Participating in God’s choices

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle, 14 May 2021
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 15:9-17
Photo by author, Pulilan Bypass Road, Bulacan, 2020.

If there is one thing we dread most in life, dear God our Father, it is making choices. You know it so well because day in, day out it is one thing we pray to you, that you guide us in making the right decision, in choosing the best and perfect choices in this life.

How beautiful to realize and learn from your words in Jesus Christ as we celebrate today the Feast of St. Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot that it is not really us who make choices but you!

Most of all, you never went wrong in your choices, even with Judas Iscariot. He did not remain in Jesus and that is why he made the wrong and sinful choice of betraying the Lord.

And so first we pray to you today, our loving Father, through Jesus Christ, give us the grace to cooperate and participate in your choices for us so we may remain faithful in you and be fruitful too.

"It was not you who chose me,
but I who chose you and appointed you
to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father
in my name he may give you."
(John 15:16)

Nothing much is known about St. Matthias but all accounts of his missionary works indicate he nourished and enriched your choice of him in his whole life that he died witnessing the gospel. Like him, may we remain in you to keep our choices according to your holy will always.

At the same time, when given the task to make choices, in choosing people and course of actions to take, help us to be prayerful in discerning your will and choices too like St. Peter and his brother Apostles in finding Judas Iscariot’s replacement.

How wonderful is their prayer that indicated it was you, O Lord, who still made the choice and not them!

So they proposed two, 
Joseph called Barsabbas, 
who was also known as Justus,
and Matthias.  Then they prayed,
"You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this...."
(Acts 1:23-24)

We pray today for people having a hard time praying to finally realize your choices for them; for those afraid to accept your choices; for those who keep on looking for other options despite your clear choice for them. Enlighten their minds and fill them with courage and trust in you. Amen.

When going in is the best way out

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 11 May 2021
Acts 16:22-34   ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>   John 16:5-11
“Losing One’s Head to God” by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7 News at UP Parish of the Risen Lord, 2019.

You continue to amaze us, O Lord, with your wisdom and grace, presenting us again another paradox that is so timely to what we are going through in this time of pandemic and quarantine.

Yesterday, you taught us that the best way to get “in” to you is go “out” of our ordinary and usual ways.

Today, you are showing us another great paradox in life where you prove to us again your ways are so different from ours: in order to get “out” especially of problems and mess in life, sometimes we have to get “in”!

After inflicting many blows on Paul and Silas,
they threw them into prison 
and instructed the jailer to guard them securely,
putting them in the innermost cell 
and secured their feet to a stake.
An earthquake occurred at midnight 
that the foundations of the jail shook;
all the doors flew open, and the chains 
of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and thought the prisoners
have all escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself.
Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
"Do no harm to yourself; we are all here."
Then he brought them out, took them to his house
then he and all his family were baptized at once.
(Acts 16:23-33)

Lord Jesus, so many times we resist your ways as we insist on what we know but most of all, because we are afraid of what could happen next. We do not trust you that much, Jesus. Unlike Paul and Silas who were beaten up and thrown into jail, they never stopped believing in you, praying and singing hymns to you while in jail until that great earthquake happened.

Give us the courage to give in to your ways, to rely more on you than on what we believe and others say.

Let us come in to you empty, losing our selves to be filled with your Holy Spirit and be one in you and with you as you have promised on your last supper when you told your disciples that you are going to the Father to be one in him.

Today we pray for those dilly-dallying on whether they would seek medical help and attention to their conditions, for those to undergo surgery, for those to go “in” to many procedures to be healed of their sickness.

We pray also for those afraid to get in to their very selves to examine their conscience and be humble to accept and own any sins and mistakes they may have committed so they may find their way out of their many miseries and mess in life.

You know what is best for us, dear Jesus. Just let us in so we may come out alive and better! Amen.

When going out is the way in

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 10 May 2021
Acts 16:11-15   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 15:26-16:4
Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, May 2019.

How wonderful are your words today, Lord, found in our readings. How amazing is your loving presence, your concern for each of us especially in this trying time of the pandemic. Give us the grace to make the necessary efforts to meet you halfway when going out is the way for us to get in.

On the sabbath we went outside the city gate
along the river where we thought there would be 
a place of prayer.
We sat and spoke with the women
who had gathered there.
(Acts 16:13)

This struck me, dear Jesus because it proves that every prayer is answered, every prayer is always a grace and gift from you. How nice it is for St. Paul and company to go out of the city gate to find a place to pray but you gave them a fertile ground of doing their ministry among some women who were not only baptized and converted but even befriended to become collaborators in the mission.

Give us the grace to always find ways of seeking you in prayers, in being faithful to our prayer life even if sometimes we feel nothing is happening, when you seem to be far and even not interested with us.

Let us go out of our selves, out of our many excuses and conveniences to get into you in prayer, Lord.

Keep us open to the coming of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and our hearts so that when occasions come that we are expelled and driven out from our comfort zones and usual way of life, we may follow the Spirit’s direction to keep us from “falling away” from you, dear Jesus (Jn.16:1-4).

May in every going out that we do in life, may we get inside you to meet you, to love and serve you our Lord and our God. Amen.

The need to be one in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 30 April 2021 (St. Pius V, memorial)
Acts 13:26-33   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:1-6
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me."
(John 14:1)

O dearest Lord Jesus Christ, how can we not let our hearts be troubled these days?

How can we not be troubled and worried with this prolonged pandemic and resulting quarantine made worst with our government’s inefficiency and incompetence, thriving in lies and malice against everybody who is not on their side and political color?

How can we not be troubled, Lord, when more and more people are sinking into depression, languishing, losing hope and meaning in this life?

Like your apostles at that time, we are trembling in fear as to what will happen to us, to our jobs, to the schooling of children, to our sick family members, to our very selves as well as to our country and its future.

We know that now is the time to be ever closer to you, Lord Jesus – to be one with you, to be one in you but, like Thomas, we do not know the way.

Help us in our unbelief and increase our faith, Lord!

Most of all, let us imitate Thomas your Apostle who dared ask you the simplest question we are afraid to ask because we also fear your answer might demand courage from us to totally identify ourselves to your values and attitudes being the Way, the Truth and the Life yourself.

Our hearts will always be troubled unless we have that deep relationship in you and with you, Jesus.

Like Paul in the first reading, give us that sense of firmness and certitude in your very person so that we may firmly and joyfully proclaim your Good News of salvation in these most troubling times of pandemic and divisions among us your people. Amen.

More blessings, more trials in Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday within the Octave of Easter, 09 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 4:1-12  <*(((><  +  ><)))*>  John 21:1-14
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

I could easily identify with your words today, Lord Jesus, especially with the flow of the story of the healing of the crippled man through Peter and John: from the Upper Room to the Beautiful Gate to Solomon’s Portico to their being thrown to prison; from the proclamation of the Good News of salvation to the healing of the crippled man and now their persecution and harassment.

After the crippled man had been cured, 
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people, 
the priests, the captain of the temple guard, 
and the Sadducees confronted them, 
disturbed that they were teaching the people 
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.  
They laid hands on Peter and John 
and put them in custody until the next day, 
since it was already evening.  
(Acts 4:1-3)

So many times, Lord, we resent and avoid sufferings in life like persecution without realizing that it is through these trials that we make it to Easter like you when you passed over from your Passion and Death to Resurrection.

There are also times, Lord, when we feel so down, feeling lost and disappointed that we try going back to our old ways like Peter and his companions that Sunday morning when they decided to go fishing again after you have risen.

Like them, we feel we can be on our own that when failures come, we fail to recognize you only to realize later that without you, we can do nothing.

When it was already dawn, 
Jesus was standing on the shore; 
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  
Jesus said to them, 
"Children, have you caught anything to eat?"  
They answered him, "No."  
So he said to them, "Cast the net 
over the right side of the boat and you will find something."  
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in 
because of the number of fish.  
So the disciple whom Jesus loved 
said to Peter, "It is the Lord."  
(John 21:4-7)

Thank very much, dear Jesus for bearing with us when we feel afraid of your mission, when we doubt if it is really you who is with us, directing us, guiding us.

Send us your Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and our hearts to be firm in our faith in you, to trust you that when trials come our way, your abundant blessings are also there pouring into us to weather every storm in life. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7 News, Batanes, 2018.

Lent for dreamers

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 March 2021
*Homily as Chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) in Valenzuela.
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Contrary to a common belief by many, Lent is a season of joy because it is a preparation for Easter, the “mother of all feasts” in our Church.  Although this season calls for intense prayers, contrition of sin, fasting and abstinence, and alms-giving, Lent does not have to be sober nor somber. 

Jesus said to his disciples, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face…”

Matthew 6:16, 17

At the start of this season during Ash Wednesday, I have told you that life is a daily lent, a daily exodus from darkness into light, from sickness into health, from sin into grace and new life. 

During Lent, we are filled with joy as we await our little Easter celebrations in life when we finish all our papers or pass our exams, or achieve whatever goals we have set even in the midst of this pandemic. Lent is a joyful season because it is a celebration of our rising to new life in Jesus Christ.  It is therefore a time for us to dream again, to aspire for the best, to “Rise to the Top” as our motto says at Our Lady of Fatima University and Medical Center.

In our readings today are two great dreamers, Joseph the son of Jacob (aka, Israel) called “the Dreamer” and our Lord Jesus Christ, the one referred to as son of the vineyard owner in our gospel’s parable of the wicked tenants. 

How sad that in our time of social media that have saturated us with too much showbiz and entertainment, many people no longer dream big except to be rich and famous with a lot of money and many “followers”.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.
Importance of dreaming to become better persons

Lent invites us to dream big again, dream things that really matter in life like being good and holy, being a better person or “Improving Man as Man” minus all the arte and kikay things and porma we are so used to these days.

Yesterday I went to the mall to get my pair of glasses.  I was so surprised to see great crowds seated in about six rows of chairs at the hall with a another row snaking through Watson’s while a guard directed the flow of human traffic with his megaphone.  When I inquired at my optical shop about the crowd, I was shocked to learn that it was all due to a sale of cosmmetics!

I am not judging nor demeaning those people lining up for a sale of cosmetics but, should we not examine our priorities again in this time of pandemic?

When I was still assigned in our diocesan school in Malolos, I used to require my students at elementary to start dreaming what they would want to be when they grow up even while still in grade one.  I tell them to start dreaming while young.  No wonder there are so many young people about to enter college still not certain what course to take or even what to do with his/her life.  

Do not be afraid to dream like Joseph and Jesus or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with his famous “I have a dream” speech. 

Photo by author, 2020.

Dream big, it is free!  Do not be affected by those without dreams and plans in life.  Watch out for them who may be even those closest to you like family and friends like the brothers of Joseph who “hated him so much that they would not even greet him” (Gen.37:4) he spoke to them of his many dreams in life.

Danger of not having a dream

People without dreams are people without vision, people who cannot see beyond the present moment and the physical realities. 

Helen Keller said “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” like the brothers of Joseph as well as the wicked tenants in the Lord’s parable who have no vision of things beyond this life. That is why they did not mind killing their own brother Joseph who was eventually sold or murdering the only son sent by the vineyard owner to collect his share of harvest. 

Here lies the evil of people without dreams in life:  they lack any concern at all to the value of person and of human life. 

People without vision, without plans in life, without dreams have no regard at all with others.  A dreamer is always one who thinks not only of the betterment of his life but also of others.  Dreamers are those who perfect themselves, who seek fulfillment in life, not just material things.  They think of how they can help others in need for they always seek the higher and deeper truths in life.  No wonder, dreamers are also merciful as we shall see how Joseph forgave his brothers for their grave sin against him.

Recently we have started our limited face-to-face classes in our College of Medicine because we are not contented waiting for things to happen, because we dream of something better even in the midst of a pandemic.  Dreamers make things happen, even against all odds like Joseph who never stopped dreaming in God after being sold to Egypt by his brothers.  The Dreamer eventually became the interpreter of the dream of the Pharaoh that led Egypt to adequately prepare itself for the great famine Joseph had predicted. It led to his rise to power and fame in Egypt that later became the fulfillment of his dream as a teenager when his brothers and father came to him to apologize and buy grains.

On Sunday, our graduates are taking the Physician Licensure Exam.  Let us pray for them to have the chance to fulfill their dreams of serving the people as doctors especially in this pandemic.  May they all pass the medical board exam with flying colors. 

It is not enough that we dream big for ourselves but we also share in others’ dreams because ultimately in the end, all our dreams lead us to God our fulfillment in life.  Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Lent is for dreaming again

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday of March, Second Week in Lent, 05 March 2021
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28   ><}}}*> <*{{{><   Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Lately O Lord you have been consoling me with the shades and hues of Lent, providing much needed inspiration and enthusiasm to forge on amid the many trials I have been going through along with some loved ones hurdling great obstacles in life these days.

As we close another week, you have never stopped showering us with your immense love, dear Father, by inviting us to come to you to be forgiven and enlightened to set all things right again in our lives. No matter how dark or light are the various contrasts of daily life, there is always your Son Jesus Christ journeying with us.

On this first Friday of March, you invite us to dream again of great, good things in life: to dream again of being close to you, of being good, of being loving and loved, of being saved from our sins as we heard the story of Joseph in the first reading and the parable of the wicked tenants in the gospel referring to Jesus. Both were dreamers that someday, we shall be with you in your glory, O God.

But unlike other dreamers, Joseph and Jesus dreamt of salvation in you with “eyes wide open” by working hard on their dreams by remaining faithful and true to you even if others despised them, plotting their deaths.

And so, loving Father, I pray that we dream anew beginning today — of being with you, of doing your work, of making you present in this world where nobody dreams big anymore except of being rich and famous. For those who refuse to dream or cannot dream again for any reason, give them the grace to dream with other dreamers instead of blocking or hindering our dreams like the brothers of Joseph and the wicked tenants of the parable.

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he made him a long tunic. when his brothers saw that their father loved him best of allo his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him… They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelite for twenty pieces of silver.

Genesis 37:3-4, 28

Lastly, Lord Jesus, I pray for the dreamers among us that like Joseph and you, may we hold on to our dreams, to keep dreaming until they come true, in you and through you. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like thine.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our previous Parish, March 2019.

A Lenten Prayer in COVID-19

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021
It is Lent again, Lord;
forty days of prayer
forty days of sacrifices
forty days of good works
forty days of silence and self-control
forty days of preparations for Easter.
Forgive us that we always forget our daily life
is essentially a daily Lent:
a daily exodus of going to the wilderness
filled with temptations 
and calls for fidelity 
to your love and person.
In this time of COVID-19
when so many of us are suffering,
help me, O Lord
not to be carried by feelings
and emotions of the Lenten Season;
give me the courage to see
beyond ordinary things,
to care more and share
even with the least that I have,
to find more reasons
to forgive and understand
most of all, to be fair and just with everyone.
Let me find my way back to you, Lord
in this time when everything and everyone I have
is quickly disappearing or have been gone or lost;
despite the face masks we wear,
let me look more into the eyes
of others to see your image and likeness;
let me wash my hands clean of evil and deceit
as I keep distance from occasions of sins
and most of all, let me empty myself of pride
to realize and experience again
my one and only, first true love is you,
alone, O dearest God.  Amen.
Photo by author, Pulilan bypass road in Bulacan, February 2020.

Where are you?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul 
Saturday, Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 13 February 2021
Genesis 3:9-24    +++  >><)))*> + <*(((><<  +++     Mark 8:1-10
Photos by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon (2020).

Our dear, loving Father, bless all those people and things we have lost, and are about to lose. Bless us too that we may dare to confront ourselves truly the meaning of the question “where”.

In your words today, we heard twice the adverb “where” was mentioned: in the first reading when you were looking for man after the fall, “Where are you?” (Gen.3:9) and in the gospel when the disciples answered Jesus who was thinking of giving food to the crowds who have followed them in the wilderness, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” (Mk.8:4).

Most of the time, we dread hearing and asking the question “where” because it implies somebody or something is missing or lost. Or worst, when someone is hiding like us!

Sorry, dear Father, that you have to continue asking even to this day after the fall “where are you?” because we always hide from you, we always turn away from you in sins.

Worst, when we refuse to see others as our brothers and sisters in Christ, we ask “where?” can we find or get food and other needs to share when we simply refuse to give whatever we have.

We are so sorry, Lord. Please give us the courage to confront the many questions that begin with “where” like “where is the love?” and “where am I really?” in relation with all the love you have poured on us in the loving presence of your Son Jesus Christ.

May we finally find in him the many “where” of this life. Amen.

Ang ating pagkakamali

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-10 ng Pebrero 2021
Larawan kuha ng may akda, Ikapitong Istasyon ng Krus sa Parokya ni San Ildefonso sa Tanay, Rizal.
Doon sa magandang simbahang
aming pinuntahan kamakailan
matatagpuan din kakaibang larawan
ng ikalawang pagkadapa ni Jesus
habang ang Kanyang krus ay pasan;
isa sa mga taga-usig Niya
hindi kita mga mata dahil 
suot niya may kulay na antipara
kagaya ng maraming nabubulagan
at hindi makita katotohanan
nasisilaw sa kapangyarihan
ngunit kaliwanagan ayaw masilayan.
Palagi namang kulang at kapos
ating kaisipan at karunungan
kahit anong ingat at siyasat
hindi sasapat;
Diyos lamang ang ganap
na Siyang nakasisipat
ng mga magaganap
na ni wala sa ating mga hinagap
kaya naman madalas mas mainam pa
na ating matanggap kahit mabigat
kakulangan maging kahangalan
ng mga nanunungkulan.
Madalas aking napag-iisipan
sa dami ng mga kamalian
kagagawan ko o ng iba pa man
kailanma'y hindi naman ako pinabayaan
ng Panginoong Maykapal;
sinasamahan maging sa pagpapasan
ng mga pinagdurusahang bunga
ng mga kasalanan at kamalian
hanggang sa maliwanagan
lahat ay malampasan
at muling makabangon
sa Kanyang kabutihan at kaganapan.
Ito ang ating panaligang
katotohanan sa ating buhay:
lahat ay nagkakamali
maging mga pari
ngunit si Jesus kailanma'y
hindi nagkamali
sa atin ng Kanyang pagpili
kaya tayo ay manatili
 huwag managhili
patunayan nating hindi Siya nagkakamali
 magsumakit sa Kanya mapalapit
hanggang ang langit ay masapit!
Mayroong mga nagsasabi
ito raw lalaking nakasalaming may kulay
ay si Caiaphas na punong pari
na siyang humatol laban kay Jesus
nang Siya ay litisin ng Sanhedrin
nang dakpin noong gabi sa hardin
habang nananalangin;
kay gandang pagnilayan
ngayong aming lipatan ng kaparian
paalala sa amin ng yaring larawan
alisin na at hubarin salamin na madilim
upang makita si Jesus nakadapa sa tabi.
Detalye ng larawan sa itaas ng Ikapitong Istasyong ng Krus sa Simbahan ng Tanay na inukit noon pang 1785.