Corpus Christi: Everybody a somebody

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 19 June 2022
Genesis 14:18-20 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ><}}}}*> Luke 9:11-17
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, November 2020.

A week after celebrating the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, we celebrate today the reality of this mystery of our personal God who relates with us with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us of the great honor of every person, of everybody as a part of the Body of Christ who became human like us to share his very self so that we too may become food for everyone. It is a very timely and appropriate feast when we are deluged with news here and abroad of how people are treated as nobody.

The recent viral video of an SUV driver bumping a security guard in a busy intersection in Mandaluyong remains a hot trending topic precisely because it is a story of how poor people are disregarded in this nation. Although the suspect had surrendered to authorities after a week of “no-show” to summons, statements especially by his mother ignited only more fire into the blazing topic. Adding insult to injuries to the nation is the press conference called by the police in presenting and speaking for the suspect which is absurd and directly opposite to how they deal with poor people involved in similar offenses.

Over in the United States where one loses count of victims of shootings happening almost every week, lawmakers grandstand for more gun controls for the protection of children when in fact, the same lawmakers refuse to consider the child in the mother’s womb as a person with a right to life that they have legalized abortion. Almost everywhere in the world, see how people take some people as somebody and others as nobody. So contrary to what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today, that everybody is a somebody. Observe how the disciples of Jesus acted in the gospel:

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Luke 9:11-14, 17
Photo from istock-studios.com by Getty Images.

We have heard this story so many times and yet, we continue to miss its whole meaning that it continues to happen in our lives minus the miracle of Jesus. See how Luke tells us first that Jesus spoke to the people about the kingdom of God.

We will never experience Jesus in his person, in his Body and Blood unless we listen first to his words, to his teachings of the kingdom of God. That is why in the Mass, the first part is the liturgy of the word to prepare us for the liturgy of the eucharist. So many times in life, we dismiss right away anything that is spiritual in nature like prayers and the sacred scriptures, of faith in God.

Luke does not tell us how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish; we have to leave it to him how he did it. After all, he is the Son of God. Recall how during his temptation by the devil to turn stones into bread and he answered that “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4). Here in this scene, his words were precisely fulfilled when he fed the people after they have opened themselves to God’s words, to God himself.

Miracles happen in our lives when we first open ourselves to God himself. And opening to God means opening to others too by seeing everyone as a brother and sister in Christ whom we must care for.

Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Too often, we tend to isolate ourselves from others, thinking only of ourselves and own good and comfort like the Twelve who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they would find food and lodging for themselves in the wilderness.

What a sad reality still happening today, of how even parents and couples would proudly say how difficult it is to have another child because it is expensive. We have become so utilitarian in our perspectives in life that we compute everything as a cost, forgetting God except when praying which is precisely for asking for more blessings without even seeing the overflowing abundance of gifts from God.

Notice that despite the affluence of many these days, both as individuals and as nations, many are afflicted with the scarcity mentality, of not having enough, fearful of losing money and other resources like oil that we now have this exorbitant fuel prices.

When Jesus told the Twelve to “give the crowds some food yourselves”, he is telling us to look at God first for he is a God of abundance. Abraham in the first reading gives us the best example of always trusting God, of finding God behind every blessings we have. Abraham had just won a war with several kings in the region by the power of God who sent his priest named Melchizedek to bless him with bread and wine after. But unlike other victors in war, Abraham never had intentions of taking all the wealth and treasures of the kings he had beaten and instead gave Melchizedek the priest of God “a tenth of everything” (Gen.14:20).

Our response to God’s many blessings to us is to “tithe” ourselves like Abraham but not just ten percent as the Old Testament had taught but like Jesus in the New Testament by giving all of our very selves. This is the meaning of Paul’s words in the second reading of “proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes” as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup (1 Cor.11:26).

We have learned and realized (hopefully) during the past Lenten and Easter seasons that death leads to new life in Jesus Christ when we share our very selves like him. God blesses us abundantly daily with his life and other blessings. There is enough for everyone. That is the meaning of the leftovers of twelve wicker baskets, one each for every apostle of the Lord who represented us.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus we receive in the Eucharist reminds us not only of the sublime gifts of God to each of us but also of our ultimate response of dying to ourselves so we may share Christ’s life to the world so dead with ego and selfishness, a world of “I” and “me” and “my” and “mine” totally disregarding everybody as nobody.

As we celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ honoring him with Masses, vigils and processions, remember how not everybody in the world is considered a somebody unless one has wealth and power. It is the new meaning given by modern man to the golden rule – he who has gold rules, implying that the poor are always taken as a nobody, bearing all the abuses of those in power and authority.

Let us examine ourselves how we have contributed to these abuses still going on, even in our thoughts at the way we perceive others, especially those not like us in status and beliefs and colors.

After receiving Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, silently pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
empty myself of pride and 
fill me with your humility, justice and love;
reign in my heart now and always.
Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, 2019.

Praying to recover “lost humanity”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church, 13 June 2022
1 Kings 21:1-16   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 5:38-42   
The Church of St. Anthony called Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa built at the site of his birthplace in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio taken in his 2018 pilgrimage.
Today as we celebrate the
Memorial of your beloved Saint
Anthony of Padua famous for
interceding in the recovery of 
things lost, we pray to you O God
our loving Father also for the recovery
of something so precious becoming
so rare these days - decency and honor,
love and kindness, respect and justice.
Through the intercession of St. Anthony,
Lord, please help us recover our 
"lost humanity" so vividly exposed
last week in that viral video of an
SUV hitting and running over a traffic
aide in Mandaluyong City.
How sad, even tragic, dear God
in this modern time of too much
sophistication in science and technology,
we have lagged behind in our humanity;
aside from the war at Ukraine, how could
violent shootings continue in the States
at the loss of so many children?
What is so tragic is how politicians there
talk about protecting children when the
same politicians push so hard for abortions,
in killing the most innocent persons of all!
Have we become like Jezebel, the pagan wife
and queen of Ahab who have no regard at all
for humans, creating fake news and gossips
against people, promoting corruption among
people for material gains?

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and, having sealed them with his seal, sent them to the elders and to the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters: “Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” On hearing Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

1 Kings 21:8-10, 16
Your Son Jesus Christ
taught us the ways to recover our
lost humanity more than 2000 years
ago but until now, we have not recovered
it yet because of our refusal to let go 
of our pride and attachment with wealth
and other things of the world.
Like St. Anthony, help us to let go of
our possessions and comforts, "to give
to the one who asks of us, and to not
turn our back on one who wants 
to borrow" (Matthew 5:42).
St. Anthony of the World, 
Pray for us!
The room where St. Anthony was born in the year 1195 preserved in the church built at the former site of their home in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio, 2018.
The Portuguese people have always referred to St. Anthony of Lisbon than of Padua where his body is buried in Italy; in 1982, St. John Paul II visited his birthplace, and told the crowd their native saint was not St. Anthony of Padua to which the crowd cheered. Then, the Pope said he is neither St. Anthony of Lisbon and the people fell silent. But when the great Pope said their native saint is St. Anthony of the World, they cheered loudly! (Anecdote and photo courtesy of Mr. Jilson Tio)
Praying at the birthplace of St. Anthony protected by iron grills. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio, 2018.
Mr. Jilson Tio (third from left) with fellow pilgrims outside the room where St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018.

The Holy Trinity, our Life and Love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, 12 June 2022
Proverbs 8:22-31 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:1-5 ><}}}}*> John 16:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

Surveys worldwide say that for most Christians, to speak of God as the Blessed Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit does not matter that much at all. They simply believe in God, period.

But sad to say, the same surveys say that many Christians are turning away from the Church, imitating those who refused to belong to any religion at all but simply profess they believe in God or that there is God. Their anthem is John Lennon’s 1971 hit “Imagine” that says, “Imagine there’s no heaven… No hell below us… And no religion too.”

Worst, there are some who regard Jesus Christ as just another great prophet who had lived in the past with unusual wisdom and teachings, not realizing that without the Trinity, Jesus would not be Jesus whom we believe.

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

John 16:12-15
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Mystery of Trinity as gift of God

For most Catholics including priests, discussion of the Blessed Trinity is shunned because it is a “mystery”, the most difficult to explain and understand of all our teachings that many find so apart from daily life. And that is totally wrong and untrue as we fail to realize that the more we understand or have some grasp of something or someone, the more we find their meaning and relation with our very selves, the more we appreciate life!

That is why on this first Sunday as we resume Ordinary Time, we celebrate this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity so we would have some understanding of this highest truth in our faith and thereby appreciate its meaning and relation with our daily living.

First of all, the Blessed Trinity as a mystery can be explained and understood but not fully. Mystery means something hidden that has been revealed. The Trinity was totally unknown among the Israelites in the Old Testament but its concept have been there in its many books beginning with Genesis and today as we have heard from the Book of Proverbs. It was revealed in and by Jesus Christ who cautioned his disciples then and now that indeed, many of his words cannot be fully grasped right away.

A mystery can be explained and understood because it is something that continues to unfold, revealing its many aspects to us in the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And the more we become aware of its nature, the more we realize how the Trinity can concretely evoke the unity and beauty of our lives in God!

Let us take our cue from the Lord himself who tells us today that “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” Jesus is not insulting us but simply telling us today that learning and understanding the mystery of God is concretely an action of the Holy Spirit and not simply an effort of human intellect. There has to be a lot of praying and studying at the same time. And the most traditional Catholic gesture and prayer we can use in learning more about the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is the sign of the cross which we sadly take for granted.

Our sign of the cross, mystery life and love of the Trinity

Since becoming a priest, I have always insisted to people especially children and youth to make the sign of the cross properly because it is the very mystery of the Trinity. We sign ourselves in the form of a cross to remind us we are the indwelling of God as Jesus told to us last Sunday that “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn.14:23).

Photo by Sis. Mira Mandal Sibal, August 2021.

What a beautiful image, of being the “indwelling” of God who is a person, not just a being who relates with us as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In the sign of the cross we find and experience the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. It was Jesus Christ who revealed to us, slowly but surely, the mystery of the Triune God in his very life and teachings with its summit on the Cross and later in his sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Notice how every time we are in a tight situation, when we are shocked or surprised at something, we instinctively make the sign of the cross to praise and thank God we are still alive, that we are loved. There is always the unconscious realization of life and love after pulling through a difficult situation and making the sign of the cross.

Life and love are the most common yet most profound and deep mysteries we have as persons. And the more we dwell into its beauty and majesty, the more we are absorbed into the mystery of God as a community of persons relating to us. It is a mystery we are able to grasp little by little of how God fills us with his life and love.

Both the first and second readings show us how God poured out his life (first reading) and his love (second reading) for us. In the Book of Proverbs, we are shown how “at the beginning” God “poured forth” wisdom on his creation and was so “delighted” with man. This wisdom according to Jesus in his teachings is the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God who enlivens us. On the other hand, St. Paul reminds us in the second reading how God’s love was “poured out to us by the Holy Spirit” to be saved in Christ who also promised us with eternal life we all hoper and aspire for.

Like the very mystery of how and why we are alive, why we are loved, these are the very same feelings we have with God as a person we feel and experience as the Father loves us and gives us life, how Jesus our brother forgives us and accepts us, and how the Holy Spirit enlightens and comforts us.

See how these feelings and experience of being alive, of being loved and so in love are difficult to explain and even understand but so very true that we dwell in them and even keep them to relish and enjoy often. If we could just do the same with God as Father and Son and Holy Spirit then we can find our own beauty and unity as a person too. Then we learn to value more our lives, accepting everything good and bad in us as we reach out to others too in kindness and mercy.

Celebrating the mystery of the Trinity

See how we begin and end each Mass with the sign of the cross, a sign of how we entrust in God everything we are and we have not only in the celebration but in our very lives itself.

Photo by author, September 2021.

When we start the Mass with the sign of the cross with the priest greeting us, “May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”, we are reminded that every Mass is a celebration of God’s invitation for us to be in his presence as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This becomes clearer when we realize that every Mass is not just our celebration but a celebration of God’s gift of Self to us in Jesus Christ whom we receive in Body and Blood so that we may become more perfect members of his Body, the Church, animated by the Holy Spirit.

That is why we have to make the sign of the cross slowly and deliberately at the start of the Mass to get the feel of God in person and ask his help that we be able to surrender our very persons to him in the celebration.

At the end of the Mass, we again close it with a blessing by the priest with the sign of the cross again as we are dismissed and sent forth as God’s presence to the world and people we meet. By making the sign of the cross at the end of the Mass, we commit ourselves to continue in our daily life the love and kindness, the mercy and forgiveness we have celebrated. We promise to go forth and share the peace of Christ to everyone by remaining rooted in God who is Life himself, recreating the world in his Love Jesus Christ by fighting the evil and sins that beset us so that we make God’s glory and holiness present in this fractured world in the Holy Spirit.

As we make the sign of the cross especially at the start and end of the Holy Mass, may we realize this mystery of the Blessed Trinity that we are God’s indwelling and presence, his beauty and unity in the world. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

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.

“What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye (1971)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 22 May 2022
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

We are now in the penultimate Sunday of the Easter Season as Jesus reiterates in the gospel his commandment to love one another while giving us his precious gift of peace, two essential elements that keep him present among us as well our sources of joy amid the many difficulties in this life.

Right away, we thought of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 hit “What’s Going On?” as the perfect song this Sunday as it embodies both love and peace, two important realities in life we all wish and pray but afraid to work for (https://lordmychef.com/2022/05/21/love-peace-in-christ/).

From the eleventh studio album of the same title by Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On? is not only a commercial success but most of all critically-acclaimed for its superb music and lyrics so poetic with a message so Christ-like, always relevant for all time.

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today, yeah

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
Oh, what’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)

Right on, baby
Right on, baby
Right on

Mother, mother
Everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply ’cause our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today

Right on, baby, right on
Right on, baby
Right on, baby, right on

What I like most in this song is the priority of love. See how Marvin Gaye mentioned the need for lovin’ first in stanzas 1 and 2, You know we’ve got to find a way, To bring some lovin’ here today, yeah before there can be understanding at stanza 3 after the chorus.

It is exactly what Jesus is asking us always, to have love as foundation and motivation of everything we do. It is from love that true peace can come from, the peace of Christ that is willing to suffer and sacrifice because it is rooted in God not in man nor in our selfish and personal interests.

Peace comes from within, not from outside. And it is very ironic that while What’s Going On? is considered as Marvin Gaye’s finest composition, it was also borne out of a lot of soul-searching within him, punctuated with depression and personal struggles with drugs and debts. He died on 01 April 1984 after being shot thrice on the chest by his own father in the course of a heated and physical argumentation at his parents’ home in Los Angeles. He was only 45 years old, always searching for love and peace all his life.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

Love & Peace in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sixth Sunday in Easter-C, 22 May 2022
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 ><}}}}*> Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 ><}}}}*> John 14:23-29
Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.

We are now in our penultimate Sunday of the Easter Season as Jesus announces his Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit “who would teach his followers everything and remind them of all he had told them” (cf. Jn.14:26).

Jesus was still having his heart-to-heart talk with his disciples at the Last Supper “after Judas had left”, teaching them two very important realities in life we all wish and pray for but always afraid to work for – love and peace. Keep in mind that during the Last Supper, Jesus was telling everyone about his coming departure from earth after going through his Pasch, making his disciples to worry and be fearful of what would happen to them when the Lord is “gone”. To assure them of his continuing presence among them when his departure happens, Jesus reiterated his commandment to love one another as he gave them his gift of peace, promising the sending of the Holy Spirit who would enlighten them to understand and remember everything he had taught them.

Photo by author, Bolinao. Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever love me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him… The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You have heard me tell you, ‘I am going going away and I will come back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now, I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.'”

John 14:23, 26-29

Love & peace as deeper realities, not fancies

Jesus reminds us today like at the Last Supper how love and peace are essential to remain close to him after he had returned to the Father in heaven, making him present among us and in the world we live in filled with many sufferings and pains, trials and struggles.

From the love and peace we strive become also our sources of joy as we go through in life as followers of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus insists in the gospel this Sunday that love and peace are not mere fancies nor emotions and feelings as the world presents them; love and peace in Christ demand the Cross. It is both a decision we have to keep and sustain through the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised to give us the courage and wisdom to truly love and work for peace.

Photo by author, Parish of St. John the Baptist, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Priority of love. See again Jesus teaching us today on the priority of love which must always be the foundation and motivation of our relationships with him and with one another. Recall how he told us last week of the “newness” of his commandment to love which is a radical commitment to Jesus, that in imitating his kind of love willing to sacrifice and die in one’s self, we remain one in the Father and with each other.

Love is the very foundation of our lives as image and likeness of God who is love himself. It is the kind of love that seeks to do the will of the Father like Jesus, willing to forget one’s own good, comfort and convenience. The Greeks call it agape, the very kind of love Jesus witnessed to us on the Cross, the same love he asked Simon Peter at the shores of Lake Tiberias after Easter.

It is humanly very difficult to love that is why the Greeks and Romans have thought of having gods and goddesses of love. It is the reason why Jesus became human so that we can love like God by asking us to keep his word so that he and the Father may dwell in us and enable us to do his works in us. Love is doable in Christ if we let him live in us. As the beloved disciple tells us, “No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1Jn.4:12).

Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 30 April 2022.

Motivated by love. If love is the foundation of our lives, then, love must also be the motivation of everything we think, say and do. It is easy to be rooted in the love of God but it can happen that we may be doing things for God not truly borne out of love but due to fears and even selfish reasons. Hence, our need of constantly purifying our love for God

To love like Christ is to do away with all of our ifs and buts, excuses and alibis but simply to love like him. This is the most challenging part of discipleship, making it so difficult to be a Christian especially at this time. The recent events happening in our country challenge us to examine the purity of our love in him as disciples that despite of what have transpired, of whatever have been said and done, we continue to truly love and serve in Jesus.

We heard in the first reading how love inspired the early Christians to meet at the Council of Jerusalem in year 50 to discuss and resolve the many differences they encountered that early in the Church. It was first severe test of the Apostles and early Christians from within and because of love, they have triumphed and has continued to remain until now!

There will always be differences among us especially fellow Christians but these are not meant to divide us but to become means to be one in Christ in love. It is a tragedy when we disciples of Christ who claim to always know what is true and good when in fact we become the obstacles to dialogue and understanding, to peace and unity.

Love leads to peace. Here we find how love leads into peace. Like love, peace is not an emotion nor a feeling, a mere absence of war and differences but more of a product of love that is willing to sacrifice and suffer.

Jesus made it clear during Last Supper that the peace he gives is not like what the world gives that is often due to compromises, to quid pro quo in exchange of some concessions. The peace Jesus gives us is first of all one that is motivated by love of God that calls for a deep faith and trust in the Father.

Photo by author, Bolinao. Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

Peace does not depend on everything going right in our lives, when all is “silent and peaceful” as we would say. Peace sometimes comes most to us when we go through many trials in life as we trust in God more, in his goodness and in his plans for us.

The peace of Jesus Christ comes and is found within us, not outside us. That is why Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid. When we trust Jesus and do whatever he asks us out of love, then we experience peace even if there are temporary setbacks to our efforts for ourselves or family or even nation. We just have to have faith in God and continue to love in Christ for in the end, good and truth prevail.

In the Hebrew language, peace is shalom which means finding order or good relationships with one’s self, with others and with God. Let us examine our hearts and our lives this Sunday to see areas within us needing order, where we lack love as foundation and motivation in doing things that peace remains elusive to us.

May the love of Jesus Christ shine in us and through us like in the vision of John of the new Jerusalem coming down that “had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rev. 21:23). Amen.

Have a blessed and fruitful week ahead!

Photo by author, San Juan, Batangas, 14 May 2022.

Knowing is belonging

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Easter-C, 08 May 2022
Acts 13:14, 43-52 ><}}}}*> Revelation 7:9, 14-17 ><}}}}*> John 10:27-30
Photo from https://aleteia.org/2019/05/12/three-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus-portrays-him-as-the-good-shepherd/.

The Good Shepherd is the earliest portrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ in art. Mostly done in paintings in the catacombs of Rome, Jesus the Good Shepherd is shown as a young, muscular man to signify his eternity carrying on his shoulders a lost sheep.

But that imagery of a shepherd taking care of the lost sheep and flock was an original thought among peoples in the ancient Near East that included Israel. Kings in Babylonia and Assyria regarded themselves as shepherds tasked by their gods to care especially for the weak. This concept we also find in the Old Testament like in the Books of Psalms and of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel where God promised to send true “shepherds after his own heart” (Jer. 3:15) who shall lead his flock Israel with justice back to him.

That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is not just a shepherd but “the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn.10:11) because he is one with his flock.

Oneness is an inner sense of belongingness in personhood and experiences, a common union or communion of selves and experiences like in Jesus becoming human like us to be one in our pains and sufferings and death so that we may be like him in his glorious resurrection and eternal life.

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 10:27-28, 30
Photo from Pinterest.com.

Jesus knows us, gives us eternal life; we hear and follow him.

To know in Jewish thought is not merely an intellectual activity of having information and details especially when used in relation with persons. To know somebody means to have a relationship. Knowing is belonging.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd knows us his sheep because we belong to him, and whether we like it or not, we know him precisely because we are his! Recall that during his trial before Pilate, Jesus declared “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jn.18:37).

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

From the very start, we have always belonged to God so that out of his great love for us he sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to him. We are all God’s children created in his “image and likeness” who have become in many instances prodigal sons and daughters living like lost and injured sheep who need all the care and redemption to gain our status again as the Father’s beloved.

Our “belonging” to God is different from “possessing” in the same manner we belong to our parents or spouses to their partner. Human belongingness is way different from things as belongings, although so many times, it happens that people treat persons as things and objects to be possessed than subjects to be loved and cherished.

What do we mean? Children belong to parents and spouses belong to their partner but they can never be considered as possessions or property to be used and manipulated. People belong to one another like children to parents, husband to wife, and wife to husband as most cherished possessions in the sense that they are gifts from God, so unique in one’s self, free to grow and mature as a person. We belong to one another in mutual responsibility not as property; hence, the need for us to accept and support each other in love which leads to deeper communion and oneness through intimacy that extends to eternity!

Now we see why Jesus said he knows his sheep and gives them eternal life. Here we find the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd is in fact the image of Christ the King of the universe which sheds light on his very kingship as seen by John in his vision in our second reading today “of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9) which is reminiscent of his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

In the first reading we have also heard how from the very beginning, it has been God’s plan to lead all men to salvation in Jesus Christ. Despite the setbacks encountered by Paul and Barnabas in Antioch when they were rejected by their fellow Jews, their decision to turn to the gentiles to proclaim the Gospel was in fulfillment of of the Lord’s will that “have made them a light to the Gentiles to be instruments of salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).

The mark of a true shepherd is like a light who leads us to Jesus Christ and his values of prayer, life, persons, family, and justice among others. Here is the distinction between the true shepherd and a thief – a robber does not pass through Jesus, the gate of the sheep (Jn.10:1ff). A thief like many politicians and dictators including their handlers see the flock as things and properties they own and possess who can be bought and be forgotten, even disregarded, until the next elections. (So, vote wisely by listening more to Jesus than to anyone like the candidates’ endorsers.)

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

Belonging and mutuality

Human belongingness calls for mutuality for it to truly lead to oneness and communion. Jesus said he knows us and gives us eternal life because according to him, we his sheep hear his voice and follow him (v.27).

Do we listen to him and follow him?

Today we are also celebrating Mother’s Day. What a wonderful tribute to mothers who are indeed one of the truest good shepherdess in the world – the one to whom we all belong to, having cared for us from the very beginning in their womb.

Mothers are the most loving, most merciful, and most forgiving of all persons in the world, just like Jesus our Good Shepherd but sad to say, the one we most hurt when we disrespect her, from answering her back to swearing and sadly, when we disobey her. Ironically, when things go wrong with us and our lives, the first person we go to and accepts us is our mother too!

So many times, mothers bear all pains and hardships in life just to see their children fulfilled in life, choosing to suffer and cry in silence to hide the great difficulties they face daily, both physically and emotionally. That is how loving mothers are that in the Old Testament, God introduced himself as a mother, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is.49:15).

It is so easy to say “we love our mom” like claiming “Jesus is our Good Shepherd” but it is entirely another thing to live as a mother’s child or Christ’s sheep.

The grace of this Good Shepherd Sunday is Christ’s coming to us not only to lead us to greener pastures but to renew our relationships, our belonging to him and the Father to experience fulfillment in life. Whether at home or in our nation, may we listen more to Jesus by being mutual in our respect and love for one another and to our Motherland too!

May we have a peaceful and matured elections this Monday! Amen.

“Sanaol”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in Third Week of Easter, 04 May 2022
Acts 8:1-8   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 6:35-40
Photo by author, ICSB in Malolos City, Summer 2021.
"Sanaol" - a wish and a prayer
that all may be blessed, 
that like the flowers of summer,
everyone may bloom in the Lord.
"Sanaol" was the good news
after that Pentecost when
Jesus Christ's good news of
salvation was proclaimed to all;
despite the persecutions that
began in Jerusalem and "all were
scattered throughout Judea and
Samaria, except the Apostles, 
there were great joy in that
city" (Acts 8:1, 8) because 
everyone was blessed, 
everyone was welcomed,
everyone was accepted.
"Sanaol", Lord Jesus,
would accept you in the 
Eucharist and eventually in
the person of everyone we meet;
it is you, dear Jesus, who brings
joy and fulfillment in everyone
of us whenever we receive and
welcome you in the Eucharist
and in every person we meet.

Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe.

John 6:35-36
What has happened to us,
Lord Jesus?
We have turned away from you 
and from each other, choosing to
believe in thoughts and ideas,
in personalities, and all the 
fancies around them from colors
to cults that have brought us 
divisions and even persecutions.

Let us seek you again, dear Jesus,
and listen more to your voice
than to all the noises barraging us
especially at this crucial time
of the elections.
"Sanaol" will listen to you again,
and find you anew in everyone. 
Amen.

“Alfie” by Cilla Black (1966)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 27 March 2022
Alfie, poster, Michael Caine, 1966. (Photo by LMPC via Getty Images)

Sorry for being out for a long time with our Sunday music collection we try to relate with the Sunday gospel. But on this Fourth Sunday of Lent, we can’t let it past without coming up with our choice that perfectly matches the parable of the prodigal son – “Alfie” from the 1966 classic film of the same title.

Written by the formidable tandem of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, “Alfie” is the main character played by Michael Caine in the film about a young man who played on so many women and almost everyone without any regard for persons and relationships. Alfie is practically like the prodigal son in today’s gospel who also in the end realized the mess and waste of life he had done to himself and others (https://lordmychef.com/2022/03/26/the-joy-of-coming-home-in-the-father/).

I never had the chance to watch the classic film except the 2004 version that starred Jude Law but the song remains so touching and meaningful then and now in our generation. It is also said to be the favorite of Bacharach among his many great songs composed with David.

Learned about the song through the music of Dionne Warwick who had interpreted most of the works of Bacharach and David; but, it was only now that I have learned the original version by Ms. Cilla Black that was released in 1966. Funny that when the movie was released in the US, the producers had the young Cher recorded it too which became the version heard in the film.

The song had been covered by so many other artists with the latest by a Japanese named Fuji Kaze but, regardless of the artist singing Alfie, it is one song everyone of us can claim as ours with its sincerity and truth that come from the heart of someone truly on a Lenten journey of coming home to self, others, and God.

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give?
Or are we meant to be kind?

And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it is wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?

As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed, you're nothing, Alfie

When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie
Alfie

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.

Taking Jesus to the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week VIII-C in Ordinary Time, 27 February 2022
Sirach 27:4-7 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ><}}}}*> Luke 6:39-45
Photo by author, 2016.

We enter the Season of Lent this week with Ash Wednesday as the Ordinary Time takes on a long break until June; hence, our gospel this Sunday is a fitting cap to the teachings of Jesus these past three weeks about discipleship.

After expounding on the need to love like God full of mercy even to enemies, Jesus now speaks in parables citing ordinary experiences in life to underscore “wholeness” in one’s self that is rooted in one’s heart where speech and being go together.

True discipleship in Christ is taking into heart his words by putting them into practice – of walking the talk – to bear fruits in our lives of holiness.

Jesus told his disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:39, 45
Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.

Our heart, our center of being

People often make various gestures of the heart to convey the message of love especially when posing for pictures. But of all these gestures, nothing beats those two hands shaped like ears and put together to look like a heart.

It is the best sign of the heart, of two ear lobes joined together because a loving heart is one that listens, never judges just like what Jesus taught us last Sunday.

Most of all, one’s heart is always known by its words and actions wherein the actions speak louder than words! In this symbolism, we find the inner dynamics of speech and being perfectly together.

See in the three parables of Jesus in today’s continuation of his sermon on the plains, we find this primacy of listening to his words and putting them into practice: guides cannot guide others unless they have clear eyesight; the hypocrisy of seeing other’s faults unmindful of one’s own faults; and, how every tree is known by its fruit.

Jesus is calling us today to an “education of the heart” so that we may have open ears, open hearts, open minds, and open arms to be truly his disciples!

It is with the heart that one must listen to the Word to produce good and plentiful fruit, it is in the heart where every disciple of the Lord must meditate and treasure his Word like his Blessed Mother Mary “who kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk.2:19).

When the heart is cleansed of its impurities, it opens to God and to others, gets filled with the Holy Spirit to become like the Father who is merciful and loving as revealed by Jesus Christ.

Recall how in Genesis God created everything by simply speaking because his speech and being are one. In the prologue of the fourth gospel, we find how the Logos – the Word who is Jesus Christ became flesh to save us and make us experience God himself which he fully expressed while proclaiming the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth while launching his ministry (Third Sunday, 23 January 2022).

This Sunday we find everything coming to full circle, showing us the whole picture of Jesus and his mission, of his plans for us to be like the Father.

And here lies our problem so often when our words betray our true character, when our speech and being do not match, when what we say is far from what we live.

Image from Google.

Our sharing in the power of God to love

Of all that God has created, only humans were gifted with the ability to communicate intelligibly. Unlike the animals and other creatures, only us humans can speak to express what we feel, what we know, what we want.

Our ability to communicate is in fact a sharing in the power of God, a power to serve in love like Jesus, not power to dominate or lord it over upon others as the world sees and uses it.

This is why Ben Sirach reminds us in the first reading to hold our praises of any person, especially the eloquent speakers because words are empty unless supported by actions. One’s real worth is found in times of trials and tests like “what the potter molds in the furnace” (Sir. 27:5).

It is Jesus Christ himself, his very words who purify us his disciples to be able to preach his good news of salvation to others in words and in deeds without any duplicity and hypocrisy.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

The Lord is not asking us to stop criticizing nor be silent in the midst of so many injustices and evil around us. That remains an integral part of preaching the good news, of standing for what is true and just; however, Jesus is demanding us his disciples to always examine our very selves to see the kind of deeds that arise from our hearts.

Our actions, our very lives reveal the purity of our hearts, of our intentions and of our sentiments.

This is the reason why we priests and bishops are always doubted and even questioned by so many faithful whenever we denounce the many ills in the society, when we speak against social injustices, against corruption in government because our lives do not match our words. The worst and most painful part of it is when people see our “double-standard” with priests who lead lives so far from the Good Shepherd, that instead of taking care of the flock, there are some of us who take advantage of the poor sheep entrusted to us!

Today’s gospel challenges us, especially us your priests, if we lead a truly Christian life with preferential options for the poor?

Let us not be contented with outside appearances only, especially this coming Lenten Season. Take Jesus and his words into our hearts.

Discipleship is not about frequenting the church, reciting all the prayers, observing all the rites and rituals and devotions nor just denouncing the wrongs in the society nor fund-raising for so many projects for the benefit of the poor.

Discipleship is bringing to fruition all our prayers and faith expressions to loving service for one another. If not, we might just stay home so as to minimize the damages and hurts to the Body of Christ.

Let us continue to strive in purifying our hearts with the Word so that we may bear much fruits of good works in our lives, to “be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.