Being small, and blessed

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 08 September 2021
Micah 5:1-4     ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>     Matthew 1:18-23
“The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, a 1305 painting by Renaissance artist Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The two babies are Mary: below is Mary upon birth wrapped in swaddling cloth and washed by attendants and then above being handed to St. Anne her mother. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

We rarely celebrate birthdays in our liturgy, except for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25 and of his precursor John the Baptist on June 24. Feasts of the saints are often based on the date of their death or when their remains were transferred for proper burial.

Today is different: it is the birth of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And so we celebrate!

Nine months after her Immaculate Conception celebrated as a Solemnity on December 8, we now have the Feast of her Nativity which is lower in status or ranking of celebrations. Nonetheless, aside from Jesus and John the Baptist, her birth is still celebrated as it is the completion of her Immaculate Conception by St. Anne.

But in this time of the pandemic when everyone’s birthday celebration is kept at the simplest level unless you are a police general or a corrupt government official or a callous lawmaker, it is good to reflect anew on the significance of a birthday. Thanks a lot to Facebook in making every birthday so special, alerting everyone of someone’s birth every day.

Photo by author, December 2018.

"Every birthday is a small Christmas 
because with the birth of every person 
comes Jesus Christ."

In his 1995 Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), the great St. John Paul II beautifully expressed that “Every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.”

What makes that so true with every birthday beginning with the Blessed Virgin Mary is God’s great mystery of becoming small, of being a little one. In the birth of his Son Jesus Christ, God revealed to us that true greatness is in becoming small, in being silent. Even insignificant.

This we find right in the place of birth of the Christ prophesied in the Old Testament.

“You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”

Micah 5:1

And if we go further, we find this true greatness of God in being small found also in the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary who came from the obscure town of Nazareth, the only place in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament. Recall how the Apostle Bartholomew (Nathanael) belittled the Lord’s hometown after being told by Philip that they have found the Messiah from Nazareth, saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn.1:46).

Nazareth was totally unknown.

And so was Mary!

That is why it is so disappointing and sad when many Catholics unfortunately led by some priests have the misimpression of portraying Mary as a “beauty queen” with flawless skin and Western features when she is clearly Middle Eastern woman. Worst of all is the pomp and pageantries we have in the recent fads of processions and coronations.

Photo by author, La Niña Maria at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 07 September 2021.

How sad we have missed how the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model disciple of Jesus was the first to embody his teaching of being small like little children with her simplicity and humility so very well expressed in her 20th century apparitions in Fatima, Portugal and Banneux, Belgium.

Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic that has given us so much time and opportunities to “reboot” or “reset” our priorities in every aspect of our lives, including in our religious devotions and faith itself.

With a total stop to those Marian “extravaganzas” that have been going out of control in recent years, the pandemic is now teaching us in this Feast of the Nativity of Mary of the need for us to rediscover the values of being small and simple, silent and hidden.

Enough with our imeldific celebrations even in our religious gatherings that have sometimes become egregious display of wealth and power.

Being simple and small like Mary, both as a child and as an adult, enable us to see again the value of life and of every person.


The more simple and true 
we are like Mary and Joseph, 
the more Jesus is seen 
and experienced in us!  

Aside from the lack of any account on the birth of Mary, we heard proclaimed today the birth of Jesus to teach us that truth expressed by St. John Paul II that in every person comes Jesus Christ. The more simple and true we are like Mary and Joseph, the more Jesus is seen and experienced in us!

That is why when we greet somebody a “happy birthday”, what we really mean telling him/her is “I love you, I thank you for making me who I am today.” Through one’s simplicity and littleness in Christ, we are transformed into better persons because we are able to have glimpse of God’s love and kindness.

Photo by author, December 2020.

The true joy of celebrating a birthday is not found in the externalities of gifts and parties and guests with all the fun that come along. In this time of the pandemic as we learn to celebrate simpler birthdays, we are reminded of life’s beginning and direction that is eternal life.

And how do we get there? Through death or dying – the one reality in life Jesus has taught us in his Cross which we have avoided that has suddenly become so common these days of the pandemic.

Like in the birth of Jesus Christ, we are reminded by every birthday that life is precious because it is so fragile – any infant and every person can be easily hurt and harmed, be sick and eventually die.

Like Mary and Joseph, the little Child born in Bethlehem asks us, even begs us to take care of him found in everyone among us. Let us be more loving and kind, understanding and caring, even merciful and forgiving with one another not only in this time of the pandemic.

Such is the wisdom of God in making life small and fragile so that we may care and value it because there lies also its greatness. The best birthday greeting we can express to the Blessed Mother Mary today is to start being small and simple like her to share Jesus with everyone. Amen.

Schooling in time of COVID-19

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II 
Mass of the Holy Spirit for the College Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
06 September 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2021.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
- St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Last August 9 we celebrated the memorial of a modern saint who died at the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Second World War. She was a German Jew named Edith Stein who became an atheist but later regained her faith as she pursued higher learning in the field of philosophy that was so rare for women at that time.

As she progressed into her philosophical studies working as an assistant to Prof. Edmund Husserl known as the “father of phenomenology”, she converted into Catholicism, eventually leaving her teaching post at a university to become a Carmelite contemplative nun, adopting the name Teresa Benedicta dela Cruz.


Congratulations, our dear students in college who dare to learn and seek the truth by enrolling in this Academic Year 2021-2022.

Students and teachers are both seekers of truth. As St. Teresa Benedicta had experienced, every search for truth leads us to God, the ultimate Truth.

This is a very difficult and trying year for us all but like St. Teresa Benedicta and all the other saints as well as great men and women of history, they all sought for the truth in the most troubled time in history. Trials and hardships in life make learning more “fun” – and an imperative at the same time. In fact, the more we must study and search the truth during critical moments in history and in our lives in order to learn more lessons that are valuable not only to us in dealing with our problems but also with the succeeding generations.

Two important virtues we need to cultivate in seeking the truth, in learning our lessons in this time of the pandemic that I hope you, teachers and students will rediscover this Academic Year: patience and humility.


This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, 
teaching us the value of patience, 
of patient waiting for everything, 
reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced 
by allowing nature to take its course, 
without shortcuts nor rush, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Photo by author, 2019.

Patience is from the Latin “patior” that means “to suffer, to bear with.”

Learning is a process. We cannot know everything right away. It requires a lot of patience on every student and teacher.

This is the reason why Jesus assured his disciples at the Last Supper that he would send them the Holy Spirit he referred to as the Advocate.

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning… 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.

John 15:26-27, 16:12

In the last 20 years, so much have changed in our lives brought about by modern means of communication.

Great volumes of information have become so readily accessible at great speed, that many in the younger generation have seemed to have lost the virtue of patience. At the snap of your fingers, you can easily have almost everything you need aside from information and music – including food and groceries, clothes and appliances, plants and pets, even medicines and dates!

But life, most especially learning, takes time, requiring a lot of patience in waiting and searching.

Like the Apostles of Jesus who had to wait for the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, teaching us the value of patience, of patient waiting for everything, reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced by allowing nature to take its course, without shortcuts, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Let our Lord Jesus Christ be our example in following in the path of patience, of suffering; every trial becomes a blessing, a moment of transformation when seen in the light of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us on the Cross. His very life tells us that there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

This pandemic period is an extended Good Friday but in between those moments of sufferings, we experience little Easter if we try to be patient like what some of you have experienced when you graduated in this time of the pandemic.


Photo by author, January 2020.

The second virtue I wish to invite you to rediscover, teachers and students alike, is humility which is again from the Latin word humus that literally means “soil”.

From humus came the words human and humor.

Man was created from clay, a kind of soil. A person with a sense of humor is one who can laugh at things because he or she is rooted on the ground. We call a person with sense of humor in Filipino as “mababaw” or shallow – not empty but close to the ground or deeply rooted.

It is very difficult to learn anything nor discover the truth unless we first become humble. Pride and ego are the greatest stumbling blocks to any kind of learning. You will find in history, even in our personal lives how many opportunities in the past were lost simply because of our pride or “ego trip”.

Pride was the very sin of Adam and Eve that led to their fall. That is why when Jesus came to save us from effects of that Fall, humility became his central teaching when he demanded us to forget ourselves and, most of all, to become like that of a child so we shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

This humility Jesus himself showed us the path by being born like us – small and helpless.

And that has always been the way of God ever since: the small and little ones, those taken for granted, the unknown and rejected are always the ones used as God’s instruments, the ones always effecting the most far-reaching changes in history and our personal lives.

Even in the story of the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we find the centrality of becoming small to become a part of the whole.

It is the exact opposite of the story at Babel when people in the Old Testament dared to build a tower reaching to the skies; because of their pride, God confused them by making them speak different languages that led to the collapse of their tower and ambitions. During the Pentecost, the people were all united as one despite the different languages they speak because everybody was willing to listen, to become small in themselves to give way to others.

Like during the Pentecost, let us allow the “tongues of fire” and the “strong, driving wind” of the Holy Spirit part us of our fears and indifference, pride and ego during this Academic year 2021-2022 to fully realize and learn the important lessons and truth this pandemic is teaching us.

Photo from vaticannews,va, 13 May 2017.

Whenever, and wherever there is a search for truth that leads to the discovery of God through our patience and humility, there springs simultaneously the growth of a community. It is no wonder that wherever there is prayer and worship, there is always learning leading to bonding, or communing.

The first universities – from the Latin term universitas or “community of teachers and scholars” – where all offshoots of the efforts of the monks in their monastery as they evangelized peoples, teaching them not only prayers but also the basics of learning like reading and writing. Eventually monasteries had annex buildings as schools and universities that led to the establishment of towns and cities in Europe that spawned the growth of commerce and trade following the great many interactions among peoples.

Here we find the beautiful interplay of the search for truth that leads to discovery of God that bears fruit into mercy and love among people.

Another learned Saint who sought the Truth, Thomas Aquinas said that the more we learn the truth, the more we become intelligent, the more we must become holy.

How lovely it is, my dear students and teachers of Our Lady of Fatima University that wherever there is Truth which is Veritas, there is also Misericordia, the two mottos of our beloved University.

Amid the threats of COVID-19, amid the difficulties of online learning, let us continue to seek the truth, be patient and humble with one another as we try to build a community of “achievers” by “improving man as man”, “rising to the top” not to be conceited and proud but to be able to offer ourselves in the service of the country and of the world, for the praise and glory of God.

May our Patroness, the Our Lady of Fatima, lead us closer to Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Amen.

From Facebook.com/fatima.university.

COVID-19, our transfiguration

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 06 August 2021
Homily for Baccalaureate Mass, Our Lady of Fatima University
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10

I know. Just like everybody, I have that surreal feeling this could not be happening again: another lockdown with a strong probability of being extended that will definitely cement our position as world record holder in having the most and longest lockdown in this pandemic.

And of all the dates for the start of this new lockdown, it begins right on this day of our Baccalaureate Mass, right on this week of our Graduation rites, and still, so close to our school opening!

Talaga naman… talagang-talaga!

But, don’t be sad.

If we examine the situation leading to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor witnessed by his selected apostles Peter, James and John, you will discover that the Lord is also leading us to another transfiguration.

This pandemic is definitely not from God. Nothing bad can come from God. And whenever something bad happens to us, especially for those who strive to become good people, God would always ensure that any dismal situation would turn out to work in our favor like your graduating this year.

Prelude to the Transfiguration

See, my dear graduates, the apostles were feeling very sad too before Jesus was transfigured. They have just made a U-turn at the pagan city of Caesarea Philippi to head south to Jerusalem after Jesus asked them what do the people say about him, his identity. Their answers were varied and the people clearly did not know who Jesus really is.

Then, Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him” (Mk.8:28-30).

Immediately after admitting to them that indeed he is the Messiah or Christ that means the Anointed One of God, Jesus told them for the first time about his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection. That is in fact the reason they were going to Jerusalem – in order for him to suffer and die and rise again on the third day.

The apostles were disturbed. They could not understand how could Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would be rejected by their leaders and would suffer greatly and be killed but rise again on the third day. It was too much for them.

Like this pandemic.

How could this be happening to us if God is love, if God is merciful? Why all these pains and sufferings?

Where is Jesus Christ now that we need him most?

A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.

Our transfiguration in time of pandemic

Congratulations, dear graduates! You hold that great distinction of graduating in time of the pandemic. Do not be ashamed nor listen to what others are saying about your going through online classes, of not having much exposures like on-hand training.

On the contrary, be proud because you are so blessed and privileged by the Lord to go through all these difficulties and still finish your courses. You are like the three apostles – Peter, James, and John – Jesus had selected to join him up a very high mountain to witness his transfiguration and be transfigured themselves too in the process.

That is your main distinction, graduates of 2021: you are privileged. Many years from now you will realize that and be thankful to God, to your parents, to your professors, and even to COVID-19 pandemic in letting you go through this process of transformation and transfiguration.

You were privileged to experience and witness so many unique and new opportunities in learning and in life in general that were never known before. You were in fact shown like the apostles with Jesus on that mountain with a glimpse of the future glory to come.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

Mark 9:2-4

In the most concrete way, Jesus tells you today in the same manner he had shown the three apostles that the surest way to any glory is is the path of the Cross, of being one with Jesus Christ in life and in prayers. That is the beautiful imagery of going up a high mountain. In the bible, the mountain is the presence of God; ascending a mountain is being one with God in prayer.

Study hard, work harder, pray hardest, my dear graduates and students of Our Lady of Fatima University.

Transfiguration in Christ means learning the importance of what is basic and necessary, of not basic and unnecessary.


In this one and a half years of the pandemic, 
we have all learned the most essential in life 
are not our gadgets nor grudges 
but our family and friends, God and life itself.

In this one and a half years of the pandemic, we have all learned the most essential in life are not our gadgets nor grudges but our family and friends, God and life itself.

The pandemic is a transfiguration moment most especially to you graduates and students because now more than ever, we learn the essence of education, of educare from the Latin “e ducere” that literally means to lead out of darkness and ignorance which is as we say in Our Lady of Fatima University, “to rise to the top” by “improving man as man”.

That is “pagpapakatao”. It is in our being human and humane we become true to our ideals of Veritas et Misericordia, Truth and Mercy.

Therefore, fall in love, stay in love with humanity, dear graduates and students.

Of what use are our degrees, our years of studies if we do not serve and care for every person, if in the process of our profession we kill people, destroy lives instead of inspiring them, transforming them and the society?

What matters most in life is not what we have achieved nor done but what have we become.

Have we become better persons?

See the clothes of Jesus dazzling white, an expression of his very person that is pure and clean. In Matthew and Luke, they both mentioned the face of Jesus shining to indicate his holiness.

To love God is to love humanity.

And that can only be through listening.

Then a cloud came, casting aa shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

Mark 9:7-8

After admitting to his apostles that he is indeed the Christ at Caesarea Philippi, God the Father now himself affirmed on Mount Tabor before Peter, James and John that Jesus is his beloved Son to settle once and for all the question of his identity.

The only question remaining is what kind of a Messiah is Jesus?

At his Transfiguration, the answer was laid before us: Jesus is the suffering Messiah of God, the one who had come not to remove but be one with us in our pains and sufferings to be one with him in his Resurrection.

After this event, everything that Jesus would be teaching is all about being good, of being loving by forgetting one’s self, carrying one’s cross and following him every day.

Doing our share in the vaccination program with our volunteers. Photo from FB/OLFU.

We have learned in this pandemic that life is a daily dying to one’s self, of forgetting our selves, letting go of our self-centeredness and selfishness to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.

We cannot know everything, we cannot do everything.

But Jesus knows everything and he needs us to cooperate with him in order to effect the changes and transformations in us and in the world.

That is why we have to listen to him always. In school and at home, you must have been so tired of listening but as you go into the world to practice your profession, you will be doing a lot of listening to be successful.

Listening is not just hearing but acting on what you have listened to.

It is in listening we are transfigured like Peter, James, and John who after the event continued to ask among themselves, wondering what was “rising from the dead” meant. It would only be after Easter and the Pentecost when everything would be clearer to them.

That is the beauty of this story of the transfiguration of the Lord: the three apostles were also transfigured in a process after that as they went down the high mountain, discussing the experience and eventually living it out for the rest of their lives.

Peter as the leader of the Twelve would treasure this experience so much and most likely must have learned a lot from it too that he keeps on telling the story to everyone until his martyrdom.

Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:19

Treasure this trying time of the pandemic, my dear graduates of 2021 of the Our Lady of Fatima University.

Remember and be attentive to the voices of God and of one another not only in this time of COVID-19 but throughout your career so that someday, a new day dawns and the morning star of love and joy rises in your hearts. Amen.

Directions where to go

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 07 July 2021
Homily for Wednesday in the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Genesis 41:55-57;42:5-7,17-24  ><)))*>   Matthew 10:1-7
Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

There are two essential questions each of us asks in our lifetime that give meaning to our lives and existence: “Who Am ?” and “Where am I going?”. Both questions go hand in hand even if their answers unfold or evolve through time because the directions we take in life flow from how we have known ourselves (identity).

But of the two questions, it is the second one that we keep asking, thinking it is easier to answer that so often, we take many directions in life without much reflections.

And prayers.

Today our readings speak about “going”, directions from God that we must take in life, inviting us to pray and reflect about the many directions we have taken in life.

From the beautiful story of Joseph the “dreamer” in the Old Testament to Jesus in our gospel, God gives us directions, telling us where to go to find fulfillment and fulness in life.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.

When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.

Genesis 41:55

Go to Joseph…

God directs us to go find people of credibility and integrity who will mold us into better persons by discovering our true selves, harnessing our talents, learning and growing from our mistakes and painful past.

Here we see the need to have a true friend, a good spiritual director, a faithful co-journeyer in life who can nourish us with their holiness and spirituality, positive outlook in life, maturity and sincerity.

The other day I came across an anecdote from the late Filipino taipan John Gokongwei who claimed that the most important decision one has to make in life is choosing the person to marry because your spouse is your lifetime partner with whom you shall make your dreams come true, clarifying things for you when there are uncertainties and doubts, showing you other perspectives to consider, and one who would always stand and believe in you.

That’s is very true!

God speaks and comes to us most of the time through people he sends us like family and friends, colleagues and superiors, even strangers and people we hardly know.

Important thing is for us to be open not only to learning new things but to simply meeting people because life is about interacting with persons. See that the author of Genesis narrated how the Pharaoh told the Egyptians to “go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.”

Photo by author, view from temple of Jerusalem, 2017.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Matthew 10:5-6

Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

This is the most striking but also most beautiful direction of God that he sent us Jesus Christ our Savior: to go and search for the lost, the weak and sick, the forgotten and those in the margins. We find God most among those people.

This direction of God is also a call to service, to a loving charity to share and bring his Son Jesus Christ among the poor and rejected.

It is among the poor that we find Jesus because whenever we come to them sharing Jesus, we are surprised to find out that the Lord has been with them – also waiting for us to meet him among them! And that is when grace happens and blessings abound: the Christ among the marginalized affirming the Christ in those serving and proclaiming his gospel.

That is heaven, union with God who directs us to go and share life, to have life in its fullness.

From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

This brings us to the heroism of the 50 soldiers who died in the plane crash last July 4 in Patikul, Sulu.

One of those who perished there is an alumnus of Our Lady of Fatima University’s College of Medicine, Capt. Dr. Nigel Emeterio of Batch 2015.

From what I have gathered among some people in the University and those who have known him and his wife who is pregnant with their second baby, Capt. Dr. Nigel was a “fearless fighter in life” who have selflessly given himself to everyone since medical school, helping friends and strangers alike in every way he could.

He had always wanted to serve in the Philippine Air Force and was the flight surgeon of the the C-130 that crashed in Sulu last Sunday while transporting troops from Cagayan de Oro City.

As a flight surgeon of the Air Force, Capt. Dr. Nigel was not only at the forefront of the government campaign against terrorists.

The young military doctor is also a medical frontliner against COVID-19 when the pandemic struck early last year, serving people in remote areas of the country being served by the Philippine Air Force.

In him we find the truth that life is not measured in years but the life in years. Though he died so young at the age of 30, Capt. Dr. Nigel had lived life to the fullest. In his six years of being a doctor, he had served and saved so many lives mostly those from the margins of the society.

He had lived life to the fullest most of all with his love not only for the people but most of all to his family, especially his wife, Dr. Dana who was also a classmate at Fatima University. She is now pregnant with their second child.

From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

I have not talked to his widow but from the screen grabs of his posts to her shared with me by their friends, the more I admired this Capt. Dr. Nigel who had followed God’s directions in life.

His messages to his wife who is also a Doctor are filled with love and respect, hopes and dreams in the future.

Most of all, Capt. Dr. Nigel was fond of speaking about the beauty of life he had found in her and their first child, his gratitude for her love and support, and “after a year of prayers”, for the gift of a second baby.

Here is a man in touch with God, who followed the Lord and Master in serving the poor, who went to follow the divine direction to go and marry his wife to raise a family.

Last Sunday, Capt. Dr. Nigel was again sent to go as flight surgeon of some 90+ troops and civilian volunteers to fight terrorists in Sulu.

Like in his previous missions of saving lives, Capt. Dr. Nigel followed orders.

Their plane crashed and exploded after missing the airport.

Though they did not make it to their destination, surely, Capt. Dr. Nigel and the soldiers and civilians with him must have found fullness of life, now in the presence of God where we shall all go in the end.

It was a mission well-accomplished in the Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto Capt. Dr. Nigel, and companions, O Lord;
May your perpetual light shine upon them.
Amen.
From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

*Please do pray also for those wounded, for those left behind by the casualties of this accident, their friends and colleagues as well as for our military men and women who serve selflessly our country, always going wherever the Lord directs them.

Graduating in time of COVID-19: Being the right person in the right place at the right time

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 July 2021
Genesis 23:1-4, 19-24:1-8, 62-67   ><}}}'> + <'{{{>< Matthew 9:9-13

Congratulations, my dear Senior High School graduates of Our Lady of Fatima University Batch 2021. Yes, you hold the distinction of belonging to the first graduates of the pandemic who persevered, who were not daunted by COVID-19 that continues to plague us after more than a year of altering our lives.

Take pride in belonging to this batch because you have just proven you are the right people in the right time at the right place called by God to witness his truth and mercy, our university motto, “Veritas et Misericordia”.

Too often we pray God would send us the right person to become our friends and colleagues at work or project, or simply our co-journeyer in this life – perhaps lovers – without realizing we are in fact the right person being called and sent first by God in the right place, at the right time.

This was the experience of Matthew in our gospel today:

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Matthew 9:9
“Calling of St. Matthew” painting by Caravaggio from en.wikipedia.org.

Let me tell you a beautiful story about the call of St. Matthew as depicted in a painting by the renowned artist named Caravaggio during the 1600’s in a chapel in Rome. It is one of the favorite paintings of Pope Francis who claims he used to see it while a student in Rome and later as the Cardinal of Buenos Aires whenever he would go to the Vatican.

Caravaggio’s painting is very unique and amusing especially in the way he would play with lights and darkness like in that other famous painting of the meeting of the Risen Lord and doubting Thomas eight days after Easter. This contrast of light and darkness is very evident in painting the call of Matthew by Jesus.

Very interesting is the kind of clothes the characters wear in this painting: notice how Caravaggio portrayed Matthew, the bearded man with a beret and his companions at the table wearing the expensive clothes of the Middle Ages while Jesus and Simon Peter are in their traditional garments and – barefooted! The room looks like a tavern of Caravaggio’s time than a customs house as narrated by Matthew during the time of the Lord in Galilee.

All of this because Caravaggio was fond of incorporating biblical scenes into his milieu to show the relevance of Christ in their time.

And that is also the reason why I share this painting with you: aside from being the gospel on this first Friday of the month, I find its story so relevant with you Senior High School students and graduates.

When you look at the painting, it is like a video happening in split seconds, very much like that photo taken in the live mode of an iPhone with the picture moving a little, wondering if Matthew would stand and leave to follow Jesus.


When you look at the painting, it is like a video happening in split seconds, 
very much like that photo taken in the live mode of an iPhone 
with the picture moving a little, 
wondering if Matthew would stand and leave to follow Jesus.

From en.wikipedia.org.

See Matthew and company seated at the dark side of the room with Jesus standing near the window partially washed by lights specifically his face and hand with finger pointed towards Matthew whose face is clearly lighted, evidently hesitant, asking Jesus if he were referring to him or to the one slumped on the table. Notice the bright face of Matthew and his index finger pointing to the man beside him, his thumb to himself as if asking “is it I, Lord?” or “who, me?” while his other hand is holding a coin on the table.

So beautiful as it evokes the hesitancy of Matthew and certainty of Jesus!

That is how we have felt this first year of COVID-19, the Academic Year 2020-2021, your batch: there is our hesitancy and uncertainty, fears and anxieties in life, of going back to school or not, of where to get money or laptop or reliable internet service while deep inside us, we felt the Lord so certain in his plans for us, in his love and mercy, that we can “rise to the top” here at Fatima University!

We are the ones always doubting, asking Jesus if he were talking or calling us because we cannot let go of that “coin” Matthew is holding on in the painting symbolizing the materials things and persons on whom we put our trust instead of having faith in God alone.

Doubt no more, my dear graduates of the COVID-19 batch of 2020-2021! You are the right person in the right place – Our Lady of Fatima University – at the right time, Academic Year 2020-2021 on the first year of COVID-19 pandemic.


Jesus is telling you today as he fills you with his light 
of truth and mercy in finishing Senior High School in our beloved University 
that you are indeed the right people called in the right place at the right time.  
Will you "rise to the top" to pursue further studies 
to achieve your dreams in this time of the pandemic?  

Jesus is telling you today as he fills you with his light of truth and mercy in finishing Senior High School in our beloved University that you are indeed the right people called in the right place at the right time. Will you rise to the top, pursue further studies to achieve your dreams in this time of the pandemic?

Come and follow Jesus, make your dreams come true here with us in Our Lady of Fatima University for we do not stop seeking ways in dealing with the pandemic with our innovative classes and curriculum. We are the first university approved by the government to conduct limited face-to-face classes in our medical courses.

Like Abraham in the first reading from Genesis, trust God that he will send you his messenger, that he will send you people who will be teaching and preparing you for the post-pandemic period while journeying with you, learning with you in this time of the COVID-19.

Amid the darkness of our time like Caravaggio’s painting, do not fail to see the light brightening the scene, getting intense on the face of Matthew and people around him with Jesus looking intently on you, making sure you do not get sick, that you rise and follow him in pursuing your dream.

Don’t worry, my dear graduates, your Rebekah or your Isaac will surely come along the way but at the moment, Jesus wants you to finish your studies first.

Study hard, work harder, and pray hardest! See you in August!

Have blessed break!

Voice of God, Power of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, 24 June 2021
Isaiah 49:1-6 ><}}}'> Acts 13:22-26 ><}}}'> Luke 1:57-66, 80
Photo by author, site where St. John the Baptist was born beside the Church in his honor in Judea, 2019.

Today’s celebration of the Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist reminds us of the very important grace and gift from God we take for granted and always abuse – our voice.

Also known as the “voice in the wilderness” who prepared the coming of Jesus Christ, St. John shows us even before his birth through his father Zechariah the proper use of this gift of voice from God.

Voice is power.

In the Book of Genesis, God created everything by simply saying “let there be…” and it comes into being. When Jesus came as the “the Word who became flesh”, he witnessed to us this immense power of the voice of God when he would simply speak to heal people, cast away evil spirits, and still the seas and quiet the storms.

Only us humans were gifted with this unique power of God to speak using the voice.

How sad that we have forgotten or have been totally unaware of the fact that we merely share in the power of God in speaking, in voicing out what is in our minds and in our hearts. Like freedom or the power to choose what is good, we have abused this power of the voice so evident in this digital age as we drown in a cacophony of voices from everybody wanting to be heard, wanting to rule.



And the tragedy is that 
those with the loudest voice and 
easy access to all kinds of media platforms 
are also the ones in power who only voice 
out their selfish interests like our politicians. 

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Bgy. Lalakhan, Santa Maria, Bulacan, June 2021.

And the tragedy is that those with the loudest voice and easy access to all kinds of media platforms are also the ones in power who only voice out their selfish interests like our politicians.

Have you noticed how most of the loud voices we hear these days come from those not involved at all in any kind of suffering? They are not only loud but also so quick to voice their views empty of any concern at all. Worst, many of these loud voices we hear come from people who have little or no concern at all for those truly in pain like the poor and marginalized who have remained voiceless in our society.

When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father; but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” So they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.

Luke 1:59-60, 62-64

Silence is the voice of God.

At the eve of our celebration today, we have heard how the angel had made Zechariah deaf and mute after he doubted the good news announced to him of the coming birth of their son to be named as John.

Now after nine months of being silent, Zechariah recovered his voice and speech that he spoke blessing God.

Imagine the power and stature Zechariah must have commanded at that time: both he and his wife Elizabeth were from the priestly clans. They were like the royalty at that time, living in an affluent section of the country. Both were born into wealth and fame. And power.

Zechariah’s voice must be one of the most sought after in Judea with his wisdom and influence.

Suddenly gone when his very voice questioned the source of its power, God represented by Archangel Gabriel.

Photo by author, Church of St. John the Baptist, the Holy Land, 2019.

The experience of Zechariah teaches us of the value of silence that has become a very rare commodity these days.

Many of our misunderstandings are due to our lack of silence, of listening to what others are saying or telling us.



Contrary to what 
we also believe,
 silence is not emptiness 
but fullness:


Contrary to what we also believe, silence is not emptiness but fullness: it is different from being quiet when we do not simply speak but allow our minds to work on what we believe in or hold on to. Silence is trying to listen to every voice, especially the faintest ones that usually speak the truth. In the Bible, we find a common pattern in both the Old and New Testaments how God’s communication is preceded always with silence.

Zechariah was forced into silence to experience again its fullness, of being connected anew with God as it gave him opportunities to truly listen intently to God in prayers. That is why everyone was surprised not only when Zechariah confirmed the name of his son would be “John” but most of all when he spoke and his voice heard again by the people. According to Luke, Zechariah sang a blessing to God called the Benedictus.

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:65-66

Becoming the voice of God like John the Baptist

See how Luke presented the scene in pure simplicity as if we were also there, everybody asking “what will this child be?” for surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The scene is packed with the power of God. No voices were heard except the few “pakialamera” or “mahadera” neighbors who wanted the child named Zechariah like his father.

Elizabeth was so cool but emphatic by declaring her son shall be named John. No debates nor arguments among the women who approached Zechariah – surely, not to ask him to voice his decision as he was deaf and mute at that time. Everybody was amazed when he asked for a tablet and wrote “John is his name”.

There was the deafening silence of God’s voice heard loud and clear, perhaps even for several days after the circumcision and naming of John.

“St. John Preaching In the Wilderness” by Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779), photo from commons.wikimedia.org

Such is the power of God, of his voice.

Always preceded by silence.

Never harsh nor imposing.

Soft but always felt, always consistent, very clear and simple.

Most of all, refreshing and blissful.

It is a voice kept in one’s heart, nurtured through time in prayer and simplicity of life until the listener becomes the speaker and carrier of the voice of God.

In our digital age where humans and machines speak with voices competing for our attention, we are reminded that the true power of the voice is not in its volume but in God himself who is also the message.

Like images, voices can also be enhanced with the help of modern technology and human ingenuity, especially by image makers and propagandists who are paid to advance one’s power and influence.

Let us be more discerning in listening to the many voices competing for our attention.

Let us begin first in that soft and feeble voice inside our hearts we disregard but consistently speaks to us daily. That voice could be God speaking to us.

Let us rediscover silence and the true power and beauty of the voice of God.

Recall how often in our lives and in human history, the most important voices ever heard, ever written come after long moments of silence, of reflections and listening to God and with others.

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.

Luke 1:80
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

God our tender, loving Dad

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 11 June 2021
Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8c-9  ><)))'>  Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19  ><)))'>  John 19:31-37
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

So many times in life, we think we have loved so much, that we are a good and loving person when it is all an illusion because in reality, we have actually failed in truly loving the people and institutions we profess to love so much.

It is always easy to say in so many words, even to brag to our very selves and others of how much we love our family and friends, our country, our Church, and our company. But, when a little discomfort happens that result from misunderstanding or miscommunications, or a few mistakes and shortcomings, we flare up in anger expressing it in harsh words and deeds, hurting the people we supposedly love.

Not only that. Long after an unloving incident, we later hold grudges that we cannot forgive and forget, hurting us most in the process when sanity returns and see how we have broken a beautiful relationship.

But, it is not all that bad.

We all have our low moments in not showing how much we truly love like Simon Peter denied knowing the Lord three times on Holy Thursday evening while being tried by members of the Sanhedrin after their last supper. And very much like him too at the shore of Lake Tiberias eight days after Easter, we profess to Jesus and our loved ones that “you know everything; you know I love you” (Jn.21:17).

Our imperfect human love in God’s perfect love

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart to be reminded of God’s immense love for us despite our failures and fears in expressing that love he continues to pour upon us through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is the third major feast of the Lord since we have resumed the Ordinary Time after Pentecost to instill in us God’s deep, personal love for us through Jesus Christ with whom we have become brothers and sisters, beloved children of the Father in heaven.

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.

Hosea 11:1, 3-4

See how God had always loved us like a loving father to his son or daughter.

Try to feel God speaking through Hosea in the first reading reminding us of his great love for us, doing everything to free us from the bondage and slavery of every form of evil.

But, like our own experiences with our parents as we grow older, the more we distance ourselves away from them and from God who always come to get nearer and intimate with us: “A child I loved you, I called you my son; and the more I called you, the farther you went away from me” (cf. Hos.11:1-2).

What have happened to us as we matured?

We have become so cerebral, thinking more, and feeling less, always trying to assert our independence, our strength, and self-reliance when the sad truth is we are all weak inside who cannot accept and believe the fact that we are truly loved by God and by others!

Imagine this lovely scene of God reminding us of his great love for us just like our Dad: “I took you in my arms with hands of love; I fostered you like one who raises an infant to his cheeks yet though I stooped to feed my child, you did not know I was your healer” (cf. Hos.11:4).

Here lies the problem with all our praying and loving that are detached from God, something like an echo of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son!

When our love for God is superficial, our love to our family and friends, to our institutions and other relationships become skin deep too. Our many love experiences are forgotten as we give more emphasis on others’ shortcomings and to our expectations from them.


We find it so hard and difficult 
to truly love God and those dearest to us 
not because we are bad and evil 
but primarily we ourselves are not convinced we are loved.  
Today's readings remind us 
that human love is imperfect, 
only God can love us perfectly. 

We find it difficult to truly love unconditionally because deep inside us is a festering anger or hatred for our parents or siblings or friends who have hurt us a long time ago but we are so afraid to bring out in the open or just simply cast away or transcend so we can move forward to deeper and matured love in Christ.

Of course, there is that love remaining in our hearts but inert because we cannot accept nor be convinced that we are truly loved by God and by others.

We find it so hard and difficult to truly love God and those dearest to us not because we are bad and evil but primarily we ourselves are not convinced we are loved. Today’s readings remind us that human love is imperfect, only God can love us perfectly.

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

Hosea 11:8-9

Just keep on loving no matter how imperfect we may be for God perfectly knows us so well as humans with so many weaknesses and limitations.

God’s universal and personal love for us in Christ


We can never truly experience 
God's personal love for us in Jesus Christ 
unless we are first convinced of his great love for us 
despite our sinfulness and weaknesses.  
The more we doubt the love of Jesus, 
the more we hurt him, 
the more we hurt others, 
and the more we hurt our selves.

Photo by author, St. Joseph Parish, Baras, Rizal, January 2021.

This personal and fatherly love of God is what St. Paul had always shared and elaborated in his many writings and teachings. See how he humbly introduced himself in our second reading as “the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ” (Eph.3:8).

More sinful compared to Simon Peter, Saul as he was called before his conversion persecuted the first Christians, having a direct hand in the stoning to death of our first martyr St. Stephen (Acts 8:1). Yet, in God’s fatherly love and mercy, Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus that led to his conversion. He would later insist in his letters how he had experienced both the universal and personal love of God through Jesus Christ.

St. Paul was so good and effective as an apostle because he was so convinced that while Jesus had died and rose for all, he also died personally for him (St. Paul) as an individual! He was the first to elaborate the universality of God’s love through Jesus Christ’s dying on the Cross and the subjectivity of his death and love for each one of us.

From being a sinner to becoming a believer, from a persecutor to an apostle, St. Paul tells us in the second reading today how he had experienced this love of Christ in himself which we can all personally experience too, praying that we may “be strengthened with the Holy Spirit to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled all the fullness of God” (Eph.3:16, 18-19).

We can never truly experience God’s personal love for us in Jesus Christ unless we are first convinced of his great love for us despite our sinfulness and weaknesses. The more we doubt the love of Jesus, the more we hurt him, the more we hurt others, and the more we hurt our selves.

Thank goodness God knows us so well that despite our doubts in him, his mercy is always stirred, not allowing his anger to consume or destroy us. On the contrary, the more we hurt God, the more he loves us until we are convinced that we are truly loved by him!

So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.

John 19:32-34

It was from this scene that we find the meaning of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was pierced after offering himself on the Cross as the sign and symbol of God’s unique love for us all. For the evangelist, that flowing of blood and water from the pierced side of Jesus was a special “sign” pointing to the work and mission of Christ which is our own salvation.

But aside from linking the blood and water that flowed out from the Lord’s pierced side with the two prominent sacraments known by then early Christians, namely, Baptism and Eucharist, St. John as a witness to the event showed us how two natural elements that are so personal to everyone as signs of God’s intimacy with us.

On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, God is reminding us of his immense love for us expressed most personally in the self-sacrifice of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ in whom we have all become the Father’s beloved children.

Despite our ingratitude to his Fatherly love for us, God cannot let himself be angry to chastise us as we deserve. Instead, he kept on forgiving us for our sins, sending us his Son Jesus Christ to redeem us.

Today Jesus is inviting us to go back to our Father – our Dad who watched and guided us through life without our knowing – to be convinced of his personal love for each of us. Outside of him, we can never find peace nor joy nor fulfillment. That is why the human heart of Jesus is always here with us as the revelation of the Father’s boundless love for us.

Let us experience anew his tenderness and forgiveness so that we may grow too in our love for God through one another despite our many sins and weaknesses.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours! Amen.

Fatima in time of COVID-19

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2021
Acts 1:12-14   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 1:39-47

While this Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima was approaching, I was asking myself – consciously or unconsciously – “how many more Rosaries do we have to pray before this pandemic ends”?

Like you, I have been praying the Rosary primarily for the ending of this pandemic since it started last year. And it is not far-fetched that even before the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared 104 years ago today at Fatima in Portugal, the people were most likely asking God in countless prayers and Rosaries too, to end the First World War that had started in 1914.

See some of the similarities of our time with that time 104 years ago when Mother Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima, asking them to remind the whole world to pray and be converted in her Son Jesus Christ:

  • 1917 was in the first two decades of the new century (20th), just like ours (21st) when COVID-19 was first detected in 2019.
  • In 1917, the world witnessed the fiercest and bloodiest large-scale war to ever happened in human history, World War I until it was followed shortly by World War II; at the start of the 21st century, we witnessed the a different kind of deadly war that is “faceless” and “borderless” with the 9/11 attacks as we continue to live daily under threats by another wide scale war and ongoing pocket wars in various parts of the globe.
  • In 1917, Communist Russia was threatening the world of “spreading its errors”; since 2010 or even earlier, the only remaining “Communist” country of China has been flexing its muscles in Asia and Africa to assert its power and dominance in the world.
The sanctuary of the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima seen through its glass door at night during the lockdown last year due to COVID-19.

The Relevance of Fatima

Both in 1917 and 2021, God’s response to our cries and pleas is still the Our Lady of Fatima because then and now, mankind had never heeded Jesus Christ’s calls to return to him and be converted: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).

It does not matter how many Rosaries we pray or how many Masses we celebrate or how often we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The problem is not with God but with us who until now refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of this pandemic.

Whatever solution we eventually find in ending COVID-19, most likely another pandemic or worldwide problem could occur if we continue to refuse in respecting life and every person as an image and likeness of God. Recall that when World War I ended in 1918 as promised by our Lady of Fatima, that same year started the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed about 50-M lives worldwide. Then in 1939, World War II started.

The Spanish flu and the World War II were not punishments from God; he does not punish because “God is love”, nothing evil and bad can come from him. Those things happened after the Fatima apparitions because of man’s refusal to heed Mary’s calls for prayers and conversion of peoples which is happening again in our own time.

Our Lady of Fatima consistently reminds us since 1917 her Son Jesus Christ’s teaching of the centrality of God in our lives through prayers and our daily conversion through humility and being like a child, trusting God completely like her.

More than a century ago, the Lord through his Mother, has been telling us the key to lasting peace in the world and in our very lives lies in our daily conversion, in our conformity to his life intimately united in the Father like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is a life of daily fiat – of faith in God, of letting his will be done in us! The Holy Rosary and the Sacraments are the means so we may bear fruits of love and holiness in our faith in God like Mary.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-45
Our Lady of Fatima at the National Shrine in Valenzuela, the first locally carved image of Fatima done in circa 50’s to 60’s.

True blessedness

For better and for worst, COVID-19 had truly changed our lives, teaching us that true blessedness is not found in money and things, nor in popularity and influence or other things that have become the benchmarks of everything that is good in this life.

In less than a year when everything stood still as COVID-19 ravaged earth with so many deaths, the pandemic had shown us what our Lady of Fatima has always been telling us since 1917: go back to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Mary believed and lived her faith in God. She was the first to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ by setting aside all her plans in life, her wedding to St. Joseph, of what people would say if found pregnant before they were actually married, and many other things to consider.

She abandoned herself to God completely that immediately after Gabriel had left her, she went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hills of Judea not to help her nor verify her being pregnant but to share with her the Good News she had received (Jesus Christ) to show that God’s plan for them are closely linked even with their sons to be born with John being the forerunner of Jesus.

Thus, Mary became the perfect image and model of discipleship in Christ that at the start of his public ministry, she was the first to believe in his saving work when she interceded at a wedding in Cana.

Mary was also the first to believe in Christ’s Resurrection that she remained standing at the foot of his Cross on Good Friday. Last but not least as we have heard in our first reading today, Mary was the first to believe in the coming of the Holy Spirit that she accompanied the Apostles praying at Jerusalem on Pentecost day.

Our Lady of Fatima procession at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal, 2017. Photo from vaticannews.va.

The Challenge of Fatima in our time

Like Mary who appeared at Fatima in Portugal 104 years ago today, may we grow deeper in our faith in God by believing more in him than believing in the world or with our very selves.

In this time of COVID-19, may we bring unity to our family and community, church and nation, so that like the Blessed Mother we may help in strengthening the faith of one another, in believing in God by submitting ourselves to his holy will.

May we not waste time to avert another catastrophe – not as a punishment from God who does not punish – that when rooted can always be traced back to our selfishness and pride, lack of concern for others, and for playing gods who claim to know everything.

These were some of the reasons Mary appeared at Fatima in 1917 to bring us back to God through his Son Jesus Christ. After all the pains and losses we have gone through in this time of COVID-19, have we not still learned the need to be simple and humble?

Like Mary, let us believe more in God by being kind and charitable with one another so that sooner, we may finally end this pandemic. Amen.

Our body like the Body of Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2021
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10  +  Hebrews 10:4-10  +  Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel, 2017.

Last Monday I celebrated my 56th birthday in quarantine after having a close contact with a person with COVID-19. The health officers were both smiling in disbelief as they took my swab test that morning after finding out after my interview it was indeed my birthday.

Between that morning and its eve – in fact since Saturday when I went on quarantine – I felt like in another scene of the Annunciation as I awaited the “good news” with my whole world standing still in animated suspension.

Earlier that morning, I celebrated Mass in my room when I looked back to my birthday last year. It was a Sunday, the first week of the lockdown when public Masses were suspended. After celebrating the Mass alone in our Parish church, I borrowed a truck and mounted the Blessed Sacrament at the back and went around our parish that afternoon to bless the people who knelt on the road with some were crying.

This year, I felt the Lord wanted me to celebrate my birthday in quarantine to be alone with him again to realize the rich meaning of this Solemnity in relation with our lives, especially with me as his priest.

Photo by Ms. Ria de Vera, 2020.

Brothers and sisters: It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.'” By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:4-7, 10

The mystery of Christ’s coming

Notice that in Mass today at the proclamation of the Creed, we are asked to genuflect at the words “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary” to remind us that the Incarnation of the Son of God is the fundamental mystery of our faith which the Church has always proclaimed since the beginning.

This is the gist of our short but rich reflections by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews of how Jesus truly became human born by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the power of the Holy Spirit without losing any of his divinity in the process in order to save us and make us new again before God our Father.

In his reflection, the author of the Letter mentions how the Old Testament worship was more symbolic and a preparation to the perfect offering made by Jesus on the cross.

Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

In the Old Testament, priests offered animals for atonement of sins with the blood symbolizing life. They offered three animals: first for their sins so they may be cleaned before God in making the sacrifices for the people for whom the second animal stood for. The third animal was usually a goat to cover all the other sins of the world from which we got “scapegoat” as term for one who takes all the blame.

Jesus Christ came to perfect the temple worship in his very body when he told the Pharisees and scribes after cleansing the temple, “Destroy this temple and in a three days I will raise again” (Jn.2:19).

By dying on the cross, Jesus fulfilled his words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that someday, people would no longer worship in just one place because through his “hour” of glory – his crucifixion – people will be able to “truly worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (Jn.4:23).

On the cross, Jesus made himself the perfect sacrifice to God by atoning for our sins. The word atonement was coined by a Protestant translator of the bible to convey the idea of salvation as being one again with the Father, or “at-one-ment”.

Following the reflection by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, we find that the very coming of Christ announced by the angel to Mary was in fact directed toward this paschal sacrifice of Jesus.

In the gospel today we have seen the angel telling Mary to name her child “Jesus” that means “God is my savior”. The angel was more explicit in the Annunciation to Joseph who was instructed, “you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt.1:21).

It was from this celebration of the Annunciation of Christ’s birth that we have the tradition of praying the Angelus every 6am, 12noon and 6pm to make our day holy, reminding us of this great mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus who became both “the gift and the giver” when he offered himself on the cross for us which we remember and make present in every celebration of the Mass.

Photo by author, chapel at the site of annunciation, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

The life of obedience in Christ

From that beautiful story of the Annunciation of Lord we find how in the coming of Jesus Christ from the very start – from heaven to its coming on earth to Mary’s virginal conception at Nazareth – the mystery of his Incarnation has always been characterized by obedience.

In being obedient to the Father, Jesus consecrated us through him in offering his body once and for all that opened for us an avenue to a life of holiness through obedience to God. And the first to have this distinction is his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

Next to Mary is her husband, St. Joseph whose Solemnity we celebrated last week. His “yes” to following the angel’s instruction upon waking up from his dream echoed the Blessed Mother’s obedience to God’s plan and will for everyone through Jesus Christ.

Here we find Mary and Joseph, two righteous people who allowed themselves to be instruments in the fulfillment of the divine plan in Jesus Christ, relying more in the power of God, believing in his words spoken by the angel to them.

Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

On this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, we are challenged and invited to be open and obedient to God, to his words we hear proclaimed in the celebration of the Mass and in our personal prayers.

Jesus is the word who became flesh and dwelled among us, present among us because of the obedience and faith of Mary and Joseph.

It is always very tempting to be like King Ahaz in the first reading, when we rely more in ourselves, in our wisdom and intelligence, expertise and experience that we sometimes feel it no longer needed to bother God at all for directions especially with “earthly” things and concerns like the economy or defense of the country.

Or, pandemic.

This is the saddest part with COVID-19: a year after it started and wreaked havoc on this planet, we still continue to consider it as a medical and social issue, refusing to see its spiritual meaning.

This pandemic is an annunciation moment when God is telling us something very important for our salvation like with Mary over 2000 years ago.

God has been sending us messengers since the start of this crisis to welcome his Word, Jesus Christ so that he can work in us to bring us back to the Father and with one another through our loving service especially with the weak and most needy.

It is easy for God to send us solutions right away to end this pandemic. In fact, he had blessed us with at least six vaccines that took only a year to develop unlike the normal course of 3-5 years.

But vaccines will not entirely solve and end this pandemic. This we can see right in our country where spas and gyms and malls are seen as more essential than religious gatherings. Its worst part is how we have modern King Ahaz so confident with themselves in addressing the issues from the pandemic. Incidentally, the main sin and mistake by King Ahaz during the time of Isaiah was his aligning himself with the superpower Assyria that eventually conquered Israel – something so similar with our dealings and reliance with China, the origin of this virus and pandemic!

How sad at how this government pinned all its hopes last year in the discovery of vaccines without working hard in other aspects of mitigating the effects of the pandemic when now that there are vaccines available, it is still at a loss in making any progress in the vaccination program especially with those most vulnerable like the medical frontliners who are doing a life of offering like Jesus Christ.


Early this year, we had our major revamp in our parish assignments in almost nine years. It was an Annunciation event for us priests as it directed us to new challenges in the ministry to continue proclaiming the mystery of Incarnation.

I was assigned as chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Fatima University and Medical Center (FUMC). At first, I was afraid like Mary in going to a new ministry at the forefront of facing the pandemic. But like Mary, I gave my fiat to God, joyfully coming to my assignment with so many plans and dreams.

And just when I was starting to heat up in my ministry, I was suddenly sent on a quarantine. That was when I realized the meaning of this Annunciation of the Lord to me: becoming like the Body of Christ to be offered too for many.

As I heard news of more people including friends and relatives getting COVID-19, I promised God in my prayers during my “quarantined” birthday that whatever may be the result of my swab test, I will still serve him with same enthusiasm in my previous assignments.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we say yes to God everyday, relying more than ever in our relationships with him and with others in Christ than in the hopes of things getting better; should things get worst like Jesus dying on the Cross, like Mary, may we hold only on God’s loving mercy and presence in this world marred by sin. And pandemic. Amen.

Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

Loving like St. Joseph in the time of pandemic

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16  +  Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22  +  Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
Photo by author of the site believed to be the workshop of St. Joseph in Nazareth, 2017.

Today’s celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph as most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a very special one being in the “Year of Saint Joseph” that began last December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021 in commemoration of the 150th year anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the beloved saint as Patron of the Universal Church.

In launching this Year of Saint Jospeh last year, Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart) how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.

The Holy Father explained that the “ordinary” people like those who kept our lives going especially during the lockdowns resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation” (Vatican News, 12 December 2020).

I really hope you can have time to read today this very short letter by Pope Francis who is a known devotee of Saint Joseph having popularized among us during his 2015 Papal Visit the image of “Sleeping Saint Joseph”.

In Patris Corde, Pope Francis gives us some helpful points on how we can love with the heart of God our Father like Saint Joseph during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these traits the Pope invites us to imitate from Saint Joseph is his “creative courage” in loving God and loving others.

If the first stage of all interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creative courage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.

Pope Francis, Patris Corde #5

A creative person is always someone who is deeply in love with another person or with one’s craft, art, career or whatever passion.

The most loving person is always the most creative like Saint Joseph who sought ways expressing his love for Mary and her child by deciding to silently divorce her as the gospel tells us.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Jospeh, 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.

Matthew 1:18-19
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago of a mosaic at the San Padre Pio Shrine at Rotondo, Italy of the angel appearing to Saint Joseph in his dream.

Holiness is having creative courage like Saint Joseph.

Notice how the Pope’s description of Saint Joseph is not far from St. Matthew’s calling him a “righteous man” – a holy man – who obeys the Laws of God handed down to them by Moses, including their other traditions meant to keep them clean and pure before God.

Problem during that time is how people have lost sight of God and of others that they were so focused on the letters of the law than its spirit, becoming impersonal in the process as we have seen in instances when they would ask Jesus why he healed the sick even on sabbath day. Worst is when people brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery, reminding him of Moses’ instruction to stone her in public.

Such was the dilemma faced by Saint Joseph with Mary being pregnant with a child definitely not his!

In deciding to silently leave Mary, Saint Joseph expressed his righteousness or holiness wherein he showed the true interpretation of their Laws by upholding the dignity of every person, respecting life above all. Like Jesus Christ, Saint Joseph showed that real holiness is authentic love that is willing to sacrifice for the beloved by having the courage to be in pain in giving up or losing a beloved.

Here we find Saint Joseph was not only courageous in facing the painful truth about Mary having a baby not his but also very creative in the sense that because of his great love for the Blessed Virgin, he did not want her exposed to shame and public humiliation in allegedly breaking the seal of their betrothal.

Having courage is more than being able to do death-defying acts that is more on physical strength; courage is a spiritual virtue, a spiritual strength when we do extraordinary things because of higher ideals and values like the love of Jesus who offered us his life on the Cross.

Courage is from the Latin word “cor” for heart which is the seat of our being. And to have courage is to be true and loving that we have such expressions to speak from the heart, to listen to our heart, and to act from our heart when we dare to lose ourselves because of love.

Photo from Aleteia.org of “Let Mum Rest” image St. Joseph nursing the Infant Jesus while Mary sleeps, 2019.

A person who truly loves is always creative, 
finding ways in expressing one's love even sometimes 
it may be painful and difficult.

A “creatively courageous” person like Saint Joseph is someone so deeply in love with Mary and with God: after learning the circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, St. Matthew tells us “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Mt.1:24).

Saint Joseph’s love for Mary found ways to spare her all the pains and hurts that may result if found with a baby not his; but after learning the truth, the more we find him creatively courageous when he sought many ways to save Mother and Child from all harm and even death like bringing them to Egypt in the time of Herod.

See that when Saint Joseph accepted Mary, Jesus came forth to us while at the same time, when Saint Joseph accepted God through the angel as expression of his deep faith and love, he took Mary as wife.

And this is what Pope Francis further explains in Patris Corde that at the end of every account in which Saint Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up and takes Jesus and Mary who are the most precious treasure of our faith.

Taking Jesus and Mary like Saint Joseph as creative courage calls us Christians to always love the Church and in loving the Church, we love the poor for whom Jesus came and Mary identified herself with in her Magnificat which she sang after accepting the Annunciation by the Angel of Christ’s birth which we celebrate next week on March 25.

In this time of the pandemic, we are called to be creatively courageous in finding Jesus among those people too familiar with us as well as with those so different from us. Don’t you find it so funny that the people we always take for granted are those either so close to us like family or completely strangers?

Being creatively courageous in this time of the pandemic means being more sensitive with others especially in our words and actions like Saint Joseph.

I was wondering during prayers why did he not ask Mary about the truth of her pregnancy so that he would have been spared with all the thinking and praying? That is when I realized the value of Saint Joseph’s silence: he did not speak at all to Mary as a sign of his love and oneness with her who must have been into some difficulties too with the situation of being the Mother of Christ. sympathy.

In his silence, Saint Joseph expressed his complete trust in Mary and in God. And in his being silent, Saint Joseph was creatively courageous expressing aloud his tenderness and care for Mary and her Child, something we need so much in this time of the pandemic.

Let us pray to Saint Joseph in this time of social distancing that like him, we may have the creative courage in touching others with the love of God, especially those who are sick and suffering, those in difficult situations, and those forgotten by their families and friends and even by the society. Have a blessed Friday, everyone!

Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!

Photo from Vatican News, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, 14 December 2020.