The real big deal & call to be real

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 06 November 2022
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 ><]]]]'> 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 ><]]]]'> Luke 20:27-38

We are now in the penultimate month of the year and the last two Sundays before the Solemnity of Christ the King when we close our current liturgical calendar to usher in Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas.

That is why every year on these two consecutive Sundays before Christ the King, the Church rightly orients us through the readings into our ultimate end in heaven – the real big deal in life calling us all to get real because it is the eternity.

But, do we really care at all? Or, are we just like the Sadducees in the time of Jesus Christ who are so concerned with the realities of this passing world than with that of eternal life?

We may not be exactly like the Sadducees who totally rejected the resurrection as well as the existence of angels and spirits but like them, we also fall into the trap of believing that the concerns of this world are ends in themselves that we spend so much time and energies pursuing wealth and fame that in the process we destroy our selves, our loved ones and relationships.

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward. Jesus said to them, “The children of this stage marry and remarry, but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. The dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Luke 20:27, 34-38

Jesus had entered Jerusalem and it is very interesting that this conversation about the resurrection of the dead and heaven happened there where he himself would suffer and die and rise again on the third day. Both Matthew and Mark recorded this conversation of Jesus with the Sadducees but for Luke, this is the only time Jesus met them face-to-face before his arrest.

According to Luke, the Sadducees were the most responsible for the death of Jesus because from their ranks came the high priests like Caiaphas. The Sadducees were the ones who also persecuted the Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus, ordering the arrests of Peter and John. Most of all, the Sadducees were also enemies with Pharisees whom they also opposed and persecuted. They were the fundamentalists of Judaism who only accepted the first five books or Pentateuch collectively known as the Torah (the Laws) as the only inspired books by God. For them, all revelations from God stopped with Moses; hence, their rejection of resurrection and of anything of spirits.

In this scene, we find Jesus just chillin’ with the Sadducees; he was not even debating with them because he was not bothered at all with their analogy about marriage and afterlife. See how Jesus was not even trying to prove anything but simply asking, inviting them including us today to focus on him as the one revealed by the Scriptures and the Laws whom Moses called as “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob” because “Amen, Amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM” (Jn.8:58).

Right there in the heart of Jerusalem at the temple area, Jesus was already revealing to everyone his being the Christ, that if all were not “alive for him, with him, through him and in him” – that is, if he were not resurrected – then he would not only be a God of the dead but a dead God! Then everything would be a mockery, a fake as St. Paul would always say in his letters. And if that were the case, then, we forget all about morality and virtues and we just keep on pursuing money and wealth, fame and glory, food and pleasures for nothing will come after this life.

But, deep inside us we know that is not true at all.

Deep inside us springs an eternal hope of something and someone more lasting than this life, God. It is what we experience so often in life especially when we are going through severe tests and trials like getting sick or losing a loved one. Many times, we feel this too when we are going through emptiness, when we feel after having everything, there is that great “something” that we are missing like Bono and U2 singing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

And that is God. Jesus Christ. Eternal life.

The only real deal in this world, in this life. It is a grace embedded in each of us by God that enables us to face and choose death eventually like the seven brothers in the first reading: When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him” (2 Mc.9:14).

This is what we confess and proclaim every Sunday and in every Mass we celebrate, the mystery of our faith. It is something so difficult to explain or express because it is too deep for words.

Last September my youngest sister Bing was diagnosed with cancer. It was only then when I realized the gravity and seriousness of the big “C”. It was like hearing the cocking of a gun which I have experienced covering the December coup of 1989: everything stops in eery silence, awaiting sure death.

When she told me about it one night while studying, I just felt nothing, could not even think well, doubting if I really knew how to pray. I just imagined myself like a “worm” curling before God in prayers, not saying much, just making him know what was deeply in my heart.

Bing underwent surgery last month to remove her cancer and three weeks ago came the results of her lab tests: it is cancer stage 2 that did not require chemotherapy nor radiation except close monitoring. Of course, we all rejoiced for the good news which we also knew could be temporary as we are still awaiting the results of another test to gauge her cancer’s severity.

Maybe because I was also scared that I did not talk to her much as I also wanted her to have more time and space for herself. And God. It was only two days after she had texted me her diagnosis of stage 2 cancer when I asked her how was she, really? That’s when I felt God so close to me when she replied, “Kuya, I am thankful to God; I did not ask him for anything except the grace to accept my sickness. So glad it was detected very early.” Hallelujah!

Faith in the resurrection is not just belief in the afterlife like reincarnation of which many Christians follow as real and true. Ancient peoples believed in the afterlife but not necessarily with resurrection that is why they always have to contend with the issues of the relationships among the living and those who have died. From there came their ideas of karma as well as those offerings being made to the dead to beg their favors or appease them to ward off their destructive powers.

Faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith in his Resurrection is a revelation we experience deep inside us in the most personal manner that does not require us with so much thinking and reflections just to convince unbelievers. It comes from an encounter with the living God our Father in Jesus Christ “who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace” (2Thess.2:16). Like my sister Bing simply telling me her prayers, of how thankful she is for the results of her surgery.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beautifully wrote in 2007 in Spe Salvi #27 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 him 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).”

People who truly believe in the resurrection in Christ are men and women who live for God here and now, people who witness Christ on the Cross in daily living of loving service and kindness to everyone, living in the presence of God striving to do his Holy Will even if it may be difficult and painful sometimes because our true home is in heaven with him. That is the grace of this Sunday assuring us of our own resurrection in the end, of our union with God in eternity that begins NOW, right HERE in this life. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo credits:
Topmost photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Portugal, October 2022;
Second (Ascension Chapel of Jesus) and third (wall of Jerusalem) by the author, May 2019;
Fourth by Ms. Meg Lalog-Bringas, 03 November 2022.

Hope in heaven is hope for others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 02 November 2022
Wisdom 3:1-9 ><}}}}*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-9 ><}}}}*> John 6:37-40
Praise and thanksgiving
to you our loving God and Father
for the grace of life
for the grace of death
for the grace of judgment:
in the end, your love prevails.
Our hope lies in your judgement,
O God and Father because it is
both justice and grace:
justice because you render fairly
to everyone what is due including 
everything we have done but
it is also grace because you know
our weaknesses, our sinfulness:
"The souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish,
to be dead; and their passing away was thought
an affliction and their going forth from us,
utter destruction.  But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet it is their hope of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them and found them
worthy of himself" (Wisdom 3:1-5).
Thank you, dear Father in sending us your Son
Jesus Christ who had closely linked
your justice and grace in his Passion,
Death and Resurrection we now share
in the hope of being with you in heaven;
as we remember today our faithful departed,
including those who have been forgotten,
we not only hope for ourselves but also
hope for others because we have realized
all the more these November 1 and 2
that no man is an island:  
we are all linked together in Jesus, 
no one lives alone
no one sins alone
no one is saved alone!
On this All Souls' Day
we express to you not only 
our own hope for salvation
but also our hope for other's salvation:
remember those who have died ahead of us,
purify them in the love of Christ
who assured us that "I came down from heaven 
not to do my own will but the will 
of the one who sent me.  And this is 
the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything
of what he gave me, but that I should 
raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son
and believes in him may have
eternal life, and I shall raise him
on the last day" (John 6:38-40). 
O most holy Virgin Mary,
our Mother who is the "Star of the Sea"
in this journey of life,
lead us safely to Jesus in eternity
especially at the hour of our death.
Amen.
Photo credits:  Top photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Portugal, October 2022.
Last photo by author, 2019. 

To come in peace and goodwill despite the chaos and darkness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, 105th Anniversary of the Last Marian Apparition at Fatima, 13 October 2022
Ephesians 1:1-10 ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> Luke 11:47-54
From cbcpnews.net, 13 May 2022, at the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.
God our loving Father,
thank you in sending us
your Son Jesus Christ
who in turn gave his own
Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary
as he died on the Cross
to be our Mother too!
How wonderful
that in her last apparition
at Fatima in Portugal
105 years ago today,
she came bringing peace
and good will like when
Jesus was born more than
2000 years ago; it was the 
same message that St. Paul
brought to us through the
Ephesians as he described
Your magnificent plan
for us in Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…

Ephesians 1:2-5
Forgive us, merciful Father
in the name of Jesus Christ 
Your Son, in refusing to accept
this beautiful offer you have 
given us expressed clearly 
105 years ago today in Fatima,
Portugal by the Blessed Virgin Mary
who introduced herself as 
"the Lady of the Rosary";
despite the miraculous dancing 
of the sun, many still refuse to
believe and heed her call 
to return to You in Jesus Christ
through conversion,
of turning away from sins
and following the path of holiness,
of being filled with You.
Give us the grace that
like Mary in Fatima,
may we show others 
an alternative vision of
the world wherein 
all things are restored in
Jesus Christ by bringing
the light of your truth
against the world's 
darkness of lies and fake news;
like Mary at Fatima
may we lead people back to
you through the Sacraments 
especially the Holy Eucharist and Confession
instead of worshipping 
and adoring the modern gods
of gold and glamor the world 
offers so easily but treacherously.

Purify our devotion to Mary that
is rooted and focused on Christ
so we may instill hope and joy 
to so many people today 
in despair amid the harsh
realities of this life due to
the ongoing pandemic
with the persistent problems
of war and violence, 
poverty and inequalities, 
and lack of respect for life
and dignity of every person
regardless of color, belief,
and gender.
Be patient with us,
God our Father;
with Mary whom you
have sent to us in Fatima,
may we find our way
back to you in Jesus Christ
along with the conversion of
sinners and unbelievers
including our brothers and
sisters who profess to believe
in you but promote a culture
of death, leading a life
of evil and sin contrary to
your vision of living
in communion with you
in Christ.
Amen.
Our Lady of Fatima,
Pray for us!
Photo from pinterest.com.

The power & wisdom of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Twenty-first Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 26 August 2022
1 Corinthians 1:17-25   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 25:1-13
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2015.
Praise and glory to you,
God our Father for this weekend;
we have passed a week of many discomforts
from the opening of classes,
followed by a strong typhoon,
a weak market and economy
marred by all kinds of shortages
but, here we are, Lord, still alive,
still well amid all the sufferings
and trials because of your gift of
FAITH.
Thank you, dear God, for this
wondrous gift of FAITH brought
to us, sustained in us, made beloved
in us by your Son Jesus Christ 
in his Cross.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but for those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 
1 Corinthian 1:22-25
Many times, we take our faith
for granted without realizing it is
one of your most important gifts
to us; it is in faith where everything
in this life begins:  we cannot hope,
we cannot love if we do not believe!
And this faith as gift has come to us,
continues to be poured upon us
by its most beautiful sign, the CROSS.
Teach us to be wiser, dear Jesus,
like those virgins in your parable,
to embrace and love your CROSS;
it is not all suffering and pain but
gain and addition in life of more
wisdom and more power so that we
can be more loving and merciful,
kind and forgiving, generous and caring
in your most Holy Name.
Amen.

The good hands of God, our gift of sight: a prayer for ophthalmologists and their patients

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 July 2022
Photo by author, 2018.

Dear friends: Since Monday I have felt in my prayers God leading me to reflect on his “gracious hands” taking care of us, handling us with care like St. James the Greater in Monday and the prophet Jeremiah beautifully expressing today God with a potter’s hand molding us into great “earthen vessels” of his majesty and mystery according to St. Paul (https://lordmychef.com/2022/07/28/we-are-in-gods-good-hands-always/).

Early today I went to visit a patient with “high myopia” who underwent a surgery for a “clear lens extraction” of her right eye. From what I have gathered, she never finished school and could not find a job because she could not read nor even walk straight as she would hit objects and people despite her glasses of 1000 grade!

After celebrating Mass this morning, I rushed to the Fatima University Medical Center in Valenzuela to visit her after her operation. Though I totally do not know her as she was only referred to me, I immediately felt her deep joy within as she told her doctor how she could see everything so clearly right after surgery! You could sense her ecstasy within as she described the immense light she could finally see with her right eye. She was with her younger sister and I felt both young ladies controlling their joys from bursting to avoid making a scene outside the OR.

And so, to complete their joys, I led a simple prayer session right there outside the OR and this is what the Lord put on my lips:

Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father for the
gift of life, for the gift of sight!

Lord Jesus Christ, you have 
healed so many blind people
recorded in the gospels like
Bartimaeus; we pray for Eden 
and others with eye problems;
restore their sight not only to see 
the beauty of the world but most
especially to see your kindness and
majesty among people!

Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ
for the gift of doctors,
of ophthalmologists whose 
hands you use to touch and 
heal the blind and those 
with ailments in their eyes;
bless them always,
keep them safe and their
loved ones as you
fulfill their dreams.
Amen.
Healing of Batimaeus, from Pinterest.com.

I have said in my previous blogs these past three weeks how I have noticed many among us going through a lot of storms in life these days, of getting sick and diagnosed especially with the big “C” with some in advanced stages; others having family problems; and most especially, coping with death in the family.

Amid all their cries of pains and hurts, feelings of rejection and being left out, even forgotten by God, I remember the French poet Charles Peguy who said that hope is God’s most favorite virtue because it “surprises him.”

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, September 2019.

Hope indeed is very surprising not only to God but even to us.

To hope is like remaining seated at the movies after the show, still waiting for a loud roar or a teaser for the sequel. Even if you know it is the end of the show, the end of the line, you still believe and hope something beautiful would come because you are so sure that the one we hope in – God – is Life itself. Life just goes on and eventually, if not here, in the afterlife, there we shall have the fullness of life.

For the moment, let us be still and be calm, remaining in God, like a clay in the potter’s hand as he molds us into someone better.

It is said that sometimes, the hands of God would pat us on our shoulders or caress our backs but, sometimes would “beat” us too that cause many pains.

Just remember, whether we are caressed or beaten in life, these are all from the gracious hands of God that make us see later the beauty of all those darkness and sufferings we go through. Amen.

Have a blessed day filled with hopes in God!

When the well runs dry

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, 07 June 2022
1 Kings 17:7-16   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author at St. Catherine Monastery, Mt. Sinai, Egypt, May 2019.
As we resume the Ordinary Time
in our Church calendar, your words
today, O God, speak so much of our
similar situation in life:  another round of
increases in petroleum prices is not 
only making life insane for car owners
but so difficult most especially for
the poor!  Is there really a way, O Lord,
you can make their oil wells run dry 
suddenly to make them realize their 
insensitivities to other peoples?
Many of us could not complain at all
because life has always been hard and
difficult ever since; to complain and whine
of the economic crunch hurting us are useless
and a waste of energies; all we have is you,
God our Father!
We only have you as our hope and
salvation and consolation in hard times
like these like your prophet Elijah.

The brook near where Elijah was hiding ran dry, because no rain has fallen in the land. So the Lord said to Elijah: “Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have designated a widow there to provide for you.”

1 Kings 17:7-9
When things get worst
and seem to turn against us,
make us realize always that you are
simply asking us to trust you more
because a new chapter in our faith journey
in you and with you is about to unfold.
Never let us entertain thoughts you
have forgotten us or worst, had withdrawn
support from us.  That never happens with you,
Father, because you love us so much!
Give us the grace through your Son
Jesus that we keep our taste as salt,
giving flavor and meaning in you
even in our most bland situation in life;
keep our light shining in Christ
amid the many darkness and gloom
of our time to give others even a glimmer
of hope and meaning in life.  Amen.

Praying for Ukraine

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week VIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 28 February 2022
1 Peter 1:3-9   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 10:17-27
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com
Your words today, O Lord,
remind me so much of our 
brothers and sisters in Ukraine
now suffering too much a week 
after Russian forces invaded them;
they are exactly like the early 
Christians being persecuted 
during the time of St. Peter:

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:6-9
So many times, Lord, the faith of
your people in Ukraine had been tested
in so many instances but this war now 
going on is something not only too difficult
to wage but to grasp even for us from a far
and distant land from them.
Though we do not see each other,
we feel their pains and hurts, their worries
and anxieties, most especially their fears
and uncertainties; I pray, dear God, for more
strength and courage, more unity among 
the people of Ukraine; most of all, 
I pray for deeper hope among them,
that even if things get worst, they too
may rise from the dead like your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord and true hope.
At the same time, dear Jesus,
I pray most fervently for Russian
President Putin - a very rich man 
like the one in today's gospel
who clings so much to wealth and 
power; it is so sad and deplorable
that a man like him in this age would
do the unthinkable and shameful act
of waging a war against a smaller and
peaceful nation that is their neighbor!
Awake the Russians, O Lord, 
from their drunkenness to power
and wealth; awake the Russians, O Lord,
to realize not only the follies of wars
but most especially the precious
value of every human life.  Amen.

Surprise us with hope, Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 October 2021
Romans 8:18-25   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 13:18-21
From Pinterest.com.
Today we share in St. Paul's
outburst of joy in you, O God
our loving Father when he claimed
"the sufferings of this present time 
are as nothing compared with 
the glory to be revealed for us"
(Rom. 8:18).  Like Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI, we are absorbed
in the reflection of St. Paul about hope:  

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that see for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

Romans 8:24-25
So true, indeed, loving Father:
we hope because while we do not see,
we still believe and we have faith
 in you through Jesus Christ
your Son and our Lord;
teach us to grow deeper in our
hope in you not just as a feeling
or a desire nor a wait-and-see
attitude but more as a conviction
in Christ that when worst comes to worst,
we hold on to you because only
you will remain even in the end,
loving us, believing in us,
transforming us.
Let us persevere in Christ with
our commitments no matter how hard
and even painful specially in this time
of pandemic and in moments of severe
trials and tribulations when people fail us;
like the mustard seed that grows into
a leafy plant providing branches for birds
and yeast that leavens a dough,
let us be surprised with your grace
of hope, Lord, by enabling us to see
light even in darkness,
life even in sickness and death
because to truly hope is to
trust and believe in you alone,
O God, who is our very life.
Amen.

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.