who can only give gifts and things as representations of our very selves.

And there lies more the mystery of the Holy Trinity — in his being both the gift and the giver, God remains perfect and one even if he keeps on giving and giving without taking anything for himself, a mystery he shares with us by asking us to be like him in giving so we would remain full like him.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa at Carigara, Leyte, 2019.

Something’s got to give

This mystery of the Trinity, of a relationship of persons that only gives yet never depleted or exhausted reveals to us what we must can and must always do as created image of the loving God.

Time and time again we have proven in history and in ourselves that it is only in giving when we truly receive, when we are truly human, truly loving.

This pandemic is telling us in no uncertain ways that our lifestyle of having and gaining has led us to more wanting and more wasting, more destruction and more separation.

God is telling us in the midst of this pandemic that we get real — learn to give and forgive, to let go and let God!

We are all linked together as one, a community of beloved, saved and forgiven though imperfect and sinful. On Mount Sinai Moses saw for himself this God giving everything despite his people being so stubborn, that he asked God to accompany them in their journey.

Since then God has always accompanied us in our journey in life though we always turn away from him, wandering off in the wilderness, following other paths that we end up more lost, more tired.

What are we willing to give up in this life to experience fullness in God and with others?

Getting real is giving up ourselves so we may be filled by God so we may experience life’s fullness in him and in our relationships with others and even with nature. Amen.

Our closed church but open hearts willing to give, willing to sacrifice will enable us to go through this crisis, more complete, more fulfilled.

Giftedness of a gift

The Lord I My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Thursday, Easter Week VII, 28 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 22:30; 23:6-11 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 17:20-26

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

John 17:24

Wow! What a tremendous blessing you have poured upon us today, Lord Jesus Christ! Yesterday, you proved yourself to be a great friend to us, and today, you give us the great honor of being a gift to you from the Father.

We are nothing before you, O Lord, and yet that is who we are to you – a gift from the Father.

What an honor for us all when in fact, we have nothing except your gift of self, your gift of life.

And that is where the giftedness of any gift lies – not in the gift itself but in the giver and the receiver of the gift. Any gift is worthless unless somebody gives it and somebody receives it too.

Between the giving and receiving, therein happens the giftedness of gift when it is opened and offered. A gift left unopened under a Christmas tree or in a drawer remains nothing unless opened and used and appreciated.

Photo by author, Subic, Zambales, 2018.

We are a gift given by God to everyone in Christ Jesus. It is only when we are able to open and offer our selves do we become truly a gift.

Give us that grace, Jesus, of offering and sharing our giftedness like St. Paul in the first reading.

The following night the Lord stood by him (St. Paul) and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Acts of the Apostles 23:11

There are many occasions, Lord, when we pray and ask you to spare us of all the sufferings and trials but now we have realized that it is only in being one with you in your passion when we truly become a gift to you from the Father.

It is in our becoming a gift to you that we become a gift to others and eventually realize our many gifts in ourselves too. Amen.