“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.

Easter is “taking your place”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter, 14 April 2021
Acts 5:17-26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:16-21
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago, 2019.
But during the night, 
the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, 
led the Apostles out and said, 
"Go and take your place in the temple area, 
and tell the people everything about this life."  
When they heard this, they went to the temple area 
early in the morning and taught.  
(Acts 5:19-21)

Your words today, O Lord Jesus are so encouraging: “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.”

Oh yes, dearest Jesus, give us the courage and zest to go and take our place where you have designated us to proclaim your good news about this life especially in this time of the pandemic.

Take away our fears and doubts, our complacencies and laziness in stopping and putting on hold our mission from you, your plans for us because of this pandemic. Let us focus on you, Jesus, and forget all about fame and rewards nor faintest recognition in “taking our place” to do your work.

During your mortal life here on earth, Lord, you could not proclaim the kingdom of God beyond the Holy Land. Now you have risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, those bonds and barriers have been broken through your apostles down to us your modern disciples. Keep us faithful in telling the people everything about this life which is so beautiful, so precious, so worth saving!

Like you who have faithfully took your place to tell us everything about this life, may we share you to everyone we lovingly serve.

God so loved the world 
that he gave his only-begotten Son, 
so that everyone who believes in him 
might not perish but might have eternal life.  
(John 3:16)
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2016.

Dearest Lord, please bless and keep safe those who continue to take their place the Father has reserved for them like you our Savior. We pray for their well-being and safety, for their fulfillment in you our Lord and God.

Bless first of all our medical frontliners, everybody working in the hospitals who continue to take their place and tell people everything about this life despite the great dangers and risks of getting sick.

Bless all Dads and Moms, couples and their children who remain faithful to you, avoiding sins, seeking you in prayers daily amid the great difficulties of balancing economics and well-being.

Bless all teachers and students in this difficult period of on-line classes as well as those in their limited face-to-face classes that all their efforts will someday bear fruit in their professional lives and earn them eternal rewards too.

Bless your priests, Lord Jesus, especially those faithfully serving your flock, celebrating the Holy Mass even without your people, giving the sacraments and praying for those lost and weak souls due to this pandemic. Wake up your tepid priests, awaken the moral fiber of your unfaithful priests.

Bless those in news and social communications that despite the dangers of this pandemic they continue to search and report the truth. Encourage those being harassed and threatened like your Apostles before in telling the truth, in exposing and unmasking evils in government and the society.

Bless everyone of us, Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be faithful to your call, that we may always have the courage to take our place amid this pandemic and continue to lovingly serve one another, especially the weak and the poor. Amen.

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

Lent is “seeing” Jesus

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-B, 21 March 2021
Jeremiah 31:31-34  +  Hebrews 5:7-9  +  John 12:20-33
Photo by author, details of the Seventh Station of the Cross at the St. Ildephonse Parish Church in Tanay, Rizal, January 2021.

In the beautiful church of the town of Tanay in Rizal is found a most unique Seventh Station of the Cross where one of those depicted when Jesus fell for the second time is a man with dark glasses looking afar. Local residents say the man with sunglasses is Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus who led the Sanhedrin at his trial leading to his crucifixion.

Nobody can explain exactly why the artist portrayed that man wore sunglasses that was popular among people of stature and position in the country when the carving was made in 1785. Also interesting aside from the man in shades are the soldiers with him shown with Malay features of brown color and wide eyes opened, all looking somewhere except for one looking at the Lord while clutching his garment as he fell looking heavenwards.

I remembered this piece of work of art inside the Tanay Parish Church declared by the National Museum as “National Cultural Treasure” because our gospel today speaks about a request by some pagans to see Jesus. Seeing has many meanings, always leading to believing. And sometimes, it is in believing we are able to see most of all!

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then andfrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 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. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

John 12:20-25

Seeing to believe

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

As we have been mentioning three Sundays ago, the fourth gospel uses poetic expressions and symbolisms to convey deeper truths and realities about Jesus and our very selves, our having or lacking faith in God. Like the act of seeing by those Greeks who requested Philip “to see Jesus”.

If they simply wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, they could have easily seen the Lord who was always at the temple area at that time. Jesus had always been available to everyone like last Sunday when Nicodemus went to see him at night.

But, John often used the verb to see in many senses that also mean to believe like in his appearance a week after Easter to his disciples along with doubting Thomas: Jesus said to him “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn.20:29).

Most mysterious for me in John’s use of the verb to see is in the call of the Lord’s first disciples led by Andrew: He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went where he was staying and saw where he was staying… Andrew followed Jesus. He first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn.1:39-41).

What did Andrew see that he later told his brother Simon that they have found the Messiah?

Of course, John’s most notable use of the verb to see is from that scene at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday when the perfect model of the believer is the “other disciple” whom Jesus loved “went in, and he saw and believed” (Jn.20:8).

Very clear in the mind of John that the request of those Greeks to see Jesus was one of faith, of meeting and speaking with Jesus to be enlightened more like Nicodemus last Sunday. Here we find our important role of being another Philip and Andrew, leading other people to see Jesus.

Those Greeks described as “God-fearing” were pagans attracted to the teachings of Judaism and came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover Feast. They already have faith in God that must have been awakened further when they heard the teachings of Jesus; hence, their request to see Jesus.

It happens so often that when by the grace of God people are illuminated with faith even in the most personal manner, they still need Philips and Andrews who would enable them “to see” Jesus to grow and be deepened in faith. There will always be a need for an apostle who could lead others to “see” Jesus because faith happens within a community, within the Church and through others’ mediation.

And here lies the bigger challenge for us disciples for us to make Jesus “seen” in our lives and in our community.

Believing to see.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just as a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

John 12:23-26, 32-33

In a sudden twist, John tells us nothing if those “God-fearing” pagans saw Jesus at all because the Lord immediately went on a discourse after being told by Andrew and Philip of the request, briefly interrupted by God’s voice speaking from heaven that everybody heard in the temple area.

Speaking in the parable of the grain of wheat dying first in order to produce much fruit, Jesus tells us how we can lead others to truly see him in us and through us by having the same determination and perseverance to follow him, stay with him, and be like him by dying to ones self for others. For the grain of wheat to die and spring forth to new life, it has to be detached. And so are we.

Notice Jesus repeating that sign of his being lifted up on the cross he mentioned last Sunday to Nicodemus. John mentions it again in this part of his gospel adding an explanation at the end because for him, the Crucifixion is Christ’s greatest sign and revelation of his glory, opening a path for us back to God in his Cross, through his Cross.

In teaching us about the parable of the grain of wheat dying and linking it with his being “lifted up”, Jesus now tells us and every “God-fearing” person that we can only “see” him in the scandal of the Cross.

Did those God-fearing Greeks remained in Jerusalem and saw Jesus on the Cross?

We do not know but we are sure that anyone who requests to see Jesus always sees him if we believe first in his crucifixion which is when everyone is drawn to him as he had said. We must first believe Christ died so we may see him risen to life.

It was on Christ’s dying on the cross when God established a “new covenant” among us as prophesied by Jeremiah in our first reading today, giving us all an access to him in Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus which we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, 2020.

Grappling with death to see life

We have never seen the crucifixion of Jesus except in its portrayals in the many movies we used to watch in Holy Week; but, its realities are etched and impressed in our hearts through the many trials and difficulties we have gone through in life that we believe Jesus truly died. And because of that, we have also seen him alive!

Such is the reality of seeing Jesus that every time we describe something so difficult, so trying, we equate it with death like when we say “we felt like dying” taking the exam. And the good news is when we overcome the tests that we use again the word or concept of death to describe something so good as it leads us to glory like when we say a pizza or a steak or a cake to die for.

Such is the paradox and scandal of the Cross of Jesus: we can never see him risen in glory if we avoid and refuse seeing his Passion and Death right in our own selves, in our painful experiences.

Going back to that unique Seventh Station of the Cross at the Tanay Parish Church, I realized how the unbelievers and others among us could not see Jesus as the Christ because they have refused to believe in him first especially when they are down with all kinds of problems and trials, looking somewhere else instead of seeing Jesus fallen in front of them.

Let us believe in Jesus so we may see him in this final week of Lent as we prepare for Palm Sunday next. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, January 2021.

Refreshing our faith in Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Lent in Cycle B, 07 March 2021
Exodus 20:1-17  ><}}}*>  1Corinthians 1:22-25  ><}}}*>  John 2:13-25
Parish Church of St. Joseph in Baras, Rizal.

One thing we notice in Lent is the “noble simplicity” of celebrations: no flowers at the altar, simple music without percussions, without Gloria no Alleluia meant to refocus our attention back to God in a more personal level.

That is why during Lent, our faith is refreshed or rebooted in order to “reset” it back to God himself than with rites and rituals and other formalisms that have made our relationships with him and with one another stagnant.

When faith and religion get fixated on formal codes of worship and belief, detached not only from God but even with people like those in the margins, then it had become an idolatry.

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

John 2:13-17
Photo from turbosquid.com.

Our personal, relating God

On this Third Sunday of Lent until its final Fifth week, we turn to the fourth Gospel of John to deepen our personal relationship with the Father in Christ when each gospel is compacted with signs and language rich in meanings to reignite our faith with “zeal” that “consume” us like Jesus.

Observe John’s formal introduction of this episode of cleansing of the temple by presenting to us its chronemics, the non-verbal communication of time and space to indicate the presence of God in Passover (time), Jerusalem, and temple (space/place). Keep in mind that the fourth gospel is called “the book of signs” because John would always use events, buildings and places, and people as signs pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.

In this episode that immediately happens at the start of the Lord’s ministry as seen by John, something very wrong have happened with the very signs of God’s presence so revered by the people during their important feast of Passover right in their temple in Jerusalem: God had been eased out from the lives of the people and from their worship itself!

The gospels teem with many references at how the people at that time led by the temple officials and religious leaders have turned into worshipping rites and rituals than God himself, forgetting to serve the people by sticking to the letters than to the spirit of the Laws that Jesus always attacked.

It is similar to our own time where our faith and church worship have become empty of God and spirituality filled with human inanities led by some priests who tinker with liturgy, forgetting its noble simplicity, that less is always more. In our efforts to make God “present” with so many “shows” and gimmicks in the liturgy and church buildings, the more we have removed the Divine, unconsciously creating a cult around ourselves.

Notice some churches devoid of the holy with all the flat screens and tarpaulins all over. Worst is how priests have promoted this culture of shouting and clapping of hands during and after Mass as if God were deaf!

So many other things are sadly going in our celebrations where emotions are heightened without really stirring the hearts nor souls with God’s presence. Good liturgy flows from our personal and faithful relationship with God anchored in prayer life, not with shows and activities.

In the first reading, God reminds us in his Commandments that more than laws, these are meant to bring us into a relationship with him our God. See God speaking in the first person, addressing everyone with conversational personal pronouns, “I am the Lord your God” or “I am the Lord thy God”.

More than a mere body of commandments, the Decalogue are a covenant by God with people he had freed from slavery, pledging his unfailing fidelity to them who are expected to be wholeheartedly attached with him as their Lord and God. The Decalogue is first of all a call to intimacy with God expressed with our respect for one another.

This Lent, God invites us to renew our personal relationship with him in Jesus who had come to bring equilibrium in our lives through his Cross where our vertical relationship with the Father is intersected by our relationships with one another in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ. Without this, our faith or any religion will drift to extremes, either to joyless conformism as seen in fundamentalism and traditionalism or exaggerated expressionisms happening nowadays, disregarding the norms of liturgy and of sanity as well. In both instances, there is human manipulation strongly present that pretend to serve God but actually massage somebody’s ego, totally forgetting the people who suffer most.

Photo by author, 2019.

Jesus himself as the new temple

When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was newly elected in office, he wrote a bishop in Europe suffering with cancer. According to reports, the former Pope tried to uplift the spirits of the sick bishop by telling him that “Jesus saved the world not with activities but by suffering and dying on the cross.”

Beautiful words from one of the most spiritual and theological man of our time! Here lies too the fullness of our relationship with God expressed in our worship when our “zeal” for him is consumed in our oneness in Jesus Christ, our new temple.

At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

John 2:18-22

John now presents to us Jesus more than a prophet cleansing the temple with full authority, being the perfection of every worship that is “in Spirit and truth” (Jn.4:23) because as the Messiah of God offered on Good Friday which is also the feast of the Jewish Passover, his Body becomes the new temple.

Of course, sacred buildings are still important as well as rites and rituals but they are signs pointing to the realities of Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel or God-is-with-us truly felt in ourselves, in our lives when we have that oneness, that intimacy in him in our personal and communal prayers that flow down to our interpersonal relationships with others especially the poor and the suffering.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last October, I had the most severe test in life when my only brother was diagnosed with an ailment affecting his spine, becoming immobilized for three months. I took him to my parish so I can look after him. What was most difficult for me was seeing him suffer, writhing in pain even in the middle of the night, sometimes begging me to ask God to take him so his sufferings may finally end.

I thought already knew how to pray, that I was tough and strong especially in my faith but, like a child, I would always hide and cry to God for my only brother who in his entire life has always been sickly and afflicted with many illnesses.

One morning in our daily Mass, tears swelled in my eyes during consecration as I held the Body of Christ in my hands with my voice breaking as I said, THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.

How I wanted to stop the Mass at that moment to cry in joy as I felt Jesus so true, in his flesh and blood, truly alive and personal!

Until now I could not explain what or how I felt that I cried at that time except that the night before, I assisted my brother in bed and cleaned him up. It was very difficult and even messy but a great moment of God’s grace and mercy for me expressing my love for him through my brother. That is when I realized that to truly touch Jesus is first of all to touch him among our sick brothers and sisters; that there is an intimate connection between the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and everyone especially the sick and suffering. And, for us to truly receive the Body of Christ, to experience the Holy Communion in him, we must first have his eyes and heart and hands among those deprived around us (https://lordmychef.com/2020/10/28/the-body-of-christ/).

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Good Friday 2020.

Brothers and sisters: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Faith in God is not meant to be explained nor analyzed. Though we do not stop studying and learning our faith doctrines and teachings, we are reminded this third Sunday of Lent to keep our zeal for God burning. Let us pray to Jesus that like him, may our zeal for the Father consume us by seeing him in persons not on things that are often self-serving. Amen.

Have a blessed and refreshing Sunday in the Lord with your family and loved ones!

Photo by author, 2019.

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.

Contrasts in Lent, contrasts in life

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Second Week in Lent, 04 March 2021
Jeremiah 17:5-10   ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     Luke 16:19-31
Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

How lovely is the season of Lent with its shades and hues of violets that reveal to us in many beautiful ways, O God, the many contrasts in life, enabling us to see and appreciate its deeper realities and meanings when seen in your light.

Lead us back to you, dearest Lord, and let us stop believing that happiness in life lies in external impressions like wealth, power, and fame but in what is going on in the depths of our heart like believing in you, holding on to you, just having you.

Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a barren bush in the desert that enjoys no change of season, but stands in a lava waste, a salty and empty earth. Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the streams. It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.

Jeremiah 17:5-8

What a beautiful and simple contrast in this life, so easy to remember yet we also forget or ignore: with you, there is life; without you, no life too.

This reality becomes clearer in the contrasts presented by your Son Jesus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus whose name means “God has helped” from the Hebrew el azar. No name was given to the rich man for he is more like us, Lord, who lavish ourselves with beautiful and expensive clothings, dining sumptuously in total disregard of Lazarus whose body was covered with sores, licked by dogs, gladly eating the scraps falling from the table of the rich man.

That’s a load of contrasts we take for granted in life yet so obvious though we hardly notice because we remember more what the rich man had without realizing that it was Lazarus who had more life despite his poverty.

Photo by author, August 2020.

Open our eyes, Lord, to the significance and meanings of these contrasts: purple garments and fine linen of the rich man versus the sores covering the body of Lazarus; and sumptuous meals of the rich man vis-a-vis Lazarus gladly eating scraps falling from the rich man’s table.

The rich man relied only to himself with his wealth, celebrated life with things like food and clothes while Lazarus had you in himself, gladly eating scraps from the rich man’s table and going on with life’s sufferings like body covered with sores.

Surely there were other things that eventually brought Lazarus into heaven but clearly, the rich man’s self-indulgence with worldly things and securities that made him forget and totally disregard Lazarus did him big time!

While still here on earth, especially in this season of Lent, may we see the many contrasts in life and choose always where there are more of you, no matter how dark or light it may be. Amen.