The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 March 2021
We go OPM this final Sunday in Lent to ease everyone with the alarming surge of COVID-19 infections happening in our country especially at the National Capital Region. Stay home, be safe, pray and listen to some good music from our homegrown local band Ben&Ben as we try to link the Sunday gospel to their recent hit “Pagtingin”.
I know… Ben&Ben is not my generation but that is the wonder and joy of music as food of the soul: it always strikes a chord in anyone’s heart that reaches to the soul, enabling us to see more beyond the material and natural realities.
Like with their 2019 hit called “Pagtingin” which means in English as “feelings, a sort of crush and attraction to a woman or a man.” Its Filipino root is “tingin” or “see” in English. Remember when we were growing up, feeling drawn to someone so special that we would look at her or steal glances just to see the woman we adore? And the kilig moments when your sights meet?
But of course, the moment you reveal those secret feelings, that is also when you begin to see the bigger picture: your object of pagtingin will either accept or reject you. There is always that risk because sometimes in life, what we see is not what we truly get.
Dami pang gustong sabihin Ngunit ‘wag na lang muna Hintayin na lang ang hanging Tangayin ang salita
‘Wag mo akong sisihin Mahirap ang tumaya Dagat ay sisisirin Kahit walang mapala’
Pag nilahad ang damdamin Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin Aminin ang mga lihim Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
Bakit laging ganito? Kailangang magka-ilangan Ako ay nalilito, ooh-ooh-ooh Ooh-ooh-ooh, ooh
Seeing in the bible means believing. There are times when we see, we believe; but, ultimately, it is in believing first that we are able to see the whole picture in life especially Jesus in the light of his dying on the Cross. And this is what the song Pagtingin is hoping in the end that amid the pains and hurts with some prayers, the man with special feelings will finally see closely with him the woman he sees from afar.
Pahiwatig Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin Pahiwatig Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
Iibig lang kapag handa na Hindi na lang kung trip-trip lang naman Iibig lang kapag handa na Hindi na lang kung trip-trip lang naman
‘Pag nilahad ang damdamin Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin Aminin ang mga lihim Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
Subukan ang manalangin Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin Baka bukas, ika’y akin Sana ‘di magbago ang pagtingin
A blessed week ahead of everyone. Stay safe always. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 14 March 2021
We are now halfway through to celebrating another Easter amid the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic worsening anew with a recent surge in infections. But today’s Sunday readings especially the gospel give us so many reasons to celebrate and rejoice for the gift of life and love, light and hope in Jesus Christ who had come not to condemn us but to save us (Jn.3:16-17).
By his dying on the Cross, Jesus had opened a path for us back to the Father by uplifting us from our sins and miseries, becoming our light that dispelled the many darkness that enveloped us if we follow him with our sacrifices and efforts to be good like him (https://lordmychef.com/2021/03/13/the-joy-of-lent-4/).
This we find in our gospel story of Jesus conversing with Nicodemus under the cover of darkness of the night, reminding us of the 1982 hit Up Where We Belong by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the equally smash hit movie of that year, “An Officer and A Gentleman” starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger.
The movie is also interesting for us because of some references to the Philippines with the opening scenes of Zack played by Gere growing up with his father who was a Navy officer assigned at the Subic Naval Base.
Like Nicodemus in the gospel, Zack had so many darkness within him following his mother’s suicide and his living with his father who initially refused to take him, afraid he would not be a good father after separating from his mother earlier in childhood. After graduation in college, Zack went to train to become a Naval aviator where he encountered more darkness in life especially from their tough and hard-driving Marine training officer played by Louis Gosset Jr. that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film (the first African-American male to do so).
More instances of darkness in Zack were also shown in the film like the suicide of a fellow trainee and friend whose marriage proposal was rejected when his girlfriend learned he had left Naval training. Zack almost quit his training because of that but was prevailed upon by Gosset after an unsanctioned fight bout.
After graduation, Zack went to see his girlfriend at work (Debra Winger), declaring his love for her. And when she said yes to his love, they kissed, after which he carried her in his arms as he walked out of the factory while her co-workers clapped their hands in a round of applause.
The scene is so touching, so lovely. And that is when Jennifer and Joe began their duet.
Who knows what tomorrow brings In a world few hearts survive All I know is the way I feel When it’s real, I keep it alive
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong Where the eagles cry On a mountain high Love lift us up where we belong Far from the world below Up where the clear winds blow
Some hang on to used to be Live their lives looking behind All we have is here and now All our lives, out there to find
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong Where the eagles cry On a mountain high Love lift us up where we belong Far from the world we know Where the clear winds blow
The song is very Lent, in fact very spiritual that some Christian stations in the States have reportedly adapted it into some religious variations as it speaks so well of overcoming every obstacle in life with determination and perseverance. And of course, with a lot of help and light from above, Jesus Christ. Have a joyful and blessed week ahead, everyone!
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-B (Laetare Sunday), 14 March 2021
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 ><}}}*> Ephesians 2:4-10 ><}}}*> John 3:14-21
Today we burst in joyful shades of pink in our liturgy as we rejoice in this Fourth Sunday in Lent known as “Laetare Sunday” when our entrance antiphon calls us to “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her…”
This early as we go halfway through in our journey to Easter, we are called to rejoice as we continue to experience God’s immense love for us in Jesus Christ seen in our readings and most especially, if we have truly taken into heart the spirit of Lent through prayer, fasting and abstinence, and alms-giving.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Path to God opened for us in Christ crucified, our light.
As we have mentioned last week, the fourth gospel is also called “the book of signs” because John refers to the miracles and words of Jesus as “signs” that point to him as the Messiah or Christ, the Anointed One of God.
This Sunday we hear John introducing to us another sign and symbol he uses in his gospel for Jesus: his being LIGHT himself.
This we must first see in the context of his crucifixion which John refers to so many times in his gospel as Jesus being lifted up or raised up on the cross.
It is very meaningful for John because the Crucifixion is Christ’s greatest sign and revelation of his glory when he opened a path for us back to God in his Cross. It is in opening this path to God in his Cross that Jesus had also shone so brightly as our light along the way.
After cleansing the temple last week, John tells us how at the start of the following third chapter of his gospel that “There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” who “came to Jesus at night” (Jn.3:1,2) to discuss things he must have heard and seen about Jesus.
Remember chronemics, the non-verbal communication expressed by time and space? Again we find this employed by John in our gospel scene this Sunday in Nicodemus meeting Jesus at night.
According to biblical scholars, Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night in order to hide in darkness for he was afraid of being publicly associated with Jesus considering his being member of the Sanhedrin, the highest governing body in Israel at that time.
Moreover, his coming at night to Jesus is also symbolic, suggesting that despite his expertise in the Mosaic Law, Nicodemus felt within him a sense of still living in darkness and ignorance. If you read this whole scene, you find many instances of darkness and ignorance in Nicodemus that at one point, there is a tinge of sarcasm from the Lord telling him, “You are a teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?” (Jn.3:10)
Eventually on Good Friday, Nicodemus would come out into the open to join another secret disciple of Jesus named Joseph of Arimathea when they asked Pilate for his body to be buried in a new tomb not far from the site of the crucifixion (Jn.19:38-42).
The fourth gospel teems with many teachings as well as scenes depicting Jesus as the light dispelling the many darkness that envelops the world beginning at its Prologue.
Only John has this scene of Jesus discussing with Nicodemus his coming from heaven to dispel the darkness in our lives.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
Jesus enlightening us, uplifting us
This love of God for us through the coming of Jesus Christ is not only the joy of Lent but the very joy of our lives the Lord had expressed in two ways: in being our light in the many darkness of life as well as in uplifting us all from the quagmire of sins and evil.
But this joy in the Lord needs to be worked for; it does not come in handy as something given out freely in the sense that it calls us to do a Nicodemus too, of making efforts to come out from darkness, to follow the light of Jesus Christ that leads to the Cross.
And this is where it becomes more joyous, how Jesus enlightens us and lifts us up with him to the Father.
Let me explain it this way: when we talk of sin, we always find its logical connection with punishment. We see it everywhere and have always experienced it because rightly so, every sin is punished. Certainly, no one escapes punishment of sins in this life or life after. It is the law of karma that in every action, there is a corresponding reaction (excluded are other concepts like reincarnation we do not accept).
The problem arises in the question who punishes us for our sins?
Unfortunately, in any religion the finger always points at God which is very untrue and unfair!
God does not punish and would never do so because “God is love (1 Jn.4:16)”!
Those passages we find in the Old Testament of God “getting angry, punishing people” are literary devices used to convey to us deeper truths about God as a person relating with us like human. But notice too that the Sacred Scriptures itself declare in so many instances how God is “so gentle and slow to anger, full of mercy always foregoing his wrath” on the sinful.
Jesus clarified this in many instances, in words and in deeds, when he showed mercy and forgiveness to sinners like prostitutes and tax collectors who were then considered the most wretched and hopeless ones in the society. In the healing of the man born blind, Jesus clarified that sickness and disease are not a punishment from God (Jn.9:1-12).
Rest be assured in his words today to Nicodemus, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
St. Paul attests to this truth found in his beautiful reflection in the second reading:
Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved — raised us up with him, and sealed us wit him in the heavens in Christ Jesus…
Such is the great love of God for us. When something bad happens to us due to our sins or somebody else’s sins, it is not from God. It is our self-indictment of refusing to change our sinful ways that we suffer the consequences of our evil deeds: “And this is the verdict, that light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.“
When we try to reflect deeper, we find that avoiding sins is the most practical thing we can always do in life but, unfortunately, something we refuse to do for so many reasons.
Why we prefer darkness than light is something we have always been struggling with when we know so well it is better to be out in the light.
If we reflect deeply, we realize that God has no need for us; he remains perfect even if we sin, if we do not obey him, if we abandon him. But God chose to love us, even begging us to remain good and holy so we can be fulfilled in this life.
Should something bad happens to us because of our sins or somebody else’s sins, the very good news is that God would always find ways to enlighten us to ensure it will turn out well for our own good, even if he has to use pagans and unbelievers or sinners to bring us back into light as experienced by his people with King Cyrus of Persia.
We all have a Nicodemus in us when we sometimes prefer darkness, of coming to Jesus at night because of fears of what others might say about us in following the path of the Lord, of being good, being just, being kind, and being holy.
Like Nicodemus, we try following and listening to Jesus from afar as we have been so used to staying and living in darkness when light sometimes hurt our eyes, making it difficult for us to really see and accept people and things because truth hurts.
This Sunday, let us examine the many darkness we still have within us. Like the author of the Book of Chronicles we heard in the first reading, let us try to see the religious significance of what is happening in our lives and nation to find where God is leading us.
Jesus had come to save us, not to judge us. Step out from your darkness within and let the light of Jesus enlighten and uplift you high like never before in rejoicing as you see the beauty of life in God its author. Amen.A blessed and joyful week to everyone!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 28 February 2021
It’s a blessed last Sunday of February as we start to feel summer slowly coming with recent afternoon humidity. We hope everything is “All Right” as we chill with Christopher Cross this Second Sunday of Lent where Jesus invites us to join him in approaching his Father by “climbing mountains” in prayers and good works to be transformed and transfigured in his image and likeness.
I have initially chosen Marvin Gaye’s 1967 hit “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” as our Sunday music for today but as I prayed more on the meaning of Jesus being transfigured on Mount Tabor witnessed by his three disciples, the more I heard Chris Cross singing at the background.
I know, know what’s on your mind And I know it gets tough sometimes But you can give it one more try to find a reason why You should pick it up, ooh, try it again
‘Cause it’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might just work out this time All right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might work out fine this time All right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might just work out ‘Cause it’s not too late for that, too late for me
The beat and melody of this 1983 hit only Chris Cross can sing in his very characteristic “chillin'” voice and expression of simple lyrics expressing joy amid pain makes “All Right” so perfect with the meaning of Christ’s transfiguration that all right, we’re gonna make it to Easter…
Even if so many times God seems to contradict himself when testing our faith like with Abraham in the first reading and the three apostles in the gospel, we just have to be confident in God in prayers and faith as we hurdle every obstacle and trial in life that is like a mountain seemingly impossible to climb — if we rely only on ourselves. But, God is greater than our minds and our hearts, always working to surprise us with his tremendous blessings and grace that he gave us his only Son Jesus Christ to accompany us in climbing this mountain of life to be transfigured and transformed in him (https://lordmychef.com/2021/02/27/the-ups-and-downs-from-lent-to-easter/).
What I really love with Chris Cross since 1979 when he came out with his classic Sailing is his aura that is exuding with good vibes that I prayed hard for him when news came last summer he was infected with COVID-19. He looks so kind and so approachable, maybe so Jesus-like that one can imagine when he sings this song, it is like the Lord coming to us in this age telling us all is right:
Just when you feel helpless Nothing left to say Love will find us, past behind us Then we’re on our way
Time and time again I see, people so unsure like me We all know it gets hard sometimes But you can give it one more try Find another reason why you should pick it up Ooh, why, you should kick it up, ooh, try it again
‘Cause it’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might just work out this time It’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might work out fine this time
It’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might just work out this time It’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might work out fine this time It’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might just work out this time It’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might work out fine this time It’s all right, think we’re gonna make it Think it might just work out this time
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 31 January 2021
Glad to be back with our Sunday blog on music and the Gospel which speaks today of the people of Capernaum so amazed with Jesus speaking with authority as he preached to them and exorcised a man possessed by an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28).
We usually think of authority as having power over people, of subjugating and controlling them for our selfish motives. So often, the word and concept of authority is something we take with disdain and suspicion.
That is exactly the meaning of John Cougar Mellencamp’s Authority Song from his 1983 album called Uh-Huh.
The song is so typical of Mellencamp’s rebel attitude that made his music artistic and unique, making him the leading figure of the second generation of “heartland rockers” in the mid-80’s.
A very interesting part of this song whose video portrayed Mellencamp as a boxing underdog fighting for the ordinary people against the rich and powerful says something about authority’s real essence so close to our gospel this Sunday:
I call up my preacher I say, “Give me strength for round 5” He said, “You don’t need no strength, you need to grow up son” I said, “Growin’ up leads to growin’ old and then to dyin’ Ooo, and dyin’ to me don’t sound like all that much fun” And so I’ll say
I fight authority, authority always wins Well, I fight authority, authority always wins Well, I’ve been doing it since I was a young kid I come out grinnin’ Well, I fight authority, authority always wins
From the Latin verb augere, augeribus which is to make something to increase, authority implies making things and persons better because in essence it is service. A person in authority is actually vested with powers to serve and help others become better by en-abling and em-powering them.
That’s the authority of Jesus, so powerful in bringing out the giftedness of everyone.
Jesus comes to us with authority to set us free from darkness and sins, fears and anxieties, angers and resentments that hinder us from appreciating the beauty of life and of being alive. He came with all authority from the Father to enable us to become the true persons God wanted us to be (https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/30/the-authority-of-jesus/).
At least, Mellencamp fought the wrong concept of authority; in his music video, it is implied he had lost but the kid who admired him so much was portrayed at the end as pulling his sleeves to indicate of continuing Mellencamp’s fight.
That kid represents us too, that we must continue to fight this wrong concept of authority as power to control people than serve as Jesus had shown us in the gospel.
Enjoy your Sunday with family and friends in Jesus!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 31 January 2021
Deuteronomy 18:15-20 + 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 + Mark 1:21-28
As Jesus began his public ministry last week by the shores of the Lake of Galilee calling his first disciples, Mark presents us beginning today some glimpses into the life and person of the Lord in Capernaum where he grew up and would temporarily base himself.
Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit… All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.
Mark 1:21-23, 27-28
First thing we notice with Jesus is his devotion to Judaism, his going to the synagogue at sabbath to worship God his Father; later we find how during major feasts he would also come to the temple at Jerusalem. What a beautiful reminder that personal faith and relationship with God has to be expressed and lived in a community like in our parishes.
In this glimpse into a typical sabbath day in the life of Jesus, we also find the reason why he launched his ministry from the province of Galilee and not at the center of Israel which is Jerusalem: and that is to serve the poor and marginalized, those neglected with nothing in life who always felt left out and forgotten by everyone.
That is no longer true as we heard him declared last Sunday, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).
A new teaching, proclaimed with authority
Mark tells us twice in our short gospel this Sunday how the people experienced Christ’s having authority in the way he spoke that was so unlike their scribes. Most of all, the people were amazed at his authority and power of words that expelled an “unclean spirit” from a man at their synagogue.
It was definitely something totally new and different that they wondered if it were a new kind of teaching, not knowing it was already God right in their midst in Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh!
Today Jesus is teaching us the real meaning of power, his power of authority that actualizes persons and communities. Like the first disciples he had called last week, the people at the synagogue felt his words affecting them within. Their hearts must have been stirred and moved that they felt so good, moving them to share it with everyone that they all shared in the joy of hearing something new, something fresh and uplifting.
And it did not stop there.
The people then witnessed Jesus how drove away with his words an unclean spirit from a possessed man. They were amazed more upon seeing the possessed man freed from unclean spirit that “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”
Such was the impact Jesus made on that day of sabbath at Capernaum that continues to our day especially when we gather for the Sunday Eucharist if we can only share in his authority.
Authority as power is always a service that sets people free.
The word authority came from the Latin verb augere, augeribus meaning “to make something increase” or become better. Akin to the word authority is also the word “author” as in the writer of a book or of a document whose words are regarded as true and correct, worth listening and following.
Therefore, real authority is not just having the power over the people to rule and subjugate them as most of us would always think.
Authority in the real sense is service, the power to enable and empower people so that they may become better persons, that they may mature and transcend themselves to grow as persons with so much potentials for change and development.
True authority always leads people to freedom from darkness and sins, sickness and evil that brings out their giftedness as beloved children of God.
That is the authority of Jesus who declared that he had come to serve and not to be served by giving his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20:28) so that we may all have life in him as our good shepherd, a life in abundance (Jn.10:10).
Jesus is the prophet promised by God to Moses in the first reading who shall come to his people to speak to them his very words of life. And by tracing our being prophets with authority to Moses, the first reading gives us too the only criterion for recognizing the true spokesperson of God: he must always speak the word of God that is always actualizing when spoken with humility and sincerity.
Notice how in our language and culture the close linkages of words and authority are so clearly pronounced and recognized: we call people with authority as “mga taong may sinasabi” because people who wield power always have a say in everything.
But what are they saying? What words would always come out of their mouths? Are they life-giving or inducing death, glorifying evil?
So many times, people say so many things that are nothing and senseless. Ang dami-daming sinasabi wala namang sinabi! That is how we call people without impact and true authority: walang sinabi.
How sad these recent years, we priests and bishops complain so often how people would no longer listen to usin the Church.
We say so many things but fall on deaf ears, no impact, no life at all because they are not the words of Christ whom we have long forgotten.
Worst, how tragic when we impose our own words, insisting our authority on the people that most often is self-serving, far from true and loving service of Jesus Christ.
Whatever happened to that ideal of lay-empowerment when we would not let people speak or at least listen to their voices and thoughts in running their parish?
Before we can make people listen to the words of God, we in the Church must be the first to listen to his words that come to us in a life of prayer and devotion to the Eucharist. What a hypocrisy on our part when we who are supposed to be unmarried and celibate who are “anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord” (1Cor.7:32) would not even spend time to pray and listen to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament daily.
Every day especially in every celebration of the Mass, Jesus comes to us in his authority to set us free from our fears and anxieties, sickness and sins, anger and resentments, compulsions and addictions among other things that hinder us from truly experiencing the beauty of this life.
Let us all pray today for us to have a share in the authority of Jesus Christ to set us free from our being deaf and dumb, blind and lame in the Church that is also his Body. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-7 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week IV, 22 December 2020
1 Samuel 1:24-28 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 1:46-56
When I was about to enter the high school seminary, an aunt would always comment on our way to school how I would become a priest when I am a big fan of rock and roll music. You know, the usual stuff ever since with old folks about rock music as evil and everything…
Looking back, I just imagine what if I had told her and my other relatives the meaning of Steely Dan that is my most favorite band? Most likely they would have fainted! And I would tell tell them too that I am the only priest who had played Stairway to Heaven in Radio Veritas where I used to co-anchor a show, playing only good, old rock n’ roll to the delight of many listeners despite protests from management.
Lately I have been blogging every week linking secular music with the Sunday gospel that had enabled me to reach new and younger generations I hope had rediscovered Jesus in the music I had offered them.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had said that “music is the food of the soul” and it is very true for it transcends cultures and languages that even if you do not understand the lyrics, music always touches the soul.
Meanwhile, the great English playwright William Shakespeare is said to tell his audience at the start of his plays that “If music be the food of love, play on.” That’s very beatiful. Like love, music is best served with another person; when we sing, it is always to pour our hearts out. We let others hear our song even if we sing alone because that is what music is all about – it is meant to be shared.
This is the reason why Mary sang her Magnificat during her Visitation of Elizabeth, not by herself in Nazareth after the angel had left after announcing to her the birth of Jesus.
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.”
Mary praised and thanked God with her “Magnificat”
Recall how Elizabeth praised Mary twice and her baby Jesus in the womb once yesterday at the Visitation. Naturally for us, when we are praised we always return it by praising too whoever spoke nicely of us.
But that was not the case with Mary. She took the occasion to praise and thank God for all His goodness and salvific work in her and in Elizabeth. Like Hanna in the first reading and responsorial psalm today who sang praises to God in giving her a son in the prophet Samuel, Mary while filled with the Holy Spirit sang this canticle, narrating how God worked in her and through her.
Our lives is a song of thanksgiving always to God who never stops doing great things for us not to make us famous but to bring His divine will into fulfillment. Mary affirmed this when she admitted her own blessedness, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Yesterday we have reflected that true blessedness is to trust in God. Likewise, Mary added another dimension in what is to be blessed before God and that is being His servant, His slave or in her very words to the angel at the annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
A handmaid is the feminine form of “slave” but more than being poetic in her identification as a female slave of God, Mary through her Magnificat showed us a glimpse of the lives of the early Christians at that time who were considered “weird” and “odd”, even “bizarre” among the Roman pagans who could not understand why they worshipped Jesus Christ they saw as “a crucified criminal”.
Worst of all for the pagans, they could not understand why the early Christians who were mostly poor would give themselves to Jesus in loving service to others like the sick, the elderly, the hungry, widows and orphans and those living in the margins.
In fact, the Roman historian Pliny recorded in his writings how during the persecution the emperor’s soldiers rounded up Christians in every town and city by looking for anybody doing good, serving the poor and needy! It is something to think about for us Christians today: Would any one of us be arrested because we are doing something good like serving the less fortunate?
Mary, the first model disciple, the first to live out the Gospel
In singing her blessedness by God, Mary had assumed her being the spokeswoman of the early Christians, the poor ones or anawim of Israel who were truly poor materially, trusting entirely on God.
Here lies her challenge to us who love to sing her Magnificat: do we allow God to work in us His salvation?
“He has mercy on those who fear him. 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. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he remembered his promise of mercy…”
Again, we find many similarities in the Mary’s Magnificat and Hanna’s song we heard in the responsorial psalm. But, more than that is the striking similarity of Magnificat with the Beatitudes to be preached by Jesus according to Luke.
In Matthew’s gospel, there are eight Beatitudes preached by Jesus at his sermon on the mount; Luke narrated it differently by citing only four Beatitudes he paired with four woes that Jesus preached in His sermon on the plain (this is due to the different audience Luke and Matthew addressed):
Blessed are you who are poor… Blessed are you who are now hungry… Blessed are you who are now weeping… Blessed are you when people hate you…
Woe to you who are rich… Woe to you who are filled… Woe to you who laugh now… Woe to you when all speak well of you…
Magnificat is the Gospel in a nutshell. See the works of God cited by Mary perfectly jibing with the Beatitudes of Jesus. Here we find again how Luke has shown us the consistency of Mary as a disciple of her Son Jesus Christ by witnessing to His teachings, living them out for which she was crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.
This is the reason why I love so much the image of Fatima and of Banneux known as Lady of the Poor with Mary portrayed as so simple yet so lovely and beautiful. What a scandal for the Church in our time with all those lavish processions and coronations of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the poor are left out, becoming more of a social function among the rich and famous. What a shame most especially amid the pandemic when some parishes can spend so much fortune in these rituals that look more as a show which the Blessed Virgin would definitely disapprove. Keep in mind how Mary identified herself as “handmaid of the Lord” — do away all those pomp and pageantries please!
Every night, we priests and the religious sing the Magnificat in our Evening prayers to examine ourselves if we have lived out the Gospel message of the Lord, if we have been poor and hungry, if we have allowed ourselves to be used by God to effect His salvation among the suffering.
The same is true with every disciple of Jesus: when we sing the Magnificat or “Ang Puso ko’y nagpupuri”, we have to do some soul searching how consistent we have been as a disciple of the Lord like His Mother Mary.
How sad late yesterday when some people -whether they are trolls or not – had come out expressing support to that cop who brutally shot and killed Sonya Gregorio and her son Anton in their home in Paniqui, Tarlac Sunday afternoon.
How can some people be not affected and even defend or belittle such unspeakable crime of a man supposed to uphold the law, protect civilians?
What had gone wrong with us as the only Christian nation in this part of the world?
Can we sing “Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri sa Panginoon, nagagalak ang aking espiritu, sa aking Tagapagligtas” while we rejoice and defend all forms of brutalities and violence around us?
As we strongly condemn this unspeakable crime and demand justice for Sonya and Anton, let us work hard and pray hardest to imitate Mary to effect change in the society we live in and create by being a voice of the poor and vessel of God’s salvation. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 29 November 2020
I have been thinking of a song that speaks of darkness and light that best describes the Season of Advent. As I surfed YoutTube song with words like “night” and “darkness”, I stumbled upon this old classic and everyone’s favorite (those in our generation) with its unmistakable opening:
Hello, darkness my old friend...
Advent is from the Latin adventus that means coming or arrival. It is the start of the new year in our Church calendar made up of four Sundays meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.
This year, it is hoped that we take the Advent Season seriously by praying more, reflecting our lives and examining our conscience so we can have a meaningful Christmas this 2020 that will surely be bleak and dark due the pandemic.
And that is why I immediately felt Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence as the perfect music this first Sunday of Advent when darkness is all around us with the pandemic and other calamities while also deep within each of us is another darkness like an illness or somebody with a serious ailment in the family, a lost job, or even death of a beloved.
In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil like when Jesus was betrayed by Judas on that Thursday evening at Gethsemane; however, with the coming of Jesus, darkness has become also the best time to believe in light! See how Jesus was born on the darkest night of the year, Christmas eve, to bring light to the world; likewise, it was during the darkness of the first day of the week when Jesus also rose from the dead on Easter.
It is in silence where we learn to be patient and vigilant, two virtues becoming so rare in our world that has come to live 24/7 in artificial lights many think to be the real thing.
Patience and vigilance are both fruits of prayer and expressions of our faith when we bear all pains and sufferings wide awake because we believe God is leading us to something good, something better and brighter.
In this song written by Paul Simon and first recorded with Art Garfunkel in 1965, we find silence that represents prayer and reflections helping us find the realities of life amid the many darkness surrounding us or even encroaching within us.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
I have always loved these two stanzas, citing them in my teachings and sharing with students and young people to explain to them the value of silence and to befriend the many darkness we have in life. It is a paradox, a part of life’s mystery when we actually find its light and understanding in darkness which is also our starting point in clearing and dealing with all these darkness around and within us.
After the Lord’s supper on Holy Thursday, we find in the gospel how he brought his three apostles with him to Gethsemane to accompany him pray in agony while awaiting his betrayer. Jesus asked the three apostles to watch with him, to pray with him.
This Advent, Jesus is asking us to watch and pray with him so we remain focused in God, not to the neon gods we have made to overcome the many darkness of life.
If darkness is the realm of evil in the bible, silence is the realm of trust: even if life may be dark when we cannot see clearly, we go on in silence because we believe somebody sees better than us, leading us to light and better days.
Enjoy this classic again with family and friends. Have a blessed Sunday!
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs, 24 November 2020
Revelations 14:14-19 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 21:5-11
Your words today, Lord Jesus, are disturbing because they are actually happening: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name saying ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Lk.21:8).
In our age of instant communications when everything is reduced to bits and pieces of information to be consumed by everyone through various media platforms, we have become so gullible for whatever is fed to us. The more outlandish even unbelievable, the better! Worst, we never bother to check their veracity and even sanity that sometimes, we have become so foolish to accept everything we hear and see and read.
Heighten our sense of reason and most especially our faith in you.
Let us not be deceived in following your impostors as well as focusing more on the coming end that we forget to live in the present moment by making a stand for your gospel truths.
Like St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companion martyrs in Vietnam, they chose to live in the present moment of giving witness to your gospel than arguing or debating if it were the moment of your final coming or not.
Let us not be deceived by focusing on the peripherals of our faith like rites and rituals empty of loving service for others.
May we stand firmly by your side, for what is true and just, so that when judgement day comes, we may remain faithful in you like grapes so ripened, ready for harvesting, and when pressed, produce good wine to uplift the spirits. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXXIII-A in Ordinary Time, 15 November 2020
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 >><)))*> 1Thessalonians 5:1-6 >><)))*> Matthew 25:14-30
It is my fervent hope and prayer that by this time, everybody is feeling better after those harrowing experience of winds and rains by typhoon Ulysses that have induced flash floods and left a path of destruction and deaths in Central Luzon and Metro Manila this week.
Indeed, it was like tropical storm Ondoy happening again after eleven years when everybody was caught by surprise by the floods and severe aftermath of dirt and trash left behind with no electricity nor water supply available in many parts of the affected areas.
As a result, many of us have again reflected on the one topic we have always avoided in life – death and things of the end like parousia or Second Coming of Christ, end of the world, and judgement day that have preoccupied the early Christians. St. Paul’s reminder to them in today’s second reading is so timely and relevant even for us today to be vigilant for Christ’s coming.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.
Vigilance is faith in Christ.
Jesus gives us another parable today to illustrate his Second Coming and judgement; but unlike last week, today is more picturesque, touching our innermost core, challenging us to be “wiser” in daring to gain eternal life by working harder in this life.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one — to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”
Vigilance is more than being prepared and ready for any eventuality. It is active waiting by taking risks to ensure a more safe and sound situation when emergencies strike. This is the reason why investors are always surveyed how much risks they are willing to take with their investments: the bigger the risks, the higher the returns are. But, can we take the risks?
The same is true with everything if we wish to have a better future. We have to take risks like working harder, sacrificing more in order to save money and have better homes, to keep our body physically fit and healthy, and burning the night lamp to finish our studies and achieve our goals in life. In this all we find the need to maximize what we have – no one can claim as having nothing at all or “walang-wala” as we would always claim in Tagalog.
Jesus clarifies this today in his parable, telling us that each servant was given with talents “according to his ability”. We are all blessed by God! It is not a question of how much we have received but what have we done to what we are given with.
Of course, not everyone can have all in life but each one has his/her many talents as well as weaknesses. Focus more on what we have than what we do not have. Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, that everybody is going through some struggles in life.
Being vigilant, being “children of light” means striving for the best, choosing what is the best which is part of being holy, an expression of our faith in God. Whenever we dare to take risks like casting our nets into the deep like Simon Peter, we express our deep faith in God as we hope and trust in him.
We are made by the choices we make.
When I was still teaching in our diocesan schools, I used to tell my students to “study hard, work harder and pray hardest”, reminding them that their being good and successful lawyers, doctors, engineers or any professional starts not in the future but today, in the here and now.
Make the right choices in life by truly working on them not just at the spur of the moment or simply based on what others say. Most of all, pray first to discern God’s will for our decisions so we may choose what is best for us according to him.
God wants only the best for us — he made us share in his Life and gave us his only Son Jesus Christ to have its fullness in him here and in eternity. Unlike wealth managers who help people invest for their future, only Jesus assures us with sure, high yields in our “investments” in life by being good and holy.
A lot often, we decide and take risks based on the people we are with like when we have friends or superiors who are good and trustworthy. In the first reading we have heard how a faithful wife uses all her talents in serving her family as she is moved by the fidelity and love of her husband. The same is true if we have good and inspiring friends and employers who move us to be our very best. And most true of all with God who moves us to be our very best to lovingly serve him in others.
Here we find Jesus in his parable as the master who went on a long journey who risked all for us and continues to believe in us, giving us all the grace we need in this life to be fruitful in him.
All we have to do is just be faithful to him to whatever task and mission he has given us. It does not matter how big or small that may be; all he wants is for us to remain faithful to him, of not wasting that talent that must be put into good use not only for us but for others too.
If we are faithful to Jesus, anytime he returns to call us back to eternity, we can be sure of “sharing in his (master’s) joy” of Eternal Life! And if we are not faithful, then….
Today as we praise and thank God for the gift of life with the sun shining anew, let us ask ourselves following the recent calamities happening: what have I done with the many gifts and blessing God has given me? with the tasks, big and small, he has entrusted me?
Remember, it is not how big or how little talents we have received but how we have made it grow that matters. Our lives are the gift of God to us, what we do with our lives, that is our gift to him!
Have a blessed Sunday! Please pray and help our brothers and sisters in Cagayan and Rizal provinces severely affected by typhoon Ulysses. Lastly, kindly say a prayer for me and my six other classmates as we celebrate today (15 November 1997) our 23rd anniversary of ordination as Deacons. Amen.