Seeing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr, 10 August 2022
2 Corinthians 9:6-10   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   John 12:24-26
Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com
God our loving Father,
just this Monday I have prayed,
telling you how I sometimes wished
to find you in strange visions like
your prophet Ezekiel; today, as we
celebrate the Memorial of your
great Saint, Lawrence, the gospel
speaks so well of finding you
when some Greeks approached Philip,
asking him to help them see Jesus
while in Jerusalem:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

John 12:24
Lord Jesus, so much have changed
in this world in terms of freely worshipping you
 unlike during the early centuries of Christianity
 when your followers shed blood witnessing you;
today, there are no more lions to devour us
nor executioners to crucify or decapitate us
or roast us on gridiron like St. Lawrence;
but your call for martyrdom remains.
Give us the courage to "let go and let God"
in our lives which is to become fruitful
like the grain of wheat to see you
by allowing you dear Jesus to make us become
 everything you want us to be, that is,
a bread produced by grains of wheat
grounded and disintegrated to become
food for others.

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

John 12:25
Help us realize, dear Jesus,
that to see you means to think more
of eternal life than of this present life
that is passing; that we own nothing at all
in this world, not even our very lives;
like St. Lawrence who faithfully served
 the poor and disadvantaged the world refuses
to recognize until now as your presence
and "life" because "life" has always been
seen in glitz and glamor revolving around one's self
as the center of everything;
help us realize that we cannot find meaning of life
in ourselves, by being self-centered;
it is in finding you in others, in valuing them too
 that we find life and its meaning!

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

John 12:26
Finally, finding you dear Jesus
and the Father is entering into your very person,
getting into a communion that "it is no longer I 
who live but you, O Christ, lives in me"
(Gal.2:20);
let me welcome you, Jesus into myself,
let me embrace you and your Cross,
join you in your Passion and Death to be 
one in you more than ever in your Resurrection.

Pray for us, most blessed
St. Lawrence that like you,
we may generously offer our lives
to God and inspire others
to experience and see Jesus Christ
present in this world so blinded
by vanities and fantasies.
Amen.
“Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Deacon” by Hipolito de Rioja (16th c.) from commons.wikimedia.org

Finding our directions in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in Week XIII of Ordinary Time, 01 July 2022
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, 14 May 2022 in Los Baños, Laguna.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father for this
brand new month of July 2022:
new beginning, new batch of 31
days filled with your wonderful 
surprises, filled with life and joy!
Grant us, dear Father,
with sense of directions in you
through Jesus Christ your Son;
like Matthew, may we have the grace
to respond to his call to follow him;
help us realize like Matthew
that life is not about having 
wealth and every thing money can buy
but finding meaning and 
directions in life in you.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
when affluence and comforts
overtake us that we forget you
and the people around us
like the people of Israel at the time
of Amos who "trampled upon the needy
and destroyed the poor of the land"
(Amos 8:4); all the sad conditions
happening then still happen today when
nobody cares at all about Sunday worship
nor with honesty in trading and work.

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Amos 8:11-12
Continue to speak to us, Lord,
for without your words,
we are lost like many of those
among us today, "wandering from sea
to sea, roving from north to the east"
searching for your words,
searching for meaning and
directions in life.
Amen.

Pagpapala sa paglisan

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-01 ng Hunyo 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda sa Bolinao, Pangasinan, ika-19 ng Abril 2022.

Mahigit isang linggo ko nang pinagbubulay-bulay ang pananatili at paglisan hanggang sa aking mapakinggan kahapon sa libing ng kaibigan itong magandang awit ni Bb. Cookie Chua dalawang dekada na siguro ang nakalipas.

"Kung ang buhay ay isang umagang nakangiti
At ikaw ay ang lupang sinusuyo ng bituin
Di mo man silip ang langit
Di mo man silip, ito'y nandirito pa rin

Kung ang lahat ay may katapusan
Itong paglalakbay ay makakarating din sa paroroonan
At sa iyong paglisan, ang tanging pabaon ko
Ay pag-ibig"

Noong nakaraan, ang tanong ko lang naman ay kailan tayo dapat manatili at kailan tayo dapat umalis o lumisan?

Dahil sa awit na aking napakinggan dala ng pagpanaw ng kaibigan, napalawig ang aking pagninilay ng panibagong katanungan: sa bawat paglisan, sino nga ba ang may higit na pag-ibig, ang umaalis o ang naiiwan?

Hayaan ninyo munang aking sagutin unang tanong, kailan ba tayo dapat umalis at kailan dapat manatili?

Larawan kuha ni G. Chester Ocampo sa Japan, 2017.

Napagnilayan ko ito noong nakaraang Martes nang ang mga pagbasa sa Misa ay tungkol sa pagkakulong nina San Pablo at Silas sa Filipos nang biglang mayanig ng malakas na lindol ang naturang lungsod (https://lordmychef.com/2022/05/24/prayer-to-know-when-to-stay-and-when-to-go/). Magpapakamatay na sana ang kanilang bantay sa pag-aakalang tumakas sina San Pablo at Silas nang pigilan siya mismo ni San Pablo na naroon pa rin sa kanilang selda (Gawa 16:22-34).

Hindi ba madalas kapag tayo ay nasa mahirap na sitwasyon, napakadaling pumasok sa isip natin ang basta mawala na lamang at makaalis, gaya ng pagbibitiw sa trabaho o panginibang bansa marahil?

Iyon nga nakapagtataka kina San Pablo at Silas! Bakit hindi pa sila tumakas na lamang pagkaraan ng lindol na sumira sa kanilang kulungan?

Sa kabilang dako naman, doon sa Mabuting Balita ng araw na iyon, si Hesus ay panay ang paalam ng kanyang paglisan sa kanyang mga alagad noong kanilang Huling Hapunan. Sinabi pa niya na ang pag-alis niya ay sa ikabubuti ng mga alagad niya dahil sa pagdating ng Espiritu Santo na susuguin niya (Jn.16:7).

Dalawang magkaibang sitwasyon, kailan nagiging mabuti at tama, ang manatili at umalis?

Mga sagot:

Una, sa manatili man o lumisan, pinakamainam palagi ay sundin banal na kalooban ng Diyos. Parehong mabuti ang manatili at lumisan ngunit nagkakaroon lamang ito ng kabuluhan o katuturan kung makikita batay sa kalooban at plano ng Diyos para sa atin.

Larawan kuha ni G. Chester Ocampo sa Japan, 2017.

Bakit nga ba hindi pa tumakas sina San Pablo at Silas nang mawasak ng lindol kanilang piitan habang nasa Filipos noon? Maliwanag nating makikita dito ang plano at misyon ng Diyos sa kanila upang masagip at mabinyagan bilang Kristiyano ang kanilang bantay sampu ng kanyang pamilya at angkan! Kung tumakas sina San Pablo at Silas, marahil ay nagpakamatay na nga kanilang bantay at hindi naging Kristiyano. Sayang!

Dito ipinakikita sa atin kahalagahan ng pananalangin upang maging maliwanag kung nasaan ang ating misyon sa buhay. Kung ika’y mananatili ngunit ibig ng Diyos ika’y lumayo tulad ni Abraham, kailanaman ay hindi ka mapapanatag sa buhay. Gayun din naman, kung ikaw naman ay magpipilit na umalis at lumipat dahil sa maraming magandang alok at pagkakataon ngunit hindi naman iyon ang layon sa iyo ng Panginoon, baka ikaw ay mabigo lamang sa iyong pupuntahan.

Minsan nais ko na liwanagin paborito nating salawikain na “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” kasi madalas, nauuna ang gawa ng tao at kapag nagkaproblema na, saka hihingi ng awa sa Diyos. Totoong nasa Diyos ang awa at nasa tao ang gawa kung bago tayo gumawa ay humingi muna tayo sa Diyos ng awa, liwanagin sa kanya ano ba ang dapat nating gawain? Hindi iyong kapag palpak na at marami nang sabit saka lalapit sa Panginoon.


Pangalawa, sa pagpapasya natin sa pananatili o paglisan batay sa pananalangin, isang bagay makikita natin palagi nangingibabaw sa Diyos ay kapakanan ng iba hindi ng sarili dahil tiyak palagi niya tayong pangangalagaan at hindi pababayaan.

Kaya, huwag matakot na manatili o lumisan, pangalawa sa Maykapal na ating batayan ng desisyon ay kapakanan ng iba, hindi ng sarili.

Batid ito ng maraming OFW at mga magulang na nangibang bansa. Mahirap at masakit ang lumisan ng bayan, iwanan mga mahal sa buhay at mahirap din naman ang maiwanan at mahiwalay sa kabiyak at magulang. Ngunit, kanilang tinitiis ang lahat para sa isa’t-isa, para sa minamahal at hindi para sa sarili.

Larawan kuha ni G. Chester Ocampo sa Japan, 2017.

Ganoon ang Diyos parati: hinihiram tayo para sa kapakanan ng iba. Ito yung katotohanan ng sinabi mismo ni Hesus na “Walang pag-ibig na hihigit pa sa pag-ibig ng isang taong nag-aalay ng kanyang buhay para sa kanyang mga kaibigan” (Jn.15:13).

Yung nanatili at lumilisan, kapwa nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit, nagiging mabunga ang buhay at pagkatao kung ang pasya ay batay sa kalooban ng Diyos.


Pangatlo, makikita natin na kapag tumpak ang proseso ng pagpapasya natin kung tayo ba ay mananatili o aalis, naroon din palagi paglago ng ating pagkatao at ng mga maiiwan natin. Sa pananatili at paglisan, higit na mahalaga ang pamumunga o “fruitfulness” at di lamang success.

May mga tao na matagumpay, successful wika nga dahil nanatili at nagtiyaga o kaya’y lumayo at nasapalaran sa ibang lugar ngunit hindi naman ganap sa buhay at tila baga mayroong kulang pa sa kanila. Kasi nga, wala namang naging lalim sa kanilang katauhan kanilang mga ginawa sa pananatili man o sa paglisan. Marahil ay sa kabila ng kayaman at katanyagan, wala silang natagpuan kahulugan sa buhay. Palaging mayroong kulang. Tulad ng Diyos na siya lamang ating kaganapan sa buhay.

Larawan kuha ng may akda sa Bolinao, Pangasinan, ika-20 ng Abril 2022.

Maituturing din ito bilang pagmamature o pagkakaroon ng gulang. May mga pagkakataon lalo na sa mga nakababata na kapag naiwanan at hinayaang mamahala sa kanilang sariling buhay, sila’y nagma-mature; gayun din naman kapag sila ay lumuwas ng lungsod upang mag-aral at manirahan ng sarili sa mga dorm, sila man ay nagma-mature.

Alalaong-baga, sa ating pananatili o paglisan, lagi ding dapat isaalang-alang paglago sa katauhan ng nanatili at lumilisan.

Kapwa puno ng biyaya at pagpapala ang pananatili at paglisan kung ito ay ating mapagpapasyahan ng mahusay at hindi ng padaskol-daskol lamang. Ito higit nating mapagtatanto kung ang usapin ng paglisan ay hindi lamang pansamantala at hindi ibang lunan na maaring marating.

Naiiba at lalong lumalalim ang kahulugan ng pananatili at paglisan kung ito ay sa larangan ng pangmagpakailanman, kapag ang paglisan ay kamatayan.

Iyan ang ating pagninilayang susunod upang sagutin ating pangalawang tanong, sa bawat paglisan, sino nga ba ang may higit na pag-ibig, ang umaalis o naiiwan?

Pansamantala, ay halina at pakinggan, sabayan kung mas mainam, itong awiting Paglisan at baka kayo man ay mayroong ibang mapagnilayan. Hanggang sa muli.

*Wala po kaming hangad na lumabag sa karapatang-pangsipi o copyrights ng may-ari ng awit at video na ito maliban sa namnamin kagandahan ng nitong musika.

Mula sa YouTube.com.

Being small, and blessed

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 08 September 2021
Micah 5:1-4     ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>     Matthew 1:18-23
“The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, a 1305 painting by Renaissance artist Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The two babies are Mary: below is Mary upon birth wrapped in swaddling cloth and washed by attendants and then above being handed to St. Anne her mother. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

We rarely celebrate birthdays in our liturgy, except for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25 and of his precursor John the Baptist on June 24. Feasts of the saints are often based on the date of their death or when their remains were transferred for proper burial.

Today is different: it is the birth of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And so we celebrate!

Nine months after her Immaculate Conception celebrated as a Solemnity on December 8, we now have the Feast of her Nativity which is lower in status or ranking of celebrations. Nonetheless, aside from Jesus and John the Baptist, her birth is still celebrated as it is the completion of her Immaculate Conception by St. Anne.

But in this time of the pandemic when everyone’s birthday celebration is kept at the simplest level unless you are a police general or a corrupt government official or a callous lawmaker, it is good to reflect anew on the significance of a birthday. Thanks a lot to Facebook in making every birthday so special, alerting everyone of someone’s birth every day.

Photo by author, December 2018.

"Every birthday is a small Christmas 
because with the birth of every person 
comes Jesus Christ."

In his 1995 Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), the great St. John Paul II beautifully expressed that “Every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.”

What makes that so true with every birthday beginning with the Blessed Virgin Mary is God’s great mystery of becoming small, of being a little one. In the birth of his Son Jesus Christ, God revealed to us that true greatness is in becoming small, in being silent. Even insignificant.

This we find right in the place of birth of the Christ prophesied in the Old Testament.

“You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”

Micah 5:1

And if we go further, we find this true greatness of God in being small found also in the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary who came from the obscure town of Nazareth, the only place in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament. Recall how the Apostle Bartholomew (Nathanael) belittled the Lord’s hometown after being told by Philip that they have found the Messiah from Nazareth, saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn.1:46).

Nazareth was totally unknown.

And so was Mary!

That is why it is so disappointing and sad when many Catholics unfortunately led by some priests have the misimpression of portraying Mary as a “beauty queen” with flawless skin and Western features when she is clearly Middle Eastern woman. Worst of all is the pomp and pageantries we have in the recent fads of processions and coronations.

Photo by author, La Niña Maria at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 07 September 2021.

How sad we have missed how the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model disciple of Jesus was the first to embody his teaching of being small like little children with her simplicity and humility so very well expressed in her 20th century apparitions in Fatima, Portugal and Banneux, Belgium.

Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic that has given us so much time and opportunities to “reboot” or “reset” our priorities in every aspect of our lives, including in our religious devotions and faith itself.

With a total stop to those Marian “extravaganzas” that have been going out of control in recent years, the pandemic is now teaching us in this Feast of the Nativity of Mary of the need for us to rediscover the values of being small and simple, silent and hidden.

Enough with our imeldific celebrations even in our religious gatherings that have sometimes become egregious display of wealth and power.

Being simple and small like Mary, both as a child and as an adult, enable us to see again the value of life and of every person.


The more simple and true 
we are like Mary and Joseph, 
the more Jesus is seen 
and experienced in us!  

Aside from the lack of any account on the birth of Mary, we heard proclaimed today the birth of Jesus to teach us that truth expressed by St. John Paul II that in every person comes Jesus Christ. The more simple and true we are like Mary and Joseph, the more Jesus is seen and experienced in us!

That is why when we greet somebody a “happy birthday”, what we really mean telling him/her is “I love you, I thank you for making me who I am today.” Through one’s simplicity and littleness in Christ, we are transformed into better persons because we are able to have glimpse of God’s love and kindness.

Photo by author, December 2020.

The true joy of celebrating a birthday is not found in the externalities of gifts and parties and guests with all the fun that come along. In this time of the pandemic as we learn to celebrate simpler birthdays, we are reminded of life’s beginning and direction that is eternal life.

And how do we get there? Through death or dying – the one reality in life Jesus has taught us in his Cross which we have avoided that has suddenly become so common these days of the pandemic.

Like in the birth of Jesus Christ, we are reminded by every birthday that life is precious because it is so fragile – any infant and every person can be easily hurt and harmed, be sick and eventually die.

Like Mary and Joseph, the little Child born in Bethlehem asks us, even begs us to take care of him found in everyone among us. Let us be more loving and kind, understanding and caring, even merciful and forgiving with one another not only in this time of the pandemic.

Such is the wisdom of God in making life small and fragile so that we may care and value it because there lies also its greatness. The best birthday greeting we can express to the Blessed Mother Mary today is to start being small and simple like her to share Jesus with everyone. Amen.

Directions where to go

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 07 July 2021
Homily for Wednesday in the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Genesis 41:55-57;42:5-7,17-24  ><)))*>   Matthew 10:1-7
Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

There are two essential questions each of us asks in our lifetime that give meaning to our lives and existence: “Who Am ?” and “Where am I going?”. Both questions go hand in hand even if their answers unfold or evolve through time because the directions we take in life flow from how we have known ourselves (identity).

But of the two questions, it is the second one that we keep asking, thinking it is easier to answer that so often, we take many directions in life without much reflections.

And prayers.

Today our readings speak about “going”, directions from God that we must take in life, inviting us to pray and reflect about the many directions we have taken in life.

From the beautiful story of Joseph the “dreamer” in the Old Testament to Jesus in our gospel, God gives us directions, telling us where to go to find fulfillment and fulness in life.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.

When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.

Genesis 41:55

Go to Joseph…

God directs us to go find people of credibility and integrity who will mold us into better persons by discovering our true selves, harnessing our talents, learning and growing from our mistakes and painful past.

Here we see the need to have a true friend, a good spiritual director, a faithful co-journeyer in life who can nourish us with their holiness and spirituality, positive outlook in life, maturity and sincerity.

The other day I came across an anecdote from the late Filipino taipan John Gokongwei who claimed that the most important decision one has to make in life is choosing the person to marry because your spouse is your lifetime partner with whom you shall make your dreams come true, clarifying things for you when there are uncertainties and doubts, showing you other perspectives to consider, and one who would always stand and believe in you.

That’s is very true!

God speaks and comes to us most of the time through people he sends us like family and friends, colleagues and superiors, even strangers and people we hardly know.

Important thing is for us to be open not only to learning new things but to simply meeting people because life is about interacting with persons. See that the author of Genesis narrated how the Pharaoh told the Egyptians to “go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.”

Photo by author, view from temple of Jerusalem, 2017.

Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Matthew 10:5-6

Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

This is the most striking but also most beautiful direction of God that he sent us Jesus Christ our Savior: to go and search for the lost, the weak and sick, the forgotten and those in the margins. We find God most among those people.

This direction of God is also a call to service, to a loving charity to share and bring his Son Jesus Christ among the poor and rejected.

It is among the poor that we find Jesus because whenever we come to them sharing Jesus, we are surprised to find out that the Lord has been with them – also waiting for us to meet him among them! And that is when grace happens and blessings abound: the Christ among the marginalized affirming the Christ in those serving and proclaiming his gospel.

That is heaven, union with God who directs us to go and share life, to have life in its fullness.

From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

This brings us to the heroism of the 50 soldiers who died in the plane crash last July 4 in Patikul, Sulu.

One of those who perished there is an alumnus of Our Lady of Fatima University’s College of Medicine, Capt. Dr. Nigel Emeterio of Batch 2015.

From what I have gathered among some people in the University and those who have known him and his wife who is pregnant with their second baby, Capt. Dr. Nigel was a “fearless fighter in life” who have selflessly given himself to everyone since medical school, helping friends and strangers alike in every way he could.

He had always wanted to serve in the Philippine Air Force and was the flight surgeon of the the C-130 that crashed in Sulu last Sunday while transporting troops from Cagayan de Oro City.

As a flight surgeon of the Air Force, Capt. Dr. Nigel was not only at the forefront of the government campaign against terrorists.

The young military doctor is also a medical frontliner against COVID-19 when the pandemic struck early last year, serving people in remote areas of the country being served by the Philippine Air Force.

In him we find the truth that life is not measured in years but the life in years. Though he died so young at the age of 30, Capt. Dr. Nigel had lived life to the fullest. In his six years of being a doctor, he had served and saved so many lives mostly those from the margins of the society.

He had lived life to the fullest most of all with his love not only for the people but most of all to his family, especially his wife, Dr. Dana who was also a classmate at Fatima University. She is now pregnant with their second child.

From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

I have not talked to his widow but from the screen grabs of his posts to her shared with me by their friends, the more I admired this Capt. Dr. Nigel who had followed God’s directions in life.

His messages to his wife who is also a Doctor are filled with love and respect, hopes and dreams in the future.

Most of all, Capt. Dr. Nigel was fond of speaking about the beauty of life he had found in her and their first child, his gratitude for her love and support, and “after a year of prayers”, for the gift of a second baby.

Here is a man in touch with God, who followed the Lord and Master in serving the poor, who went to follow the divine direction to go and marry his wife to raise a family.

Last Sunday, Capt. Dr. Nigel was again sent to go as flight surgeon of some 90+ troops and civilian volunteers to fight terrorists in Sulu.

Like in his previous missions of saving lives, Capt. Dr. Nigel followed orders.

Their plane crashed and exploded after missing the airport.

Though they did not make it to their destination, surely, Capt. Dr. Nigel and the soldiers and civilians with him must have found fullness of life, now in the presence of God where we shall all go in the end.

It was a mission well-accomplished in the Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto Capt. Dr. Nigel, and companions, O Lord;
May your perpetual light shine upon them.
Amen.
From the FB post by Julian Arguilla, 05 July 2021.

*Please do pray also for those wounded, for those left behind by the casualties of this accident, their friends and colleagues as well as for our military men and women who serve selflessly our country, always going wherever the Lord directs them.

Praying for directions where to go

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 07 July 2021
Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24   ><)))*>+><)))*>  Matthew 10:1-7 
Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com
It is only now have I realized,
Lord, how far we have been travelling
in this life 
and how often have we 
truly asked you for directions;
so often in life
off we go where our desires
and plans lead us
deciding on our own
charting our own maps,
asking directions from everybody,
even non-persons like Google and Waze
and still get lost
for we never asked you directions
nor followed your direction. 
When hunger came to be felt
throughout the land of Egypt
and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread,
Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to
go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.
(Genesis 41:55)
Jesus sent out these Twelve 
after instructing them thus, 
"Do not go into pagan territory or 
enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
(Matthew 10:5-6)
Go where, O God?
Go to persons, go to people.
Go to those with integrity and faith in you
like Joseph your servant sold to Egypt
by his own brothers.
Go to those lost and hurting,
to those who were one with us
but left us because we have hurt them
or taken them for granted
or have abandoned them.
Let us go, dear God,
where you desire us to bring you
to share you.
And find YOU.
 Amen.

Praying to be true in prayers

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI in Ordinary Time, Year I, 14 June 2021
2 Corinthians 6:1-10   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:38-42
Photo by author, May 2016.

Thank you very much, O God, for the daily gift of prayers, of being able to pray to you which is a pure grace from you. On our own we cannot pray because we do not have the courage and wisdom to speak to you, to listen to you. Most of all, we are afraid to enter into union with you especially with the example set to us by Jesus Christ your Son.

Give us the grace to be slowly true in our prayers, Lord, like letting go of revenge and vengeance.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well."
(Matthew 5:38-39)

What is most difficult in praying is imitating you, sweet Jesus, in devoting our lives to you and your gospel by forgetting ourselves, carrying our crosses and following you closely.

So many times, we receive the grace of God in vain, wasting these gifts because we are so afraid of giving ourselves totally to others like you Lord Jesus on the cross.

Teach us how to be a sign of contradiction, a paradox in ourselves like St. Paul who truly imitated you by first of all trying to reconcile with the Corinthians who have turned against him when he failed to keep his promise of visiting them. Like you Lord Jesus, St. Paul bore all the personal attacks against him by the Corinthians, choosing to be conciliatory and gentle in his attitude in addressing them.

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
so dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
so sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many; 
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
(2 Corinthians 6:8-10)

In the midst of pain and suffering, rejection and persecution, St. Paul found joy and peace in you, dear Jesus. He was so convinced of your love and presence even in the midst of his darkest moments in life. So unlike us who easily give up your cross, Lord, when we are criticized because the sad truth is we always seek recognition and praise for our works in you.

Help us to be like St. Paul in his unshakeable faith in you, so true in his prayers of becoming like you, a sign of contradiction to the world, a person of Christ-like paradoxes. Amen.

Photo by author, May 2016.

Life in the Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God our loving Father, for this brand new day, so blessed and filled with many opportunities for us to change and grow in the Holy Spirit, to test our limits and see your wisdom in calling and sending us to make you known in the world.

How amazing that in every day you give us, you keep qualifying your call so that even if we are not qualified at all, you still call us because you believe in us.

Not that of ourselves
 we are qualified to take credit for anything
as coming from us; rather, our qualification
comes from God, who has indeed qualified us
as ministers of a new covenant, 
not of letter but of spirit; 
for the letter brings death,
but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

Forgive us, dear Father, when so many times we refuse to obey your laws especially when they go against our whims and caprices, claiming them to be archaic and irrelevant but at the same time, when we complain of the Church’s many changes and reforms that do not suit us, when we choose to revert to the pass than embrace the changing world.

Let us understand the gospel today where Jesus declares, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt.5:17).

Let us live in the Holy Spirit to find and rediscover daily the person of Jesus Christ so that we may be gentle and kind like him with one another than being stuck in the rigidity and stagnation of our conservatism that make us harsh and legalistic in our relationships.

Let us live in the Holy Spirit so we may be free and faithful to you always, bubbling with spontaneity and creativity that express your glory, O Lord.

We pray today for those who choose to be sad, who insist on bringing back the past without understanding the true meaning of growing and changing in Christ, of maturing in freedom and love to fully appreciate the beauty of your gift of life. Amen.

Photo by author, 2018.

True greatness in being small to become part of the whole

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Pentecost, 23 May 2021
Acts 2:1-11  ><}}}*>  Galatians 5:16-25  ><}}}*>  John 15:26-27.16:12-15
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Today we bring to completion our celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery – his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Ascension and Coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Although this mystery is one single reality, we have stretched its celebration over a period of 50 days (hence, Pentecost) or more than seven weeks because it will never be enough to fully grasp its whole meaning for it is a continuing reality and mystery in our midst just like the Ascension last week.

Note the upward movement of the Ascension that calls us to “level up” our relationships with God and one another in Christ; today, the downward movement of the coming of the Holy Spirit calls us to being small in order for us to be broken and shared with others. Whenever there is a downward push, what happens usually is a breaking down into smaller parts to fuse with the larger whole like a mix.


...our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others...  
It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole 
that we truly become great - 
whether in the Church or a community, 
in our personal relationships...

Jesus had taught us in his life and example especially on the Cross that our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others like him. It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole that we truly become great – whether in the Church or a community, in our personal relationships like family and circle of friends and most especially in the union of man and woman as husband and wife in marriage.

That is why the Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church when the disciples after being filled with the Holy Spirit came out in the open to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It was actually more of a “coming out party” of the Church that was established by Christ during his Last Supper.

See that since the very beginning, the Church started as a catholic – a whole – at the Last Supper of the Lord when he also instituted the Holy Eucharist that has become the sign of our unity from then on that enabled the disciples to recognize him at Easter at the breaking of bread.

Jesus promised them at the Last Supper how things would get clear to them when the Holy Spirit comes.

"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you
from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds
from the Father, he will testify to me.  And you 
also testify... I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes,
the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth."
(John 15:26-27. 16:12-13)

Believing in the Holy Spirit, Believing in the Church

Every Sunday in the Mass we profess our faith, declaring “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church” but, do we really understand its meaning? To believe in God is to believe in the Holy Catholic Church, to forget one’s own agenda in life, to submit ones self to her teachings from Christ our Lord and Master.

It is a declaration of the mystery and reality of the Pentecost, reminding us that becoming Christian means receiving and embracing the whole Church!

This is the beautiful meaning of the account by St. Luke at the first reading of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost at Jerusalem when all barriers – physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual – were broken as the disciples went around speaking in various languages to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ.

When the time of Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise
like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house
in which they were.  Then there appeared to them
tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest
on each one of them.  And they were all filled 
with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
(Acts 1:1-4)

Here we find the disciples of Jesus and their converts on that day of Pentecost allowing themselves to be taken up into the Church!

And how did this happen? St. Luke tells us “Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” Each one was parted, was broken down from their sins and selfishness that they became open for each other, trying to understand and accept each one as brother and sister in Christ.

It was a reversal of the story of Babel in Genesis when people were so arrogant and proud building a tower that reaches to heaven who were punished to speak in different languages that led to their confusion and quarrel until they all perished along with their ambitious plan.

Pentecost was different. There were different languages, different peoples with different backgrounds yet they were united and understood each other because everybody tried to become small, to mix into the whole and thus becoming a part of the Church on that day.

Unless we are willing to be parted by the Holy Spirit’s “tongues of fire” and “strong driving wind” like a storm, we can never be filled with God and his holiness to experience his peace and his joy.

It is a lifelong process and that is why Pentecost is a daily reality, happening to us especially when we sometimes have to be shaken by so many events and circumstances that come our way.

In the second reading, we heard St. Paul reminding the Galatians, including us, to “live by the Spirit and not gratify the desire of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). At that time, some missionaries sowed confusion among the Galatians, telling them to follow Jewish practices and Mosaic prescriptions to be fully Christians like circumcision. The issue had long been settled at the Council of Jerusalem but some Jewish converts persisted.

Here, St. Paul teaches us a valuable lesson in resolving conflicts and confusions in daily life in the light of Jesus Christ, of salvation, of the Church. For St. Paul, we always have to ask the Holy Spirit in guiding us in everything, no matter how secular and mundane it may be to find the theological and spiritual implications of our experiences.

What he told the Galatians remains true to our days, that freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but to choose and do what is good. Every person has that tendency to sin, an imperfection in the “flesh” that is always in contradiction with the “spirit”.

As we have mentioned earlier, our greatness lies in our ability to share and give ourselves to others by dying to our sins and selfish motives, precisely what St. Paul is telling us:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.

Galatians 5:19-21

These are the things that the Holy Spirit “part” in us when it comes to us daily especially in our prayers and in the celebrations of the sacraments like the Holy Eucharist. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are unified as a person, we become whole and integrated that we see the value and importance of being one with God and with others. It is not longer the rituals that become the law guiding us but the interior law of love of Jesus Christ that enables us to get out of our selfishness to give ourselves in loving service to others.

When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit guided by this interior law of love, that is when we become truly free and experience the gifts and fruits mentioned by St. Paul like peace and joy.

In our world today marred by sin and so many divisions happening in our society and even in the Church, in our communities and right even in our families and personal relationships, let us pray today to the Holy Spirit to come to us, break down within us the many walls we have and lead us to surrender ourselves to God to be led by his hand in continuing the mission of love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

A blessed week ahead of everyone!

Photo of the stained glass with the Holy Spirit bringing light into the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

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.