The best of the very best

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, 22 November 2021
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20  ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>  Luke 21:1-4
Photo from http://www.reddit.com.
Very often in life, we rarely
think of you dear God our Father
when we try to consider the best
we could ever have; if ever we
remember you, you always come
last because we always want 
the finest and most premium as
something tangible, something we
can hold and even possess.
On this final stretch of our 
liturgical calendar before we move
to our "new year" with the First Sunday
of Advent, your words remind us 
very well how we continue that practice
of searching and possessing the best -
food, clothes, vessels, gadgets, 
even minds and talents or persons
like King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,
the conqueror of Judah who ransacked 
your Temple of its precious vessels and 
threw your people into exile.
When he asked for the brightest and 
best men of Judah be separated to serve
at his court, he gave them the best food
and wine to ensure that they function well
when summoned; how amazing were your
servants led by Daniel who refused to eat
the king's food and wine in your honor; 
despite their simple meals of vegetables 
and water, Daniel and his company emerged 
as the best young men in the king's court.

In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.

Daniel 1:20
Meanwhile at the donation box
of the temple, your Son Jesus
found the widow who gave two
small coins as the best donor
of all because she gave her very self
to God unlike the rich who gave only
a portion of what they no longer needed.
Teach us, dear God, that you are
the very best of the best we can ever
have and offer in this life;
may we aspire to have you more -
your love and kindness,
your mercy and justice,
your wisdom and understanding,
your very life and presence
so that we may also learn to give
our total self to you.
Like St. Cecilia, may we sing
your song, O God in our hearts,
giving our very selves to your
loving service for others.  Amen.

Let Jesus shine in us!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week X in Ordinary Time,  10 June 2021
2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1, 3-6   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:20-26
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini, Greece 2016.

Lord Jesus Christ, please remove the veils that cover our minds that prevent us from truly seeing and meeting you. Let us remove the many veils we have unconsciously put on ourselves like our stubbornness and conservatism, legalism and formalism that have made our prayers and worship empty of you.

Brothers and sisters:
To this day, whenever Moses is read,
a veil lies over their hearts of the children of Israel,
but whenever a person turns to the Lord
the veil is removed.
(2Corinthians 3:15-16)

Teach us to submit ourselves more to the promptings and light of the Holy Spirit so that we may reflect you more, dear Jesus, than ourselves.

So many times we have forgotten that we are just bearers of your light, “slaves for your sake” (2Cor.4:5), dear Jesus task to bring people closer to the glory and brightness of God.

Do not let us fall into the same mistakes of the people of your time when praise and worship of God was focused more on the externals than what is inside our hearts expressed in our genuine concern for one another like people we may have hurt or neglected.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, unless your righteousness 
surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
(Matthew 5:20)

Teach us to go beyond the letters of the Laws.

Enable us to see the deeper and wider meaning of the commandment not to kill by respecting in words and deeds the value of every person, of not maligning any one with nasty talks and through the social media.

Enable us to see the direct link of our celebration of the Eucharist with our behavior and dealing with one another, seeking peace and reconciliation to be truly one in you and with the Father in heaven.

O sweet Jesus, we pray most dearly for those people who have boxed us and refused to give us the chance to show our goodness and goodwill; for those whose frame of mind is so fixed that they would not make the necessary adjustments in this time of crisis to accommodate so many people in great sufferings and trials in their lives.

Let your brightness shine on us, Lord Jesus, in these times of darkness and storms. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera at Bgy. Lalakhan, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, 01 June 2021.

The glory of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 12 August 2020
Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-19, 22 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 18:15-20
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, sunrise at lockdown in our Parish, March 2020.

Almost daily in my prayers I give you praise, O God, without really bothering myself to dwell on what is the meaning of your glory, of that scene from the first reading that says:

Then the glory of the Lord left the threshold of the temple and rested upon the cherubim… They stood at the entrance of the eastern gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was up above them. Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, and the wheels went along with them, while up above them was the glory of the God of Israel.

Ezekiel 10:18, 19b-20

It is so difficult to imagine of your glory, O God, when I am in dirt and sin.

Your glory is your purity.

Cleanse us, merciful Father of our many sins and iniquities that have darkened the world and our very lives with evil and sin.

At the same time, teach us to be like you in Christ Jesus, full of mercy and forgiveness for those who sin because every time we are able to bring back a sinner to you, the more we see and experience your glory.

Most of all, keep on purifying us so that our gathering together becomes your indwelling, fulfilling Christ’s words

Photo by author, sunset in our parish church, April 2020.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:20

Lord Jesus, more sinister than all the dirt of sin and evil in us and around us today is our refusal to stand against the immoralities going on.

Worst, O Lord, is our attitude of always “moving the lines” when some people cross the boundary between what is right and wrong, good and evil, decent and indecent.

Forgive us and bring us back to your path, Lord, when truth and morality have suddenly become relative for us without realizing how these have muddled our relationships with you and with others, hiding your glory among us. Amen.

God our Lord and Master

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2020
2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Dome and side altar of the Malolos Cathedral photo by author, 2019.

Glory and praise to you, our mighty God and Father! Truly there is no other Lord and Master of all but you alone from whom all good things come, even greater things than we can ever expect!

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” “You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied. “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.”

2 Kings 2:9-10

How blessed was Elisha to dream big, asking for a double portion of the spirit you have granted his mentor Elijah!

Most often, we just have to trust you, we just have to believe in you as source of everything so we may be bold and daring enough to ask for greater things.

Help us believe in you, Lord.

Most of all, let us love you totally and unconditionally for you know everything what is deep in our hearts as Jesus your Son taught us in the gospel today. Amen.

Shore of Galilee at the back of ancient Capernaum where Jesus lived and preached. Photo by author, May 2019.

Blessed be God forever!

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 24 December 2019

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16 ><)))*> <*(((>< Luke 1:67-79

Marker on the Church where St. John the Baptist is believed to have been born in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2019.

At last!

These are most likely the two words we must be saying today on this ninth day of our Simbang Gabi.

Finally, we have completed the nine day novena to the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ for tonight will be Christmas.

But, more than being the last day of our novena, today is also the beginning of better days ahead for us all starting with Christmas!

From this day on, let us imitate Zechariah in his new found faith, hope and love in God expressed in his song of praise and thanksgiving after recovering his sense of hearing and speaking after nine months of forced silence.

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.”

Luke 1:68-69
Sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land. Photo by author, May 2019.

Three canticles of praise, three prayers of faith

Popularly known as the Benedictus from its Latin opening verse “Blessed be God”, this is the second of the three canticles St. Luke tells us Zechariah had sang after naming his son “John”.

The other two songs are the Magnificat by Mary during her Visitation of Elizabeth and the third is the Nunc Dimittis by Simeon upon seeing the child Jesus during his presentation at the Temple of Jerusalem.

These canticles or songs make up the beautiful Christmas story by St. Luke who put them onto the mouths of Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon to signify their being filled with the Holy Spirit in experiencing the coming of Jesus Christ: Mary sang “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” during the Visitation in response to the praises by Elizabeth (Lk.1:46-55) while Simeon the prophet prayed to God to “let him go in peace” – to die – after seeing the coming of the Savior (Lk.2:29-32).

These eventually became part of the prayers of the Church (Liturgy of the Hours) we priests and religious are obliged to pray day in, day out:

  1. Benedictus in the morning to show how willing are we to face the new day by making our Savior Jesus Christ present in our lives like St. John the Baptizer, his precursor;
  2. Magnificat in the evening to praise and thank God in working his salvation in us through Jesus Christ;
  3. Nunc Dimittis at night before bedtime to signify our readiness to die and finally be one with God in Jesus Christ.

They are our “spiritual vitamins” that fill us with the Holy Spirit to strengthen and deepen our relationship with the Father in Jesus Christ which every Christian may pray too to experience and be one with God daily.

Pilgrims waiting outside the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. On the walls are the translation into different languages of the world, including Filipino, of Zechariah’s Benedictus. Photo by author, May 2019.

Why God is blessed according to Zechariah

The Benedictus signifies Zechariah’s coming to full circle after nine months of forced silence after doubting the angel’s message that he and Elizabeth would finally have a son.

Our sacristy, Advent 2019.

In singing the Benedictus, Zechariah did not only recover his power of speech but most of all showed the fruits of his nine months of silence and prayer preparing for the birth of his son John as well as, ultimately, for Christ’s coming (his song indicates it).

Finally, Zechariah has been healed of his pains and hurts that prevented him in experiencing God, in believing in his powers again, giving him more reasons to hope and be joyful.

This is the reason we also have the Advent Season when we try to dispose ourselves more to Christ’s coming to us not only at Christmas but everyday in our lives.

Zechariah mentions three powerful verbs why he praised God: for he has come to his people, set them free, and has raised up a mighty Savior.

God has come to us

Zechariah first experienced God coming to him when the angel announced to him John’s birth while incensing at the temple during the Day of Atonement. Unfortunately, he was “absent” at God’s “presence” that he questioned how Elizabeth would bear a child.

Everything now changes not only because he had seen his own son but he himself experienced God’s coming in his life.

Sometimes, our pains and hurts, frustrations and disappointments, defeats and failures blind us, numb us that we cannot see, we cannot experience God coming to us in every brand new day he gives us, through the people we meet with their smiles and greetings, with our family and friends who have have stayed with us in good times and bad.

Every morning we wake up to reminds us God has come to us. Rise and meet him in joy, entrust the new day to him, and ask for the grace to remain in him!

God has set us free

Every time God comes, there is always freedom – freedom from evil and sin, freedom from the past and all its pains and hurts, freedom from guilt feelings, freedom everything that prevents us from being truly free to be our own, good sel, to be free and faithful to love and forgive others too.

Carmelite Monastery, Guiguinto, Bulacan. Photo by author, November 2019.

Literally speaking, Zechariah felt free again to speak and express himself fully. But more than that is the experience to go and live fully in God.

We can never experience Christmas if we cannot assert this freedom Christ had won for us when he died on the Cross. Forget all those “hugot” lines and move forward with life.

The name of God is “I AM” because he is always in the PRESENT, never in the past nor in the future.

That is why each new day is a gift, a present from God who as set us free from yesterday’s mistakes and failures and sins.

Go and be free for God!

God has raised up for us a mighty Savior

Christmas is not a date but an event, a person we experience in Jesus Christ who is a dialogue himself according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Jesus is always communing with us, inviting us to be one in him in his love.

In his Benedictus, Zechariah is also professing the saving work of God in Jesus Christ who became human like us in everything except sin. God is so blessed because of his great love for us, he chose to enter, or intervene into human history to bring us into eternal life by faith in Christ Jesus.

To raise up is a strong term also indicating the Paschal mystery Christ will go through, the ultimate communion of God into our own lowliness of suffering and death to bring us into the glorious victory of his resurrection.

Every morning, every day we are reminded by Zechariah of the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary regarding the birth of John: nothing is impossible with God.

And Zechariah had experienced this first hand when his barren and old wife Elizabeth conceived their child John.

May we have a renewed faith, hope and love in God at the closing of our Simbang Gabi this year. Like David in the first reading, rest be assured of God’s plan for each of us. Let us be patient to wait and prepare always for his coming like Zechariah even in his old age. Amen.

Birthplace of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karen, Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2019.

Mary’s song is our song too!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Thursday, Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, 15 August 2019

Revelations 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 >< )))*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><)))*> Luke 1:39-56

“Assumption of the Virgin” by Domenico Piola (1627-1703) at the Church of St. John the Baptist, Chiavari, Genoa, Italy. Photo from Google.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed; the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-49

Glory and praise to you, O God our loving Father in giving us Jesus Christ through Mary – for without the Mother, there can be no Son.

On this Solemnity of her glorious Assumption into heaven body and soul, you remind us also of our blessedness like her, of her being your Divine Presence that she was able to sing the Magnificat.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, Father. Let your Son Jesus reign in our hearts so we can boldly proclaim “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”!

Let our lives proclaim your greatness, O God!

We were wrong, O Lord, we were so wrong when we thought that without you life could be greater and better for us. We were wrong when we thought in this age that disregarding you, O Lord, and your precepts like morality life can be better for us.

We were wrong, O Lord, to think, to believe, and to assert that we are the master of our own fate and destiny when we set you aside, assuming you are dead.

Why, despite all the affluence and comforts of modern world and all those liberal ideas that have swamped us, we are still lost and empty?

Because our body and soul are nothing without you!

On this Solemnity of her Assumption, teach us to empty ourselves of our pride and bloated ego, let us be humble before you and welcome you anew into our hearts, into our very selves.

Let us sing anew your greatness, O God with our body and soul in loving service with one another.

We pray also in a special way for our brothers and sisters who are sick, the elderly, and those with disabilities that they may realise their worth is not in being strong or complete or young, but in being alive, in being persons created in the image and likeness of God. May they persevere in their sufferings with eyes focused on that great gift that await us all like the Blessed Mother at the end of time with the “resurrection of body and life everlasting.” Amen.