Hope. And be surprised!

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 24 September 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.

A prayer to be not afraid like St. Joseph

40 Shades of Lent, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, 19 March 2020

2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 +++ Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 +++ Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24

Photo from zenit.org, “Let Mom Rest” figurine

Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God our loving Father in giving us your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior. In sending him to us, you have asked St. Joseph to be not afraid to be the husband of the Blessed Mother of Jesus, Mary Most Holy.

…the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Matthew 1:20-21, 24

We pray today on this Solemnity of St. Joseph that we may also not be afraid in fighting this pandemic COVID-19.

Let us be not afraid to stay home to be with our family again, together and longer.

Photo by author, Chapel of St. Joseph, Nazareth, Israel, May 2017.

Let us be not afraid to talk and converse really as husband and wife, parents and children, brothers and sisters. Help us to be more open and more silent like St. Joseph to hear our family members’ innermost thoughts and feelings again with love and understanding.

Let us be not afraid, O Lord, to seek and work for real peace in our family now disintegrating as we disregard each other, choosing fame and wealth than persons.

Let us be not afraid to reach out also to those living alone like the sick, the elderly, the separated, those abandoned by family and friends or society, those widowed.

Let us be not afraid to share food and money to the needy, time and talent, joy and hope to those living in the margins.

Let us be not afraid to ask for forgiveness, to say again those beautiful words “I am sorry” to those we have hurt in words and in deeds; likewise, let us be not afraid to say also those comforting words “I forgive you” to those who have hurt us in words and in deeds.

Let us not be afraid to show respect anew to our elders. Forgive us, O God, in making disrespect a way of life in our time, in our society, in our government and right in our homes and family as we disregard the dignity of one another.

Let us not be afraid to pray again, to kneel before you, and humbly come to you as repentant sinners, merciful Father.

Let us be not afraid to bring Jesus your Son into this world with your love and kindness, sympathy and empathy so we may be healed of so many brokenness and pains deep within.

Let us not be afraid to be humans again and realize we are not gods, that we cannot control everyone and everything in this world.

Let us be not afraid to be open to you and to others, especially the weak and needy because the truth is, we need you O God and one another.

Please, like St. Joseph, let us not be afraid to wake up to the realities of this life to follow you always in your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

O blessed St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, pray for us!

Photo by author, site of St. Joseph’s shop in Nazareth beneath a chapel in his honor, May 2017.

Jesus our life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Friday after Epiphany, 10 January 2020

1 John 5:5-13 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 5:12-16

Flowers at our Altar, Epiphany Sunday 2020. Photo by author.

Dearest Jesus Christ:

Today we pray for those losing hope in life, for those about to give up living because they are saddled with so many problems and sufferings.

And most especially with sins and guilt feelings as carryover of the troublesome 2019.

We pray for those who cannot move on with their lives due to so many heartaches and losses and wrongs last year that they see themselves so dirty like the leper in the gospel today, refusing to aspire to become better, refusing to dream again of good things in you.

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.”

Luke 5:12

“Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean…

Forgive us Lord when sometimes we seem so hopeless.

“Kung ibig ninyo… kung ano po ang gusto ninyo… bahala na po kayo.”

Flowers at our Altar, Epiphany 2020. Photo by author.

Help us remember St. John’s reminder in the first reading that you, O sweet Jesus, is our life because you are the only one to whom “there are three who testify, the Spirit, the water, and the Blood” (1 Jn. 5:7-8) that refer respectively to your divine nature, human nature, and death on the cross.

You are the only one, Lord Jesus, who has overcome death because you are indeed Life itself!

Thank you very much for always willing the best for us and may we reclaim your wonderful gift of life to us daily. Amen.

Best gifts of Christmas

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 27 December 2019

Dome of the chapel at Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem where the angels appeared to some shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago.

By this time, many of you must have opened the gifts you have received this Christmas. Some are happy, some are not – even disappointed – while there are others who simply do not care at all with the gifts they have received.

But gifts are not everything. What really matters most are the persons and the love and thoughts that come with every gift we have received this blessed season.

Below are some spiritual gifts I feel we need to be thankful too!

The “little door” that leads into the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem that has come to mean the need to bow low and be humble in order to meet Jesus Christ not only inside but also in our daily life. Photo by author, May 2019.
  1. The gift of hope. Hope is not thinking positively that things can get better like the weather. Hope is having a firm belief that even if things get worst, there is God who always loves us, who takes care of us. People with hope always look forward in the future whether here or in eternal life. They are also the most loving people around, the most understanding and most forgiving. They always strive, work hard to make things better for them and for others. Those without hope are the most evil: they will kill and destroy everything and everyone because they have nothing to look forward to in this life or hereafter. The kind of life we live always indicates the kind of hope we have. Or do not have.
  2. The gift of desert. Sometimes, life becomes a desert for us, when we are desolate and so barren with everything dry and even lifeless. But it is during our desert moments in life when we not only meet our true selves but most of all, that is when we meet God. It is in this meeting with God in our desert we experience healing from all our hurts and disappointments in life. We need to withdraw once in a while to our desert to silently pray in order to hear God’s voice anew in our inner selves. In our mass mediated world today when we are bombarded with wants and needs to be rich and famous, the more we end up empty and lost. But when we dare stay in our desert and try to listen in silence, the more we are attuned with life’s realities, the more we are enriched and deepened in our lives.
  3. The gift of intimacy. From our desert experiences of barrenness and desolation, of silence and prayer, and a lot of reflections and introspections come the great gift of intimacy with God and with others. We come to realize who our true friends are when our chips are down, when we are alone and badly bruised and beaten in life. How ironic that when we are so filled with material things, that is when life for us becomes superficial and shallow. But whenever we go through many desert storms, that is when we come to realize the most important in life – the persons who have touched us for better or for worse, the persons who make us experience to be loved and to love.
An oasis at the Dead Sea desert. Photo by author, May 2017.

We shall continue with our other lists of spiritual gifts this Christmas tomorrow.

How about you, what are the spiritual gifts you wish to share with us that may also help us deepen our Christmas celebrations this 2019?

We’ll be glad to hear from you also.

A blessed Christmas weekend to you.

Advent is regaining our sight and vision

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 06 December 2019

Advent 2019, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

Advent and Lent are two beautiful seasons in our Church calendar that prepare us for the great feasts of Christmas and Easter, respectively. Both have violet as motif though Advent is supposed to have a more bluish hue to distinguish it from Lent’s penitential character.

They both invite us to “look forward” into that future glory of Jesus Christ when he comes again at the end of time to establish “new heaven and new earth” where peace would finally reign, removing all sufferings and pains, wiping away all our tears to fill us with perfect joy.

On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:18-19

Advent is renewed relationships

More than the promise of a new order of things in the Second Coming of Christ, Advent invites us also to look forward into renewed relationships with God through others.

Our Advent Candle 2019.

Jesus Christ comes first in our hearts, his new manger. Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten Jesus, remembering only his birthday and its trimmings. Fanned by social media, people are going crazy as early as August with their own Christmas countdown with those memes of Jose Mari Chan poised to sing his popular “Christmas in Our hearts”, forgetting its beautiful message of opening our hearts to Jesus through one another.

How sad that more than ever, people are so excited with Christmas for the wrong reasons like gifts and money, parties and vacations but not Jesus himself.

Advent invites us to “actively wait” Christ’s coming by renewing our relationships with our family and friends in every here and now of our daily living.

As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes… and their eyes were opened.

Matthew 9:27-29, 30

Need to remove our “blindness”

Advent is a season to remove our blindness to Jesus present in us and in every person we meet. Our gospel today tells us a short story of Christ’s healing of two blind men with a twist of humor.

According to St. Matthew, the two blind men kept following Jesus after teaching a crowd, begging him to restore their sight.

How they were able to follow Jesus, your guess is as wild as mine… but, most funny is how they followed Jesus home to finally heal them!

Go figure it out. How did it happen if both men were blind, following Jesus every step of the way into his home?

But they both teach us a valuable lesson not only for this Advent but for everyday living: of the need to remove our blindness so we may see Christ coming to us day in, day out.

How sad when most of us have eyes but cannot see or even refuse to see Jesus Christ coming to us personally and among other people especially our family and friends, among the ordinary and usual people we meet everyday in our lives.

Last Tuesday amid heavy rains and winds of Supertyphoon “Tisoy”, two elderly couples in the parish requested for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.

After hearing their confessions, anointing them with Oil, and giving them the Holy Communion, I decided to stay longer when I found out they live by themselves despite having six children living in the vicinity with their many apos!

Making things worst for the couple are the two children living abroad: one in the States have totally cut ties with them without any communication in 15 years while the other living Down Under refusing to help them in their medical needs.

May the light of Christ heal us of our many blindness so we may see him among our families and friends.

The way we live and what we hope

I have been told the elderly couple I have visited were not really that “good parents” and neighbors as well. But, I explained to everyone after my visitation that is not important, nor the issue at hand.

What matters most is who would take care or look after these two elderly people, an arthritic father and a mother stricken with stroke? Must we allow ourselves to be blinded by past sins and hurts and pains that we fail to see Christ coming in the present?

Yes, this is easier said than done but, in this life, we only have two choices to make, either we become better or bitter. Make the right and better choice always!

Last Sunday I told my congregation that the way we live dictates our hope.

Photo by Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019

Those who strive in life to do what is good, to become better in whatever form are those who truly hope. And truly love because they believe in the future, they look forward to something better if not in this life, maybe after.

But those who do nothing in this life, those who feel resigned, “enjoying” their miseries in life are the ones who do not hope. And surely do not love at all for they see only death and destruction, nothing to look forward to. They do not mind hurting even killing others because they believe there is no future at all.

Indeed, as TIME Magazine’s Lance Morrow wrote in 1991, the opposite of love is not really evil but hopelessness. Very true.

As we end this first week of Advent moving closer to Christmas, let us pray for the grace of Jesus Christ to heal us of our many blindness in life so we may see him anew in us and in others too. A blessed weekend to you!

Advent is looking forward

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Friday, Advent Week-I, 06 December 2019

Isaiah 29:17-24 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 9:27-31

Advent in our parish, 2019.

Time flies so fast, O Lord, and we are almost over with the first week of Advent! How reassuring are your words today especially in the first reading of the wonderful things coming soon, in fact happening now in Jesus Christ’s coming.

Thus says the Lord God: but a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel…

Isaiah 29:17-19

I know, Lord, and yes, I can see clearly now that great things are coming for us who faithfully await your coming. There shall be joy and justice, healing and consolation for those who suffer and cry.

Keep our eyes opened, remove our blindness to see the more essential things in life especially you so we may always experience your presence, your coming. Amen.