To rest – magpahinga -is to be filled with God

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 January 2022
Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

It is my fifth day in home quarantine after contracting COVID-19 with mild symptoms of colds and coughs last Saturday. From the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone for your love and concern, prayers and gifts like food and fruits you have been sending.

But, no thanks at all to those who told me that God simply wanted me to have much needed rest that is why I got sick.

Whoa!!!

And to those planning to tell me or anyone else afflicted with Omicron, please STOP!

With another week to spend in home quarantine, I feel compelled asking everyone to PLEASE DO NOT EVER SAY GOD WANTS US SICK SO THAT WE CAN HAVE OUR MUCH-NEEDED REST.

It is not true.

It is not uplifting because it is simply stupid and insane. Nothing bad can ever come from God, like sickness or accidents or disasters. Or pandemic. Always remember 1 John 4:16, “God is love”.

However, God continues to work in silence even in the midst of our troubles, doing his very best that even the worst scenarios in our lives would still turn out well and good in the end to proclaim his love and mercy for us.

Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

A few years ago I concelebrated in the funeral Mass for the two brothers of a priest shot multiple times by a neighbor with an Armalite right at the gate of their home. How I wanted to walk out from the Mass to tore my garments when the homilist said with his matching “drama” of tears and breaking voice that it was the will of God: “Ipagpasa-Diyos natin ang lahat… kalooban niya ang pangyayaring ito ngunit siya ang nakaaalam ng higit na mabuti”!

OMG!

So kawawa our God…. and most kawawa are we!

How can a priest claim God willed the brutal slaying of those two brothers?

When Ondoy flooded vast areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces in 2009, “acts of God” became the most notorious phrase to simply describe a disaster never imagined.

It is neither spirituality nor even Christianity when God is always made the reason and – scapegoat – for anything that happens to our lives. May the Good Lord have mercy on us!

Photo by author, Singapore, 2018.

Now with another surge in COVID due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the “spiritualists” and “pseudo-theologians” among us are busy spinning those blasphemous threads of God simply wanting the sick to have much needed rest and “me-time” too.

Totally untrue.

God could have just sent us with tickets to Boracay or El Nido or anywhere to go on vacation to rest, instead of sending us the COVID pandemic!

When we are sick, that is when we have a dis-ease. We are not at ease, there is dis-order in our body functions. And we remedy that with medications and a lot of rest which is part of recovery and healing.

But we do not need to be sick in order to rest.

In fact, we need to always rest so that we do not get sick.

That is the lesson of this pandemic. What we can do is to continue praying and help those who are sick instead of “theologizing” or “spiritualizing” them with such insane ideas.


In the Old Testament, God gave the third commandment to “Keep holy the sabbath day” (Ex.20:8 and Dt. 5:12), instructing us for all time to always rest – in God.

Here we find the beauty of our Filipino language: to rest is “magpahinga” from the root “hinga/hininga” or breathe/breath. Literally speaking, to rest in Filipino which is “magpa-hinga” is to be “breathed on by God”.

Photo by author, November 2021.

In the story of creation, we find how 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” (Ge. 2:7).

In our Filipino Bible, it is translated as “hiningahan”. This beautiful scene was repeated by Jesus on the evening of Easter when he came to visit his disciples at the Upper Room in Jerusalem, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (Jn.20:22).

In its simplest sense, to rest essentially means to reconnect with God, to be breathed on by God to be one with him again who is our source and final end.

To rest – magpahinga – is to be filled with God anew. A rested person is always a renewed creation!

This is one of the many important lessons this pandemic has taught us, of the need for us to go back to God and be one with him again in Jesus Christ through one another along with Mother Nature. This we do by taking a rest, a pause and conscious stop from the daily grinds of life so we can see clearly again ourselves and one another in God and in his creation.


This COVID came because we have not only abused Earth but also our very selves. This pandemic is definitely not from God but he is using it to remind us of his loving presence. And most especially of his healing that can truly last and end this pandemic if go back to him.

Experts say the Omicron variant is the beginning of the end of COVID.

But, just before it finally ends, may this also be the start of our renewed relationships with God and with our very selves as we rediscover the essence and meaning of rest.

So, take a rest and stop saying God makes us fall sick in order to rest; God created rest so we do not get sick.

Have a restful moment with the Lord and your loved ones to be well and healthy!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, 18 January 2022.

Advent is when “great things” happen from God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Simbang Gabi 7, 22 December 2021
1 Samuel 1:24-28   ><]]]]'> + <`[[[[><   Luke 1:46-56
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.

Every evening in our Vespers or Evening Prayer, we priests along with monks and sisters and other devout men and women around the world recite or sing Mary’s Magnificat as a fitting tribute to God’s many great blessings showered upon us at the end of each day.

It is the first song or canticle Luke had placed on the lips of his three major characters in the story of Christmas: Mary, then Zechariah singing the Benedictus upon recovery of his speech after naming his child John according to the angel’s instruction, and thirdly by Simeon singing the Nunc Dimittis at the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.

These are all praises to God who gives us his biggest blessing in his Son Jesus Christ whose birth we celebrate this Christmas. As I have told you, we sing or recite it in the evening to cap the day as a praise and thanksgiving for the wondrous things God has given us each passing day.

Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon 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

In normal circumstances specially among us peoples, whenever we are praised by somebody else, it is customary – even obligatory – that we return their praises.

But not with Mary during her Visitation of her cousin Elizabeth.

After being praised and called as “blessed among women for she believed the words spoken to her would be fulfilled”, Mary in turn praised God instead of Elizabeth because her Magnificat was not only her song but also of Elizabeth and every believer of Jesus Christ as the Son of God who became human to redeem us.

Reminiscent of the canticle by Hannah after the birth of her son Samuel whom we heard offering him to Eli in the first reading, Mary’s Magnificat was borne out of her own experience of God doing great things to her and Elizabeth as individuals which she later widened to include the many “great things” done by God to the Israel as a nation like their Exodus from Egypt and later liberation from Babylonian exile.

“He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly.”

Luke 1:50-52

Now in the advent of Jesus Christ, Mary proclaims the good news of salvation in her Magnificat by singing how God has continued doing great things to her and to everyone with something unheard of, so unique and completely different from those great things he had done in the past to give Israel – and us – a future and much to hope for:

He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to help of his servant Israel for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever.”

Luke 1:53-55

Here we find again the artistry of Luke working so beautifully, so similar with that event at the synagogue in Capernaum where Jesus inaugurated his ministry by proclaiming the passage from Isaiah that said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor…” (Lk.4:18ff).

In Christ’s coming through Mary, God begins a totally new beginning for everyone for all time!

Photo by author, 20 December 2021.

This Advent, we are reminded of God’s many “great things” done to us individually and as a family, as a nation and as a community, and as a Church.

We are now celebrating the 500th year of our Christianization but does it really matter to us? Are we really thankful to God in making us not only Christians but the only Christian nation in this part of the globe? While we are still in our 500th year of Christianization, let us reflect deeply on this giftedness by God to us as a nation and the great tasks and responsibilities he had given us in spreading the good news like Mary.

But at the same time, Advent invites us to look forward to the future in every present moment when Christ comes to fulfill God’s plans of great things for us.

Are we willing to take the challenge and invitation of God to accept his Son Jesus Christ and bring him forth like Mary into this world so lost in darkness? Do we have a room or a space in our hearts where Jesus may come and grow to fulfill God’s many great things being planned for us and others?

Mary sang the Magnificat not only her lips but with her very life as a witness to God doing great things for her and for others.

May we be like her in giving praise and thanks to God with our very lives of witnessing to Christ’s presence. Amen.

Have a blessed Wednesday!

Living in the End-Time

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 November 2021
Daniel 7:2-14     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 21:29-33
Photo by author, Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.
Thank you very much for this
last Friday of November, God our
loving Father; what a beautiful 
reminder to us all as we prepare
for Advent at the closing of the
liturgical calendar tomorrow that
we are in fact living in the end-time.
All the signs of the end of time Jesus
mentioned in the gospel these past two
days are already happening like wars, 
plagues, famines, and earthquakes;
grant us the spiritual knowledge to 
learn the parable of the fig tree:  that
we have to be rooted in you, O God,
through Christ so that even while in
the midst of a destructive world, we
may get to know you more and be 
aware of your coming.
Like the Prophet Daniel in the first
reading, we may not even know at all
how the Son of Man - Jesus - would look like
when he comes amid the clouds;
give us the grace to know Jesus 
personally so that we may live in
communion with him to have 
the eyes to see and the ears to hear 
his Second Coming in 
every here and now, following
him in the path he had shown us
as truly our King and Savior. 
Remove our blindness of pride
and many excuses in seeing the
signs of your coming expressed 
in the parable of the fig tree; let
us rest in that complete trust in you,
dearest God, that whatever happens
in this world, you are always in control
and would always have the last say in
Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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.

In praise of women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious, 17 November 2021
2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 19:11-28
Photo by the author, 2019.
God our loving Father,
today I offer this prayer and 
praise to all the women of 
the world - to all mothers who
brought us to life and nurtured
us in your love and kindness, for
all women who make life go on
and prosper, even easier and 
comfortable for us all, for women
who toil and labor everywhere but
always abused or disadvantaged,
misunderstood and mistreated, 
worst, forgotten and neglected.
Like the mother of those seven sons
in our first reading today, I pray for all
women, praising and thanking them for
their "womanly heart with manly courage".

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: “I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”

2 Maccabees 7:1,20-23
What is a "womanly heart", Lord?
Like you when you presented yourself
like a mother in Isaiah 49:15 who cannot
ever forget her child, we thank you for the
gift of fidelity and faith of every woman 
specially your many noble causes, first of
which are love and life; I pray for all women,
single and married, for deeper faith amid the 
heavy burdens they have to carry on their 
shoulders both at home and at work; not
to forget too are the women who taught us
to pray, those who made us experience 
your reality as God with their patience, 
understanding, and forgiveness.
What is "manly courage", Lord?
Like your Son Jesus Christ who had
come to the world to save us and make
you known to us, it is most wonderful
how the Blessed Mother Mary's heart 
was pierced with sword when full of courage,
she stood by him at the Cross. 
I pray, dear God, for so many women today
into so many fights, sometimes left alone
by themselves with just faith and courage 
in their hearts that someday your truth
and justice would prevail.  In a most special
way, I pray for all women battling cancer and 
other sickness these days:  grant them healing
in body, mind, heart, and soul.
Most of all, dearest God, I pray for 
all women in their senior years:  grant
them grace and serenity in facing eternity,
fill their hearts with joy and gratitude for
lives well spent in you, specially those like
the servants in the gospel who have invested
and made their "talents" grow in loving service
to you.  
And lastly but not the least, I pray for 
all the women who have gone ahead of us, 
our beloved ones.  Grant them eternal rest in you,
O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine
upon them always.  Amen.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us!

Life is more than #POV

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXII-B in Ordinary Time, 07 November 2021
1 Kings 17:10-16 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 9:24-28 ><]]]]'> Mark 12:38-44
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Perspectives and points of view play important roles in our lives, affecting our judgements and conduct; however, we also know by experience that perspectives and points of view are not enough, cannot be entirely reliable that lead us into stereotyping of people.

I just learned recently from the teenaged daughters of a friend that the #POV for “point of view” may be used in two ways: first, to express “this is my personal point of view” to which everyone is entitled that should not be contradicted because “it is how I see things”; the second is to present a “first person point of view”, that is, through the eyes of the one who uploads a video to show exactly how things are like the first steps of a baby.

This Sunday, Jesus is challenging our perspectives, our #POV on wealth and poverty, sharing and grandstanding, on our selves before God and other people.

Since last month we have seen how Jesus refused to get into debates with people on persistent issues humans have always been discussing like divorce (Oct.3), power and positions (Oct. 17), and the most important laws to follow (Oct. 31) because Jesus came to reveal to us the will of the Father so we may level up in our perceptions about self, others, and life itself.

Jesus was still in the temple area; he had silenced his enemies from asking him further with other questions to test him. After going on the offensive attacking the scribes’ hypocrisies, Jesus sat to observe the people dropped their donations into the temple treasury.

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Mark 12:41-44
Photo by author, Jerusalem, 2017.

A Tale of Two Widows

Before going into that story of the widow praised by Jesus, let us consider first the story of another widow mentioned earlier in our first reading, the widow of Zarephath, a region governed by Queen Jezebel’s father. Queen Jezebel was the pagan wife of Israel’s King Ahab who had ordered troops to kill Elijah after putting to shame the priests of her pagan god “baal”.

After 40 days of hiding in the mountain fed by birds with a stream providing him fresh water, God instructed Elijah to proceed to Zarephath to meet the widow who would take care of him during the drought that would come as a punishment to Israel.

More than the miracle of living through the year of drought that hit the region at that time, it is a marvelous story of the faith of both Elijah and the pagan widow. We can understand the deep faith and total obedience of Elijah to God who had told him everything that would happen while hiding in enemy territory.

Things were greatly different with the widow of Zarephath who was first of all a pagan, in fact, a worshipper of the false god baal Elijah had openly bashed in every occasion everywhere. Her faith is so admirable that she risked her own life including her son in welcoming into her home an enemy of their king. Most of all, she put her complete faith in the words of God spoken through Elijah whom she hardly knew.

She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he 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

In a very similar manner, it was the very nature of faith of the simple and poor widow at the temple treasury that earned praises from Jesus. Keep in mind that money was meant for the upkeep of the Temple, not for the poor; therefore, the very act of donating money into the treasury was in fact an act of faith by the poor widow on God. She was convinced that her offering goes directly to God himself!

It is in this aspect that we must see the whole point of the story which is not about big money and small coins but our personal attitude and faith in giving that is ultimately linked with God. Every amount we offer to church and charities indicates the kind of relationship we have with God.

Jesus had nothing against giving “large sums” of money to the temple collection box; it was not the amount of donation he was raising issue with as he contrasted how the rich “have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

It is always easy to honor God – even self – with one’s huge donations while still relying on our false securities of money and wealth unlike the poor widow who offered her very self to God. In a sense, Jesus had seen in the poor widow’s offering his coming total gift of self on the Cross soon to happen at Jerusalem!

The beauty of both women, widow and poor having lived in totally different times – one in Zarephath, a pagan and another in Jerusalem, so pious and religious – is in their total entrusting of themselves to God, forgetting their very selves in the process, unmindful of the dangers and uncertainties ahead in life except that firm faith in a loving and merciful God.

From Facebook, 24 March 2020.

Our many concerns in life

I was recently interviewed for a special program that focuses on our lives as priests. At the end of the interview, I was asked by the hosts: “what legacy do I wish to leave after my term of office in my present assignment”? It was not really a difficult question at all but I was surprised because that such was the frame of mind of my interviewers. Their perspective and POV, so to speak.

After a few seconds, I politely told them that I no longer think such things as legacies to leave behind even in this life, explaining that priesthood is a journey wherein we come and leave to different assignments and tasks with just one purpose which is to make Jesus Christ known and experienced by the people we serve. After every assignment, I tell people to forget me and that is why I never come to visit my previous assignments. For me, it is only Jesus, always Jesus whom people must remember and keep. No one else, nothing else.

That I think is discipleship: a shift in our perspectives and points of view into God’s very own perspectives and POV wherein we present ourselves before God and not before humans.

Discipleship in Christ does not mean doing great things nor achieving heroic feats in life; God knows our limits, our weaknesses. We are all small and poor before him like those two widows in Zarephath and Jerusalem; but, if we can be like them completely trusting and faithful to God, giving our very selves to him, then, the little amount we offer can eventually accomplish the love and mercy God expects from us.

See the many concerns we have in life. The more we address them, the less we actually have in life like those abusive scribes Jesus mentioned: they have everything like status and fame, clothes and money but have lost God and the people while the poor may have nothing material but have everything in Jesus Christ.

That is what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews is telling us in the second reading: in the Priesthood of Christ, he had accomplished everything for us by offering himself on the Cross, forgiving us our sins to lead us to eternal life. Like Jesus, are we willing to give our very selves to him through others so we may gain him and everything?

What have you offered lately to God?

A blessed new week ahead! Amen.

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

Touching Jesus among us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXI-B in Ordinary Time, 31 October 2021
Deuteronomy 6:2-6 ><]]]]*> Hebrews 7:23-28 ><]]]]*> Mark12:28-34
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

Since the start of this pandemic last year, I have always have that strange feeling of COVID-19 chasing me like a mad dog that would not stop until I am dead. Even after I have had the jabs, practicing all health protocols and best efforts of being “positive” to be negative of the virus, that morbid feeling keeps on creeping.

It is depressing but, it is not that bad as the pandemic has slowly become a grace-filled moment for me like to many of you (I hope so) to discover anew and realize that GOD is absolutely the one thing most important in this life, that GOD is not just the first among all things in life but essentially the very reason of everything in life!

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:28-30

Maturing and growing from fear to love.

From Jericho last Sunday, Jesus had finally reached Jerusalem, teaching in the temple area of the many valuable lessons on growing and maturing in our faith, in nurturing a personal relationship with God through him by moving from fear to love, from knowing to experiencing persons.

Like us in this time of the pandemic thrown into confusion, the scribe approached Jesus to be clarified with the many laws and precepts they were tasked to follow to lead a holy life and enter eternity. Like Bartimaeus last week, the scribe sincerely asked Jesus for enlightenment from the many darkness and blindness afflicting him.

And he was not disappointed when Jesus answered his question so differently by quoting verbatim from the most ancient prayer known by every devout Jew called the Shema Israel which we heard proclaimed at the first reading. By directly quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jesus showed that more than the question of being the “first commandment” in the list of things to follow that is always binding on all, loving God with one’s total person is actually the source of all other commandments – even of those not listed!

In his answer to the scribe’s question, Jesus perfectly showed what holiness is all about – an integration (wholeness) of one’s faith and prayer and life from which flows the very essential fact of our lives that there is no other God than our God who alone is the One.

And the good news is that this great and powerful God had chosen to be one with us in the most personal manner by residing in our hearts!

We have a beautiful expression in Tagalog, “nakialam ang Diyos” – God “intervened” in our very lives by sending us his own Son Jesus Christ, unmindful of our nothingness, because he chose to love us, to be with us, to redeem us. What an amazing and loving God is he indeed who is perfect and most holy seeking an intimate and personal relationship with the broken and imperfect, sinful humans through our Lord Jesus Christ who embraced everything in us except sin.

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal.

In this scene, Jesus is inviting us to move away from our usual “impersonal” relationship with God that is based on laws to follow, resulting in fears to the punishments due when failed to obey them. It is not even a relationship to speak of but more like a deal or transaction wherein we look at him as God our Lord and Master who takes care of our needs as his subjects and servants. Very feudal, so far from God’s will.

Making matters worst is our Filipino psyche of “sapagkat ako ay tao lamang” where we capitalize on our being weak as humans, therefore lowly but not necessarily humble using it as an excuse for failing to “love” him accordingly, and thus, an expression of our pride and insubordination to God.

Like Bartimaeus before his healing, we prefer to stay at the roadside than join Jesus on the way, avoiding relationships that call for a commitment to love.

Jesus wants us to be involved with God through him personally for it is only through him and in him can we experience God’s immense love and mercy by letting go our selfish selves. And the more we let go our selves in love, experiencing pains and sufferings like Jesus, the more we mature and grow better as persons, realizing the need to nurture this wonderful relationship with God who is love, who is the very core of our being.

That is when we move closer to the kingdom of God which is the very person of Jesus Christ found in everyone!

“The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all the burn offerings and sacrifices.”

Mark 12:31-33

Maturing and growing, loving personally

Jesus continued his answer to the scribe by explaining the evolution of commandments from God as its very source, telling us that as we appreciate his majesty and grandeur, we naturally and progressively flow to our discovery and loving too of the other persons around us.

Christ reminds us that whenever we find there is no other God than our God, we likewise discover that everyone is our neighbor, not just those like us in belief and color. The more God reveals himself to us in his grandeur and majesty, the more he also reveals himself to us in every person. Thus, it was in this moment in that encounter with the scribe that Jesus reintroduced his teaching on the universality of salvation, not just for Jews but for everyone!

In a similar manner when Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness last Sunday, today’s gospel is a wonderful story of enlightenment of the scribe who also regained his sight and vision in realizing that the love of God is also the love of one another! That is why he too cannot deny in himself the very truth that the highest form of worship, of “burnt offering and sacrifices” at the temple is personally loving God through everyone around us.

This is one of the important lessons this COVID-19 pandemic has taught us: it is always easy to say or even assume most of the time that we love, that we are loved, taking for granted the expression of our love and concern for others. We now feel so sorry how we have let days and weeks, months and years to have passed without seeing or calling family and friends or at least saying “hi” in whatever platform of social media until COVID-19 came.

Photo from inquirer.net.

While this pandemic has taught us the value of many ordinary things we have taken for granted like simple washing of hands and basic practices of cleanliness that matter so much to remain virus free and healthy, it has painfully taught us too the value of every person dear to us when one by one they were getting infected with COVID-19, some never recovered from the dreaded disease and now gone forever.

So many deaths have occurred in our circles of family and friends since last year in this pandemic; and, the saddest part is how swiftly they have left without any warning at all, denying us the chance of even a few seconds to see them and tell them how much we loved and cared for them.

It is always easy to know and say there is only One God, that he loves us so much, and that we also love him in turn. But, to move from fear to real loving, from formal knowledge to personal relationship, it is different. How true is that saying of us seeing the forest but missing the trees!

This Sunday, Jesus tells us to grow and mature in our relationships with him in prayer that must flow progressively and naturally to the people around us. It is only in finding this close link of loving God and loving neighbors that we get nearer to Jesus, who is the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints Day in honor of all the departed already in heaven and on November 2, the All Souls Day for those awaiting in purgatory. Two great feasts that coincide with our Sunday gospel preparing us for the final destination, of being in the kingdom of God fully which is heaven.

While still here on earth not from the kingdom of God, Jesus is giving us the grace to experience heaven in our personal love in him to the Father through each other. Amen.

Have a blessed November!

Being present with God, in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 October 2021
Romans 1:16-25   ><)))*> = ><)))*> = ><)))*>   Luke 11:37-41
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, 2017, Japan.
Open our eyes 
and our hearts today
to your loving presence, 
God our loving Father!
Make us stop for a while
to feel your presence in us
and among us to experience
true wealth and real wisdom
so unlike with what the world
offers that is always misleading.
Like St. Pau, may we feel that 
deep pride in you who loves us, 
accompanying us in this life,
leading us to fulfillment and joy.

Brothers and sisters: I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.

Romans 1:16, 19
So many times,
we have chosen to follow
 the flow of this world,
"claiming to be wise" when in fact,
we have become fools in our own making;
like that Pharisee who had invited
Jesus to dine at his home,
we have become so unaware
of the presence of Christ and have 
become more amazed at finding
faults and criticisms at what is outside
of us, not realizing the need
to look more inside to cleanse our
hearts and souls where you dwell
and see you present in every moment
 especially among others we least expected.
Amen.

The way to God

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Companion Martyrs, 28 September 2021
Zechariah 8:20-23   ><)))*><*(((><  +  ><)))*><*(((><   Luke 9:51-56
Photo by author, Jerusalem, May 2019.

Thus says the Lord of hosts: There shall yet come peoples, inhabitants of many cities; and the inhabitants of one city shall approach those of another, and say, “Come! Let us go to implore the favor of the Lord;” and, “I too will go to seek the Lord.”

Zechariah 8:20-21
Thank you, dear God our
loving Father for continuing to lead us
to your holy city, your holy presence:
more than the ancient Jerusalem,
all we want is to make to your presence
that we beg you to continue to guide
us in this journey.
We know it is dangerous,
filled with many obstacles and
difficulties like peoples and
situations that try to let us lose
focus on you our destination.

When the days for Jesus being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem.

Luke 9:51
Through your Son Jesus Christ
give us the courage and strength
to be "resolutely determined
to journey to Jerusalem" by defusing
hostilities among peoples, showing them
the path of peace that calls for witnessing
to your love and care for everyone.
May we never lose sight of the reality
that the path to you, God our Father
is Jesus Christ himself who said
 "I am the way and the truth and the life";
bless us in imitating St. Lorenzo Ruiz
and his companion martyrs in Japan
who followed Jesus to his martyrdom
on the cross, shedding their blood
to witness to your truth and glory.

In this modern age when such
cruelties are a thing of the past,
the challenge remains the same
for us to lead people to you, O God;
how sad that many people today
are "leaving" your city, 
never coming back
because they could no longer see you
in us, in our lives and examples;
open our minds and hearts
that like St. Lorenzo, may we
examine ourselves closely to see
what changes we need to live out
Christ's gospel so that even if we are
given with a thousand lives
we would still offer it all
to you.  Amen.
Photo from thecatholictalks.com, 2019.

Two hands and a heart in-between

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXII-B in Ordinary Time, 29 August 2021
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 >+< James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 >+< Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Photo by the author, the Holy Land, 2017.

After an interruption of five weeks, we go back to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday that shall guide us until the end of our liturgical calendar with the Solemnity of Christ the King in November. See the beauty of the Sacred Scriptures that those five weeks from John chapter six did not break the flow of narration that is so seamless!

Returning to Mark’s account today after the feeding of five thousand and the bread of life discourse at Capernaum from John, Jesus crossed the lake and proceeded with the Twelve to Gennesaret where he preached and healed until some of his enemies arrived and found an issue to raise against him.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites… You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7:1-3, 5-8

The Israelites have taken pride in their laws given by Moses from God at Mt. Sinai. Simply referred to as the Law or Torah, it had united them as God’s “chosen people”, making it the very center of their lives that they enlarged its meaning and scope that soon consisted of more than 600 other precepts and practices to observe and keep.

Obeying the laws and traditions became their standard for holiness so that instead of becoming a means to bring them closer to God and others, these became an end in itself that they have forgotten God and others in the process.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Into our hearts and the heart of Jesus

Once again, our gospel is so timely and relevant to our situation right now we are in the midst of a pandemic when we are told to always wash our hands. And if Jesus were with us in person today, he would surely speak the same things about the hypocrisy we have in our washing of hands!

First of all, let us clarify that Jesus is not against the washing of hands before eating nor of any of their other traditions and laws; what he criticized was the greater importance given by his enemies with the outward signs of their laws and traditions, forgetting its inner dynamics and meaning. Thus, he never failed to clarify with the people that he had “not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Mt.5:17).

Here we find the same problem with the people at Capernaum and in our own time when people fail and refuse to look beyond material things to find the meaning of what is going on around us, of what we believe in and what we practice.

Then and now – right in the midst of this pandemic – Jesus is inviting us to deeper perspectives about our concepts and ways of doing and seeing things, of what is clean and not clean, of what is tradition and modern, of what is good and evil.

Jesus wants us to constantly examine our lives for our need of conversion of our hearts to him. He is inviting us to probe our hearts and see who or what dwells inside us because from the heart, everything flows outside not only to our mouth (cf. Lk.6:45, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”) but also to our hands.

That is why I love that imagery of the heart between two arms and hands: the heart at the center of our being and consciousness that whatever comes out of the heart naturally flows to our arms and hands, even to our entire body. If there is something wrong in the heart, so with the messages it sends out.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils from within and they defile.”

Mark 7:14-15, 21-23

Here we find the essential question we must ask ourselves always: Do I find Jesus Christ in my heart as the sole basis and foundation of what I believe which I also say and do?

If we cannot find Jesus at the center of the things we do and believe, most likely we do not find others in the picture too! In that case, most likely, it is all about me, mine, my, and I! Like the Pharisees and scribes of his time, washing of hands and other traditions were more of a show than something more essential which is to serve God through one another.


Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, 
of our interior and spiritual motivations, 
of why we are doing the things we are doing, 
of what we really believe in; 
because, too often, many of the things we do and believe 
are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God.  
There are so many times in our lives 
that we simply do things out of habit 
and conventions without really understanding why.  

Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, of our interior and spiritual motivations, of why we are doing the things we are doing, of what we really believe in; because, too often, many of the things we do and believe are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God. There are so many times in our lives that we simply do things out of habit and conventions without really understanding why.

Simon Sinek said it so well in his bestselling book “Start with Why” – people buy products, patronize services, or are moved when they see the why you do things; they are willing to pay more not because of fad or prestige but more of the conviction in a belief espoused by a brand or company or by an individual.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images in Paranaque City, 09 February 2020.

Washing of hands and eating, our hidden hypocrisies

One of the most frequently asked question by people to me as a priest these days is why despite all our prayers, God has seemed become deaf to our pleas for him to end this pandemic? The answer is simple: unless we see and accept the spiritual realities of this COVID-19 pandemic, it would linger with us longer than projected, even not be solved at all as it gets worst with new variants that have thrown back even some of the most vaccinated nations lately.

We can have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands during this pandemic but COVID-19 will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. See all the abuses and corruption going on that is more sickening than the virus itself!

That washing of hands is an imagery full of meanings we have lost since the time of Jesus. Inwardly, the washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities.

So many times we have become like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to free himself from any guilt in sentencing Christ to death without realizing the more he had implicated himself to the injustice by refusing to make a stand for what is true and just. Like us today, we keep on washing our hands in the hope that our conscience would be at peace or be not bothered with our indifference for what is true and good.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

Washing of hands has always been closely related with eating which is an act of “appropriating something we cannot fully have” like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They took something they cannot wholly take or “swallow” that is why all they could do was just take a “bite” that opened their eyes to something they could not fully realize and appreciate. There are so many realities in this life we just cannot fully grasp right away, requiring us to have more faith, more patience in trusting God and those above us.

But, like Adam and Eve, we keep on taking a bite, of eating whatever our limited minds and reason find as “good” to have. And we wash our hands in clear hypocrisies like the Pharisees and scribes in worship and prayer when we lead double lives, when we laugh and cheer at all kinds of lies and filth, when we silently approve attacks against human life like tokhang and abortion.

Every day we wash our hands and keep them clean to avoid contaminating our food and body in hypocrisy as we agree and support in the name of “modernism” these trends of same sex relationships, promiscuity, and divorce. Or of graft and corruption we have resigned to accept as a fact of daily life.

To wash our hands is to wash our hearts clean of all kinds of evil, of mediocrity and indifference, of taking a stand to “pass over” from sin into grace by witnessing God’s goodness in our lives as Moses reminded Israel in the first reading.

The hands and the heart always go together as expressed in the Jewish thought of “mercy of the heart” and “mercy of the hand” when God’s mercy is more than a feeling but an act of righteousness, of justice and love.

Let us heed the reminder of the Apostle in the second reading to be truly clean in our hands and in our hearts: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:22, 27).

Stay safe everyone. Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.