Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2021
Detail of Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

That beautiful painting by Caravaggio, “The Calling of St. Matthew” completed in 1600 for the French congregation of San Luigi Francesi in Rome is said to be the favorite of Pope Francis among the many other masterpieces found in the eternal city.

It was through the Holy Father that I have started to fall in love with Caravaggio’s works, promising myself to see them if given another chance to return to Rome. His paintings like the meeting of Thomas Didymus with the Risen Lord and his breaking of bread at Emmaus evoke body movements and inner motions among the characters that lead us to continue the beautiful story of his subject.

And that is what I wish to share with you on this Feast of St. Matthew, a reflection on his sitting, arising and standing to follow Jesus who had called him while at work as a tax collector.

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

Matthew 9:9
From shutterstock.com.

Sitting. Many centuries from now, anthropologists and other experts will be studying our generation on how humans have evolved – or retrogressed – with our spending too much time sitting. Doctors warn of the many health risks that result in prolonged sitting like obesity and heart disease. They have recently sounded the alarm anew following a surge in zoom meetings and webinars as well as the new set ups of classes on-line and work from home that entail sitting for long hours.

When the term “couch potato” was coined in the 1980’s, potato growers in the US complained against the association of their beloved crop with those people glued on their seats watching TV, doing nothing at all.

Sitting is an important human movement especially in studying and learning lessons through reading and writing, meeting and discussions. Meals become more satisfying and fulfilling when taken while seated in a leisurely manner whether at the table or even on the ground like picnics in the park or forest. In fact, it is when we are seated at the table for meals we are most peaceful and neutral – nobody eats with weapons laid on the table or while holding a gun or clenching a fist which is the reason why we are not supposed to rest our elbows on the table!

Imagine St. Matthew when he was called by Jesus, while sitting at the customs post: here we find sitting at its worst imagery of being stuck on our seats of comfort and complacency, sins and other vices. Worst is see how in our modern time we have given so much premium on where we sit to insist on our ego trips and sense of territory as well as claims to fame and prominence not realizing that what really matters in life is not where we sit but where we stand (https://lordmychef.com/2019/02/22/it-is-where-we-stand-that-matters-most-not-where-we-sit/).

From en.wikipedia.org.

Following Jesus

Going back to Caravaggio’s painting, we notice everybody seated at the table with St. Matthew dressed in the artist’s period of the 1600’s to show that Jesus continues to come in our own particular time in history.

Most of all, the gospel tells us that St. Matthew was seated at his customs post when called by Jesus but Caravaggio’s painting portrays them to be inside a tavern to tell us that we are also St. Matthew whom Jesus visits and calls daily while we are busy or drunk sitting at our comfort zones, in our vices and sins, in our complacency and mediocrity.

And like St. Matthew, we, too, are invited to rise and follow Jesus right away!


Don't you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, 
asking you, "will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are"?
See yourself the way Jesus sees you - forgiven and beloved,
precious and loved.  No need for us to look good before Jesus.
Just rise and stand with him!

Standing. Following Jesus demands that we must first rise from our seats to make a stand for Jesus and his teachings of love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, service and self-sacrifice. Notice how St. Matthew, the fat man at the middle with a black hat like a beret pointing to the man bowed down to the table.

See and feel the hesitancy of St. Matthew – like us – always wondering, asking God, “is it I, Lord?” So many times we cannot believe Jesus really looking for us, wanting us, calling us, believing in us!

And in all that beautiful interplay of light and darkness by Caravaggio in his painting, we feel the eyes of Jesus looking at our beloved apostle as if telling him, “yes, you, Matthew; Follow me”.

Cast all your doubts if Jesus were really calling you, believing in you, trusting you – he does! Jesus always comes to each of us in the most personal manner like with all his apostles, telling us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (Jn.15:16).

Don’t you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, asking you, “will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are”? See yourself the way Jesus sees you – forgiven and beloved, precious and loved. No need for us to look good before Jesus. Just rise and stand with him!


Photo from Facebook of nuns delivering relief goods to people in far-flung areas during the pandemic last year.

Walking. It is not enough for us to remain standing. Making a stand for Jesus means to follow him in his path of justice and love, mercy and forgiveness, being small and the least serving the weak and the poorest of the poor.

To walk in Christ is to be like Christ because Jesus himself is “the way the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6).

Walking in Christ is following the “road less travelled” that leads to the Cross of self-offering and sacrifice, of love and acceptance.

Notice in Caravaggio’s painting how he portrayed Jesus in his own traditional clothes along with Simon Peter – and they are both barefooted!

There seems to be a slight commotion wherein Simon is like warning the man with a sword close to him to be still, to not make any move for they are walking away soon once St. Matthew rises and stands from his seat. Look at the feet of Jesus and Simon; they are all set to walk, as if telling St. Matthew, “come on, let us go!”

But where to?

While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:10-13

We all first walk home with Jesus, right into our hearts to reconcile again with him and be healed of many hurts and aches in the past. Then, we walk with Jesus to our fellow sinners so that they too may experience Christ’s love and forgiveness.

Following Jesus, walking on his path of the cross means going to those forgotten by us and the society, walking to meet those who are not like us – in beliefs and way of thinking, in clothing and appearances, in disposition and backgrounds.

It can be a lonely walk filled with pains and sufferings, and yes, disappointments like the two disciples who walked back to Emmaus on Easter without realizing Jesus was the stranger who had joined them along the way. That is the beauty of walking with Jesus, in Jesus, and to Jesus: you never see him nor recognize him right away but he is always with us, walking with us by our side even if we are going the opposite direction in life!

Walking the way of Jesus is tough and rough. It is not easy but it is the only way we must follow. That is why we need to rest in Jesus, with Jesus who asks us to be seated again as he washes our feet to comfort and console us, and prepare us for longer walks in the journey.


Photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7News, Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman, 2019.

Kneeling. Of all the body movements modern man has forgotten is kneeling. Again, look at Caravaggio’s painting, take a peek below the table and notice the robust knees of St. Matthew, look at the soft throw of light on his right leg and the softer tone on his left.

Caravaggio must be telling us something about the healthy lower body of St. Matthew despite his sitting position. See Caravaggio’s genius in throwing that soft light on St. Matthew’s legs and knees that were made strong not only by long hours of standing and walking with Jesus but with longer time of kneeling and praying after the Lord’s Ascension.

Kneeling is one very important gesture and body movement we must regain to truly follow Jesus and regain order in ourselves and in our nation. It is the best praying position for it signifies surrender and humility before God. In fact, for the Hebrews, the knee is the symbol of strength that to bend one’s knees – to kneel – means to submit one’s self to God the all-powerful.

How sad when people refuse to kneel because their knees or expensive pants and clothes might get dirty. Worst of all is when we have refused to kneel and bend our knees because we feel so strong and able to accomplish a lot that we would rather be pursuing our own interests than following Jesus.

Photo by author, 07 September 2021.

Like Caravaggio’s painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew”, our lives and nation are into a great darkness due to the pandemic and the worsening decadence in every aspect of our society.

It is not a time to be a fence-sitter or a bystander; Jesus calls us to arise and make a stand against the pervading evils, asking us whom are we really following in this journey in history and life.

Amid the gloom are streaks of light bringing hope and reason, truth and goodness, inviting us to learn from the call of St. Matthew to…

Sit and learn more of Jesus
Rise and stand with Jesus
Walk and follow Jesus 
Kneeling always at the foot of his cross 
to truly follow him our Lord and Master.
Amen.

Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims 
the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Becoming a lamp of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, 28 January 2021
Thursday, Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Doctor of the Church
Hebrews 10:19-25     >><)))*>   +++   <*(((><<     Mark 4:21-25
Photo by author at Petras, Jordan, May 2019.

Our loving God and Father in heaven, thank you very much in sending us your Son Jesus Christ as our Eternal Priest who has enabled us all to approach you “with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water” (Heb. 10:22).

In becoming our Eternal Priest with his great sacrifice on the Cross made present day in, day out in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, you have filled us with more of your love, O Father to become also your gift, your light, your blessing to others through Jesus Christ.

Like your “Angelic Doctor”, St. Thomas Aquinas whose feast we celebrate today.

Here is a great saint of your Church who truly listened to Jesus Christ, heeding his admonition,

“Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light. Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear.”

Mark 4:21-23

Teach us to be truly humble before you, Father by becoming who we really are, a lamp of your Son Jesus Christ like St. Thomas Aquinas.

Let us be a lamp who would not hide but let Christ’s light of love and kindness, mercy and compassion shine on those suffering in pain especially the poor and needy.

Let us be a lamp who would not hide but let Christ’s light of wisdom and knowledge, moral certitude and courage shine on those in darkness and cowardice.

Let us be a lamp like St. Thomas Aquinas making you present O God, the real Truth – Veritas – of this life in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Welcoming Jesus who knocks at our door

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 November 2020
Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 19:1-10
Photo by author, May 2019 Holy Land Pilgrimage.

Your words today, O Lord, are so comforting — after some reprimanding for our sins and misgivings!

And that is how you display your love and mercy and forgiveness that sometimes we fail to see and even recognize.

Despite our being “alive but dead” like the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1) when we backslide to our old ways of sinfulness as well as our being “neither cold nor hot” like those in Laodicea when we refuse to make a stand for what is true and just, you still come to us, seeking us, trying to bring us back to your fold.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.

Revelation 3:20

Keep us humble, Lord Jesus, like Zacchaeus who openly admitted his “being short in stature” (Lk.19:3-4) that he had to climb a sycamore tree to see you passing by. And when you finally met him and told him of your coming into his home, he welcomed you right into his heart by being sorry for his sins, promising to repay or recompense those he had extorted money from.

A sycamore tree at the world’s oldest city of Jericho in Israel, 2019.

Like the blind man you have healed yesterday and now Zacchaeus, keep us following you Jesus on the middle of the road, leaving our comfort zones, to dirty our hands and garments in doing your works among the poor and needy specially in this time of calamity.

Open our ears to listen to your voice, to be on guard waiting for your coming, to your knocking at our door to welcome you back into our lives.

May we grab every opportunity to welcome you into our lives, Lord Jesus, by turning away from sins and heeding your voice of love and compassion among the poor and suffering. Amen.

Imitating the attitude of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious, 03 November 2020
Philippians 2:5-11  +++ ||| +++   Luke 14:15-24
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2018.

Brothers and sisters: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Philippians 2:5-6

God our Father, I feel too small, even ashamed before you today as I prayed on your words through St. Paul; it is not just a very tall order but the sad part is the fact that we have all known it all along since our catechism days in school or the parish but rarely put into practice.

We admit it is the fundamental rule of Christian life, to be like Jesus Christ your Son who had come to show us the way back to you is by emptying one’s self for others, to be one with others especially in their pains and sufferings, of being the last, being the servant of all, being like a child.

Unfortunately, we always find it so difficult to learn.

Partly because we lack the very attitude of Jesus Christ we must first imitate according to St. Paul.

And that is the attitude of being small, being the least.

Exactly like St. Martin de Porres:

From Pinterest.com

Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be better and more righteous that he was. He did not blame others for their shortcomings. Certain that he deserved more severe punishment for his sins than others did, he would overlook their worst offenses. He was tireless in his efforts to reform the criminal, and he would sit up with the sick to bring them comfort. for the poor he would provide food, clothing and medicine.

Homily by St. Pope John XXIII at the Canonization of Saint Martin de Porres in 1962

So often, our attitude is like with those invited by the king to his great dinner: feeling great, feeling so important with themselves that they find no need to be with others that they all turned down the invitation.

Sometimes our arrogance and high regard for ourselves miserably fail us in being like Jesus; hence, we continue to be divided into factions because no one would give way for others that lead to peace and harmony.

Teach us Lord to change that attitude of greatness in us with an attitude of smallness, of leaving a space for others in our lives so we can all work together as one community of believers in you like St. Martin de Porres and all the other saints. Amen.

When feeling helpless

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 31 October 2020
Philippians 1:18-26     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 14:1, 7-11
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

It is the end of another month, of another week as we brace ourselves for a super typhoon directly hitting our region. And yes, God our loving Father, we are scared, we are worried, we feel helpless most specially for our little brothers and sisters, those who have always been suffering in life like the poor, the elderly, the sick, the marginalized.

But if there is one thing we have learned from COVID-19 these past eight months is to wholly entrust everything to you, O God, to completely surrender and rely on you alone.

Let us grow deeper in faith, more fervent in hope and be unceasing in our charity and love for others so that the Gospel of Jesus your Son may always be proclaimed.

Help us imitate St. Paul, though imprisoned and almost certain of facing death, no trace of helplessness is found in him; on the contrary, he was so full of power coming from his deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.

Philippians 1:20-21

Enable us in the power of the Holy Spirit to humbly submit ourselves to you, dear God, confident that you always have a specific place and seat, a role to play for us — if we can learn to first stand up for you like in today’s parable by Jesus.

May the coming typhoon be an opportunity for us to let our faith be expressed in words and in deeds. Amen.

Praying for humility and gratitude

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 21 October 2020
Ephesians 3:2-12     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 12:39-48     
Photo by author, Baguio City, 2018.

God our loving Father in heaven, teach us to accept that you love us, that you trust us, and that you believe in us so that we can finally be grateful and humble before you.

Yes, dear God – one reason we find it so hard to be grateful and humble before you is because we have hardly accepted nor appreciated your love and trust in us. Teach us to see ourselves as you see us, like St. Paul despite our sinfulness.

To me the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things.

Ephesians 3:8-9

What a wonderful attitude by St. Paul, expressing such gratitude to you God in calling him and entrusting him the “stewardship of your grace” (Eph.3:2) for others to experience you and your love!

Remind us, dear God, that everything we have is not simply a grace and blessing from you but a sign of your trust in us – whether as a husband or wife, mother or father, brother or sister, or, whatever profession and vocation we follow – they all mean you believe us, that we are responsible enough and most of all, we can all accomplish our mission in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

May we heed your Son’s warning in today’s parable that

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Luke 12:48

And to do so, let us humbly and gratefully accept your gifts always. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Quezon, 2020.

“Coming Around Again” (1986) by Carly Simon

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 27 September 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary in Infanta, Quezon, March 2020.

It’s Ms. Carly Simon again in the house four weeks after featuring her 1972 classic “You’re So Vain” in August. This time we pick her 1986 hit single “Coming Around Again” she had written for the movie Heartburn starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.

Coming Around Again is an aptly titled work by Ms. Simon that kickstarted the resurgence of her career at that time with the song peaking at number 18 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 5 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, not to mention the warm reception it had received from around the world.

We find this song suited well with our Sunday gospel on the parable by Jesus of a father who asked his two sons to work in his vineyard; the elder one refused but later changed mind and went to the vineyard while the younger son said yes without really going there. Jesus used the parable to drive his message that we shall all be judged by our actions, not by our words.

Most of all, Jesus narrated the parable to warn those who highly regard themselves as good and upright, looking down on others like sinners as less important. The Lord is asking us today to soften our hearts especially to those difficult to love, that we must constantly examine ourselves lest we fall into the trap that despite our being “clean” and upright, we could end up more evil than those we find as sinful (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/26/soften-our-hearts-lord/).

Anyone who truly loves is always humble, willing to empty one’s self and go down for the sake of a loved one that is exactly opposite to the way of the world which is to be always on top as the most popular, the most powerful, the wealthiest.

I know nothing stays the same
But if you’re willing to play the game
It’s coming around again
So don’t mind if I fall apart
There’s more room in a broken heart
And I believe in love
But what else can I do
I’m so in love with you

To better appreciate this song is of course see Heartburn which is the semi-biographical account of its writer, the late Nora Ephron’s marriage to Watergate scandal investigative reporter Carl Bernstein.

Like Bernstein, Ephron was also a writer and a journalist before eventually becoming a filmmaker after Heartburn. She was nominated thrice for an Academy Award for Best Writing in three other films she wrote, Silkwood (1983), When Harry Met Sally (1989) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993).

Another lovely film to her credit is You’ve Got Mail that also starred Tom Hanks. Her last film was Julie & Julia (2009).

Looking back to the story of Heartburn and its soundtrack Coming Around Again, one finds in this woman’s path of self-emptying as perhaps the key to her success as a movie scriptwriter and a playwright.

A blessed Sunday to you!

Provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment.

Being servants and stewards of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 04 September 2020
1 Corintians 4:1-5 /// Luke 5:1-11
Photo by author, Lent in our parish 2020.

Dearest Jesus Christ:

Your words today through St. Paul are very edifying but also demanding, even scary and frightening.

But, I would rather have it that way than get them into my head.

Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Yes, it is an honor to be chosen as your servant, Lord, and a steward of the mysteries of God.

It is so pleasant to the ears and so flattering to one’s self to be a steward of the mysteries of God, of his wisdom – of Jesus Christ crucified.

Keep me lowly and humble, Lord. Remind me always that everything is about you and never about me. Keep me faithful to you and your call that whatever others may say about me, let me be concerned solely with your words and with your judgment. At the same time, keep me silent too, never to brag of my mission and most of all, never to judge others for that resides in God alone.

Keep my mind and my heart open to you always, Lord, so I may always be like a fresh wineskin to be poured on with new wine to mature and grow spiritually in you. Amen.

Our foolish pride

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, 03 September 2020
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> Luke 5:1-11
One of the best ads during the lockdown last summer from Smart.

What a wonderful lesson we have today from St. Paul about your wisdom, O God our Father that is found in the scandal of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ!

Brothers and sisters: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this stage, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

This we have realized at the start of this pandemic when everything in the world stopped and forever changed because of microscopic COVID-19 virus, affecting even the most advanced countries of the world.

Most of all, everybody – rich and poor alike – suffered greatly from this virus, teaching us to value persons more when people we took for granted for so long have become our “saviors” during this prolonged quarantine periods like vendors and delivery personnel, our househelpers, and others we used to look down upon who continued to serve us with food and other needs.

Not to be forgotten too are the members of neglected sectors of our society, specially those in the medical and healthcare system and the agriculture who showed us the importance of human and natural resources over imports and technology as well as entertainment.

What a great lesson about wisdom of God and foolishness of man in this modern time!

One thing very clear, O Lord, that to be a fool for you is first of all to let go of our foolish pride and be humble before you and others.

It is the only way we can let you do your work of changing us and the world when we learn to let go of our foolish pride like St. Peter in today’s gospel when he as an experienced fisherman heeded your command to cast his nets into the deep even though you are the carpenter’s son.

When we review the lives of all saints, they are all men and women of exceptional humility before you, Lord; like St. Gregory the Great who focused more on you that he was able to reform our liturgy, set up schools and monasteries, sent missionaries to England, and instill holiness among the clergy in his “Pastoral Instructions.”

Help us to believe more in you than in ourselves so that you may do your work in us and through us. May we value your Cross, Lord Jesus, considered as foolish in this sophisticated age yet has continued to prove that it is the only path to our transformation as persons and nations. Amen.

Photo by author, XVth Station of the Cross, the Resurrection, Mount St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.