Why the cross of Jesus is a “must”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 September 2021
Photo by author, St. Ildephonsus Parish, Tanay, Rizal (January 2021).
Must you, O Lord, 
come and suffer 
so I may see 
your great love
for me?
Must you, O Lord,
be betrayed and denied thrice
so I may see
your loyalty?
Must you, O Lord,
die and rise again
so I may see
your glory?

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Mark 8:34
So many times
like the young man
who came to you
I find myself asking too
"Lord, what must I do
to gain eternal life?"
But always the same
scene you repeat
again and again:
that I must deny myself,
take up my cross,
and follow you
my Lord to realize
the gravity of my sins
and the immensity of your
love and mercy for me.
Let me turn to you
and remain with you, Lord
at your Triumphant Cross
that I must raise up
over the world
to illumine the paths
that lead to life and love
into the gates of heaven
found here on earth
and not above;
must I fall and stumble,
raise me up
along with others
who are also following you
with whom I must find you too
to truly exalt your Cross!
Photo by author, November 2019.

“Casio” by Jungle (2018)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 01 August2021
Photo by Ray Piedra on Pexels.com

It is another rainy, heightened season of quarantine measures here in Metro Manila this Sunday with all religious gatherings being banned again while other business establishments especially like the spa are allowed with limited access by the public.

It is a crazy set up. While we believe there has to be some health protocols needed to control the spread of COVID-19, we find it so baffling since last year when religious gatherings continue to be at the bottom list of essentials in this predominantly Christian country.

And the more crazy is how every time our public Masses are restricted, the more people troop to churches to pray and worship!

That is why we have chosen the British neo soul band Jungle with their 2018 “Casio” for our featured music this Sunday that speaks of heartbreak and dysfunctional relationship. It is aptly called Casio because it speaks of a relationship so utilitarian like a Casio watch wherein the woman is just using the guy for her own advantage like the people who have followed Jesus to Capernaum in today’s gospel in order to have food again like last week (https://lordmychef.com/2021/07/31/beyond-when-and-what/).

Casio, playing on my heart just like a Casio
Breaking it apart so you can let it go
Wait another year that's not original, or cynical
Alright, let's go now

When all your dreams are gone
And you're still holding on
You waited far too long
Don't say
I know, you know it's over

We discovered this electronic band last year at the height of the pandemic and since then have been hooked with their funky sound that is characteristically British – intelligent and no non-sense. You have to see the music video for Casio we find so groovy and savvy, perfect for a quarantine Sunday with family.

In an interview at San Francisco’s KEXP, Jungle members explained how in their latest album For Ever (2018) they explored themes – “to shake off their shallow self-doubt” by making “more vulnerable songs” that gave “new directions where they were going in the soul.”

The band is clean cut like most Brits and hip, they really rock so well with their depth and simplicity – exactly what Jesus is asking in today’s gospel so we would desire things of higher levels that “lead to eternal life than food that perishes”.

*We have intentions of copyright infringements to the following music video except to share its good vibes and wonderful music and message.

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.

Prayer in celebration of life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs, 02 June 2021
Tobit 13:1-11, 16-17     ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>     Mark 12:18-27
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com
Jesus said to them,
"He is not God of the dead
but of the living.
You are greatly misled."
(Mark 12:27)

Forgive us, O God our Father, for always crying out to you when life is so tough and difficult, so unbearable that we beg you for death to end our sufferings. Despite our deep faith as we strive to be holy in our prayer life and charity, sometimes like Tobit and Sarah in the first reading we get the wrong impression death is the only way out of our miseries, forgetting that you are the God of the living.

We forget to widen our horizons, to see beyond what is tangible that we get stuck with everything that is wrong, with our failures and mistakes, and with our sins.

We forget the people who love us, our family and friends who love us so much, trying their very best to console us, to help us, and to care for us like in this time of pandemic.

We forget that when life is full of tests, it is always silent and even dark but it does not mean you have left us – on the contrary, that is when you are most closest to us, even carrying us in your loving arms, dying for us like Jesus Christ your Son.

Instead of asking for death when in misery, teach to pray to find a way out of it alive with you! Teach us, O Lord, to pray to celebrate life because it is always good to be alive. Knock us off to our senses like Sarah to rediscover the value and beauty of life even when things are not going according to our plans.

"Blessed are you, O Lord, 
merciful God and blessed 
is your holy and honorable name.
Blessed are you in all your works forever!"
(Tobit 3:11)

Life is so difficult these days, Lord, taking its toll even to our emotional and psychological well-being that so many among us are already losing hope and meaning in life.

Give us the grace like that of your martyrs St. Marcellinus and St. Peter who looked for opportunities to give witness to you with their faith and courage during their time of persecution in Rome that they were able to convert their jailer and his entire family.

We pray for those those wishing death these days like those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, those without money and work, and those so stressed out. Let us bring your light and smiles to others feeling desperate these days, Lord. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz at Binuangan Island, off the coast of Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

Let our joy be complete in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sixth Sunday in Easter, Cycle B,  09 May 2021
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 ><}}}'>  1 John 4:7-10  ><}}}'>  John 15:9-17
Photo by author, December 2020.

Today we come full circle in our readings and teachings of the Lord since Easter, appropriately prepared last Sunday with his discourse being the true vine and we his branches who must remain in him to be fruitful in love.

Yes, love is the only fruit expected of us by God in Christ Jesus. When we die, it is the only thing the Lord would ask us, “gaano ka nagmahal” (how much have you loved)? It is the origin and the end of everything in this life, the only one that would remain in eternity (1Cor. 13:13).

God created us because of love, and because of that love as the second reading tells us, saved us by sending us Jesus Christ whose very life, words and actions are all rooted in his love for the Father and for us. That is why in our gospel today, Jesus spoke of love at every turn during the last supper to emphasize centrality of love that is rooted in God.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, 
so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, 
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:9-11)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Love and Joy

God alone really knows what love is because “God is love” (1Jn.4:16). Notice how Jesus spoke of love in the gospel today by linking it closely with joy as he tells us that when there is love, there is also joy. Without love, there can be no joy and without joy, clearly there is no love at all!

In its truest sense, joy – like love – is more than an emotion. It is a conviction deep within us borne out of faith that no matter what happens to us, there is God who truly loves us, remaining faithful to us until end when everything and everyone is gone.

Joy is deeper than happiness that is always coming from the outside when lips smile or laugh at something or someone funny and happy. Joy is always coming from within when the heart smiles even when you are in the midst of pain and sufferings. Recall those moments when during a major setback or a struggle in life you still managed to feel joy within through a deep sigh after seeing a beautiful sunrise of sunset or a lovely flower. There is always that feeling of comfort and relief so assured that you have somebody by your side — Jesus who assures us of his love this Sunday, asking us to remain in him “so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn.15:11).

Photo by author, ICSB-Malolos, 26 April 2021.

When joy is not complete and not in Christ


Our joy is not complete, not in Christ 
when we refuse to love because we feel unloved.

So many times in life, we cannot experience true joy when we refuse to love another person whom we feel not loving us at all. We “hate” them because we feel they do not love us, they do not care for us, that they take us for granted.

I have seen this happening to me so many times when I suspect other people of being angry with me, of being biased against me and worst, of being “insecured” with me!

But too often, I do not have bases in believing so.

Most of all, I have realized in life that we cannot force people to love us or even like us inasmuch as I do not want being coerced to do the same too! What is most true in my experience is that when some people do not seem to love me, the challenge for me is to love them more. Not hate them or not love them.

I know this is easier said than done but try to understand that it is only in loving those who do not love us or do not care for us or even hate us when we truly love because when we do so, that is when we let God intervene to make his love work in us, through us, and with us.

When we love those who do not love us, we surrender ourselves to God which is an act of self-giving like Jesus Christ on the cross, letting him fill in whatever is lacking in us to truly love. It is the truest love we can have when our love is not reciprocated by another, thus enabling us to rediscover God, our very selves and others. In the process, we begin to experience joy because we have started truly loving without expecting anything in return by loving those who do not love us nor care for us at all.

Photo by author, 2019.

Our joy is not complete, not in Christ
when we love only those like us.

Only God can love us perfectly. Human love is always imperfect as we always have that tendency to go only with those like us – in our looks and bearing, beliefs and tastes in almost everything. In that case, we limit ourselves with the people we interact with that in the process, we never grow in love and never really become joyful because we do not love at all!

Love is always outward in movement, always to another person as we mature. As a matter of fact, we love because we want to be become like the one we love who is always someone we look up to and admire. That is why love becomes more wonderful and fulfilling when we love somebody not like us or totally different.

There lies the problem with our kind of love, especially those portrayed in the movies, television, and modern music where we love only those like us that is very selfish because we only love ourselves.

We will never experience joy completely if in our loving we seek only those who are like us or worst, twist others to become like us, fitting them into our own image so that whom we love is not them but us found in them!

Crazy but it happens so many times when we manipulate others to become like us than let them be free to become their true selves.

“Love is our true destiny.We do not find meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations.The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love.”

Thomas Merton, “Love and Living”

The surest sign that we have truly loved is when we have found another person to love more than our very selves.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Rhode Island, April 2021.

Our joy is not complete, not in Christ
when we refuse to forgive those who have hurt us,
especially those we have loved so much.

It is easy to claim that we love if we do not really love at all. No matter how hard we profess that we love, its lack cannot be denied in the absence of joy in our selves, in our lives because we have been hurt by those we love.

This is more difficult than the first when we refuse to love because we feel we are not loved that may not be true at all; this is evidently clear, somebody had hurt us, had betrayed us, had been unfaithful to us.

And the saddest part of it despite all the denials is that we still love deep within us those who have hurt us! Is it not? Kaya masakit kasi nga mahal pa rin natin.

I am not talking here of a disordered or foolish love; this is something like the love of a husband or a wife to one’s partner who had fallen into infidelity for some reason. Or a prodigal son or daughter who had gone wayward in life.

This kind of love is the most difficult, but once overcome is the most sublime, the loftiest of all because the very reason why we are aching and hurting inside is because we still love. This is the kind of joy that would surely burst in fulness and completeness if we learn to forgive and let go.

Again, easier said than done but such is the power of love: the more we love, love is perfected in us that we slowly get a glimpse of God in others, and the more we become like Jesus his Son (1Jn.4:12).

So many times in life, we need to imitate St. Peter in the first reading by simply allowing God’s irresistible initiatives overtake us that while he was explaining things to the household of Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening that he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:44, 48).

When we love, love freely!

Let that love flow, do not hold it, just let it go like what mothers do most of the time: even if they are hurting inside, even if they feel not loved and cared for, even if sometimes they seem to be so hard on us insisting on their own ways, they just love, love, and love.

And that is the secret of true love rooted in Christ: when we love, we can do nothing but good. Then our joy is complete.

A joy-filled week to everyone! And happy Mothers’ Day too.

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel at Israel, 2014.

“Location Unknown” by HONNE (2018)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 02 May 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Rhode Island, April 2020.

It’s a warm and laid back Sunday, perfect for some chilling especially with family and friends, or simply favorite people and loved ones who have kept our sanity through all these trying 14 months of the pandemic and quarantine. That is why we have chosen a new genre called “electronic music” – so bagets if you wish – as we try on new artists and “make sakay” (ride on) with the times.

It was the pre-COVID period of November 2019 when I read the return engagement in the country by the British duo of Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher who call themselves HONNE.

They sounded interesting that after trying their music on YouTube, I got hooked on them especially after finding out their interests with anything that is Asian. In fact, their name HONNE refers to a person’s true feelings and desires in Japan that literally means “true sound” or hon’ne, like this 本音.

And that is what we like with their 2018 hit “Location Unknown” – it sounds raw yet sophisticated in its appeal to the senses that evokes one’s hidden feelings of emptiness and loss, wishing and desiring to connect again, to be one anew to the one you love who truly loves you. It is what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel: as the true vine with us his branches, we have to remain in him because we shall never be fruitful in life without him (https://lordmychef.com/2021/05/01/remaining-in-christ-the-true-vine/).

Sometimes in life, even if we are successful and we have everything like fame and wealth, we feel something greatly missing in our lives, like a big hole no one can fill except God, the only who truly loves us, working for our own good without us knowing.

HONNE captures so well in this song that feeling of loss – Location Unknown – after being separated, of not remaining with a beloved. Don’t wait for it to happen. Remain in Christ, our true vine. And with your loved ones!

I wish I knew where I was
‘Cause I don’t have a clue
I just need to work out some way of getting me to you
‘Cause I will never find love like ours out here
In a million years
A million years

My location unknown
Tryna find a way back home
To you again
I gotta get back to you
Gotta, gotta get back to you
My location unknown
Tryna find a way back home
To you again
I gotta get back to you
Gotta, gotta get back to you

Listening to HONNE is like having an exquisite piece of sushi – as I have told you, raw yet sophisticated, simply flavorful that delights even the soul. Try their music and you will surely love!

Bon appétit!

Remaining in Christ, the True Vine

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Easter, Cycle B, 02 May 2021
Acts 9:26-31  ><}}}'>  1John 3:18-24  ><}}}'>  John 15:1-8
From Facebook of Fr. Marlito G. Ocon, SJ via GMA News, 30 April 2021.
"Ang lungkot, Father.  
Wala na akong asawa na mauuwian, 
abo na ang asawa ko."

This broke my heart last Friday evening from a post by Jesuit Fr. Marlito G. Ocon of a woman who came by herself to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to deliver her baby. Her husband had just died of COVID-19 while she and her baby are both COVID positive. Worst, she has not informed her parents-in-law about the death of her husband because they are also in critical condition in the province for COVID-19.

“Ang lungkot, Father. Wala na akong asawa na mauuwian, abo na ang asawa ko. Hindi man lang kami nagkausap. Hindi ko man lang maibalita na may second baby na kami. Hindi man lang sila nagkita ng anak namin.” (“It is so sad Father. I do not have a husband anymore to come home to, he’s all ash now. We did not even have the chance to speak to each other. I cannot even tell him the news we have our second baby. He did not even get the chance to meet our new baby.”)

Fr. Ocon is one of the chaplains at the PGH, the largest public hospital in Metro Manila. He said, “I have no words because I know any word can’t explain enough why horrible things like this happened. But I realized that it is in our deep, deep silence and it is when we run out of words, and when theology can’t explain enough, that our faith can speak louder.”

Very true.

Lately I have noticed a shift in prayer requests by relatives and friends, from the usual healing prayers for those afflicted with COVID-19 to prayers for their and loved ones’ emotional and psychological well-being.

More and more people have been coming to me for counseling via Zoom and Messenger apps as they hurdle so many crises in marriage, work, livelihood and self since the pandemic started last year. We have resumed yesterday in our parish our weekly confessions and everyone who came cried not only for their sins but most of all for their emotional baggages either triggered or worsened by this pandemic.

And like Fr. Ocon, I could not say anything at all except to pray and tell them to hold on to God, to never let go of him, “kapit lang at huwag bibitiw sa Diyos”, exactly what Jesus is telling us this Sunday:

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own 
unless it remains on the vine, 
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him
will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing."
(John 15:1, 4-5)

“Remain in me.”

In St. John’s vocabulary, “remain in me” is one of the key phrases he used 68 times in his writings (gospel, three letters and the Revelation), 11 times in this whole discourse in John 15:1-17, and if you have listened attentively, that phrase was mentioned eight times in eight verses!

In its strongest sense, “to remain in me” speaks of the intimate bond of the Father and the Son, of the Son and the Spirit that only St. John recorded for us during the Lord’s discourse at his last supper found in John 14-15. Most of all, “to remain in me” follows that great revelation by Jesus as the Christ in the fourth gospel like “I AM the bread of life”, “I AM the good shepherd”, “I AM the way, the truth and the life” and now “I AM the true vine”.

To remain in the Lord is to live in him in faith even if nothing seems to happen like during this pandemic when God seems to be silent and even distant from us.

It is first of all a call to prayer life. Not just recitation of prayers we have memorized since childhood but to cultivate a deep and personal relationship with God when we do not have to speak at all but simply be in his loving presence.

There are times we feel nothing is happening with our prayers but unknown to us, that is precisely when something is actually happening because prayer does not change the situation but the person!

As we grow and mature in our prayer life, we become more aware of God and of the other persons that we become less focused with our very selves. And that is when we change, when we realize our mistakes and sins, our weaknesses, teaching us to be humble, patient and persevering. It is worth keeping in mind this four-letter word PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens.


Most of the time, 
we do not see things in our lives the way God sees them.  
He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his ways are not our ways, 
his thoughts are not our thoughts for God is totally different from us!  
We have to trust him and remain in him 
"for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything" (1Jn.3:20).  
And that is for sure - as we have proven so many times in our lives.

Photo by author, 27 April 2021, ICSB-Malolos city.

Remaining and being fruitful

Remaining in Jesus means being faithful especially when things get worse, when even in bad times, we consistently stay in the Lord in silence.

Remember how we have been so sullen in March, wondering if God has forsaken us with the deadly surge of COVID-19 cases amid the glaring incompetence of this government when suddenly our hopes were raised high by this community pantry movement?

Who would have thought of Ms. Patricia Non in the quiet street of Maginhawa in Quezon City would rally the whole nation with her “Community Pantry” now helping so many people going hungry?

Not only that. The most beautiful thing Ms. Patricia Non had done is her bringing out the best in every one of us, rich and poor alike, young and old to share whatever we have for our suffering brothers and sisters!

Most of the time, we do not see things in our lives the way God sees them. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts for God is totally different from us! We have to trust him and remain in him “for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything” (1Jn.3:20). And that is for sure – as we have proven so many times in our lives.

In the first reading we find the very difficult and almost impossible situation of St. Paul following his conversion: nobody would believe him and everybody suspected him of possible sinister plots against them! But, St. Paul remained consistent in his prayers and studies in Tarsus until Barnabas introduced him to the apostles who gave him the opportunity to preach in Jerusalem. Despite his dark past, St. Paul won so many converts in his preaching in the name of Jesus that eventually, he was sent to missions abroad that led to the growth of the early church.

That is remaining in the Lord – allowing God to work in us and through us like St. Paul so that we become fruitful, not just successful.

Fruitfulness is the result of remaining in the Lord, of letting God do his work in us. Most often, this leads to pains and failures as Jesus tells us of the need to be pruned like the branches of the vine to be more fruitful. But, despite these failures and defeat in our lives, we experience that sense of fulfillment within us because we have grown and matured in the Lord. We have not really failed at all because we have become fruitful.

On the other hand, being successful means relying more on our human efforts like our strengths and intelligence that is usually measured in tangible things like money and popularity. But, we have also experienced or heard many successful people still feeling empty and lost, that despite their fame and wealth, they have no peace and joy within, feeling nobody truly loves them for who they really are.

Many times in life we have experienced that even if we feel safe and sufficient, that is when we feel so empty, something is missing. As we usually say, parang may kulang pa.

This Sunday, Jesus our Good Shepherd reminds everyone of us to remain united in him who is our true vine. It is only in him can we find life and meaning amid the many sufferings and trials going our way especially at this time of the pandemic.

Only in remaining in Jesus is the surest path to fulfillment despite our pains and sufferings, as well as losses in life. Just stay and remain in him as he is always doing something beautiful for us. Amen.

A blessed and fruitful week to everyone!

Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

Prayer to work centered on the Lord like St. Joseph

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, 01 May 2021
Genesis 1:26-2:3   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, site of St. Joseph’s workshop in Nazareth beneath the chapel in his honor, May 2017.

God our loving Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of St. Joseph whom you have called to be the husband of Mary and the foster father of your Son Jesus Christ here on earth. In him, you have shown us the value of sharing in your work to nurture earth and its resources.

Most of all, in St. Joseph you have taught us to work centered on our Lord Jesus Christ by integrating work with family and with fatherhood to become truly a provider not only of food, clothing and other material needs but most of all in providing love and guidance to the family.

In St. Joseph, the motivation and the purpose of work is solely to serve Jesus Christ which is very evident in the gospel today.

Jesus came to his native place
and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son?"
(Matthew 13:54-55)

How beautiful that in the “wisdom and mighty deeds” displayed by Jesus, the people remembered St. Joseph the carpenter – what a marvelous job he must have done in forming and providing for our Lord!

He must have worked diligently for you, dear God, never focusing attention to himself so unlike these days when we have categories of workers like those doing “white collar jobs” and “blue collar jobs”.

Dearest God our Father, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic when so many people have lost work and are now suffering the adverse effects of quarantine, we pray in the most special way for our workers to please protect them from all harm and sickness especially those working in the hospital.

We pray for those trying to find work these days so they may continue to provide for their families.

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

Open our hearts on this year of St. Joseph as proclaimed by Pope Francis last December 8 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as patron of the universal church:

The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!

Pope Francis, “Patris Corde” #6

O most chaste St. Joseph, pray for us! Amen.

Paalala ng Banaba

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Abril 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Immaculate Conception School for Boys, Malolos City, 27 Abril 2021.
Tirik noon ang araw 
aking ramdam ang init at alinsangan
sa paradahan ng paaralan, 
nanunuyo lalamunan habang 
tagatak ang pawis, naiinis 
naiinip, kailan aalis
virus ng COVID-19 sa atin;
kaya hanggang sa gitna ng init
sumasagitsit sa isip at kamalayan
paghihirap nating pinagdaraanan
nang ako'y maginhawahan sa malamig na lilim
ng nakayungayong mga dahon at sanga ng Banaba;
sa aking paglingon patingala
ako ay namangha at nabighani
mga lilang bulaklak namumukadkad
handog ay kagalakan at kapahingahan.
Luminga-linga pa ako sa kapaligiran
saka lamang napagmasdan
isa pang puno ng Banaba nalampasan
hitik sa mga bulaklak niyang lila
naroon din sa bukana ng paaralan
nagpaparamdam ng mahalagang aral
matutunan sa pandemyang pinagdaraanan:
kung kailan kainitan,
walang patak ng ulan
saka ipinagyayabang nitong Banaba
angking kagandahan at kabutihan
maging kahusayan dapat nating tularan
sa panahon ng kagipitan, doon lumalabas
tunay nating kulay -
ikaw ba'y matamlay at mapusyaw
at hindi makagalaw?
Alalahanin pangangaral ni Hesus nating mahal,
"At bakit kayo nababagabag tungkol sa pananamit?
Isipin ninyo kung paanong sumisibol
mga bulaklak sa parang, hindi nagpapagal
ni humahabi man; maging si Solomon
sa kanyang karangyaan hindi naramtan
ng gayong karinglan!
Kaya't huwag kayong mabalisa
sa inyong kakanin, iinumin o daramtin."
Madaling sabihin, mahirap gawin
lalo na sa marami sa atin sapin-sapin
suson-suson mga paghamon sa buhay
ngunit sa puno ng Banaba naroon
ating tugon:  magpakatatag sa pagkabaon sa lupa
paglipas ng taon uusbong mga dahon at bulaklak
dulot nitong bunga lunas sa maraming sakit at karamdaman.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Immaculate Conception School for Boys, Malolos City, 27 Abril 2021.

Praying for my “His Story”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 29 April 2021
Acts 13:13-25   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><     John 13:16-20
Photo by author, Caesarea in northern Israel, May 2017.

I love that word “history” – somebody said the word stands for “His story”, the story of Jesus Christ’s coming to us, of the eternal Son of God entering our temporal world, giving meaning and fulfillment to our lives.

History in Filipino becomes more deeper and profound in meaning as “kasaysayan” that is, “meaning and sense” from the root “saysay” or “kahulugan” or “katuturan”.

All these came to me, dear God, as I prayed before you, as if listening to Paul in the first reading when he narrated to his listeners your salvation history, of how you have acted in the past to bring everything to fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ.

What a beautiful image of Paul standing to preach by motioning his hand, reminding us all of our “His story” in our own lives:

So Paul got up, 
motioned with his hand,
and said, "Fellow children of Israel
 and you others who are God fearing, listen."
(Acts 13:16)

So many times, Lord, I have failed seeing you present in my life, especially when you have saved me from so many dangers in the past without me knowing it.

So many times, Lord, you have given me with so much that I have never asked but still, I ask for more from you.

So many times, Lord, I have disregarded you, have forgotten you in my many sins, turning away from you as if you have ever left my side but still there, offering me your mercy and forgiveness to start anew.

Thank you, dear God our Father through Jesus Christ your Son who made your presence so real in our lives, for being with us in every here and now. In Jesus, you have assured us loving Father of your presence not only in the past and present but even in the future by being one in him in the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, Lord, for being present in me, in weaving my story into your story we now call History. Amen.