“The most resplendent manifestation of God’s glory is the salvation of souls, whom Christ redeemed by shedding his blood. To work for the salvation and sanctification of as many souls as possible, therefore, is the preeminent purpose of the apostolic life.”
From the Letters of Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Office of Readings
Praise and thanksgiving to you our loving Father for a holy saint in our modern time, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe whose memorial we celebrate today. His offering of his life in place of another prisoner at Auschwitz in 1941 was a fitting cap for his life of dedication in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in words and in deeds.
Though there are no more gas chambers unlike during the time of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the killing of so many people in various forms and methods continue to this day — right on our streets, in abortion clinics, in prisons, even in our homes and in social media where we spread toxins of lies that mislead and destroy many lives.
Inspire us like St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe to work for the sanctification of the world by sharing more of your love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness to everyone especially the weak and vulnerable to abuses and worldly influences.
Like this modern saint who lived during the harshest conditions of World War II, may we strive to make you present in the world where despite the ease and comforts of modern life, many of us are still lost and alone, feeling angry, empty, and confused.
Through our lives, may we fill the world with your presence and holiness by reminding people to return to your original plan of harmony and unity in your love as Jesus told the Pharisees in the gospel today:
Jesus said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”
Most of all, to make the world holy anew, grant us courage to stand for what is true and good, to remain standing at the side of your Son’s Cross for indeed, as St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe had taught us in one of his writings, “The deadliest poison of our time is indifference.”Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 June 2020
1 Kings 21:17-29 <*(((>< <*(((>< ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 5:43-48
O God our heavenly Father, we come to you today begging for your mercy, for more enlightenment, for prudence and for self-control amid all the things going on in our land and elsewhere abroad while still under threats with this COVID-19 pandemic.
Every day we are beginning to see how ugly sin can be, often expressed in so many forms of injustice to one another; its ugliness can be seen in the “punishments” King Ahab shall suffer following the death of Naboth whose vineyard he had so desired to own.
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me out, my enemy?” “Yes,” he answered. “Because you have given yourself up to doing evil in the Lord’s sight, I am bringing evil upon you: I will destroy you and will cut off every male in Ahab’s line, whether slave or freeman, in Israel. When one of Ahab’s line dies in the city, dogs will devour him; when one of them dies in the field, the birds of the sky will devour him.”
1 Kings 21:20-21, 24
Help us to turn away from sins, Lord, and cleanse our hearts and our hands of our many sins of dishonesty and insincerity, of lies and injustices, of pride and power tripping.
All these things happening to us today are largely due to our past sins that until now we refuse to admit and confess to you.
Give us the grace of honesty within, of confronting our true selves and admit our guilt, confess our sins to you to start anew like King Ahab towards the end that moved you, merciful God, to let go of your wrath in him.
May we find the wisdom and the immense beauty and power of your love as preached by Jesus to us in the gospel today.
Inspire us to be perfect, to be holy today just like you, our Father, is holy, perfect, and beautiful.
Holiness is not being sinless, Lord; fill us with your Self, O God so we may be strong enough to ward off sins and evil and be truly a reflection of your image and likeness in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companion Martyrs, 03 June 2020
2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Mark 12:18-27
We thank you, most loving God our Father, for the grace of perseverance and patience in this time of the pandemic. We thank you for the gift of trusting in your love and mercy despite all the sufferings and hardships our people have been going through amid the callousness and insensitivity of our leaders in government who have allowed to open offices, factories, and malls without providing adequate transportation while keeping all houses of worship closed.
May they heed, O Lord, the reminders of St. Paul to Timothy:
“I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”
2 Timothy 1:6-7
We pray for more courage for our leaders in government so they may not cower in fear to the threats of COVID-19 when there are so many measures to control its spread which they should have taken long time ago but have failed to do so for reasons only they know.
Give them courage to stand up to their superiors, to admit their faults and failures instead of being so concerned in building their image as strong and capable that deceive no one.
Remind us all, O Lord, that we own nothing in this life. Everything is yours even the power and authority we have that must be tempered with genuine love and concern for the people and most especially with self-control.
How sad, O Lord, that until now, there are people who insist on possessing persons like the Sadducees who cannot accept resurrection of the dead because they are stuck into the belief couples “own” each other:
“At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.”
One of those who thought of owning people was the pedophile King Mwanga of Uganda who persecuted the Christians in 1885-1887.
Inspire us, Lord, with the examples of St. Charles Lwanga and companion martyrs who remained pure and chaste, choosing tortures and death than to give in to the sexual perversions and immoralities of King Mwanga.
Their martyrdom became the seeds for the growth of Christianity in Uganda.
Help us to lead holy lives, Lord, amid the many sufferings we have to endure especially at this time of pandemic worsened by those who do not seem to care at all about you and spirituality, of the elderly and the sick, of the poor and needy among us.
Keep us all strong and let us not be perverted by the corrupt among us, always bearing our share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from you, O God. Amen.
Once again, our loving Father, I take the computer as my point of comparison for my prayer reflection on this second Friday of Lent.
Thank you in giving us this blessed season of Lent when we are able to “debug” our “internal hard drive” – the heart – to be cleansed of bugs and virus as well as unnecessary materials that slow us down to be holy and perfect like you.
Your words are very reassuring of how you want us to be “fixed” always, to be in good condition, filled with life and holiness.
Thus says the Lord God: “Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of a wicked?” says the Lord God. “Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live? Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous man turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniqity he committed that he must die. But if the wicked, trning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life; since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed, he shall surely live, he shall not die.”
Ezekiel 18:23, 25-28
Educate our hearts, O Lord.
Help us “surpass the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees” in Jesus Christ who have come to perfect the laws in himself, in love.
May your purifying love, sweet Jesus, cleanse us of our sins, delete our painful memories that continue to hold us back, preventing us to move forward and forgive others and especially our very selves.
Make us rejoice, O Lord, in your immense love and share it with others so that we may grow more in holiness in you. Amen.
Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 +++ 0 +++ Matthew 25:31-46
“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.”
Today, Lord, I borrow your psalmist’s words for they summarize the two beautiful readings on this first Monday of Lent 2020.
Thank you for reminding us that we are your Holy Spirit’s indwelling, that we must be holy for you, O God, are holy (Lev.19:2).
Continue to fill us with your holiness so that we continue to do whatever is good to our brothers and sisters, especially the least among them for whatever we do to anyone, that we do also to you, dear Jesus (Mt.25:40, 45).
May your holy season of Lent remind us that it is our nature to share and give life because we have you Jesus in us. That’s the implication of those like the sheep on your right side, Lord, who were surprised and could not believe asking “when were you Lord hungry we gave you something to eat, when were you Lord…?”
When we let your Spirit of holiness animate us, that is when we are never bothered to think of anything else upon seeing the poor and suffering except to love, to practice charity.
May our Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence, sacrifices and alms-giving empty us of our selves and be filled with you, sweet Jesus, the Word who became flesh to dwell in our hearts for you alone are Life and Spirit.
Teach us to examine today our attitude towards everyone who may be unknown to us silently poor and suffering. Let us reacquire that nature in us we fondly refer to as “second-nature” of being kind and charitable to everyone because he/she has you, Jesus, in him/her.
That need not be difficult for us because in the first place, YOU, O Lord, is in us too! Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Week VII-A, 23 February 2020
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 ><)))*> Matthew 5:38-48
Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount this Sunday just in time for the start of Lent this coming Ash Wednesday. He taught us last Sunday that righteousness is not only measured by acts but most of all by the purity of the heart’s intentions that we call “education of the heart”.
Today Christ comes to the demands of charity and love, the fullness of the Laws in himself.
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one as well… You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father..”
Matthew 5:38-39, 43-45
See again the Lord’s pattern in his preaching like last Sunday: a recall of the laws to show his adherence to them contrary to claims of his enemies, and then his infusion of his teaching that perfects the laws: “You have heard… But I say to you…”
Jesus focuses only on two laws today, that of revenge or “lex talionis” (from Latin talio for the word such) and that of hate for enemy which needs some clarifications.
Nowhere do we find in the Laws of Israel “to love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. Experts say Jesus must be citing a popular saying of his time in this part of his teaching. Besides, the Aramiac spoken by the Lord does not connote the harsh meaning we have today for the word “hate”. In short, Jesus is correcting here the norm among Jews of his time to “just love those who love us”.
This is why he adds this beautiful explanation with the most unique conclusion of all.
“For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
A fraternity of humanity in the Father
Here we find a beautiful dimension of Jesus Christ’s assertion last week that he had come to fulfill the Laws: more than having a broader approach to the spirit of the laws, education of the heart leads us to see everyone as a brother and a sister.
No one is different. Every one is a family – a kin! which is the root of the word “kind”.
Being kind is more than being good as we say in Filipino, mabait or mabuti.
Being kind is treating the other person as a kin, a relative or family; someone who is not different from us. When we say “he is kind to me”, it means more than being good to me but treating me as a family, a brother or a sister – not as “another” or “iba sa akin” as we say in Filipino.
This is the essence of our “Year of Inter-religious Dialogue, Ecumenism, and Indigenous Peoples” in preparation next year of our 500 years of Christianity in the country.
Everybody is included in that celebration as we reach out to peoples of other faith and beliefs as well as to the indigenous peoples whose forefathers were actually the first settlers of the country.
This is very important in any dialogue and relationship and partnerships including marriage: there must always be the acceptance of everyone in equal footing with same dignity as a person. It is from here we start that fullness of the Laws in Christ in love.
Human holiness as a reflection of God’s holiness in love
Love can only happen where there is equality and fairness. Love demands we are first of all at equal footing with each other. This is why Jesus became human like us: the Son of God became human to stand on equal footing with us that we cannot argue that he is greater because he is truly human, too, going through everything we have gone through except sin.
When he said that we offer our other cheek, to give our cloak, and go for another mile, he is not referring to criminal or penal codes but more into our humanity, that spirit of universal brotherhood so that even our oppressors and enemies come to realize within them that we are one, that we should be caring for one another, not hating and hurting each other.
Loving our enemies does not mean we let evil continue; loving our enemies means continuing to “love” perpetrators of evils until they realize we are brothers and sisters, keeping each other, caring for each other.
Loving our enemies is making them realize that there are nobody else here on earth for them except us – why fight and perish?
Yes, these are easier said than done. And admittedly, I must confess it is the most difficult part of the gospel, of being a Christ-ian. But it is something Jesus is asking us in the most personal manner.
Let it be clear that Jesus is not asking us to behave with naiveté that we give in to injustice, evil, and violence but that we always be peacemakers, the blessed ones he said in his Beatitudes. In our fight for justice and peace, we fight with the moral persuasions of love which is the morality of Christ.
The American civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. had shown in our modern time that the Lord’s teachings are doable: we just have to be convinced and must truly believe in Jesus.
“Love is the most durable power in the world. This creative force is the most potent instrument available in mankind’s quest for peace and security.”
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When we love truly in Jesus Christ, asserting what is true, what good, what is just, we make God truly present in the world. When that happens, the more we allow him to do his works of changing us within, of transforming us within. It is in our imperfect love that we make God present, the perfect I Am.
The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”
Leviticus 19:1-2, 18
Hubris, our greatest temptation and sin
The Season of Lent is fast approaching us, set to start with Ash Wednesday this week. It is a season characterized by barrenness: no Gloria and Alleluias, no flowers, no decorations, no images to make us turn back to God again, our Lord and Master alone.
St. Paul reminds us today in our second reading that we are “God’s temple… that there is no need to boast of anyone including one’s self” (1Cor. 3:16, 21). Instead of embracing or holding on to anyone including one’s self, we have to embrace the scandal of the cross of Christ, that is, power in weakness, wisdom in what the world considers folly.
For the ancient Greeks as depicted in their epics, the greatest temptation and sin of man is hubris – the arrogant presumption that he is god, that he can do everything, he can have everything that he defies the gods.
Hubris is the sin of pride that has led everyone from Adam and Eve to all the powerful men and women of history into their downfall. It is absolute power crumbling absolutely, always tragically.
In his Sermon on the Mount where we heard many of the Lord’s teachings this whole month of February, Jesus shows us the path away from hubris, his path of love and holiness in the Father. Let us heed his calls, give his teachings a try and a chance to be fulfilled in us.
Your gospel today, O Lord, is so appropriate and timely: while we were busy, albeit foolishly discussing the novel coronavirus in every fora, a technical committee in the House of Representatives has approved three measures seeking to legalize divorce in the country.
We do not know what have really happened but it is so sad that no one among the Catholic and Christian lawmakers there made a solid stand against these measures like St. John the Baptist who was imprisoned on account of his objection to Herod’s taking of his brother’s wife Herodias.
So many times, Lord, we are so afraid and worried of what others might say against us when we make a stand for what is right and just, for what is proper and decent, for what is right and good, for what is your will.
Worst, O Lord, many of us are like Herodias who have prostituted our very selves in the service of the worldly allures of sex, fame, and wealth, choosing to be silent with all the many immoralities going on in government, in the society, and even in the church!
Give us the same courage, Lord, you have given your precursor St. John the Baptist to be prophets in this modern age, to be a voice in the wilderness, making a stand for what is holy, true, and just.
Like David, may we always seek your ways, ask for your grace to do your will against the giants and monsters of this world who ram into us every modern thought and idea that disregard the sanctity of life, the value of every person, as well as the sanctity of marriage.
Let us not be silent anymore with the growing impunity of many in their arrogant display of authority, throwing their weight around us with their cuss words and fallacious arguments that dignify their truncated egos and pride for the sake of progress and modernity. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 18 December 2019
Jeremiah 23:5-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 1:18-24
First, we were told for a very long time the importance of IQ or “Intelligence Quotient” for anyone’s success in life.
Then came the EQ or “Emotional Quotient” this past decade that experts claim has more impact in determining one’s success in life than the IQ.
Now, scientists are claiming that more important than the IQ and the EQ is “AQ” or “Adversarial Quotient”, our ability to respond to various adversarial situations in life.
According to the proponents of AQ, the better we are able to deal with life’s troublesome situations like handling crises involving our many forms of relationships, the better we are equipped in having a more fuller life.
Today we hear the story of St. Joseph facing an extremely adversarial situation when Mary who was betrothed to him was found pregnant with a baby not his!
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”
IQ + EQ + AQ = HQ
St. Matthew describes St. Joseph a “righteous man” or, in Jewish thought, a holy man, a saint who lives his life according to the word of God. Also known as a zaddik in Hebrew, a righteous man delights in the Torah (Law), entrusting everything to God.
According to the Book of Psalms’ first chapter, a righteous man or a zaddik is like a tree planted near a river bank that symbolizes God’s words, growing into maturity with good fruits because he is filled with God, putting into practice the Sacred Scriptures and the Laws.
That is precisely what holiness is all about: being filled with God, not being sinless!
Though holiness means being perfect and whole as its Greek origin tells us, holiness as preached by Jesus Christ is an ongoing process when he commanded us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48).
Holiness does not happen overnight; it takes time and a lot of cultivation on our part.
(One rule of thumb, though, that we must keep in mind: if you think or feel you are holy, definitely you are not. Saints do not know they are saints.)
IQ, EQ, and now AQ are in a sense, scientific expressions of holiness, of being filled with God to become better persons.
During the Solemnity of St. Joseph last year, Pope Francis issued “Gaudete et Exsultate” to reiterate Vatican II’s universal call to holiness by proposing practical ways in our modern time on how to be holy based on the beatitudes of Jesus Christ.
The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).
Gaudete et Exsultate, 1
Very interesting in our Simbang Gabi is how the Pope mentions Abraham, the very beginning of Jesus Christ’s genealogy, as a model of holiness now being expressed in our gospel by the last person in that genealogy, St. Joseph!
St. Joseph bridged faith and practice
St. Joseph is exactly that kind of Jewish zaddik who lived in constant dialogue with God in praying the Scriptures, concretely living it minus the legalisms of the Pharisees and scribes of his time.
For him, the Torah was a good news meant to make life better, not bitter by applying it to daily living which is to love by preserving life.
In dealing with his extremely adversarial situation, St. Joseph did the most important step we have totally disregarded these days: silently pray to God for guidance and grace.
As a man, one can just imagine the many thoughts running through St. Joseph’s mind and heart when the woman he loves so much is found with a baby not his.
His decision to silently leave Mary was due to his great love for her, not in disregarding the letters of the Law that declares that any woman betrothed to a man who bears a child not his must be stoned to death.
Read again St. Matthew’s account we have quoted above and you will feel the solemnity of the scene, of “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” according to St. Matthew.
There was no sense of agitation or any other negative vibes, purely positive.
Very clear, St. Joseph’s holiness was not merely due to his bloodline or genealogy but his decision to bridge his faith and religion with his life and daily practice.
St. Joseph must be so purely absorbed in prayer that even at his sleep, there was his continuing communing with God that when he woke up, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” (Mt.1:24-25).
Finding holiness in adversarial situations
Almost every month we find in social media so many videos and reports of road rage and people freaking out everywhere.
Sometimes I think that with the presence of too many CCTV’s and prevalence of smart phones around, people should be more well behaved, more kind. But the exact opposite is happening!
Life has become one big, giant TV show with everybody grandstanding, artificially creating their own limelight of fame that usually turns into five minutes of shame and notoriety.
Everybody wants to be on TV or Youtube but unknown to many, television screens tend to bring out the worst in us.
Whenever I would see people with their smartphones taking pictures, “talking alone” and doing all those crazy scenes, I fear how most of us have drifted away from our real gounding in life, God.
The story of St. Joseph reminds us of the need to resolve every issues in our lives by going back to our roots and grounding, God. And this happens by being deeply in touch with life and its realities! He was truly grounded and knew what could happen to Mary.
The more we experience life in each other, the more we experience God.
And the more we look at God, the more we see others.
Such was the holiness of St. Joseph that in bridging his faith with his daily life, the deeper his love for God and Mary grew! In looking up to God, the more he saw Mary and so Jesus Christ came too!
This is the problem of our time: we keep on looking outside, somewhere else to find meaning and life, answers to our many questions.
We just have to look inside our hearts where God truly dwells like St. Joseph.
His being “whole” as a righteous man is the reason why he could sleep soundly in the midst of many crises in life as he completely trusted God. Indeed, St. Joseph’s silence is his most remarkable sign of holiness that even in his sleep, he is filled with God.
There are four instances in the gospel of St. Matthew when the angel spoke to St. Joseph to deliver messages from God. He can sleep soundly because he never dilly-dallied with important decisions in life like secretly divorcing Mary.
We cannot sleep not because we have big problems but because we refuse to make decisions about them.
The word crisis is from the Greek krisis that means “requiring decision”; hence, critical situations require decisions.
St. Joseph was decisive because he was always grounded in God, discerning always his holy will.
In the first reading we heard the prophecy of the coming Christ who shall be called “the Lord our justice” (Jer.22:6). Again, in Jewish thought, justice is not merely giving what is due but also means holiness.
The coming Christ is the Holy One of God, one who would completely entrust himself to the Father on the Cross. Very much like his foster father, St. Joseph who trusted God completely.
Sleeping and dying are essentially the same in the closing of our eyes when we entrust ourselves to God completely without knowing what will happen next, if we would still wake up or, in the case of death, really rise again.
Christmas happens, Jesus comes to us when like St. Joseph we abandon everything to God, especially our “adversarial situations” and go to sleep to be ready and prepared for new, unexpected, and even incredible things in this life. Sleep tight, and be surprised by the Lord! Amen.
This is the will of God, your holiness: that you refrain from immorality.
1 Thessalonians 4:3
On this last Friday of August while so many people today await September for their silly Christmas countdown and carols, I pray, Lord, that we may value your call to holiness which is simply to become wise and practical, of staying out of troubles by being close to you.
How absurd that while everybody is so eager for Christmas, nobody is interested with its message and essence of being like you, of being holy and divine that is now more doable since your Son Jesus Christ became human like us.
Teach us, Lord, to be wise like those five virgins in your parable today.
To be wise and holy is first of all to be “reasonable”, that is, to always search and follow and stand by what is true. In this age of fake news and misplaced nationalism and rights, it has become so normal to be carried away by emotions, totally disregarding facts and reason.
Secondly, teach us O Lord to be orderly in our living, not only in “decluttering” our rooms and drawers of so many trash but most especially our very being. Where there is reason, there is always order. Chaos and disorder, confusions and mess happen when we become unreasonable as we fail to see the more essential things in life.
Last but not least, Lord, give us the gift of vision of the future which is always a result of being reasonable and orderly in life. Not just the gift of sight, O Lord which is a mere ability to see things. Grant us vision which is the grace to see beyond time and physical realities, to project and work on the future now.
The wise virgins have vision that they brought extra oil as they have anticipated the delay in the arrival of the groom; the other virgins were foolish because they lived only in the present, on what is physical just like most of us today. Amen.