The silent works of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 13 June 2021
Ezequiel 17:22-24 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ><}}}'> Mark 4:26-34
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 03: Yuka Saso of the Philippines hits an approach shot on the 17th hole fairway during the first round of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at The Olympic Club on June 03, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — Episode 1602 — Pictured: Nightbirde — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Two great women made me cry this week: our very own Yuka Saso who made history as the country’s first major golf tournament winner after she bagged with much finesse and style the 2021 Women’s Open title in San Francisco, California.

And second was Nightbirde, a cancer patient who mesmerized us a few nights ago with her talent – and joyful disposition as a cancer patient competing at “America’s Got Talent”.

What I like with both women is their authenticity – Yuka with her grit at a very young age pursuing her dream, Nightbirde with her radiance appreciating life despite the threats of cancer.

But most of all, both admitted how God has always been behind them, silently working in their lives, fulfilling their dreams!

It is so touching to hear stories of accomplished people like Yuka and Nightbirde who are very talented, so driven yet humbly recognizing God as the very reason for who they are and where they are now.

God at the center stage of life

Yuka and Nightbirde are two modern parables who show us how true are the teachings of Jesus this Sunday as we finally dive into the Ordinary Time with St. Mark as our guide.

After celebrating two major feasts of the Lord these past two consecutive Sundays, we find the mystery of Jesus slowly unfolding among the people who have started following him after hearing him speak and heal many of the sick.

At the same time, St. Mark is slowly introducing us at this part of his gospel the start of the “trial” of Jesus by his enemies who have began to look at him with suspicion and jealousy, accusing him of blasphemy and contempt for the Law.

Caught at the middle of the controversy are the crowds and his disciples – including us today – who have silently followed Jesus. In these coming Sundays, we shall see and hear more stories of the teachings and workings of Jesus, challenging us to take sides, to make a stand like Yuka and Nightbirde that “it is the Lord!” (Jn.21:7) who is at the center stage of our lives, silently working for our own good.

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from Wikipedia commons.org.

God is never absent nor distant from us in life.  
He is always at the center stage of our lives 
especially when we are going through tests, 
just like during an exam in the classroom!

In the two parables that he tells us today, Jesus describes the little beginnings of the kingdom of God like the seed. And in the littleness of this seed is found also the silence of God in transforming us in the same manner seeds grow into plants and crops that bear fruit.

Let us focus on the first parable that is so close to the hearts of the plantitos and plantitas among us. See Jesus vividly telling us how in life God takes all the initiatives, all the “doing” in silence. God is never absent nor distant from us in life. He is always at the center stage of our lives especially when we are going through tests, just like during an exam in the classroom.

Remember how during exams when our classroom is most silent, everybody scratching his/her head, wracking our brains while hurdling the exams while our teachers quietly watch us? They do not give us the answers for the exam for it is part of our learning process but it is during that time when they work hardest, watching over us.

The same with God when we go through tests in life. He is always present and even closest with us as exemplified with Christ’s self-offering on the Cross. That is the meaning of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart we celebrated Friday.

Of course, like that sower or farmer, we still have to do our very best, we have to work hard in cultivating the soil, watering the crops but aside from that, there is nothing else we can do but to patiently wait in silence, trusting in the good quality of seeds we have sown. We do not know how the seed we scattered would sprout and grow but deep inside us, we believe, we know of its good quality that soon enough, it would be harvest time when the grain is ripe.

We may not say it but unconsciously deep in our hearts we know, something good is going to happen for God does everything good. All the more because the seed he had sown in us is his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh. How could things not turn out good if we have the bestest seed of all, Jesus Christ?!

We just have to believe and be convinced of his love for us.

Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, 2020.

Hope. And be surprised!

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:6

What a beautiful a reminder from the great Apostle, St. Paul who wrote this letter under severe personal tests and trials from the Corinthians who have resorted to some nasty talks against him instigated in part by some missionaries who sowed confusions about the gospel of Christ.

This is the most personal of all the letters by St. Paul as he bared his very soul after being hurt by the Corinthians who could only see the surface and external things of himself without knowing his great sufferings for them.

That is what we must all try as disciples of the Lord: like St. Paul, we have to believe first in Jesus in order to see him and his glory. We walk by faith, not by sight wherein we live in vibrant hope in God that while everything seems to be too dark and difficult to understand, he is doing something within us that would transform us into better persons after these trials.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Like the power inside the seed being harnessed through time – nobody knows except God almighty what is happening inside. It just happens that one day, we are so amazed at how big and tall a tree has become considering it started from the minute piece of seed like what the Lord had promised Ezekiel in the first reading.

Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on high and lofty mountain… And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.

Ezekiel 17:22, 24

We are journeying in faith without seeing especially in this time of the pandemic. Our time is that of patience and courage. Most of all, of hope.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in Spe Salvi #27, “In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30).”

Sometimes, even if we try our very best, things do not turn out as we expected, exactly like what most farmers experience after sowing their seeds. When crops fail, they scatter seeds again the following season because they believe in being surprised by God, not by sheer luck.

They choose to believe, to have faith in God who is our present and our future in Jesus Christ who lives in us, whether in good times or in bad.

Going back to Nightbirde, recall how she entered the stage so cool and relaxed, smiling as she answered questions when she confidently declared being a cancer patient. When asked why all the smiles and joy radiating in her, she simply said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

Whoa!

And when she sang until Simon hit the golden buzzer… for a brief moment, I felt God passing by or even stopping by my computer screen, saying hello to me, reminding me about my many complaints in life until I saw Nightbirde. Indeed, the French poet Charles Péguy was right: hope is God’s favorite virtue because it always surprises him.

Like what Nightbirde and Yuka did to us last week.

Let God surprise you this week by doing what you like best. Do not worry. God will do the rest.

A blessed Sunday to everyone! Amen.

My unforgettable characters of COVID-19, images of Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 April 2021


While COVID-19 truly provided us with so many images of hope amid the crisis we went through on its first year, the pandemic had also left us with some unforgettable characters that moved us to feel our humanity that unfortunately many of us have lost for so long.

In fact, it was grace-filled moment of this time of the corona virus that we feel our humanity again when we found our true friends with our true colors emerging.

We were moved to tears even by people we hardly knew but felt their pains and their joys, their love and their kindness, their fidelity and courage in the middle of many storms in life especially when most others preferred to be bystanders and be quiet.

Most of all, we found Jesus Christ among them who became our unforgettable characters during COVID-19’s first year.

Leading my list is Mang Dodong of Caloocan City.

Photo by Mr. Vincent Go, 2020.

It was early May last year when we were reeling from successive news of government officials breaking rules of health protocols, abusing their powers and worst of all, getting away with it! Some even got promoted like Police Gen. Sinas who is now the chief of PNP for his shameless mañanita birthday party.

Mang Dodong left their home in Caloocan sometime in early April to buy fish at Navotas he intended to peddle among his neighbors for some much-needed money. That was the last time his wife and adopted child saw him until after almost a month in May 2020. He was detained in Navotas for not having a quarantine pass.

But looking deeper, we see it so common ironically in this administration claiming to champion the masses, we find Mang Dodong’s primary violation was his being poor and most of all, an honorable man unlike the clowns and chimps in the corridors of power.

He was detained for almost a month with his wife said to be a semi-illiterate not knowing where to find him. Had it not for the church volunteers of the Diocese of Caloocan under the Most Rev. Pablo David, Mang Dodong could have stayed longer in detention with the officials having no any qualms at all with his situation.

It has a been a year since then and nothing happened with the case of Mang Dodong. No one was held responsible for his sufferings and hardships because he is poor yet an image of Jesus Christ immortalized in the beautiful hymn by the late Jesuit Father Ed Hontiveros:

Hesus na aking kapatid
Sa bukid Ka nagtatanim
Kung sa palengke din naman
Ikaw ay naghahanap-buhay

Tulutan mo’ng aking mata
Mamulat sa katotohanan
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Sa taong mapagkumbaba


When COVID-19 reached our country in mid-February last year directly from a Chinese tourist who became the pandemic’s first victim to die outside of the virus origin in Wuhan, everybody thought our dry season could flush out the corona.

It did not happen at all. Worst, the dry season even spelled disaster with many fires hitting the metropolis that summer like the one that hit Happyland district in Tondo on April 18, 2020 from where we got our second unforgettable character of COVID-19: a young man carrying his grandfather to escape the fire.

From the Facebook of Marivic Tribiana, April 2020.

So many families were left homeless with scores injured with some fatalities in what was the second or third fire to hit Tondo in Manila.

It was also the octave of Easter, a few days before “Divine Mercy Sunday” when it caught the attention of Fr. Marc Ocariza who was then the parochial vicar of St. Peter Alcantara in Taal, Bocaue, Bulacan.

Fr. Marc was so struck by the photo that he shared it on his Facebook account and that was how I saw it too.

Screenshot by Fr. Marc, April 2020.

Another day day passed, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, Fr. Marc interpreted Ms. Tribiana’s post into a work of art using the app Digital Art Timelapse and dubbed his creation as “Nag-aalab na Pag-Ibig” which in turn inspired me to write a poem “Bakas ng Habag at Awa ni Jesus” I published in my blog on April 20, 2020 (https://lordmychef.com/2020/04/20/bakas-ng-habag-at-awa-ni-jesus/).

Click the link for our reflection why that young man is our unforgettable character, too.


Three great men of the Church did the same thing to us during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, making Jesus present among us as the Good Shepherd in a time people were looking for true leaders giving us light when darkness enveloped us.

Without doubt, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Dagupan, Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, and Bishop Virgilio David of Caloocan will be among the most unforgettable characters during this pandemic following their bold efforts in alleviating the plight of the people in their respective diocese and most of all, in being the most vocal pastors who insisted for the opening of churches considering that religious activities are essential.

They were the voices in the wilderness who spoke the truth of Christ, bringing hope and enlightenment to everyone, including us priests as they both shared us their insights and encouragement to pray and serve God’s flock in these troubled times.

In those three Bishops we find what everybody else is missing in this pandemic: that it is not just a medical and social issue to be addressed but most of all, something of the spiritual and moral nature calling for our conversion as a nation, as disciples of the Lord.

Thank you very much, Bishops Soc, Pabillo, and David for bringing Christ in this time of the pandemic, providing us the spiritual nourishment and emotional support we all needed during this first year of the pandemic.

Photo by Angie de Silva, licas.news.
Photo from CBCP News.
Photo from UCANews.

And now we come to the most unforgettable characters of COVID-19 who are truly our modern day heroes and saints, who truly served like Jesus Christ forgetting their very selves to save countless men and women stricken with the virus.

Frontline workers in personal protective equipment man the E.R. at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila, March 24, 2020. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

Hail to our MEDICAL FRONTLINERS – the doctors and nurses, medical technologists, staff of every hospital, driver and crew members of ambulances who transported the sick day in, day out since the start of the pandemic until now.

They were the ones who kept us alive since day one of the pandemic until now with so many of them among the first casualties when COVID-19 hit the country last year.

Photo from Mobility PH of Phil. Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2020.

Sadly, despite their dedication to work, many of them had to suffer humiliation like one nurse who was evicted by her landlady after being positive with COVID while another nurse biking his way to the hospital died after being hit-and-run by a motorist.

Philippine Red Cross rescued nurse kicked out from her boarding house after testing positive with COVID in Makati last year. Photo by ABS-CBN News.

Words will never be enough to describe their dedication and love for those getting sick.

Every night, I pray so hard for them including their families who must have been so used to sleepless nights praying and worrying about their safety.

One thing I ask the Lord in my prayers for our medical frontliners: that they will all be around when this pandemic is over so we can celebrate with them and meet them, hug them and thank them for keeping us alive since it all began in 2020.

God bless and keep our medical frontliners!

Health workers form hearts with their hands as they show appreciation after the residents of La Verti Residences gave a tribute to frontliners on Easter Sunday last year. Photo by Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News.

There are still other unforgettable characters who kept us alive and well, even sane, during the pandemic. We continue to pray for them as they work in silence serving us during these critical times like bakers and vendors, teachers, government workers, those in the police and military.

Not to forget, too, are our parents and everybody making our lives bearable even comfortable in these trying times. Do stay safe so we may celebrate with everyone when this virus is gone.

Images of COVID-19, Images of Hope, Part 3

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 12 April 202

We had a blessed happy Easter last year in 2020 despite the pandemic following the support of our parishioners to our activities since the start of the lockdown like the motorized processions of Palm Sunday and Good Friday as well as the online Masses.

Though we have to start our Easter Vigil while the sun was still up following the protocol rules, it was clearly an image of hope for us all especially when I carried the Paschal Candle into our church for the celebrations: Jesus the Light of world, illuminating us in the darkness of the pandemic.

It was the simplest Easter Vigil in my entire 22 years in the priesthood but most meaningful.

Very early the following Sunday before dawn in lieu of the traditional salubong, we went around our parish with the beautiful image of the Risen Lord generously lent to us since 2011 by Mrs. Baby Halili in hopes that the people would at least feel again the presence of Jesus Christ.

It was still dark but some people were already awake awaiting the passing of our libot before celebrating our Mass.

The lighted cross atop our parish church at the background during our libot of the Risen Lord at Easter 2020 during lockdown.

Most of the people, though, missed the libot of the Risen Lord that dawn that we did it again in the afternoon with the usual sights of people waiting on the streets for the blessing.


It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year, 
an image of hope, and most of all, 
an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic, 
answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark. 

At the last leg of our libot of the Risen Lord with still an hour before the curfew, a soldier in fatigue uniform at a gas station saw us and left his motorbike, walking towards us with both hands up in the air.

I thought we were being told to stop. And worst, being arrested!

Immediately, I prayed to Jesus to not let it happen, that we were just less than 500 meters from the parish and soon it would be over.

I acted disregarding the soldier as in “dead malice” (patay malisya) by blessing him with Holy Water until we heard him closer, asking for blessings indeed!

It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year, an image of hope, and most of all, an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic, answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.

More unforgettable images of COVID-19, images of hope and images of Christ during the extensions of the lockdown last year unfolded before us after Easter. That was when I began to feel the emotional drag of the pandemic and lockdown as I lived alone in our parish rectory that was a mere oversized room at the second floor of the church.

It was the second extension of the lockdown when I felt during prayers that Jesus seemed to be getting “tired” with our “libot” of his Blessed Sacrament.

Most of all, I realized that if I felt dried and zapped despite my regimented lifestyle of prayers, studies, exercises and recreation during the pandemic right inside our parish church, how much more were my parishioners?

I just felt they must be worst affected than me!

It was very clear for me that prayers and online Masses cannot suffice for them as their spiritual nourishment.

That was when I decided to go out and bring Holy Communion to my parishioners after our Sunday morning Mass: I would announce in our online Masses the route we shall take so that people would wait for me on the main roads while observing the necessary health protocols.

We called it “walk-in Holy Communion” because after each stop of our tricycle, I would walk giving Communion to everyone waiting to receive finally and not just see, Jesus Christ, Body and Blood!

Eventually, when churches were opened and people were allowed to celebrate public Masses, we continued bringing the Holy Communion to our farthest and depressed areas every Saturday afternoon after our online Masses.

On the third Sunday of our “walk-through” Holy Communion, a family on board their van arrived just before we left the parish, asking if they could receive the Holy Communion after attending our online Mass. They wanted to get inside the church for the Communion when suddenly, a spark of inspiration came upon me — I told them to remain in their van as I gave them Communion through the windows!

And thus started our “drive-thru” Holy Communion for families and individuals who attended our online Sunday Mass and then proceeded to our parish where I would wait for them at the gate of our church from 8-830AM to give their Holy Communion.

Rain or shine, I would just put on my hat with my reliable volunteer Kuya Oliver driving his tricycle or assisting in the traffic flow of cars, vans, tricycles and even bicycles, we gave Holy Communion during those difficult months of the first year of pandemic and quarantine.

Sometimes, like the couple above, some people would chase us along the way, asking to receive the Holy Communion as they assured us that they have attended our online Mass earlier.

I was so glad other parishes did the same for our people so hungry and thirsty for Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Did I ever get afraid?

Of course! Even terrified. But it was pure grace from the Lord we were able to do all those things in his glorious name.

Those images of COVID-19 have truly become images of hope and images of Christ that helped me forge on with my life and ministry through these difficult times in our history. They are forever imprinted in my heart and memory along with the people who made me experienced God.

Like the “beloved disciple” John – the patron saint of my former parish where these took place – who was with Peter in the boat gone fishing at Lake Tiberias before the ascension of Jesus, every time I remember those images of last year or see similar ones, I silently exclaim like him “It is the Lord!” (John 22:7).


Come April 13, 2021, I will log my 365-day streak at http://www.lordmychef.com publishing prayers, reflections, homilies, poems, and essays since Easter Monday last year when I thought of helping the spiritual nourishment of people unable to come to celebrate the Mass.

When I was assigned to my new assignment as chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center last February 15, I felt the same thing in my prayers: help in enriching the spiritual lives of the flock Jesus entrusted to me at this time of the pandemic by learning all these new technologies like Zoom and webinars as well as Facebook live and this daily blog. From still pictures as images of hope and of Christ, we now have moving images of hope and of Jesus Christ!

But, with or without modern technology, and even after this pandemic, the challenge of Easter remains that we continue to proclaim the joy and saving presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ among peoples, “in season and out of season” like St. Paul (2Timothy 4:2).

That is something we all have to work for even now, being images of hope and of Christ to the world. Amen.

From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”

Images of COVID-19, Images of Hope

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 07 April 2021
Photo by author, early morning inside our former parish at lock down last March 2020.

Come April 14 next week, I will complete my 365-day streak on my blog https://lordmychef.wordpress.com/.

It was a Tuesday within the Octave of Easter under our first – and world’s longest – Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) when I started this prayer blog based on the Mass readings as a “spiritual recipe” for tired and weary souls at that time when churches were closed and public Masses were not allowed.

It was pure grace that I was able to keep it daily until now in my new assignment, never running out of inspiration from God for my prayers, poems, essays and reflections, and the usual Sunday homilies I have been sharing via email since 2003.

Some of my inspirations came from unforgettable images of COVID-19 that went viral on Facebook and the news that for me were “images of hope” of the Risen Christ reminding us of his presence during this pandemic.

They are images of hope because they tell us modern Easter stories of holiness and kindness, love and sacrifice among ordinary people willing to share Jesus in their very selves for others in need.

And this photo tops them all!

From Facebook, 25 March 2020.

I got this from the Facebook by a church-beat reporter who personally met the photographer who took that shot and interviewed the banana vendor.

What a beautiful reminder of the poor widow praised by Jesus who gave “two small coins worth a few cents” into the temple collection box, saying: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk.12:43-44).

My initial reaction upon seeing this image of COVID-19 was how the world never runs out of many good people, who give without expecting anything in return: “may mga tao pa rin palang tunay at dalisay ang pagmamahal at hindi naghihintay ng kapalit.”

I wonder where is that vendor now and what has happened to him. Surely, God must have blessed him abundantly!


A week before the lockdown that March 2020, another set of images appeared on Facebook of a beautiful story of miracle in the supermarket.

According to the Facebook post that became viral, people were panic buying following rumors of a lockdown to be imposed due to the pandemic.

A young lady waiting at the long line to the counter noticed a man had only a basket containing a handful of grocery items.

She turned out to be a “fairy godmother” who offered the manong to get more goods for his family assuring him she would pay for them.

Manong was hesitant at first, very shy with the kind offer by the young lady until he acceded, getting a few more canned goods.

According to the post by an eye-witness, the “fairy” asked manong again to get more goods, saying “dagdagan pa po ninyo at babayaran ko.”

That was when miracle happened…

Some of those at the counter were infected with a holy virus by the young lady’s generosity.

One by one, each customer gave manong a can or an item of their purchases so that he had a basket full of goodies to take home for his family!

Indeed, love begets love begets love… it is the kind of good virus I am sure still happening today even without being reported in social media.

What a beautiful modern version of Jesus Christ’s feeding of 5000 in the wilderness when everybody shared their baon with others (Jn.6:1-15) that filled everyone to his/her delight with still plenty of leftovers.


I turned 55 on March 22, the first Sunday of the start of last year’s lockdown, the fifth Sunday of Lent. It was also the first time we went online with our Mass that morning when I called on the people to wait outside their homes later at 3PM – while maintaining health protocols – for the “paglibot” (motorized procession) of the Blessed Sacrament in our Parish at Barangay Bagbaguin made up of ten purok.

How my heart was moved at the sight of people, young and old, rich and poor alike, kneeling on the streets with some crying, adoring Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!

Truly the images of hope that have sustained and blessed our parishioners at Bagbaguin with the lowest incidence of COVID infections and deaths that year in the whole town of Santa Maria, Bulacan!

Photo by Mr. Ryan Cajanding.

But the most beautiful image of hope for me that day was the appearance of a rainbow before the end of our “libot” of the Blessed Sacrament.

We were at the last leg of our “libot” when it started to rain with our volunteers asking whether we would still go to the next purok of Gulod or not. From the back of our truck with both my hands holding the big monstrance, my response was adamant: we proceed even if it rains!

I knew we have brought plastic to cover and protect the Blessed Sacrament from the rains and I felt what mattered most then were the people to have a glimpse of Jesus in their most difficult trials in life.

Lo and behold, after a few minutes, the rains stopped and a rainbow appeared at the horizon!

Tears rolled down to my cheeks saturated with perspirations as I held the big monstrance.

I could not contain the joy within my heart as I thanked God for the grace of that moment, of sending us with a rainbow to assure us like during Noah’s time that he would keep his promise never again to destroy earth with floods or with virus, that we would be safe during this pandemic.

It was the best birthday gift I ever had in recent years that made me decide to continue that practice of libot of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday while public Masses were not allowed during the lockdown.

What are your images of COVID-19 that were images of hope that sustained you in this year-old pandemic?

Join us again this Friday with more images of COVID-19 and this time, images of Christ among us!

*Other photos by Ms. Ria De Vera and Ms. Anne Ramos of our Parish Commission on Social Communications.

“King of Pain” by The Police (1983)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 01 November 2020
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Bohol, 2019.

I have lined up some songs with “heaven” in their titles or lyrics for this Sunday’s celebration of All Saints’ Day and tomorrow’s All Souls’ Day; but, during prayers and reflections, I kept on hearing Sting singing in my head King of Pain which is my most favorite among his long list of great music.

Our celebrations this November first and second are a mixture of joy and mourning, of heaven and sufferings, of life and death. As we remember today those already in heaven and tomorrow pray for those awaiting entrance into heaven, we also remember on these twin dates the death of loved ones.

No matter how much we may extoll the redemptive nature of death not as an end but a beginning of eternal life, we cannot miss the sadness and pain it brings to everyone that is always for a lifetime.

And that is what hope is all about: hope does not remove sadness or pain. When we hope of getting into heaven with our departed loved ones, no matter how blissful heaven may be, we always have to deal with the hurts of losing a parent or a spouse, a sibling or a friend.

To hope means to firmly believe that when things get worst, even unto death, there is Life itself, God remaining in the end, loving us, taking us to his presence in heaven to live life in its fullness in him.

To hope means to face new beginnings in this life amid the pains we have in our hearts from deaths and separations, believing that someday, if not in this life, everything would be whole and perfect again.

That is why I find King of Pain more apt for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

Written by Sting in 1982 at the Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novels, King of Pain expresses the inner torments he was going through as an individual at that time — his recent divorce from his first wife and growing misunderstanding with his other two colleagues, Andrew Summers and Stewart Copeland. They eventually parted ways after the release of the Synchronicity album from which King of Pain came in 1983.

The beat, the music and the lyrics seem to be dark and melancholic at first but as you get the feel of the entire song sung by Sting, then you realize it is actually about a man struggling with sadness or even depression, of a man filled with hopes until you realize it is speaking about you as king of pain.

Aren’t we all the king of pain in one or the other?

And as we bear all the pains, we keep on forging on with life, we never resign but keep hoping even for a piece of heaven, of the sun to celebrate life each day until we make it to the Other Side like our departed loved ones.

All in the grace of a loving God. Amen.

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group

Hope. And be surprised!

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 October 2020
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, the Holy Land, May 2019.

HOPE. A favorite word among us, used as an expression for things to get better, especially when we express our “hope” God grants what we pray for, or, in ending our letters of request with “hoping for your kind consideration”.

Even Hollywood is fond of this virtue, portraying it as a reserved power to overcome evil when Neo in the 2003 The Matrix Revolutions was summoned into action to defend their city because he was the only one with “hope”.

Or, something like a turbo charger that will boost every leap of faith when Toretto in Fast and Furious 6 handed to his rival Owen Shaw the computer chip they were tasked to retrieve in the “hope” of getting it back even if they have to chase a giant Antonov An-124 plane taking off.

Of course, Neo and Toretto succeeded in their efforts filled with hope, defeating evil.

But, that is not what hope is all about.


To hope is different from optimism, of believing things can get better;
in fact, we hope because things can get worst.

The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his books that to hope means having that firm conviction within that even if things get worst like death, we are certain God will never forsake us for he loves us very much.

Jesus Christ showed us this true meaning of hope when he decided to go to Jerusalem to accomplish his mission by dying on the Cross for our salvation. I love the way Luke narrated in his gospel this attitude of Jesus in showing us the path of hope amid his knowledge things would get worst than before leading to his Passion and Death (and Resurrection):

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he (Jesus) resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem…

Luke 9:51

Imagine Jesus “resolutely determined” going to Jerusalem, the very same attitude of saints witnessing the Gospel by facing martyrdom. It is also very true with us when we say our only hope is the Lord when we know of sure death while facing a serious illness.

To hope is to be “resolutely determined” like Jesus and the saints along with our loved ones to follow the arduous path of life, of putting up the good fight against sickness or injustice and evil even if they knew things will lead unto death. At first we wonder, what victory can we claim if in the end we die like the saints and martyrs?

That’s the mystery and paradox of hope: to hope is to completely trust in God that death is not the end of life or any struggle but the highest point of our transformation as we dive to life’s lowest level like defeat, loss, and death when we pray like Jesus on the Cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk.23:46).

Hope is faith severely tested, believing and abandoning everything to God, come what may.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Fatima, Portugal, 2016.

Hope is clearly not positive thinking nor optimism; hope is “faith in God” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us in his second encyclical, Spe Salvi (2007). According to Pope Benedict, hope gives us the direction towards the future by enabling us to face the challenges of this life leading to salvation and eternal life.

In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hope, is ultimately without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (Eph.2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God — God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (Jn.13:1 and 19:30)… If we are in a relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.

Spe Salvi, #27

Four weeks ago, a former parishioner had asked me for prayers for her husband with liver cancer. Both are medical doctors; in fact, it was her husband who had actually diagnosed himself while going through radiological lab exam.

It was at that time they “resolutely determined” to go home and face the inevitable by praying together, hoping together in God.

Here lies the mystery and paradox of hope we were talking earlier: why and what do we really hope when we know it is going to end in death?

God. Nothing else and nobody else. God is the reason we hope and what we hope for.

It is only when we have been stripped of everything else when we truly “see” and experience God is all we have in life after all.

Then we become confident God will never abandon us until the end.

That is what my friend and her husband have realized, especially when Dr. Mike died two weeks later after going home.

When I celebrated Mass at his wake, I could not resist telling my friend how the smile of her husband is the sweetest, even most infectious one I have ever seen on the lips of a dead person in my 22 years as a priest!

Truly, the Lord loved Dr. Mike until the end that he died with a smile as the fruit of his hoping in God with his wife.

Indeed, friends have told me that God will give us the grace to face our death when that time comes; and I believe them because I have seen them transformed after accepting their terminal condition that they no longer cry of their situation getting worst while those to be left behind in turn become the ones crying knowing their beloved is passing (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/22/the-gift-of-tears/).


Hope surprises.
Even God.

Photo by author, 2019.

When I was on my second year of seminary formation in theology, I experienced the most severe test of my vocation to the priesthood that I almost left and abandoned all plans of becoming a priest at all.

What sustained me in the seminary were prayers — and some lines from T.S. Eliot’s very long poem “Four Quartets” published in 1941:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Too bad I have lost the index card on which I wrote this stanza which I posted on my study lamp, reading it daily even until I have become a priest.

To truly hope, one has to get totally lost and empty, stripped naked of our very selves when darkness is our only light and hopelessness is our only hope.

It is when we have totally lost everything except God when we truly hope.

And that is when all the surprises happen, not only with ourselves but with others.

Not only here but definitely even in eternity, the biggest surprise we are all hoping for.

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

In 1912, the French poet Charles Pierre Péguy (1873-1914) wrote a very long poem ahead of T.S. Eliot about the virtue of hope, claiming it is God’s favorite because it is full of surprises.

Péguy portrayed Hope as a “little girl” who enlivens her older sisters Faith and Love.

I do not want to dilute its magic and power so I leave it that way for you to savor its sweetness, its truth and beauty in Péguy’s poetry:

The faith that I love best, says God, is hope. Faith doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. I am so resplendent in my creation…. That in order not to see me these poor people would have to be blind. Charity, says God, that doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for each other…. But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me. Even me. That is surprising.

Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of the Second Virtue

Sometimes in life, we have to hit rock bottom in order to truly hope. Keep hoping and you will surely be surprised by God, by others, and by our very selves that we are always blessed! Amen.

Images of hope

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Passion of John the Baptist, Martyr, 29 August 2020
Jeremiah 1:17-19 >><)))*> || >><)))*> || >><)))*> || >><)))*> Mark 6:17-29
“The Beheading of St. John the Baptist” by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1869) from WikiArt.org.

Immediately after our Mass for the Passion of John the Baptist this morning, Lord, I am leaving for the celebration of funeral Mass for a very kind woman I have known since high school seminary, Dra. Nenita San Diego who succumbed to COVID-19 three weeks ago.

Yesterday after praying the Holy Rosary, another parishioner passed away, more than a month after I have visited her on her birthday to anoint her with oil for the sick and receive the Holy Viaticum. I was told it was a peaceful death, so true to her name which is “Puring”, from “Purita” for “pure”.

I am not complaining, Lord, but, what is with death – with “Christian death” – that we “celebrate” it, be it for the martyrdom of saints or the demise of ordinary mortals like us?

Thank you for the experience, Lord.

In this time of pandemic when death comes easily almost daily, we are not only reminded of our mortality but most of all, our eternity and victory in Jesus Christ, making every death an image of hope in you.

John the Baptist stood and died speaking for what is true because he had hope in Jesus Christ, the truth, the way and the life.

Caravaggio’s painting of the beheading of John the Baptist. From wikimedia.org.

So many people like him are suffering today, refusing to give in to the pressures and whims of modern Herods among us because they believe in you that they stand for what is true.

O good Jesus, we pray for those suffering for truth and for life like John the Baptist in this time of pandemic; bless them and keep them always for they remind us like your precursor that you have come, that you are among us.

Keep our hopes vibrant and alive in you and to a more just tomorrow, Lord, so that we may persevere in speaking your words of truth no matter what others would say. Amen.

We are disciples of a meek and humble Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIVth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 05 July 2020
Zechariah 9:9-10 >><)))*> Romans 8:9, 11-13 >><)))*> Matthew 11:25-30
From Google.

We now come to the conclusion of our series of teachings of Jesus about discipleship that began two Sundays ago when he asked us not to be afraid and to be “possessed” or overtaken by him to fulfill our mission of proclaiming his good news of salvation.

And so, we now ask, “Why should we follow Jesus and be his disciples, forgetting our very selves and still carry our cross? Have we not suffered enough especially in this pandemic?”

His answer: because unlike other lord and master, Jesus is the only one who is meek and humble of heart, full of compassion to everyone!

He is the only one truly with us in our pains and cries because before all these trials have come to us, Jesus was there first to suffer and die for us on the Cross so we can share in the grace and peace of his Resurrection, calling us with these comforting words….

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Our desire for everything “lite” and easy

If there is anything that we all want at this time is a rest, a break from the heavy burdens 2020 has brought upon us all as individuals and as a nation, not only in the country but the whole world.

We all want things to be “light” and easy like before COVID-19.

The world has long been offering us everything that is “light” (also spelled as “lite”), claiming it to be the key to a healthy and fulfilling life that many products are labelled as lite — from cooking oil to mayonnaise, cheese and ice cream, soda and even brandy, beer, and cigarettes!

But they are all lies!

We still get fat and even sickly with those lite products because being light does not necessarily mean removing or taking away things that are heavy and “toxic” or difficult. Being light does not mean free from responsibilities and duties, or not having a cross and sufferings in life.

Life is difficult as M. Scott Peck insists in The Road Less Travelled, telling us that the sooner we accept this reality, the better we are in life.

It is the truth Jesus Christ has long been telling us, so timely to be reminded again this first Sunday of the second half of 2020 as we continue to hurdle more difficulties ahead in fighting COVID-19 as well as in dealing with a hosts of other problems it had created in the many aspects of our lives.

Today, the Lord is telling us that to be light in life, we have to come to him, be his disciple by taking his yoke and learning from him.

We all know from experience that anything becomes light, especially a burden and a problem, when shared with someone who loves us, someone who cares for us, someone who believes in us. Many times, our problems and burdens need not be solved at all; they simply have to be shared with any one willing to accompany us.

Being light in life is having a companion to share with our burdens and woes because having these all by ourselves is indeed so difficult and impossible. That is the literal meaning of the Latin origin of the word companion – cum panis – someone you break bread with in a journey.

Jesus Christ is that only companion par excellence we can have for he is meek and humble of heart

Photo by Ezra Acayan of Getty Images, Baclaran Church, February 2020.

The gentle mastery of Jesus Christ

In the past two Sundays, Jesus spoke about ourselves and our dispositions to become his disciples. This Sunday, he speaks about himself as our Lord and Master, describing himself as “meek and humble of heart”.

Earlier at the start of his preaching in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of true blessedness in the Beatitudes that actually gave us an image of himself as the Blessed One. Each beatitude speaks of Jesus Christ being poor in spirit, being meek, being merciful, being clean of heart, being a peacemaker, and being persecuted.

See that the third beatitude is how he also described himself today in the gospel, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land” (Mt. 5:5).

Very interesting is the fact that in his Sermon on the Mount when he preached the Beatitudes, Jesus was presenting himself to the people as the “new Moses” who gave them the Ten Commandments of God at Mount Sinai. As the most towering figure among the Jews, Moses is also described as “very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)!

Meekness of Jesus: focusing more on persons than letters of the law

In calling us to come to him to take his yoke and learn from him for he is meek and humble of heart, Jesus is telling us that indeed, he is the new Moses in whom pure goodness is found. And even more surpassing than Moses because Jesus himself is the Law and its fulfillment. Unlike in Moses wherein the people focused more on the letters of the laws, Jesus our Lord insists more on the person, always reminding us that “Sabbath was created for man, not man for sabbath.”

But the most beautiful key in understanding the meekness of Jesus is found in our first reading which we also hear proclaimed on Palm Sunday:

Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem.

Zechariah 9:9-10a
Photo from Google of an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth.

Unlike the proud masters and rulers of the world, Jesus our Lord and King entered Jerusalem riding on an ass in fulfillment of this part of the Old Testament.

Here we find Jesus as the exact opposite of the kings and rulers of the world whose kingship does not depend on political and military might, no exercise of brute force and power characterized by the chariots and horses of his time.

Meekness of Jesus: oneness with us his people

In this beautiful imagery of Jesus riding an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth we find Christ’s inmost being of humility and meekness before God and men. No display of arrogance and shameless feelings of entitlements like our officials in the government and military. Most of all, Jesus riding on an ass illustrates his oneness with us all because the ass is the means of transportation of the poor, of the common tao.

Here is the meekness and humility of Jesus Christ — his being one with us in our brokenness and poverty, pains and hurts. You can really experience him especially in this time of the corona when everything seems to be getting worst than better, when everybody is trying to make ends meet amid the economic crisis with Jesus never abandoning us in our darkest moments of uncertainties, fears, hunger, and sadness.

At the rate things are going, we have nobody else to turn to at this time but Jesus our Lord. We have to muster all our faith in him, deepen ourselves in prayer because we cannot rely on our officials who cannot even get a clear data on COVID-19 infections nor even a sound plan in addressing this pandemic despite the longest days of lockdown in the world and loans from abroad.

And we all feel so hopeless, disgruntled and so disgusted especially with the public officials and those from congress and the police who are oblivious to our sufferings and hardships in this time of the corona as they shamelessly flaunt their privileges and exception to the rules.

How can we heal as one when in the first place they are not one with us?

Discipleship in Christ is life in the Holy Spirit

Despite all the irresponsibilities and inanities of the government, we choose to be like our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in bearing all pains and hardships in his holy name, always hoping that this experience can lead us to more meaningful lives as citizens of the republic.

We choose the path of non-violence despite the government’s militaristic response to the crisis aggravated by the legislative’s dangerous foray into more draconian measures to silence critics of the administration.

It is so tempting to fight back and forget all about meekness and humility but that is not the way of Jesus Christ.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the fundamental choice that lies before every disciple of the Lord: to live in solidarity with Christ empowered by his Spirit, or to live in solidarity with the old humanity enslaved to sin.

May we choose Jesus because he alone is meek and humble of heart, in him alone can we find rest because his yoke is easy and his burden light. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 2020.

Loving presence of Jesus in us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week VI-A, 17 May 2020

Acts of the Apostle 8:5-8, 14-17 ><)))*> 1 Peter 3:15-18 ><)))*> John 14:15-21

Nuns bringing relief goods to a remote village. Photo from Facebook.

We are about to end two great seasons in our liturgy and still, here we are in our enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19. Prospects remain dim as experts say the corona virus may never be totally eradicated despite the discovery of vaccines and medicines later this year.

It is in this background we find our readings this Sunday so reassuring, reminding us of how so often in history that tragic or painful events in the lives of individuals and societies have led to happy endings.

In our first reading, we have seen how the persecution of the Church at Jerusalem so tragic but at the same time also helped spread Christianity so fast led by the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus Christ before he was betrayed and arrested on that Holy Thursday evening.

All this is possible if we believe in Jesus, if we love Jesus.

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

John 14:15-18
Photo by author, flowers at Church of Gallicantu near Jerusalem, May 2019.

Intimacy with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit

For the first time, Jesus promised during their Last Supper the sending of the Holy Spirit when he fulfills his mission.

In most translations, the Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate although some prefer the transliteration Paraclete from its original Greek Parakletos to truly capture its full meaning or context.

Only St. John used the word Parakletos to denote the Holy Spirit. In its Hellenistic context, Parakletos had come to be known as Advocate like a lawyer or a friend who speaks on behalf of the “accused” like Jesus in a hostile world (Jn.16:7-11).

However, St. John also used parakletos in different contexts like in our gospel today.

See how before introducing to us the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus speaks more of a grand instruction – in fact, a reality, a truth in the life of his every disciple: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn.14:15).

Without specifying any commandments to keep, Jesus further explained that “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn.14:21). He would be speaking of this like a refrain four more times later to stress that loving Jesus is keeping his commandments.

It is a very difficult task to fulfill and most often, more difficult to understand or interpret especially when we are in real life-situations like loving an arrogant president or loving officials who break the rules of quarantine!

This is so because Jesus himself is the law, the commandments which is his very person; therefore, to love him is to be like him and that is always keeping his commandments of love.

And that is why Jesus made sure to inscribe this lesson and reality into his disciples’ memory and hearts during their last supper by promising the Holy Spirit he called as Parakletos who would be acting as his Advocate, Counsellor, and Comforter when he returns to the Father.

It is the Holy Spirit who leads us now into an intimacy with Christ that we are able to love Jesus, love like Jesus, and love in Jesus. This is the same Holy Spirit who binds the Three Persons of the Trinity in love who also makes us one with God and with others.

Photo from Facebook post by Ms. Marivic Tribiana, 17 April 2020 fire in Tondo area.

Making Jesus present in our love

We make Jesus most present when we love because when we love, everything changes for the best, even the most difficult and worst situations in life.

Albert Camus rightly said when he wrote in his 1947 novel The Plague now being reread due to the corona virus, that “A loveless world is a dead world.”

Without love, we would have gone extinct by now.

Because of love, every tragedy, every suffering and problem we go through leads to happy ending primarily because we discover something, someone beyond far more important than any situation or plight we may be into.

Artwork by Fr. Marc Ocariza upon seeing the FB post by Ms. Marivic Tribiana above on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday 2020.

Most of all, love has a distinctive characteristic that moves the lover to become like the beloved. This is the reason why we who love strive harder, persevere and forge into every obstacle and fight until we are one with our beloved!

And who is ultimately our very love?

God.

The God revealed to us by Jesus Christ his Son who became human like us to be one with us in everything including death except sin so that we become like him – divine – in his Resurrection.

Jesus Christ whom we “sanctify as Lord in our hearts” (1Pt.3:15) is the one we imitate and follow, the one we see and, most of all, the only one we (must) share when we love, when we serve especially in this time of the corona pandemic.

Sometimes, it is still difficult to believe how these pandemic and quarantine are happening to us when all of a sudden here comes typhoon Ambo that wreaked a path of destruction in the Visayas and Bicolandia the other day, making us wonder what is happening in the world right now?

Making things worst that have stressed us all so much is our government at all levels lacking preparations, with some officials into alleged corruptions while the enforcers of the laws are the ones breaking all the rules of quarantine!

We just keep on hoping things would get better by starting right at our own end.

Sometimes it can be funny although painful when some people forget us or take us for granted, thinking we are fine or doing great without any hint of the sufferings within.

But the grace is always there because Jesus is within each one of us who believes in him and tries hard to keep his commandments.

“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”

John 14:19-20

We just have to do our part, to keep on believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, and most of all, keeping his commandments because Jesus is the “explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope” (1Pt.3:15).

This does not mean the world is lacking the Lord’s presence.

He has not left us indeed and sooner or later, we shall see how he, the God of history, will direct everything according to his greater plan for us.

Today’s gospel reminds us of his assurance to be with us always in the Holy Spirit.

It is now our turn to pick up the pieces and make him more felt, especially in comforting those affected severely by the many storms that hit us in this time of the corona virus.

Have a blessed Sunday and stay safe! Amen.

Photo from CBCPNews of the debris left by Typhoon Ambo in Arteche, Eastern Samar, 14 May 2020.

Lockdown and countdown, honor and dishonor in COVID-19

40 Shades of Lent, Wednesday, Solemnity of the Annunciation, 25 March 2020

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10 +++ Hebrews 10:4-10 +++ Luke 1:26-38

Mosaic of the Annunciation to Mary at San Giovanni Rotondo Church, Italy. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2019.

Glory and praise to you, O God our Father as we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus Christ to Mary. What a celebration so appropriate in this time of COVID-19 amid the ongoing lockdown not only in our country but in many parts of the world.

You know how I am not into any countdown whatsoever, Lord; in fact, I do not even keep tabs of how many days we have been locked down except that I really miss my parishioners, the normal grind of each day.

But as I prayed on this Solemnity, the first thing that I realized is that we are nine months from Christmas!

Jesus is coming, Jesus has come, Jesus is never gone — especially in this lockdown!

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera during our procession of the Blessed Sacrament in our Parish, 22 March 2020.

What an honor and grace, O Lord, that despite our sinfulness and failures, you continue to offer us salvation, of starting all over again, of picking up the pieces of our lives, of hoping for that great day when all these lockdown and pandemic are gone.

We pray for all the health workers who sacrifice their very lives in saving the sick and all the other unsung heroes who do their share in helping us unburden the heavy crosses we are carrying following COVID-19’s wrath.

Thank you for the many among us who have opened like Mary to receive Jesus and share Jesus in these trying times.

But we also pray, O Lord, for those many of us who remain closed and cold to you and to others.

The people who continue to ignore “social distancing” and those who have remained spiritually and emotionally distant from family members, friends, and neighbors.

We pray most especially for our officials in the government who continue to bring more shame and dishonor to themselves to the detriment of the people.

The leaders who think more of themselves, who regard themselves as more important than others. The modern “King Ahaz” of our time who rely more on their own power, on their alliances with their foreign and local lords and masters.

Have mercy on them, Lord.

Come quickly and save us.

Open our hearts, teach us humility to be able to say to you like Mary, “Be it done unto me according to your word.” Amen.

Photo by author of the site where Mary received the Good News of Christ’s coming from Archangel Gabriel beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.