Christmas is when God’s love came down so that our love may rise in him

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Octave of Christmas, Feast of St. John Evangelist, 27 December 2022
1 John 1:1-4     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     John 20:1, 2-8
God our loving Father,
we thank and praise you in 
giving us a great saint in
John the Evangelist, 
the beloved disciple of your Son Jesus Christ
whose feast we celebrate in this
Octave of Christmas;
it was John who declared that
"God is love" (1 Jn. 4:8, 16),
the most sublime assertion about God
not found in any other religion!
John did not merely said "God loves"
nor "love is God"; instead, John expressed
that you, O God, is love, your essence is love
that is why everything you say and do is love!
In his gospel and letters,
John showed us how your love, O God,
came down on us so that our love
may go up in you, with you, through you
in Christ Jesus who is the expression of your
love himself when you sent him to us this Christmas
for "God so loved the world that he gave us
his only Son" (Jn. 3:16);
when Jesus Christ was about to offer himself
on the Cross, his lowest point in life when he
suffered and died, he gave us his new commandment,
"that you love one another; even as I have loved you,
that you also love one another" (Jn.13:34).
How beautiful that John,
the only Apostle to have grown old
without tasting death as a martyr
unlike the others and remained standing
at the foot of the Cross to whom Jesus 
entrusted his Mother,
was able to contemplate all these
wondrous movements of your love, O God,
so that our joy may be complete in Christ.
Open our eyes and our hearts of faith, 
Lord Jesus Christ like John the Beloved
so that we may always believe even when
the tomb is empty, when you seem to be missing
and absent; teach us to love you more dearly
so that we may be true in our love in
loving our brothers and sisters whom we can see
as expression of our love to God whom we cannot see; 
let us keep on loving so that love may be perfected in us
so we may see God in others
and God may be seen in us always.
Amen.

The real big deal & call to be real

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 06 November 2022
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 ><]]]]'> 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 ><]]]]'> Luke 20:27-38

We are now in the penultimate month of the year and the last two Sundays before the Solemnity of Christ the King when we close our current liturgical calendar to usher in Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas.

That is why every year on these two consecutive Sundays before Christ the King, the Church rightly orients us through the readings into our ultimate end in heaven – the real big deal in life calling us all to get real because it is the eternity.

But, do we really care at all? Or, are we just like the Sadducees in the time of Jesus Christ who are so concerned with the realities of this passing world than with that of eternal life?

We may not be exactly like the Sadducees who totally rejected the resurrection as well as the existence of angels and spirits but like them, we also fall into the trap of believing that the concerns of this world are ends in themselves that we spend so much time and energies pursuing wealth and fame that in the process we destroy our selves, our loved ones and relationships.

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward. Jesus said to them, “The children of this stage marry and remarry, but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. The dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Luke 20:27, 34-38

Jesus had entered Jerusalem and it is very interesting that this conversation about the resurrection of the dead and heaven happened there where he himself would suffer and die and rise again on the third day. Both Matthew and Mark recorded this conversation of Jesus with the Sadducees but for Luke, this is the only time Jesus met them face-to-face before his arrest.

According to Luke, the Sadducees were the most responsible for the death of Jesus because from their ranks came the high priests like Caiaphas. The Sadducees were the ones who also persecuted the Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus, ordering the arrests of Peter and John. Most of all, the Sadducees were also enemies with Pharisees whom they also opposed and persecuted. They were the fundamentalists of Judaism who only accepted the first five books or Pentateuch collectively known as the Torah (the Laws) as the only inspired books by God. For them, all revelations from God stopped with Moses; hence, their rejection of resurrection and of anything of spirits.

In this scene, we find Jesus just chillin’ with the Sadducees; he was not even debating with them because he was not bothered at all with their analogy about marriage and afterlife. See how Jesus was not even trying to prove anything but simply asking, inviting them including us today to focus on him as the one revealed by the Scriptures and the Laws whom Moses called as “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob” because “Amen, Amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM” (Jn.8:58).

Right there in the heart of Jerusalem at the temple area, Jesus was already revealing to everyone his being the Christ, that if all were not “alive for him, with him, through him and in him” – that is, if he were not resurrected – then he would not only be a God of the dead but a dead God! Then everything would be a mockery, a fake as St. Paul would always say in his letters. And if that were the case, then, we forget all about morality and virtues and we just keep on pursuing money and wealth, fame and glory, food and pleasures for nothing will come after this life.

But, deep inside us we know that is not true at all.

Deep inside us springs an eternal hope of something and someone more lasting than this life, God. It is what we experience so often in life especially when we are going through severe tests and trials like getting sick or losing a loved one. Many times, we feel this too when we are going through emptiness, when we feel after having everything, there is that great “something” that we are missing like Bono and U2 singing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

And that is God. Jesus Christ. Eternal life.

The only real deal in this world, in this life. It is a grace embedded in each of us by God that enables us to face and choose death eventually like the seven brothers in the first reading: When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him” (2 Mc.9:14).

This is what we confess and proclaim every Sunday and in every Mass we celebrate, the mystery of our faith. It is something so difficult to explain or express because it is too deep for words.

Last September my youngest sister Bing was diagnosed with cancer. It was only then when I realized the gravity and seriousness of the big “C”. It was like hearing the cocking of a gun which I have experienced covering the December coup of 1989: everything stops in eery silence, awaiting sure death.

When she told me about it one night while studying, I just felt nothing, could not even think well, doubting if I really knew how to pray. I just imagined myself like a “worm” curling before God in prayers, not saying much, just making him know what was deeply in my heart.

Bing underwent surgery last month to remove her cancer and three weeks ago came the results of her lab tests: it is cancer stage 2 that did not require chemotherapy nor radiation except close monitoring. Of course, we all rejoiced for the good news which we also knew could be temporary as we are still awaiting the results of another test to gauge her cancer’s severity.

Maybe because I was also scared that I did not talk to her much as I also wanted her to have more time and space for herself. And God. It was only two days after she had texted me her diagnosis of stage 2 cancer when I asked her how was she, really? That’s when I felt God so close to me when she replied, “Kuya, I am thankful to God; I did not ask him for anything except the grace to accept my sickness. So glad it was detected very early.” Hallelujah!

Faith in the resurrection is not just belief in the afterlife like reincarnation of which many Christians follow as real and true. Ancient peoples believed in the afterlife but not necessarily with resurrection that is why they always have to contend with the issues of the relationships among the living and those who have died. From there came their ideas of karma as well as those offerings being made to the dead to beg their favors or appease them to ward off their destructive powers.

Faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith in his Resurrection is a revelation we experience deep inside us in the most personal manner that does not require us with so much thinking and reflections just to convince unbelievers. It comes from an encounter with the living God our Father in Jesus Christ “who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace” (2Thess.2:16). Like my sister Bing simply telling me her prayers, of how thankful she is for the results of her surgery.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beautifully wrote in 2007 in Spe Salvi #27 that “anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph. 2;12). Man’s great, true hope which holds him firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God – God who has loved us and who continues to love us ‘to the end,’ until all ‘is accomplished’ (cf. Jn.13:1 and 19:30).”

People who truly believe in the resurrection in Christ are men and women who live for God here and now, people who witness Christ on the Cross in daily living of loving service and kindness to everyone, living in the presence of God striving to do his Holy Will even if it may be difficult and painful sometimes because our true home is in heaven with him. That is the grace of this Sunday assuring us of our own resurrection in the end, of our union with God in eternity that begins NOW, right HERE in this life. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo credits:
Topmost photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Portugal, October 2022;
Second (Ascension Chapel of Jesus) and third (wall of Jerusalem) by the author, May 2019;
Fourth by Ms. Meg Lalog-Bringas, 03 November 2022.

Faith in Jesus, perfecter of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 14 August 2022
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:1-4 ><}}}*> Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Following Jesus, being a true and good Christian is always difficult. This I realized on my first month as a priest 24 years ago when I gave a “marriage encounter” (ME) to several married couples from the parish of my former professor in the seminary.

Part of the marriage encounter is the writing of one’s sins on a piece of paper with a symbolic burning before going to confession later in the evening; problem was, as a new priest, I gave a wrong instruction asking the spouses to exchange paper with their partner to see each others sins. That was when a wife collapsed after reading the sins of her husband! Actually, she had long suspected him of infidelities but that afternoon, all her doubts and suspicions were proven very true that her blood pressure shoot up, losing her consciousness in anger and pain.

After she had been revived, she kept on saying, “akala ko ME magpapatatag sa aming samahan; ito na yata maghihiwalay sa aming dalawa ng tuluyan” (I thought the ME will make our marriage stronger but it seems this will finally cause our separation as husband and wife).

I tried explaining things to her, prayed so hard for her and eventually after six months, I met them at a wedding as they thanked me how their marriage had gone stronger after surrendering everything to Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"Every Christian is a prophet...
a sign of contradiction."

Many times in our lives we have experienced that our faithful service in the Lord often leads us to distressing and painful situations, even tragic choices. In the first reading, we have heard how Jeremiah’s own folks threw him into a cistern to die because they could not take his preaching against their sinfulness and prophecies of the impending fall of Jerusalem which eventually happened. He was momentarily rescued from the cistern but later was eventually killed by his own people for speaking against their sinful ways and life.

Every Christian is a prophet like Jeremiah, a sign of contradiction among the people, even in one’s own family and circle of friends. To live against the corrupt and sinful ways of the world, to uphold what is true and just, to stand for what is honorable and good surely earn a lot of criticisms and condemnation from everyone. Even in the Church!

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division

Luke 12:49-51
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

With all of these words, we now wonder what is good with our Good News this Sunday? Remember, Jesus Christ is on his way to Jerusalem to face his suffering and death. Today he tells us three things to remember to remain focused with the End.

First is the fire he had brought into the world. It is not a fire of destruction but fire of heat and light that give life; fire that purifies and cleanses like silver and gold that bring out its beauty and magnificence; and most of all, the fire of God’s presence like in the burning bush of Moses and the pillars of fire/cloud that guided the Chosen People in the wilderness into the Promised Land.

Fire gives light and heat that lead into life; we can survive without food and water for several days but we cannot last even ten minutes without heat! This is the kind of fire we Christians need these days, fire that will lit us up with courage ands joy in Jesus Christ by witnessing his gospel in a world that seems to be dying and lifeless despite the noise and affluence around.

As a purifying fire, it always brings pains that lead into conversion and liberation like what that couple in my first Marriage Encounter have experienced. The fire of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness taught them to forgive each other and enabled them to lead holier lives. The more we get closer to Jesus our light, the more we see our sinfulness and weaknesses, then we change and mature. That is when we are filled with the light of Christ to become his presence in the world.

Second teaching of Jesus today is about his “other baptism” which is his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This is the reason why he was “resolutely journeying to Jerusalem” – he was so eager, so decided to face his pasch not for the pains it would bring but for its glorious effects for us.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

That is the real meaning of baptism, from the Greek baptizein which is to immerse in water; hence, baptism before was a literal immersion in water. In our immersion into the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we enter into a communion in him and with him so that in his Resurrection, we too rise with him and in him into new life.

Third pronouncement by Jesus this Sunday is perhaps the most baffling, especially when we consider the statistics that more than half of the conflicts going on in the world today are due to religious beliefs.

Jesus never meant to bring people apart; in fact, he came to bring us all together, to gather us again as beloved children of the Father. However, it happens that the moment we stand for Jesus, for what is true and just, inevitably, we will be with odds even with those dearest to us. Jesus himself had said that “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26).

That is one of the beautiful imageries of the Cross of Jesus Christ: it marks the end of our sinfulness and the beginning of our oneness in God.

It is the difficult aspect of discipleship when our loved ones are into sins and evil, when they are in darkness and injustice. Are we going to side with them or side with Christ?

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his peace (Jn.14:27) that according to him is not like the peace offered by the world that is often based on compromises; Christ’s peace is the fruit of love, of sacrifices. Love and sacrifice are one, always together; when you love, there is sacrifice, there is pain and suffering. That is why it is love!

Parents and lovers know this very well: many times they suffer and cry in silence because of their great love for their children or beloved. It is no wonder that in the Beatitudes, Jesus called the peacemakers and the persecuted blessed because to work for peace entails persecution and division.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"God is dangerous."
-Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar (+)

Last Sunday we have reflected how Jesus used the setting of night for our vigilance because faith is tested and deepened in the darkness of life like during nighttime. And, the darker the night, the longer the night always.

But, we have so many people who have gone ahead of us in this life who have found light and life amid the darkness in life, emerging victorious in their faith in God, from the patriarchs in the Old Testament and in Jesus himself and his Apostles and saints as well.

Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wonderful! Jesus is the leader and perfecter of faith. Very often, we hear the gospels and the Bible speaking always of our having faith in Jesus. But, it is only here and in some instances in Paul we find Jesus having faith; how can Jesus, the Son of God have faith when he is the object of faith?

Let us remember that Jesus is truly human, truly divine. Like us, he also had faith as the gospels attest: he had faith in the Father who sent him. He is the best example of having faith, entrusting everything to the Father that he did not feel ashamed of the Cross. In that sense, Jesus is also the perfecter of faith because in him, with him and through him, we are able to walk in faith, sustain our faith in the most difficult and trying moments of life when we felt our relationships, our world falling apart because we have stood by his Cross. As we look back, we have emerged better, stronger, and most of all, joyful, free and faithful after all those trials in life. Thanks to our faith in Christ!

One of the friends of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II was the Swiss theologian and priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar who said in his 1945 book “The Heart of the World” that God is dangerous.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacia trees in UP-Diliman, April 2022.

Indeed, it is very true especially when Fr. Balthasar noted how God “is inviting you to lose your soul in order to gain it. He always thinks in terms of love. He offers us the impossible… He presents his victory over death as an example to be imitated, he draws us beyond our limits, into his adventure, which is inevitably fatal.”

The blessedness of this Sunday is that Jesus had become like us to lead us the way in a life of faith, perfecting our faith in the process so that we may overcome all obstacles and trials in life like him and be with him in eternal glory in heaven in the End.

Let us keep in mind the worthy reminder of the author of the Letter to Hebrews that “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb.12:4). Amen.

Have a blessed, fiery week of faithful adherence in Christ!

If God tries us in “court”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time, 18 July 2022
Micah 6:1-4, 6-8   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 12:38-42
Photo by author, Tagaytay City, February 2022.
Your words today, 
O God, are so reassuring
and most of all, refreshing;
I feel so blessed with you
as our Father, so loving and 
merciful!
I know that if ever
we are charged in court
for our sins against you
as expressed by your prophet
Micah today, we would all
end up guilty as charged;
we have no alibis nor excuses
to make except we have been
stubborn and so proud, and yes,
ungrateful to all your love and
blessings; no amount of any 
sacrifice and offering we can
give you will suffice to remove
our sins but here you are, God
and Father, full of love and tenderness
asking us only one thing:

You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8
Open our eyes,
open our minds,
open our hearts
to your presence,
to your coming 
in our Lord Jesus Christ;
let us not harden our hearts
to see your presence among
us most especially in the little
miracles you shower us daily
like waking up every morning
filled with life and love
in our family and friends.

Here I am, Lord, welcoming
you into my life as you make me
share in your life daily.
Let me not look for any other
signs for to be able to pray
to you in Christ is more than
enough proof of your love
and forgiveness.  Amen.

God our Daddy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time, 07 July 2022
Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 10:7-15
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, 15 June 2022 in San Miguel, Bulacan.
Your words today, O God,
are so touching 
because you are so human, 
so fatherly, to tender, so loving:

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child, I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols.

Hosea 11:1-2
So true, O God:
you have always loved us
despite our unworthiness,
freeing us from sins and other
darkness in life yet,
we turned away from you;
and worst, the more you call us,
the more we turn away from you!
And despite that,
you kept on calling us,
even running after us so we
may return to you through your Son
Jesus Christ but, sadly, the more 
we run away from you.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.

Hosea 11:3-4
This part I love so much, God;
so touching, so picturesque
of you, so human, so fatherly
like a daddy teaching us
 how to walk,
tenderly drawing us with
"human cords, with bands of love",
not with with ropes and sticks
used for animals;
most of all, your gentlest
and tenderest image of raising us
to your cheeks like an infant,
stooping to feed us that all show
your intimacy and deep love
we have brushed aside, even spurned.
And that is how ungrateful we are!!!
Yet, you are still here,
loving us, forgiving us
in Jesus Christ who suffered and died
for our sins.

My heart is overwhelmed; my pity stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.

Hosea 11:8-9
Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for letting us call
your Father "Abba!",
thank you for letting us experience
his touch that heals and cleanses,
his love that forgives and casts out
demons from us; let us be
reminders today that the
Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

The joys and pains of every beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 23 May 2022
Acts 16:11-15   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 15:26-16:4
Photo by author, sunrise at Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father in 
giving us each day as a new 
beginning, a fresh start in life
with every grace we need in Christ;
how amazing are your words today,
O Lord, that both speak of the 
joys and perils of every beginning.
In the first reading,
we are inspired by the initial works 
of St. Paul in that great city of Philippi
where he met and baptized Lydia, a gentile
convert in the Lord; it was the first European
city to listen and accept the Christian message,
the beginning of a glorious history that 
transformed the continent not only in religion but
also in arts and culture.  
What a beautiful example of St. Paul 
being a "sower" of the gospel 
so that others may "reap" its fruits
until now!  
Teach us, Lord Jesus, 
to be sowers of your word 
to win more Lydias and most of all, 
so that there would always be something 
to reap in the future.
On the other hand,
your gospel today reassures us,
dear Jesus, of your presence and
defense in the Holy Spirit for the many
dangers we face in every beginning.

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”

John 16:1-4
Our work in you, O God, is never finished.  
Let us continue to welcome each day as a new
beginning to sow your seeds of love and kindness,
mercy and salvation to make known to everyone
of you as our loving Father in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Praying for peace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 17 May 2022
Acts 14:19-28   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 14:27-31
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
Not as the world gives
do I give it to you.  Do not let
your hearts be troubled or 
afraid" (John 14:27).
Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us for taking the gift
of peace so lightly,
turning it into a cliche
and worse, making it a joke;
yet, it is always the one gift
we all desire and wish for but
so afraid of truly having it
because it demands
great things from us
like faith in you so that
we can follow you carrying our
cross, bearing all pains and willing
to sacrifice to achieve real peace.

They (Paul and Barnabas) strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:22
Your peace, dear Jesus,
is so different from the "peace"
the world gives or knows about
which is a peace that is centered on
man than on God our Father; 
your peace, Lord Jesus, demands 
that we make the world know 
that we love the Father like you
(cf. Jn.14:31) because it is a peace
borne out of justice and love, virtues
that call us to forget ourselves and
think more of others.  Amen.

Lent is trusting God and his words

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the First Week of Lent, 08 March 2022
Isaiah 55:10-11  <'[[[>< + ><]]]'>  Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Thank you so much,
dear God for you reassuring 
words today:
"Just as from the heavens 
the rain and snow come down 
and do not return there 
till they have watered the earth, 
making it fertile and fruitful, 
giving seed to the one who sows 
and bread to the one who eats, 
so shall my word be that goes forth 
from my mouth; it shall not return 
to me void, but shall do my will, 
achieving the end for which I sent it"
(Isaiah 55:10-11).
Forgive us for being impatient,
for rushing everything and everyone
especially YOU with our many plans
in life that too often we refuse 
to trust so that we may control
everything and everyone.
Thank you for being so patient
with us, truly a lover who waits 
when we are ready to surrender
everything so that YOU may 
take charge with our lives.
I know, dear God, the question
with you is not how true are your
words and promises but when 
will you fulfill them because you are
truly "Our Father" who wishes only the
best things for us your children.
Through your Son Jesus Christ,
teach us that when we call you
"Our Father", we may submit 
ourselves to your will as we lay aside
our own plans and agenda so that
we may fully experience the reality
of your power and grace.  Amen.

In our Father’s house

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Feast of the Sto. Niño, Sunday II in Ordinary Time, 16 January 2022
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><}}}*> Luke 2:41-52
Photo by author, Sto. Niño exhibit at the Malolos Cathedral, 13 January 2022.

We Filipinos celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world which starts – unofficially -every September first when radio stations begin playing Christmas songs, ending officially today, the third Sunday of January with the Feast of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child Jesus).

Today’s feast is considered a part of the Christmas season which is in recognition of the crucial role of the image of Sto. Niño given by Magellan 500 years ago to Queen Juana of Cebu in the evangelization process of the Philippines. As the late Nick Joaquin would rightly claim in his essays, the Philippines was colonized by the Sto. Niño which is clearly seen in its widespread devotion coming in close second with Nuestro Padre Hesus Nazareno of Quiapo we celebrate every January 09.

What a wonderful “coincidence” or Divine intervention that the two most popular Christ devotions in the country happen on the same month of January, immediately after Christmas, reminding us despite our many shortcomings as the only Christian nation in this part of the world, Jesus reigns supreme in our hearts and homes.

And churches.

Despite the many accusations hurled against our brand of Christianity, of being sacramentalized but not evangelized, we can find hope and consolation in our being as very “church people” – our coming to the church even outside during this pandemic period in itself is a child-like trait, a grace we can deepen for a more matured faith that can lead to our transformation as a people.

This we see in our gospel today which we have heard proclaimed last month at the Feast of the Holy Family, a day after Christmas that was also a Sunday.

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:41-43, 46, 48-49
“The Finding of the Savior at the Temple” painting by William Holman Hunt (1860) from en.wikipedia.org.

We are all children of the Father in Christ

When we examine Christ’s life and teachings, we find how everything is anchored in being a child of God the Father as he would always remind everyone that unless one becomes like a child, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

This Jesus clearly showed when he was 12 years old after staying behind at the Temple in Jerusalem that left Mary and Joseph so “anxiously looking for him”.

We see in this gospel scene how Jesus must have been so rooted in his own childhood experience that he could speak with familiarity about the child’s being and dignity. Most of all, of being the Son of God, a child of God when he told his Mother Mary, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2:49).

As he grew up and matured during his ministry, Jesus frequented the synagogues and later the Temple as a devout and faithful Jew.

What a beautiful expression of his being a child of the Father, always coming to the “Father’s house” to worship and praise, to be one with God and with the people.

What a beautiful expression of his – and our being children of God the Father!

Every time we come to the church to celebrate the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist, every time we come to pray inside the church, we express our being children of the Father. It is the most beautiful expression of our being child-like before God when we come to him in his house of worship in total surrender, on bended knees to plea for his grace and mercy.

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, September 2021.

To believe in the Church and come inside the church is part of our faith in the mystery of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ we profess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church”.

Recall that after cleansing the Temple, Jesus declared to those asking him for signs to “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn.2:19) with the Evangelist’s added note, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (Jn.2:21). Eventually on Good Friday as he died on the cross, we are told in another gospel account how “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mt.27:50), indicating a new phase in worshipping God in his Son Jesus Christ who has become the Body of the new people he had called that includes us today, the Church.

Therefore, every time we come to the church as a community of people, it is an act of being child-like as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in the same manner he told his parents that “I must be in my Father’s house”.

Our being able to come to the church for the Mass and the other sacraments is a pure grace from God, an act of being child-like before him when we submit ourselves to him, when we try to listen to his words proclaimed, when we believe in the power of prayers and Sacraments.

At the height of this pandemic when religious gatherings were banned, so many faithful expressed their child-likeness to God by turning to on-line Masses and prayers.

However, as we slowly open up churches for live celebrations, there now arises the call for us to return into the Father’s house. The very nature of the Church as the Body of Christ and the Sacraments presuppose presence.

Here, we find the great relevance of today’s Feast of the Sto. Niño to return to the Father’s house and reconnect anew with our fellow disciples without disregarding health protocols of course.

When the Spaniards returned to the Philippines in 1565 (40 years after Magellan), they saw the Sto. Niño venerated on an altar above other anitos inside a hut presumed to be a house of worship of the natives. Most likely, the natives felt the Sto. Niño as the superior deity always answering their prayers for abundant harvests, healing from sickness or avoidance of pestilence, and fertility for more children to work in the fields. Again, the imagery of that child-like attitude of coming into the “Father’s house” to commune in prayer by those natives.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 14 January 2022.

It is perhaps the new challenge we will be facing as the COVID-19 virus wears off as experts claim, how to bring back people into the Father’s house. Confounding the problem is the lure of the convenience of online Masses that have commodified the Sacrament, a clear indication of lack of any child-like attitude but more of manipulation.

Added to this is the relativistic attitude of modern time when some people claim to believe in God without necessarily having the need to believe in the Church that is deeply embroiled in cases of sexual abuses by its clergy.

All of these are calls for everyone in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church which is a mystery in itself for its members, clergy and lay alike, to recapture that child-like attitude of Jesus himself to always affirm his being in the Father’s house. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone. Stay safe!

What God is asking from us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 13 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 19:3-12
Photo by author, modern chapel at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, the Holy Land, 2019.
I know, dear God our Father,
you have no need of our words 
nor works in exchange for your 
abounding love and grace given us 
in Christ Jesus; and there lies 
your goodness and holiness when 
all you ask of us is our fidelity
to your covenant, that we remain true 
to you by dealing with love and justice
to one another which is all for our own good too.

“I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities which you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Joshua 24:13
You have given us everything, O God:
the earth and everything on it that we have
wasted and destroyed; worst of all, you
have given us family and friends, every person
 and people to love and cherish, respect and
be kind with but whom we have always
hurt with our words and actions when we
see only our very selves, failing to see
others as brothers and sisters in you
as Father from the the very beginning.

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Matthew 19:4-6
Forgive us, merciful Father
for the "hardness of our hearts" (Mt.19:8),
in our building walls among us instead
of bridges to bring us close together
as your children reconciled in Jesus Christ;
help us to find the common grounds that
make us all the same, not different;
make us find and accept our vocation
in life so we may fulfill your calling
by serving you through one another
with love and respect, kindness and mercy
especially in this time of the pandemic.
Amen.