God-is-with-us but, are we-with- God?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, & Raphael, Archangels, 29 September 2022
Revelation 12:7-12     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     John 1:47-51
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus answered and said to him (Nathanael), “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

John 1:50-51
O dearest Jesus,
my Lord and my God,
I have believed like Nathanael
but until now, 
I have not lived totally
in you and with you!
It was in your coming, Jesus,
the angels have become 
most truest when you opened 
the heavens for us, 
when you the Son of God
came to dwell among us
so that through you God comes
to us and we through you go to him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. They conquered him the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them.”

Revelation 12:10, 11-12a
Archangels Michael,
Gabriel and Raphael,
enable us,
lead us to be like you:
always listening to God's 
voice, making his words
our very lives as we come 
to him in faith and complete
surrender so that life and healing,
good news and power
from him 
may flow
to mankind 
through us.
Amen.

Finding God, following Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz & Companion Martyrs, 28 September 2022
Job 9:1-12, 14-16     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 9:57-62
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, of a Philippine Serpent Eagle at
the Sierra Madre, Quezon Province, July 2022.
Life is truly a mystery,
O God our loving Father!
Filled with so many twists
and turns, bends and
corners that lead 
and open us to 
new vistas, 
new situations,
new sceneries
that make us closer
to finding you and 
experiencing you.

Job answered his friend and said: God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed? He made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south; He does great things past finding out, marvelous things beyond reckoning. Should he come near me, I see him not; should he pass by, I am not aware of him.

Job 9:1, 4, 9-11
Like Job
and St. Lorenzo Ruiz,
many times our hearts cry
out to you unable to understand
at how and why so many bad things
are happening to us, sometimes we
feel overburdened almost giving up
but still in the end, we persevere 
because we believe in you,
we cannot go without you
for we would rather go in darkness
assured of your presence than in
light without you on our side.

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Luke 9:57-58
Grant us, dear Jesus,
the grace of true freedom to
choose you always freely,
to be free from any attachments
with the world and worldly
except you whom we follow
wholeheartedly like St. Lorenzo Ruiz
and companion martyrs..

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59-60
Grant us too, dear Jesus,
the grace to live in the present,
to be always in every here and now,
learning from the past,
forging ahead onto the future
to preach the good news of
salvation urgently,
joyfully!

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:61-62
Lastly like St. Lorenzo,
teach us dear Jesus to be firm
in our decision in following you,
to stop entertaining thoughts
of turning back from your mission,
thoughts of seeking comforts
and other personal benefits
 except of doing and fulfilling
 your most Holy Will
unto death.
Amen.

Liham ni Lazaro sa mayaman

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-28 ng Setyembre, 2022
Larawan mula sa https://krugsstudio.blogspot.com/2016/07/does-anyone-write-letter-anymore.html

Hitik sa mga kahulugan ang talinghaga ng mayaman at ni Lazaro noong araw ng Linggo (Lukas 16:19-31). Kaya namang aking napag-isipan ano nga kaya at sumulat si Lazaro doon sa mayaman? Ano kaya kanyang sasabihin?

Isang kathang-isip lamang ang liham na ito katulad na rin ng talinghaga ng Panginoong Jesu-Kristo. Gayon pa man, batay ito sa mga kuwento na aking pinakinggan at pinagnilayan mula sa mga tao na aking nakadaupang-palad sa mahabang panahon bilang pari. Sinikap ko na mahabi kanilang mga istorya ng buhay na parang hibla ng sinulid upang maging isang telon na maglalarawan ng iba’t-ibang mukha ni Lazaro at ng mayaman.

Wala akong pinatatamaan maliban sa maihatid mahalagang mga aral ng naturang talinghaga ukol sa buhay at kamatayan na tila nalilimutan na ng maraming pamilya at mag-anak kung saan maraming mayaman at Lazaro na nakalupasay, pinababayaan at tinalikdan.

Sinabi ni Jesus sa mga Pariseo, “May isang mayamang nagdaramit nang mamahalin at saganang-sagana sa pagkain araw-araw. At may isang pulubing nagngangalang Lazaro, tadtad ng sugat, na nakalupasay sa may pintuan ng mayaman upang mamulot kahit mumong nahuhulog mula sa hapag ng mayaman. At doo’y nilalapitan siya ng aso at dinidilaan ang kanyang mga sugat.

Lukas 16:19-21
Larawan ng painting ni Bonifacio de Pitati noong 1540 ng “Dives and Lazarus” mula sa commons.wikimedia.org.
Minamahal kong mayaman,

Ako nga si Lazaro at sumusulat ako sa iyo na manhid at ayaw pumansin sa akin dahil ako ay tadtad ng sugat sa buong katawan, nakakadiring tingnan sa aking karumihan at kawalan ng kagandahang mabanaagan dahil ako ay naiiba sa iyo na kinikilala at maraming kaibigan, malakas at malinis.  Kung tingnan.

Mabuti pa ang aso, napapansin ako, dinidilaan aking mga sugat na kailanma'y hindi niya mauunawaan pinagmulan at naging mga sanhi, na pawang mga tao ang may kagagawan.

Isang bagay lang ibig kong ipahayag sa iyo, kapatid ko na mayaman:  sapat na bang dahilan na ako ay iyong talikuran at kalimutan dahil lamang sa ilang halaga ng salapi, mga gamit at ari-arian gaya ng kapirasong lupa na higit pa ang sukat sa ating libingan?

Dahil lamang sa magkakaiba nating paniniwala at sa iyong sariling katuwiran na hindi mabitiw-bitiwan ay ipagpapalit mo ako na kapwa tao gaya ng iyong ina o ama, at kapatid? 

Madalas, ako si Lazaro yung magulang na kung ituring ng mga anak ay kontra-bida sa buhay nila.  

Ikaw iyon, kapatid kong mayaman.

Ikaw iyong bata, yung anak na sadyang mayaman sa kaalaman at kahusayan sa maraming bagay ngunit hindi kailanman sasapat ang mga iyan upang tayo ay mabuhay; mahalaga ang mga kapwa, lalo na mga magulang na nagpalaki at nag-aruga sa atin, mga kapatid na kasabay nating lumaki at lumago, nagkamalay sa mundo, kasama at kasalo sa maraming pagkakataon ng buhay.

Walang perfect love maliban sa pag-ibig ng Diyos; ano man mga nakaraan ikaw ay nasaktan kung maari ay lampasan, pag-usapan, at magpatawaran.

Saan mang tahanan, maraming mga desisyon ang mga magulang na hindi nagugustuhan at marahil hindi rin naunawaan hanggang ngayon; sakaling nagkamali man mga magulang, hindi ba ang mga iyon din ang nagpatibay at nagpatatag upang mga anak ay maging mayaman?  Bakit sila ngayon ang iniiwan, mga Lazaro na nakalupasay sa pintuan na hindi pinapansin, ipinagpalit sa ego at prinsipyo?

Hindi ito drama dahil ang totoo, darating ang panahon tayong lahat mamamatay.

Huwag nating hintayin tulad sa talinghaga ng Panginoon na malibing at mabaon ang mayaman doon sa Hades; ibig mo ba talaga na tayo ay magkahiwalay hindi lamang sa daigdig kungdi hanggang sa kabilang buhay?

Huwag mo nang hintayin, kapatid ko na mayaman na matanawan ako, si Lazaro kapiling ni Abraham, walang dusa at sakit sa kabilang buhay habang ika'y hirap na hirap, kumakaway, tumatawag gayong kakilala mo naman pala ako.  Gayun din naman, kakilala mo rin pala si Amang Abraham --- kung gayon, ikaw ay Kristiyano katulad ko, kilala si Kristo, sumasamba sa Diyos nating Ama!  Bakit hindi mo ako nakilala noong tayo ay nabubuhay pa?

Bahala ka kung ayaw mo pa rin akong pansinin; ito na lamang iiwanan ko sa iyo, higit sa lahat:  huwag kang umasa at maniwala sa ilusyon na makapagbabago ka pa sa tamang panahon lalo na kung kapani-paniwala ang magsasabi na mayroon nga buhay sa kabila!  Ilusyon lang yan na may oras pa upang magbagong-buhay....

Habang maaga pa, magbalik-loob sa Diyos upang siya ay matagpuan at makilala sa mukha ng bawat kapwa, lalo na sa mga Lazaro na tadtad ng sugat ang katawan, nakalupasay sa iyong harapan. 


Lubos na gumagalang,

Lazaro
(Mula sa salitang Hebreo
"El 'azar", ibig sabihi'y
"sinagip ng Diyos".)
Larawan kuha ni G. Jay Javier sa Taal, Batangas, 15 Pebrero 2014.

Imitating Job

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest, 27 September 2022
Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 9:51-56
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.
Thank you again,
dear God our loving Father
in keeping us safe from the 
powerful super typhoon that
hit us Sunday evening;
most of all, thank you in giving
us that faith within us like Job
when we go through storms in
life, sometimes so violent and
devastating like the real ones.
Bless us, O God, to be like Job:
to have that grace of crying out
our hearts, of venting out our pains
and even anger when like him,
we curse the day but never you:

Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. Job spoke out and said: Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, “The child is a boy!” Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?

Job 3:1-2, 3
Help us realize, dear Father,
these little "deaths" we go through
daily in life like sickness and loss of
loved ones are the realities of life
itself that prepare us for our eternal
union in you that would surely come
on our Death with a big D;
we are indeed "being-towards-death"
beginning on the day of our birth when
we have to cry out loud and kick hard
to be alive! 
It is through our pains and sufferings
that we become truly human,
when we feel with others in 
empathy and sympathy,
when we stay with others
in consolation,
when we strive to be like
Jesus in raising up others
by being "resolutely determined
to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk.9:51)
to face death that have inspired saints
like your servant Vincent de Paul
who worked so hard for the sick, 
the abandoned, and the poor,
inspiring other saints in the 
process!
We pray for everyone 
going through darkness,
battered by storms in life
to keep their faith,
that it is okay to cry and
complain because it is really
difficult; most of all, 
remind us, Jesus, that
without pains and 
sufferings in this world,
then this life would be
so dull, even meaningless
because that is when we
are totally by ourselves,
utterly selfish because we can
only find life's meaning in others,
never in our selves.
Amen.

Panalangin para sa napaka-sungit na panahon

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-25 ng Setyembre, 2022
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Pangasinan, Abril 2022.
Diyos Ama naming
mapagmahal,
kami ay ipag-adya 
sa lahat ng kapahamakan
at mga kapinsalaan sa 
pagdaraan ngayon ng
super-typhoon;
hindi namin mapigilang
maalaala malaking pagbaha
noong petsa Setyembre 26 din
ng taong 2009 nang manalasa ang
bagyong Ondoy; kaya't dalangin
namin ang paghupa nitong
napaka-sungit na panahon
kung tawagi'y super typhoon.
Sa mga sandaling ito
ng malalakas na buhos ng ulan
at walang tigil na paghampas
at pagbugso ng malalakas na
hangin, aming idinadalangin maliliit
naming mga kapatid, lalo't higit mga
naroon sa mga baybaying dagat at 
malapit sa ilog, yaong mga walang 
sariling tirahan, at mga nasa barong-
barong:  sila nawa ay makalikas sa 
mga ligtas na lugar hanggang 
makalipas malalakas na ulan at hangin.

Ipinapanalangin namin mga 
volunteers nasa rescue operations:
ingatan po ninyo sila sa lahat ng
kapahamakan, iligtas at pangalagaan
po Ninyo kanilang mga pamilya at
mahal sa buhay habang sila ay 
abala sa paglilingkod sa mga mamamayang
apektado ng kalamidad; gayon din po
ang mga nasa iba't ibang sangay ng
pamahalaan at mga nasa media na kumakalap
ng mga balita upang magkaroon kami ng 
tumpak na kalagayan ng mga nasalanta.

O Diyos naming makapangyarihan,
hindi man mapipigilan pananalasa ng
kalikasan, buksan at panibaguhin
aming mga kalooban upang kami
ay magdamayan, magtulungan
bilang iyong pinili at hinirang na
sambayanan; gayun din naman,
sana amin nang mapagtanto at
pangatawanan pangangalaga sa
kalikasan na aming pinabayaan
sanhi ng mga pansariling kaluguran.
Hinihiling naming ang lahat ng ito 
sa ngalan ni Hesus na Iyong Anak at
aming Tagapagligtas, 
sa kapangyarihan ng Espiritu Santo,
magpasawalang-hanggan.  
Amen.

O mahal na Birheng Maria
aming Ina, kami ay iyong
ipanalangin at samahan,
liwanagan at tanglawan
paglalakbay sa gitna ng 
kadiliman nitong buhay,
sa malakas na unos
kami ay magtiwala 
tanging kaligtasa'y 
kay Kristo lamang.
Amen. 

When you say nothing at all

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 25 September 2022
Amos 6:1, 4-7 ><000'> 1 Timothy 6:11-16 ><000'> Luke 16:19-31
Photo by author, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain what I hear when you don't say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all

Yes, my dear friends, I am so in love these days; the Lord is doing a lot of things in my heart and soul in my ministry that songs automatically play within me like a jukebox every time I pray and meditate. The other day was Five for Fighting’s 100 Years; this Sunday it is When You Say Nothing At All by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz first recorded by Keith Whitley in 1988 but became popular with Alison Krauss in 1995 that finally became a worldwide hit with Roan Keating’s version used as soundtrack of the 1999 Julia Robert-starrer Notting Hill.

The lyrics are so lovely, so true while the melody is so cool that is so uplifting and even spiritual as the song tells us a lot of the love of God for us expressed in his Son Jesus Christ who does everything, saying nothing at all, just loving us, understanding us, forgiving us. Most of the time, with us saying nothing at all too because he knows everything.

The more I listen to this song, the more I feel it speaking also of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, of how we truly regard each other as a person, as a brother and sister, as disciples of Jesus when we say nothing at all, when our actions speak loudly or, silently of our love for each other.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”

Luke 16:19-21
Photo from bloomberg.com of a homeless man in New York City during a fashion week in summer 2019.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s parable is uniquely found only in Luke’s gospel like last Sunday that stresses Christ’s lesson on the wise use of money in the service of God through one another; but, the parable adds an important dimension in how this wise use of money will have a bearing in our judgment before God upon death. Hence, the gravity of the message expressed in great simplicity with beautiful layers of meaning.

First of all, the rich man has no name while the beggar was named Lazarus that means “God has rescued” or El ‘azar in Hebrew. The scene is still from the previous Sundays when the Pharisees and scribes complained why Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners. Jesus took it as an occasion to teach through parables the value of everyone before God, including the lost, the sick, the poor, and the sinful. They are the Lazarus who are given with a name because they are special in the eyes of God who rescues them all.


Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus
 lying at the door of the rich man's home
 - a very powerful image that punches us hard
 right in our face, of how numb we have become
 with each other!  

On the other hand, the rich man had no name not because he was less important but because he stands for each one of us blessed and loved by God. Notice that Jesus did not say whether the rich man and Lazarus were good or bad because their character would be revealed later as the parable unfolds.

See how Jesus presented the outer appearances of the two: the rich man was dressed in colorful and fine clothes, eating sumptuous food while Lazarus was somewhat naked, covered with sores in his whole body that dogs would lick as he filled himself with scraps falling from the rich man’s table.

Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus lying at the door of the rich man’s home – a very powerful image that punches us hard right in our face, of how numb we have become with each other!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, stranded local residents at the airport, June 2020.

Here we find a valuable lesson from this pandemic courtesy of the face mask that finally opened our eyes, including our minds and hearts to look again onto each one’s face, to recognize each person. Before the virus came, we just did not care with everyone we met as we were so cold that we would not even look at each others face, snubbing even those close to us.

There are still other Lazarus around us, living among us, not begging at all from us like this one in the parable who would not say anything at all but silently suffer in pain, hungry and thirsty for recognition and love like parents forgotten and neglected by their grownup children, wives cheated by their spouse, children left alone and misunderstood by their parents, our classmates and colleagues so maligned in the nasty talks going around us and in the social media, the poor and lowly workers exploited by their employers, or just anyone often criticized and judged but never appreciated.

Try thinking of the other Lazarus around us we never bothered to talk to nor even smiled at because we have been preoccupied with our many other worldly pursuits in life. Let us examine ourselves while amid the comforts and luxuries of life may have rightly earned with decent hard work that but may have caused us to have forgotten the “feel” of being human, of being sick and weak that we have forgotten or been totally unaware of those around us.

Death and the urgent call to conversion

See how the parable gets interesting when both characters died and a reversal of situation in the afterlife occurred. The rich man was buried, immediately going down to hell to suffer while Lazarus was carried – not buried – by angels to Abraham in heaven to be comforted. In the two conversations that followed between the rich man and Abraham, we find at the core the primary importance of daily conversion of everyone.

When Abraham told the rich man of the great chasm dividing them that Lazarus could do nothing to alleviate his torment, Jesus is warning us of the exact situation when we die which is eternity, without end. Therefore, while we are still alive, let us be aware and conscious of others too, not just of ourselves. That is essentially conversion, defocusing from our selves to see those around us more.

Remember how the dishonest steward in the parable last week who made friends with the debtors of his master to ensure his good fate after being fired? That finds its application in this Sunday’s parable wherein the rich man should have been like that dishonest steward in befriending Lazarus so he could have made it too in heaven! That is why I love so much that part of the parable of the juxtaposition of Lazarus at the gate of the rich man.

How did the rich man miss and did not see Lazarus right there at his face, hungry and with sores?

From Facebook, 2020.

Let us not be “complacent” as the Prophet Amos warned in the first reading of not being aware of the excesses and sacrilege going on during that time (Am.6:1). It could be happening right now with us when we choose to be silent and uninvolved, even blind and deaf to the suffering people around us because we are like the fool rich man who grew rich for himself instead of “growing rich in what matters to God” (Lk.12:13-21, August 1, 18th Sunday)!

In the second conversation with Abraham by the rich man, we find the pressing need for conversion more urgent, of heeding the calls of the scriptures, of the prophets and of Jesus Christ himself we hear in the gospel proclaimed daily. See also how the rich man had not really changed amid his torments, requesting that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers living the same way he had lived in order to avoid hell. Imagine while in the afterlife, the rich man was still thinking of those he had left behind on earth!

So ridiculous was his request and yet, we too must be careful because so often, we have such illusion that a clear and irrefutable sign from heaven like what the Pharisees and scribes insisted from Jesus could lead everyone to conversion. It is an illusion because as Jesus had been telling since then, we need to have faith first to see and acknowledge him for us to be converted. It is the same faith that we need to heed St. Paul’s call in the second reading to “Lay hold of eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). It is faith that is vibrant and so alive that enables us to recognize our true wealth is God found among one another with us.

When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we always see everyone as a brother and sister in Christ. When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we are able to love truly because we also believe. And that is when we do not say anything at all because we just keep on doing what is good to everyone, especially the Lazarus among us.

This Sunday, Jesus reminds us of God’s immense love for each one of us, a love we have to share with everyone especially if we have so much unlike others.

Let us reflect our lives these past days and weeks when we felt like Lazarus unrecognized at all, even forgotten amid our being right in the middle of life and everyone. It must be painful and sad. Jesus knows it so well; hold on to him our Savior who is always doing something for us always, especially when he says nothing at all. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead! God bless you more!

Photo from inquirer.net, Ms. Patricia Non of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, 2021.

God in our time, our time in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of San Padre Pio de Pietrelcina, Priest, 23 September 2022
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 9:18-22
From Quotefancy.com
Thank you, dear God our
loving Father for your words 
today of the most common thing
we all have and share but
misunderstood and 
taken for granted,
TIME.

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens… He (God) has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11
Indeed, there is a time for everything,
but you alone O God has determined
the perfect time for every event 
to happen in our lives and in history 
to which we have miserably failed to
respond properly, rightly as we 
manipulated "each" time we have without 
recognizing the uniqueness and
blessedness of every past,
present and future; there are times
we cling to the past, refusing to
learn its lessons that we find it hard
to move forward to the present as we
likewise deny the beauty and fulfillment 
of the future in you; forgive us for being
foolish not to see and recognize you in our time
that we often miss that great mystery 
and reality that we are in your time.
From Quotefancy.com
Thank you, dear God,
in giving us your Son Jesus Christ
that we are now able to understand
and accept not only his words but 
also the reality of his Passion, Death 
and Resurrection unlike the Twelve 
in their time; but, unlike them, 
until now we could not own 
and live that reality of Christ's pasch
in our very selves and own life that  
up to this time, many people are still
confused and could not find Jesus
truly present in our time.
Dearest Jesus,
I do not ask for the special
graces you gave our most
loved San Padro Pio; I do not need
stigmata nor powers to heal nor
read people of their sins; all I ask
you is the grace to live in your
presence always to experience
San Padre Pio's prayer,
"My past, O Lord, I entrust
to your mercy; my present
to your love; my future 
to your providence."

San Padre Pio,
Pray for us!
Amen.
From UST Facebook, 2020.

Seeing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 22 September 2022
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 9:7-9
Photo by author, sunrise at Our Lady of Fatima University in Antipolo City, August 2022.
Your words today, 
O Lord our God are
"greatly perplexing" 
that I feel like Herod
the tetrarch in the gospel
"trying to see" you,
Jesus (Lk.9:7-9).
So many times
I have prayed before
asking you how I 
wanted to see you
because "all is vanity
in this world; nothing is new
under the sun.  Even the
thing we say as new has already
existed in the ages that
preceded us" (Eccl.1:2,9-10);
and so, what else is there
for us to see in this world,
in this life but you, 
dear Jesus! 
But, how can we see you
truly, O Lord Jesus, so that
we may also find the meaning
of this life amid all the vanities
around us?
When a group of Greeks
came to Jerusalem and
requested to see you
just before Good Friday,
you replied through Philip 
with the falling and dying 
of a grain of wheat 
(Jn.12:20-26) to show us
that in order to see you,
we have to learn to look
through your Cross; 
that we can only see you, 
Jesus, in your Passion
and Death to see your glory
in your Resurrection.
Forgive us, Lord,
when so many times
we wax our desire to see you
with novelties and sentimentalities
of the world that are simply 
vanities like Herod the Tetrarch;
let us go down to our knees
before you on the Cross,
commune with you in
prayers before the Blessed
Sacrament and most especially, 
live by witnessing your pasch
in a world so fascinated with
drama and effects
than with essence
that is love willing to
suffer and die like you
on the Cross.
Amen.

Getting up to follow Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 21 September 2022
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13     <*{{{{><  +  ><}}}}*>     Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, Lake Tiberias from the side of Capernaum where Jesus called Matthew to follow him.
You never fail to amaze me,
Lord Jesus Christ with your
unique manner and ways
of finding us, calling us, 
and loving us.
Of your Twelve Apostles, 
only five were called while
working:  the brothers Simon
and Andrew, James and John
who were fishermen and 
Matthew, a tax collector;
the first four belonged 
to the most ordinary 
and lowliest job of the time, 
fishing, while Matthew did
the most despicable job of
collecting taxes unjustly for
Roman colonizers making him
both a sinner and a traitor.
But, you have your plans
that are so different from our
ways when you told the Pharisees
and scribes that "Those who are well
do not need a physician, 
but the sick do... I did not come
to call the righteous
but sinners" (Mt.9:12, 13).
Thank you, Lord Jesus
for still calling me when
I was at my lowest point in life,
when I was most sinful,
when everyone was rejecting me;
thank you, Jesus,
for believing in me,
in calling me to come,
follow you; help me to rise
from my pit of anger and
bitterness, hopelessness 
and desolation like Matthew,
leaving all evil and sins
to follow you
and share you with 
everyone.
Help me, Jesus,
to write the fifth gospel
according to my life
like Matthew
by "living in a manner
worthy of the call I have
received" (Eph. 4:1).
Amen.

St. Matthew,
pray for us!
Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

*You may also want to check our reflection on Caravaggio’s painting “Calling of St. Matthew” by clicking this link:

Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

The gospel according to Five for Fighting on living & leaving

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between ten and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 22 for a moment
And she feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars

The piano, the voice and the lyrics were unmistakably Five for Fighting when I heard it played again after a very long time at the 40th day of the death of a young college student in our parish recently.

It was only then when I truly appreciated this 2003 hit “100 Years” after realizing its deeper implications about life and death leading to eternity. Besides, there were some interesting things about the song and the deceased young man who was also a talented pianist like Five for Fighting himself – Vladimir John Ondasik III. Most of all, the deceased young man I have celebrated Mass for was aged 22 like the character depicted in the song 100 Years.

Celebrating Mass at the funeral of a child, whether an infant or a grown-up is the most difficult one for me. Normally, we children bury our parents but, it is so different when children die ahead of their parents and even grandparents. As a priest, I could feel the pain of the grieving parents in losing their son or daughter even if I totally do not know them at all. Yet, it is a grace of the priesthood that while we are emotionally affected by grieving parents we hardly know that we are likewise uplifted in identifying with Jesus who had brought back to life a dead young man at Nain after being moved with pity for the man’s widowed mother (Lk.7:11-15).

Photo by author, Pangasinan, April 2022.

Notice that Jesus brought back to life the dead young man because of pity for his mother, not because he pitied the dead son. God tells us in the Old Testament that he is saddened with the death of even just one of us but the event at Nain shows us how the eyes of the Lord are always with those left behind especially mothers because they are indeed the most pitiable in losing a child who would always be a part of them. Moreover, life is most difficult for those left behind who have to continue to bear all pains and sufferings while their departed loved ones rest in peace in eternity. And here lies the call of Jesus for us all to help those grieving to rise again and move on with life after the death of a beloved, especially of a child.

We shall talk about this later and let us just remain a little more with the reality of death.

Although 100 Years is a soft-rock ballad about a love relationship, it is very philosophical, in fact a Martin Heidegger, in calling for “authentic living” because we are all “being-towards-death”. While the song is generally a “feel good” piece, it reminds us of that reality we refuse to accept that coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life. It is when we are faced with the “existential” possibility of death that we begin to see the beauty of life and the joy of living.

15, there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself within a morning star
15, I'm alright with you
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you've only got a hundred years to live

Half time goes by, suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye, 67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on

Truly, as the song tells us, our life is precious – whether you are 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 – because it could all be gone in a moment or a blink! Like Heidegger, Five for Fighting is calling us in his song to cherish each one’s presence with more love and kindness, care and understanding, with a lot of mercy and forgiveness because we live only for a period of time like 100 Years.

St. Paul also spoke of this constant awareness of death, of how “the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31) that we should live authentically as Christians. This pandemic has taught us in the most strongest terms this truth, not only with actually dying but also of being prevented from spending precious moments with our dead’s remains! May we not forget this pandemic’s lesson of living in the present moment as if it is also your final moment in life, of cherishing each other always because true riches are found only in God through one another as Jesus reminded us in last Sunday’s gospel (Lk.16:11).

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

To live is to love. What we need are more people, more children, more friends to celebrate life with. Like God, friends and family do not perish; they live on even if we do not see them because they just move on to higher level of existence. Unlike money and wealth, power and fame, and other material things that perish and become obsolete after a year.

Our weekday readings these past week teemed with so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom about people and relationships learned at the heels of death: the centurion who sent for Jesus for the healing of his slave who “was valuable to him” (Lk.7:2) on Monday; praying for those who grieve like that widowed mother in Nain (Lk.7:13) on Tuesday; and last Wednesday at the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we were reminded of our transformation through life’s sufferings or little deaths in life; and, finally on Thursday at the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, of how we are invited to imitate Mary who remained at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday with her dying Son Jesus Christ. Here we find how death has become a blessing when seen in the light of Jesus and his Cross as witnessed by the Blessed Mother and preached by St. Paul.

This positive aspect of death as a blessing is wonderfully portrayed in the music video of 100 Years set in an isolated place in soft shades of dark blue and green, with some hues of grey evoking a deep sense of peace and tranquility minus the morbidity. Laid-back and relaxed, perhaps. Of course, Five for Fighting’s trademark piano makes the music video so lovely, so appealing, giving a joyful note on death’s certainty leading to eternity.

I'm 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15, there's still time for you
22, I feel her too
33, you're on your way
Every day's a new day

At the start of the music video of 100 Years, we find a younger man playing the piano before Five for Fighting appears singing. That shifting of the younger and older Ondasik would happen about six times maybe interspersed with other characters coming to play the piano too until in the end he leaves to walk toward a big tree to meet his older self. Or God maybe.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, “Acacias”, UP Diliman, QC, April 2022.

That big tree seems to convey something like paradise, a gateway to eternity where time is totally held in completeness with everything at the present moment shown by Five for Fighting’s repeated returns to climb the big tree to look at his younger self kissing his first girlfriend until toward the end, he fell from the tree as if he had died only to be seen singing while playing the piano again. It was reminiscent of one of the final scenes in the 1990 movie Flatliners with Kiefer Sutherland trying to amend his childhood sin and crime in pushing to death his playmate from a similar big tree; Sutherland was eventually forgiven when during an induced “flatline” he was able to go back to his past to apologize to his dead playmate with a reversal of role, of him as an adult in the present moment falling from the big tree.

It was after that scene of falling from the big tree when Five for Fighting had awakened singing and playing the piano again when he finally stood to walk back to the big tree to meet his older self, or maybe God — something like Easter.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken by Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

John 20: 1, 11-14
“Noli me tangere” (touch me not) fresco in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis Assisi Church in Italy painted by Giotto de Bondone in the 13th century from commons.wikimedia.org.

Like on that Easter morning, there will always be the darkness of death but only for a moment if we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus who had risen. Many times we are like Mary Magdalene grieving and weeping that we fail to see the light of Jesus and of our deceased staying with us right in the darkness of grief and death that envelop us. And like Mary, we keep on insisting in relating with them in our old, physical level, forgetting the fact they have risen with Jesus to new life, to new realm of existence.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

John 20:16-18

“Stop holding on to me” or “noli me tangere – touch me not” are the words also meant for us today who continue to cling and hold to our departed loved ones like Mary Magdalene, still hoping to hug and kiss them again, to touch and tell them how much we loved them or perhaps say sorry for our sins and lapses when they were still around. It is time to level up in our relationships with them as Five for Fighting reminds us in the last stanza that “every day is a new day”.

It does not really matter if we, or they our departed, are just 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 — what is most important is we value each moment of our lives here and now where in the present we meet them once or twice if we are living fully and not blinded by our grief and wishful thinking. Have faith in God. Someday, we shall all be together. For the moment, here is Five for Fighting with his100 Years. May the Lord console you and raise you up to move forward again in life. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.