The joy of leaving

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Lord's Ascension-A, 21 May 2023
Acts 1:1-11 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:17-23 ><}}}*> Matthew 28:16-20
Photo by author, sunset in the city from OLFU-QC, Hilltop Campus, January 2023.

Last Sunday we reflected that leaving is the most painful part of loving. Every separation hurts us, whether it is temporary or permanent like death. However, leaving can also be the source of our deepest joy when every departure is because of love, for love.

When we truly love, we only wish the best for our beloved. And sometimes that happens when our beloved leaves like when Jesus told his disciples at the last supper that it is better for him to leave so that the Holy Spirit would come (Jn. 16:7).

Moreover, when a loved one leaves, we are certain he/she is coming to somewhere better, someone better. That is why we have said last week that every leaving is also a coming like our coming together as a relationship no longer bounded by time and space but happening in spirit and truth.

That is the joy of leaving – it is a coming into a deeper or higher level of relationship that no longer depends in time and space.

That is the meaning of the Lord’s Ascension we celebrate today.

That is why the Ascension is not to be seen as Jesus “floating” on air going up to heaven which is not just a place but more of a relationship with God who is everywhere. Ascension is Jesus Christ’s entry into another level of intimacy and glory with the Father he shares with us his disciples as a result of his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20
Photo by author, Chapel of the Ascension at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

It is in this context of a relationship, an intimate one, where we can understand fully what Matthew meant when he wrote how on the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples “worshipped, but they doubted him.” How could anyone worship but at the same time doubt?

Doubt here does not mean skepticism about the person of Jesus Christ. It has been 40 days since Easter and surely, the disciples have been convinced it was the Lord. The disciples’ doubt referred to their hesitancy to make a commitment to Jesus. No problem with Jesus. Problem was with the disciples. Just like us!

Photo by author, inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, 2017.

We recently celebrated our silver anniversary in the priesthood. All six of us classmates unanimously agree on the tremendous grace of still being priests after 25 years despite our many flaws. Most of all, amid our doubts and hesitancy 25 years ago if we could really be that faithful and good as priests of Jesus Christ. That was the doubt of the disciples. “Makaya ko kaya yung ipinag-utos ni Lord?” must be the question nagging them that moment.

Or, that doubt of the disciples may be likened with the doubts of a man and a woman getting married, both so afraid with the vows and commitments they would make if they could really be faithful and loving to each other, “for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.”

Remember that the Resurrection of Jesus did not instantly lead to a perfect faith for his followers who experienced it. They were still grappling with everything but have already embraced Jesus. There is no doubt with their love in Jesus. They were afraid for themselves they might fail, they might not measure up to Jesus whom they have failed on Holy Thursday and Good Friday. They were still wavering in their understanding and commitment to the Lord.

That is the good news of the Ascension – that amid all those doubts and hesitancies of his disciples, Jesus still believed in them, entrusting his mission to them, including us today. Imagine how everyday when we wake up, Jesus reminds us to “ascend” in him and with him to a higher level of relationship with the Father through one another in the exercise of our duties and responsibilities, in fulfilling our vows to God, to the Church, or to the country, to your wife, to your husband, to your office.

Like his disciples on that Ascension day, Jesus continues to entrust to us his Church his mission to the world because he believes in us even though he knows very well our imperfect faith.

Of course, it is difficult to make a complete and irrevocable commitment especially when there is the slightest doubt within us; but, most often what we do is to still make that bold step forward to grow deeper in that faith in God and with others than reduce or remove that little faith we have. This is most true as we have experienced in our relationships, that is why we celebrate anniversaries.

Photo by author, pilgrims waiting entrance into the Chapel of Ascension, May 2019.

Have you noticed how these past ten years young lovers celebrate “monthsaries” that sometimes look so cheesy and baduy? It was only recently have a realized how our young people are really serious with their relationships, with things of the heart like faith, hope and love. Their celebrations of their “monthsaries” indicate how the young generation desires long term relationships, celebrating each month of triumph over their initial doubts of keeping their love alive.

Even parents these days post pictures of the “monthsaries” of their babies to show how they have grown since birth which also indicate how the parents themselves have grown and matured despite so many odds and doubts within them in nursing, nurturing the life of another person, of their offspring.

These are all indications of our imperfect faith that gets perfected, gets deeper and stronger in the passing of each day every time we assert it. Not when we discard it. Try recalling those instances when you doubted your abilities in fulfilling a mission or assignment, in keeping a relationship and see how far you have gone now in life.

Photo by author, part of the site believed where Jesus stepped on his Ascension inside the Chapel of the Ascension, Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone, including the most accomplished and successful people among us have our strengths and weaknesses. We all have our different areas of doubts we still struggle up to this time but that does not diminish the faith we possess. In fact, that is how our faith have grown deeper, our love perfected while our relationships leveled up higher than before.

This Sunday, Jesus does not only command us to fulfill his mission entrusted to us more than 2000 years ago through his eye-witnesses who made up the first community of disciples.

We who comprise this community of disciples today are likewise assured of Christ’s grace for us to grow in our faith and commitment to him.

Like in the first reading, we are reminded by the angels not to be idle nor complacent but instead to go out to fulfill Christ’s mission of proclaiming his gospel in words and in deeds.

Every Sunday we proclaim our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection until he comes again. That second coming belongs to our time. St. Paul is encouraging us in the second reading “to enlighten the eyes of our hearts” (Eph. 1:18) to realize how God had done everything and continues to do everything in Christ for us to mature in our faith, helping us in every step of our journey as disciples of Jesus. We cannot see the whole path of the journey but each step forward is enough for us to progress in our faith expressed in our loving service to one another.

This is the gist of the Pope’s Message for this Sunday’s World Communication Day, of “Speaking with the heart” which means to communicate in love and in truth, not with lies and fake news. To speak with the heart is to have a heart opened to love in strengthening our relationships not in destroying them like what is happening in the world with so much divisions and polarizations. Speaking with the heart means leaving behind our mistrust and doubts for one another in order to make that bold step toward peace by recognizing each one as a brother and sister in Christ. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Remaining in love

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 11 May 2023
Acts 15:7-21   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City, 20 March 2023.
Today dear Jesus,
thrice you have asked us
"remain in my love"
in three short verses
of the gospel.

And I wonder why you used
the word to "remain" 
than "stay" as we would use
these days,
"staying in love"?
Should I stay, or
should I remain?
It may sound like more of 
semantics but to remain 
sounds strong,
evoking firmness
and resolve.

Jesus said to his disciples: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”

John 15:9-10
Remaining in your love,
Lord Jesus, 
is being deeply rooted in you
like a big tree;
to be rooted in you
means being secured 
about who we are
as your beloved
and what is our mission
in this world which is to love,
love, and love;
remaining in your love, Lord,
is therefore having our hearts
connected with your heart,
feeling your presence
and movements in us and among us,
when we do not become anxious
when challenged and attacked,
when turmoil happen in our
relationships because it is you
whom we always see
and tries to find like Peter
and James, Paul and Barnabas
during the Council of Jerusalem
in the first reading.
Remaining in your love,
Jesus, is remaining connected,
remaining one in you, with you
that results in joy in us
because what we see,
what we experience,
what we believe 
is you working
in us and among us.
Amen.

Birthday prayer

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 22 March 2023
Isaiah 49:8-15 >>> + <<< John 5:17-30
Photo by author, sunrise at the Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 22 March 2023.
Loving God our Father,
Your words say it all today,
my birthday:

Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I answer you, in the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the peopleā€¦ Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

Isaiah 49:8, 15

The Lord is gracious and merciful.

Responsorial Psalm, Ps. 145:8
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, QC, 22 March 2023.
More than words, dear Father,
I praise and thank you 
for your boundless love
and kindness to me all these 
58 years!
You have always been present with me,
in me, for me, and through me in Jesus Your Son.
And so, I pray this to you:

Dearest Lord,
you have given me with so much,
I have given you so little;
teach me to give more 
of my time and talents,
to give more of my self 
so I can give Christ Jesus to others,
especially his love and mercy,
kindness and forgiveness;
empty me of my pride, Lord,
and fill me with your humility,
justice and love.
Amen.
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, QC, 22 March 2023.

Lent is getting nearer to God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Lent, 09 March 2023
Jeremiah 17:5-10   >>> +++ <<<   Luke 16:19-31
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2022.
God our loving Father,
let me come to you closer,
let me get nearer to you
in Jesus Christ present
among the sick and suffering,
among those we take for granted,
in those we have forgotten
in our family, in the church,
and in the society.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.

Luke 16:19-21
Yes, O Lord Jesus,
your parable continues to 
happen among us today
despite our many technologies,
we have grown more apart
from each other not only in
physical distance but worst
even in heart as being kindreds in you.
Indeed, what you had told Jeremiah
is most true even today, 
"More tortuous 
than all else 
is the human heart,
 beyond remedy;
who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9)
but you alone, O Lord!

Cleanse our hearts,
incline our hearts to you,
dear Jesus;
let us be nearer to you
than anyone or anything else;
let us trust in you alone
for it is in you only is
found life and its fullness
here and the hereafter.
Amen.

Post-Valentine notes

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 February 2023
Photo by Elle Hughes on Pexels.com
It has been 24 hours since
Valentine's Day
and I wonder what happened
with all the flowers
not sold yesterday;
do the lovers still stay
and remain true with
all that they say
to love and behold each
other every day?
The flowers declare
what the hearts convey
but too often they are so
lovely beyond compare
when love is not that easy
because in reality,
love is difficult, even painful
that most likely I would
dare say that a loving heart
is more of thorns than of blooms.
A loving heart is first of all
a listening heart;
a heart that listens in silence,
a heart that hears and feels
 the silent screams and cries
 of a beloved;
many times in life,
when our hearts are tired and weary,
saddled with burdens so heavy,
the most lovely company to have
is a listening heart
where words do not matter
because what we bear are too painful
to bare; just a warm, loving heart
that listens and cares is more than enough.
A loving heart is a heart that sings.
Have you noticed
the loveliest love songs
are those that speak
 of a love lost,
of a love that did not end
happily ever after,
a love hoping against hope
that someday would be
redeemed , if not here, even beyond?
A loving heart is able to sing
only when that heart is scarred
for not being loved in return,
of being disappointed,
even betrayed,
of losing
because a heart that continues to love
in darkness and pains
is the one that truly loves,
creating harmony and melodies,
a song or a poem
that ease and soothe
the many hearts hurting.
When a heart listens in silence
and sings amidst the pain,
then the heart celebrates
in finding love in what is true
and in what is good,
in self-sacrifice and
in self-giving;
only the ones who dare
to love even in pain of losing
one's self can celebrate
because in the end,
love prevails,
love triumphs;
that is why we have
Valentine's day -
a celebration of
how lovers of God and
lovers of fellowmen
overcame death
in giving their hearts,
their very selves.
Not just flowers
and chocolates.

A Valentine’s day prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. Cyril, Monk & Methodius, Bishop, 14 February 2023
Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Mark 8:14-21
On this most joyous day of hearts,
dear God our Father,
I pray for us all with a heart
to have a natural heart
not hardened by sin and bitterness,
not a heart lacking in understanding
nor a heart so caught up with selfish
and personal agenda.

When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved.

Genesis 6:5-6
Give us a heart
inclined to you, O Lord,
a heart that listens in silence,
a heart that rejoices in truth,
a heart that celebrates what is good,
a heart that sings amid the many scars
and pains of infidelity and betrayal, 
unkindness and unfriendliness,
a heart that is whole and undivided
in courage and freedom to do what 
is most loving, most self-sacrificing
and self-giving like that of Jesus Christ.

Let us not be carried away
and worst, give rise to the commercialization
of Valentine's Day that we forget the 
true meaning of loving which is 
forgetting one's self and thinking more of
the other person; how lovely it is to read how
you, O God, directed Noah to build an ark
to save his family from the great flood:
Everyone inside the ark was in pair -
Noah and his wife,
his three sons and each one's wife
as well as the animals with one male
and one female each to show us that
love is never alone,
always with another person
with a community of believers!
Many times, O Lord,
we miss your point because we are so
caught up with our own thoughts and ideas
that our eyes cannot see,
and ears cannot hear.
Teach like our brother saints today,
St. Cyril and St. Methodius
to seek your holy will 
so we may love truly
like Jesus Christ who
died on the Cross
for us.
Amen.

A very Valentine Sunday Gospel

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Sixth Week of the Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 12 February 2023
Sirach 15:15-20 ><]]]]'> 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 ><]]]]'> Matthew 5:17-37
Photo by author, Tagaytay City, 08 February 2023.

We are two days away from Valentine’s Day and a week from Ash Wednesday for the start of the Lenten Season. And our Gospel this Sunday speaks so much of how our hearts may be whole and pure like that of Jesus, filled with love for others as Christ’s disciples.

We are still with Jesus giving us his Sermon on the Mount. Last week we have heard him showing us the practical side of the beatitudes, of blessedness which is being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Today, Jesus elaborates to us the meaning of putting into practice our blessedness, of being the salt of the earth and light of the world by going right into our hearts in fulfilling the Laws in him as he clarified, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt. 5:17).

Living our lives as disciples of Jesus means that we follow a standard or norm totally different from the world’s standard that has become very personalistic and self-centered. The late Pope emeritus Benedict XVII called it as “dictatorship of relativism” – no more absolutes, no more God nor morality to follow because everything is relative that had given rise to everyone invoking each one’s rights totally disregarding the rights of others especially the weakest and most vulnerable. Worst, as most people insist on their individual rights these days, they also forget the other aspect of every right which is responsibility. What happens now is the covering up of temptations of lust so as not to deal with it like the promotion of abortion and artificial contraceptives or of divorce as a solution to marital infidelities.

The problem is not with the laws but with the heart of every person.

Photo by author, Don Bosco Chapel on the Hill, Batangas, 08 February 2023.

Jesus is challenging us today to look into our hearts, placing the responsibility on every individual and not on the object of temptations or anger or lust. He is inviting us to lead our lives with integrity where we follow not only the letter of the law but more important, its spirit. This integrity calls us to a whole-hearted living whereby more than the beautiful words we speak, our lives, our very actions reveal we are the children of the Father in Christ Jesus, animated by the Holy Spirit.

See how Matthew composed and arranged the Lord’s teachings today; there is always the reminder from the Laws of the Old Testament followed by the Lord’s clarification of its deeper meaning and application.

You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment. You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, “Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.” But I say to you, do not swear at all. Let your “Yes” mean “Yes,” and your “No” mean “No.” anything more is from the evil one.

Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 37

See how Jesus is directing us into his own heart, into the very heart of his Gospel found in the beatitudes we heard the other Sunday so that our hearts would also imitate. To be truly blessed, to be a salt of the earth and a light of the world is to have a clean, pure heart like Jesus, a heart filled with love and mercy. It is very difficult to do on our own but in the grace of Jesus Christ, it is doable.

At the very heart of Christ’s teachings today is the fact that not everything in life can be written and even fiscalized or enacted as a law. Human life is dynamic, always changing, supposedly for the best. Unfortunately, what we are seeing these days in history is decadence: when we are supposed to know more and know better, the more we are becoming less human, less personal because in our “reasoning”, what prevails upon us is our ego, our pride, our self-interests. These are what Jesus is attacking in his teachings today as he invites us to examine and cleanse our hearts, and to truly “feel” the depths and meaning of the Laws long given by God.

How sad that our usual argument against old laws is how they have become obsolete, not attuned with the times like the proponents of divorce. The problem is not with the natural order of things but us. And the tragedy is that we have not only polluted our hearts but also our minds, turning them away from God and from others.

Photo from reddit.com.

Very often, especially these days, many people insist on their freedom, on their power to choose forgetting that freedom is never absolute, that freedom demands also responsibilities. Though we are free to express our thoughts and feelings, it is not allowed to use the same freedom in spreading lies or maligning others.

The key to such “whole-hearted” living is found in our first reading from the Book of Sirach which emphasizes the meeting of the heart and the mind in God to choose, to decide and to do what is right, what is good.

If you choose, you can keep the commandments, they will save you; if you trust in God, you too shall live; he has set before you fire and water; to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand. Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him. No one does he command to act unjustly, to none does he give license to sin.

Sirach 15:15-17, 20

We have the natural laws etched by God in our hearts to always do good, to do no harm on others. We also have his words and teachings finally revealed and fulfilled in Jesus Christ that must guide us in making the right exercise of freedom, of choosing life not death. Here we have true integrity, the meeting of the mind and the heart at what is true, what is good!

Freedom is the ability to choose what is good. Moreover, to be free is also to decide knowingly. Freedom is diminished and impaired when judgement is disturbed. As the Latin saying goes, Mens sana in corpore sano – a sound mind in a sound body. That is why our responsorial psalm says it so well that “Blessed are they who follow the law of the Lord”.

One fine example of this blessed man who follows the Lord is our national athlete and the world’s number three pole vaulter, EJ Obiena.

A UST student who has represented us in various competitions including the 2020 Olympics in Japan, Obiena opened 2023 by winning two gold medals in four tournaments. Unfortunately due to usual red tapes and inefficiencies of those in government, Obiena had to skip the Asian Indoor Championship in Kazakhstan this weekend because of lack of logistical support and fundings. He never ran out of problems despite the many honors he had brought to our country in sports that in the process had shown us also his giftedness as an athlete and as a person with his good moral character.

What I like with him most is his passion for what is ethical, for what is right. He is very consistent with that. He is a man with an undivided heart, clearly inclined to what is true, good and just.

When people wrote and offered him help to join the competition in Kazakhstan, Obiena politely declined the offers because of ethical reasons, of “double-dipping” wherein he explained how the people have already given their share for him with their tax payments, that for them to give donations was too much already, even unjust.

Wow! Praise God for a man like Mr. Obiena! Truly a man with a heart full of passion in God, in what is right, what is true!

What EJ Obiena has consistently shown us – and taught us unconsciously – is the wisdom of God in Christ crucified, the favorite topic of St. Paul in his letters like the one we have heard earlier. See how Obiena was ready to suffer and sacrifice for what is true and good that so often, he is vindicated and has won our hearts and admiration.

This Sunday, let us listen more to God’s voice there in our heart, often the softest and most feeble covered by the more noisy sounds of the world. Let us look into our hearts and see if we have more of our selves, or of others? Of persons or things? Of laws or spirit of the laws? Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Tagaytay City, 07 February 2023.

A “centering” prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin, 08 February 2023
Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17   ><000'> ><000'> + <'000>< <'000><   Mark 7:14-23   
Photo by author, 01 February 2023, La Mesa Dam Eco Park seen from OLFU-QC, Lagro, QC.
On this middle of the week,
I pray to you dear God our Father,
that I may keep you at the center of my life
always inasmuch as you have made us humans
the center of all your creation.

At the time when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.

Genesis 2:4-5, 7
How lovely it is, O God,
to keep in mind in this other 
creation story in Genesis that
you created us humans first as 
"center" of your creation!
Equally lovelier, O God,
is the imagery of man you have
settled in the garden of Eden,
creating him in your image and likeness
endowed with the most wondrous gift
of freedom which is at the "center"
of our humanity, right in our hearts.
Alas, O God!
Instead of remaining at the center
with you and in you, we prefer
creating our own "center",
moving away from you and from each other;
forgive us in making our hearts,
our very center, dirty with sin and evil.

Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. From the within the man, from his hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”

Mark 7:14, 21-23
Reign in our hearts, dear Jesus;
may you be center of our lives!
Like St. Josephine Bakhita who went
through so much pain and sufferings as 
child when she was sold as a slave in Sudan 
that in the process she had forgotten her name,
she was able to keep her sanity and 
regained her dignity as a person
until she converted to Catholicism
and eventually became a nun
because she found you, Jesus,
as the center of her life, even forgiving
those who have tortured and maltreated her.
Her redemption from a life of slavery
and constant sufferings proved that indeed,
we are the center of your creation, O Lord,
that you hear our pleas
and come to save us
if we remain centered in you too.
Amen.

Hearing, coming

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 19 January 2023
Hebrews 7:25-8:6   <'000>< + ><000'> + <'000>< + ><000'>   Mark 3:7-12
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2022.
Open our ears and our hearts,
God our loving Father, 
to always hear your voice,
to heed your calls in Jesus Christ
so that like the people in the gospel
we too may come to him.

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.

Mark 3:7-8
In the fourth gospel, John
tells us how Jesus invited 
Andrew and companion to
"come and see" where he stayed;
in a beautiful manner, Mark
tells us today how people
"heard and came" to Jesus!
"Coming" to you, O Lord,
is always accompanied either
by seeing as a result of coming
or by hearing that leads to coming.
How ironic,
even ridiculous
in our time with all the earphones
and earplugs and pods stacked in
our ears listening, hearing the 
cacophony of sounds and noise
of the world and everyone peddling
lies after lies but we would not 
even bother to hear nor listen 
to the gospel and stories of Jesus Christ!
In fact, we are so busy listening
to others and the world without
ever hearing our true selves
at all!
Teach us to listen,
to hear and follow your
voice and calls, dear Jesus
for you alone is our perfect 
mediator, our perfect high priest
"who is always able to save those
who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make 
intercessions for them" (Heb. 7:25).
Refine our listening
pleasures and abilities
that touch our very core
not just our senses,
massaging our ego;
may we have the courage
to hear and listen to what is
true and just, no matter how
painful they may be
for it is only in that way
we can be healed of our
many diseases and maladies.
Amen.

Refresh my heart in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church, 10 November 2022
Philemon 7-20   ><]]]'> + <'[[[><  ---+---  ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Luke 17:20-25
Photo by author, 25 October 2022 in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga.
Your words today are so lovely,
dear Jesus, spoken through St. Paul
in his letter to Philemon asking him 
to take back his former slave Onesimus:
"I, Paul, write this in my own hand:  I will pay. 
May I not tell you that you owe me your very self.
Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord.
Refresh my heart in Christ" 
(Philemon 19-20).
So nice of St. Paul to ask Philemon
to "refresh my heart in Christ"...
but, can we refresh one's heart in you, Lord?
Are you not the only one who can refresh our hearts?
Dearest Jesus,
many times in life like St. Paul
when we face so much difficulties,
we seek rest and affirmations 
that you are still with us,
that you have never left us
not because we doubt you
but because we feel tired,
we feel weak,
our spirits sag;
but when we hear people
doing your work,
expressing their faith, hope and love
in you in the most extraordinary ways
like doing the almost impossible,
our hearts are renewed,
our hearts are refreshed in you!
Like Philemon who had been cheated
or placed on the losing end when his slave Onesimus
fled from him; it must be so difficult for him
to take back Onesimus, to forgive and forget
his transgressions, most of all, 
to regard him as a brother without casting 
any doubts on his conversion
and reason for being a Christian.
So many hearts must have also been
refreshed in you, O Jesus Christ,
by the saints like St. Leo the Great
in his great works explaining your 
mystery of Incarnation,
in his touching homilies,
and handling of the barbarians
attacking Rome at that time;
his zeal and faith in you in achieving
so much feats as a pastor and administrator
refreshed many hearts in Christ
in those dark times following the fall of Rome
that until now upon learning his story
others continue to strive to be holy;
The Good Nurse is another notable
disciple you have used to refresh our tired
hearts in setting things right even if the
big bosses could not stand up against
systematic evil in their organizations.
Indeed, Lord Jesus,
"the Kingdom of God is among us"
not outside observable things
as you explained to the Pharisees 
its coming in today's gospel (Lk.17:20-21);
 touch us and fill us with your grace
to do your works, to be more loving and kind,
merciful and forgiving
so that in our witnessing, 
in our apostolate and ministry,
in our daily living of your Gospel
we may refresh the hearts
of those with sagging spirits
and joy in making you present
in the world.
Amen.