The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2021
Numbers 21:4-9 ><]]]]*> Philippians 2:6-11 ><]]]]*> John 3:13-17
God our loving Father,
in this time of the COVID-19
pandemic when being "negative"
is actually "positive",
help us see the meaning
of celebrating your transformation
of repugnant symbols of suffering
and death into signs of glory
and majesty like the snake
and the cross.
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
How wonderful it is, Father
when you transformed a
dangerous snake into a
healing and saving symbol
at the desert,
prefiguring the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ
who showed us personally
that the path to exaltation
is through lowliness
Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.
Most amazing of all, dear Father
is how you have transformed in Jesus
the most cruel instrument of suffering
and death which is the cross
into a symbol of salvation.
What a beautiful transformation
you have brought in Christ's Passion,
Death, and Resurrection
when the most negative sign
has become the clearest positive sign of all!
Jesus told Nicodemus: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.
Help us find and celebrate,
O God, in this Feast
of the Exaltation of the Cross
Christ's resurrection and glory
in heaven, instead of mourning
his death for he is Life himself;
help us focus on healing and salvation
instead of dwelling on pain and
suffering especially in this time
of the pandemic; may his Cross
be our light in guiding us through
the darkness of COVID-19,
transforming us within to see
ourselves and one another clearly
as your beloved children, dear Father,
realizing the depths of your love
and mercy while looking up to Jesus
on the Cross. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 11 July 2021
Life is always beautiful, even if not all days are bright and sunny. Despite the rains and darkness above us, life is still good because of God’s great love for us expressed through the people he sends us like family and friends, even strangers sometimes.
In today’s gospel, we heard Jesus sent the Twelve to cast out unclean spirits and to heal the sick and afflicted (https://lordmychef.com/2021/07/10/we-are-missionaries-of-christ/). It is the first task given by Jesus to every missionary he sends because wherever there are darkness and sickness, you also find evil and sin. By casting out evil and sins, preaching repentance, the world is restored to its original order of beauty and truth in God.
That is why we have chosen Mr. Ryan Cayabyab’s classic composition from 1980 Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka originally recorded by Mr. Basil Valdez that was covered by other artists until recently .
One of the most beautiful OPM (Original Pilipino Music) love song courtesy of Mr. Cayabyab also known as “El Maestro” for his being a musical and lyrical genius.
The song speaks so well about the nature of life that is sometimes caught in a storm with so much rains and darkness; but, the guy is not worried at all, even asking for more rains for as long as he is with his beloved one.
Pagmasdan ang ulan, unti-unting pumapatak
Sa mga halama't mga bulaklak
Pagmasdan ang dilim, unti-unting bumabalot
Sa buong paligid tuwing umuulan
Kasabay ng ulan, bumubuhos ang iyong ganda
Kasabay rin ng hanging kumakanta
Maaari bang huwag ka nang sa piling ko'y lumisan pa?
Hanggang ang hangi't ula'y tumila na
Buhos na ulan, aking mundo'y lunuring tuluyan
Tulad ng pag-agos mo, 'di mapipigil ang puso kong nagliliyab
Pag-ibig ko'y umaapaw, damdamin ko'y humihiyaw sa tuwa
Tuwing umuulan at kapiling ka
Today, the Lord is sending us as is missionaries in his name, in his power. We merely propose but do not impose through our life of witnessing to the saving power of Jesus Christ. May we bring light and life to those going through many rains and darkness these days so they may realize that despite the storms, life is always beautiful.
*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this song and music video except to share its beautiful message of life and love. Thanks.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 20 June 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ><}}}'> Mark 4:35-41
More than a year ago in March, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Message before an empty St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the gospel we heard today when COVID-19 began to wreck havoc upon us, claiming about 3.85 million deaths worldwide as per latest data show.
We are still in the same darkness, in the same storm but much have already changed since the pandemic first struck us last year. Jesus had calmed the seas and the storms with some relief offered by vaccines. Our journey continues as we cross this sea of the pandemic to safer shores.
Like the Pope’s Message last year, we must continue to call and trust in the Lord but at the same time, realize the deeper spiritual meaning of this pandemic, of the need to have a more intimate relationship with God through Jesus.
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.
Life is a constant crossing of the sea in darkness with Jesus.
See that in our journey in life,
it is when evening comes,
when there is darkness
that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea.
When there are problems and crisis in life,
that is when Jesus calls us
to get to the other side of life's situation.
On his side.
I love that imagery painted to us by St. Mark in our gospel today, from a casual preaching last week out in the open field with the warm sun shining, Jesus invited his disciples when it was getting dark to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee.
Life is a journey that when evening approaches, our instinct is to find a safe place to spend the night. But, today St. Mark shows us a more appropriate imagery of life as a journey which is like crossing the sea.
See that in our journey in life, it is when evening comes, when there is darkness that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea. When there are problems and crisis in life, that is when Jesus calls us to get to the other side of life’s situation. On his side.
And what a beautiful expression we have in “to cross to the other side”! There is always the cross to carry in this life that is like the sea, the uncertainty from our usual sureties like family and friends, jobs, and the status quo because Jesus wants us to have him alone as our surety in life.
A few years ago a Malaysian Air plane perished at sea; despite all the modern technologies, it has not been found yet. It is a reminder to us all of how vast is our world with so much mysteries impossible for humans to master or even fully understand.
Yet, our gospel and first reading assure us that though the world is awesome with great wonders and occurrences, its Creator – GOD – is more awesome for he alone has complete control over nature, especially the sea which is the most difficult of all!
The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled!
Job 38:1, 8, 10-11
Our awesome world, more awesome God.
St. Mark’s description of the situation inside the boat with Jesus asleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea is very surprising that seems to be exaggerated like in the movies for dramatic effects not to entertain us but to remind us of that basic reality found in his entire gospel account that Christ came to usher in a new world where never again shall sin and death prevail over us.
Recall the other scenes he would later show Jesus exercising total control over the sea like when he walked on water amid a storm (Mk.6:45ff) and ordered a legion of demons to enter a herd of swine that drowned into the sea (Mk.5:13).
As the Son of God, Jesus has total sovereignty over the sea that symbolized the realm of evil, exorcising it to free us from its clutches when he finally died on the cross.
In the first reading, we heard the fictional story of Job being assured by God who got everything under control, even the mighty sea, putting a limit by stilling its proud waves.
In our gospel, we see the reality of God in Jesus Christ calming the storm at sea.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Notice Jesus was sleeping soundly, not disturbed at all neither by the storm with its giant waves that tossed their boat nor the commotion and yelling of his disciples. He was so composed and serene.
The same scene we shall see again when St. Mark tells us how on the night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed and arrested to be tried by members of the Sanhedrin. It was all dark with Christ so composed and relaxed answering the questions of his enemies while outside was Peter so afraid, denying the Lord thrice while the rest of the apostles went hiding out of fear for their lives.
What a beautiful imagery of our Lord and of us!
Here is Jesus so composed and serene as always while us on panic mode, so terrified, even reproaching God – “do you not care that we are perishing?” – when our lives are threatened as if God does not care at all.
When we look back to last year, it was very frightening like that situation the disciples were into: nobody knew exactly the nature of COVID-19, without any known cure and method of treatment, people were dying daily, and life was at a standstill due to the lockdown.
But, with faith in God, we have moved on. Some weddings finally pushed through, students went back to school while others dared to venture into new businesses and other endeavors, crossing the sea so to speak amid the darkness. Those who got married last year now have their first born while students who enrolled last year have graduated and we who risked to move on are now better off than before.
Had we waited for the pandemic to end before deciding to enroll back in school or find a job or get married, we would surely be into great losses for there is still the pandemic that will most likely remain until 2022 or beyond.
As we have reflected last week, Jesus continues to work in silence in us, with us and for us, making us grow like the tiny seed. He never abandons us especially in times of great trials. This we have proven when we dared to venture in life during this pandemic.
Let us entrust to him our very lives for he alone has total sovereignty in this world and in this life for he himself is life – more powerful than any storm who has the whole world, especially the seas, in his hand.
A life centered in Jesus
We cannot wait for things to get better,
for the pandemic to end,
for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially.
It is right in the middle of a storm
when we are expected to make a stand for Christ,
to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us.
After Jesus had pacified the storm and the sea, St. Mark briefly ended our gospel story by telling us how the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”(Mk.4:41).
More than the stories of the Lord’s teachings and miracles, St. Mark wants us to make a stand for Jesus, to center our lives in him as we journey in this life, whether in the ordinariness of parables, the safety of the open field and high mountains, or the dangers and perils of the sea at night, with or without storms.
Remember Nightbirde last week who said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” We cannot wait for things to get better, for the pandemic to end, for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially. It is right in the middle of a storm when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.
Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us… So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:14, 17
Now more than ever in our modern history that the whole world needs a lot of healing and reconciliation. But unlike the proposals of experts, it is not merely a reconciliation of peoples with one another. We do not need a “new normal” which is a misnomer because a norm does not change. What is true and good and fair would always be true and good and fair at all times.
That is what we need, to bring back the true normal in life which is a reconciliation of every person with God so that we may see our world in a more wholistic sense that we become more just and humane.
There can be no true reconciliation among peoples unless there is first of all our reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ so that we become in him a new creation, new persons filled with his love and mercy, justice and kindness. Of course, there will still be many storms as we cross the many seas of our lives but they will be less frightening if we have Christ on board, even if he is soundly asleep. Amen.
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
Jesus said to them,
"He is not God of the dead
but of the living.
You are greatly misled."
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!"
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.
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
"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.”
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.
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.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday within the Octave of Easter, 09 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 4:1-12 <*(((>< + ><)))*> John 21:1-14
I could easily identify with your words today, Lord Jesus, especially with the flow of the story of the healing of the crippled man through Peter and John: from the Upper Room to the Beautiful Gate to Solomon’s Portico to their being thrown to prison; from the proclamation of the Good News of salvation to the healing of the crippled man and now their persecution and harassment.
After the crippled man had been cured,
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people,
the priests, the captain of the temple guard,
and the Sadducees confronted them,
disturbed that they were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They laid hands on Peter and John
and put them in custody until the next day,
since it was already evening.
So many times, Lord, we resent and avoid sufferings in life like persecution without realizing that it is through these trials that we make it to Easter like you when you passed over from your Passion and Death to Resurrection.
There are also times, Lord, when we feel so down, feeling lost and disappointed that we try going back to our old ways like Peter and his companions that Sunday morning when they decided to go fishing again after you have risen.
Like them, we feel we can be on our own that when failures come, we fail to recognize you only to realize later that without you, we can do nothing.
When it was already dawn,
Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them,
"Children, have you caught anything to eat?"
They answered him, "No."
So he said to them, "Cast the net
over the right side of the boat and you will find something."
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved
said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
Thank very much, dear Jesus for bearing with us when we feel afraid of your mission, when we doubt if it is really you who is with us, directing us, guiding us.
Send us your Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and our hearts to be firm in our faith in you, to trust you that when trials come our way, your abundant blessings are also there pouring into us to weather every storm in life. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 February 2021
Rainbows are one of nature’s loveliest occurrence that remind us of God’s all-encompassing love for us despite our sinfulness. It is the most enduring and visible sign of God’s promise to love and keep us always despite our being-of-forgetfulness — forgetting God and others, forgetting our promises to be good, forgetting our loved ones.
On this First Sunday of Lent, we find how in the first reading God gave Noah the rainbow as a sign of his covenant to never destroy earth again after the great flood. Only Noah and his family along with the animals inside his ark survived the great flood that cleansed the world of sinfulness. It became the prefiguration of Jesus Christ coming to cleanse us of our sins to be able to lead holy lives anew amid the many temptations in life as seen in today’s gospel.
Jesus in the desert resisting temptations by Satan depicts how life really is, full of contrasts and struggles but always there is Christ helping us, comforting us, strengthening us like a rainbow after every storm.
Eventually on Good Friday when Jesus offered us himself on the cross, he became our rainbow in fact as seen in the shape of his outstretched arms.
And that is why we have chosen South Border’s 2003 hit Rainbow first heard for the movie Crying Ladies.
The song perfectly captures our reflection for this Sunday that life is a Lent, filled with so many contrasts like sufferings and joys, failures and victories, darkness and light.
Fallin’ out, fallin’ in Nothing’s sure in this world no, no Breakin’ out, breakin’ in Never knowin’ what lies ahead We can really never tell it all no, no, no
Say goodbye, say hello To a lover or friend Sometimes we Never could understand Why some things begin then just end We can really never tell it all no, no, no But oh, can’t you see That no matter what happens Life goes on and on So Oh baby, please smile Coz I’m always around you And i’ll make you see how beautiful Life is for you and me
Take a little time baby See the butterflies color’s Listen to the birds that were sent To sing for me and you Can you feel me This is such a wonderful place to be Even if there is pain now Everything would be all right For as long as the world still turns There will be night and day Can you hear me There’s a rainbow always after the rain
The lyrics of this OPM are so Lent, in fact, that you can replace the “rainbow” with Jesus who is our Eternal Rainbow amid all the storms of life. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
40 Shades of Lent, First Sunday, Year B, 21 February 2021
Genesis 9:8-15 + 1Peter 3:18-22 + Mark 1:12-15
Lent may be the most sparse in outward signs and decorations like flowers in all liturgical seasons but it is the most dense in meaning and imageries. Although it is often seen as a drab with its motif of penitential violet and subdued music when both Gloria and Alleluia are omitted, Lent sparkles with profundity and depth leading to joy deep within if we truly dwell into its main message of God’s encompassing love for us.
Take our gospel this First Sunday of Lent this year taken from Mark. It is the shortest compared with Matthew and Luke who both give us details, but, Mark’s brevity is so precise and thought-provoking, too!
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Life is a daily Lent.
Of all the seasons in our liturgical calendar, Lent is my favorite because for me, it captures best the reality of life that is at the same time so beautiful but in some aspects ugly, nice but painful. There is always that contrasts of light and darkness that indeed, life is Lent, a daily Exodus filled with trials and difficulties that lead to joy and fulfillment in God.
See how Mark shows this so well in his brief narration that begins after the scene of the baptism of Jesus by John at Jordan. Immediately after that, Mark tells us without fanfare, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”
Is it not this is how life really is?!
At once after praying, after celebrating the Mass that is when you get into a debate with your wife or husband, son or daughter or siblings. Sometimes it happens while you are still in the church you get into arguments about parking. Right after you have resolved to be a better person and turn away from sins and its occasions, that is when your friends would come and ask you to join their “gimmicks” or that is when your “ex” would come or text you, entice you to go out again.
The desert is the image of that place of so many battles in life, where we cried in pain, where we were rejected, where we were hurt. Our life is like the desert, so hot and humid at day, so cold and freezing at night. Worse of all, the desert is our life because that is where we fight Satan who always deceives us with his many temptations that eventually lead us to wrong decisions, hurting not only us but those dearest to us, dividing our families, separating us from one another that in the end, we feel trapped in a terrible mess.
But, it is not that all bad because Jesus joins us in our battles and struggles in this life, in this desert that we find ourselves in a similar situation, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”
Yes, life is difficult but it is in those situations we find its meaning and beauty. Though there are so many trials and sufferings, God never leaves our side, sending us angels like family and friends, even strangers who come and stay with us in life, believing in us, helping us, and most of all, loving us — right in the desert.
Like an oasis where life springs abundantly, Jesus joins us in our many struggles against Satan by giving us the strength and courage to remain faithful to God, to experience fulfillment and salvation by giving us little pockets of Easter in the midst of our daily lent.
See that “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. Amid the bad news of John’s arrest, Jesus began his ministry and mission of love and mercy for us all, It was in the middle of such disturbing situation that Jesus came boldly proclaiming, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The same is true with us today as we enter the first full year of the pandemic that had altered our way of life so drastically, causing us so much pains in the many losses we have suffered in life and properties, God comes closest to us in Jesus especially in the Mass (https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/23/from-fishermen-to-fishers-of-men/)!
Most of all, as we shall see in this Season of Lent, even in the midst of sins and evil, that is when God comes closest to us to experience him and his saving grace.
Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison who had been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah… This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
Baptism as the key to Lent.
The key to understanding the Season of Lent is to see it in the light of the Sacrament of Baptism. Originally as a preparation to the mother of all feasts in the Church we call Easter, Lent was the period when candidates (catechumens) for baptism were prepared. That explains why the Easter Vigil we celebrate is too long because it was only during that time when people were baptized especially when the Church came under persecution.
In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean of our sins, we are cleansed and purified to get by in this life in the desert as beloved children of God.
He knows so well our human situation, our living in the wilderness that Jesus had to leave Paradise for a while to be with us here on earth, going through all our human experiences except sin so we may return to the Father’s home in heaven. Remember how we mentioned Lent as a journey back into the Father’s home: Ash Wednesday is the porch and every Sunday is a room we enter until we reach the Father’s inner room on Easter to be one with him in Jesus.
In the first reading we have heard the story when God made a covenant with Noah and his children after the great flood which prefigured Baptism that cleansed the world of all the sins and evil. God had felt sad in creating the world when people turned away from him living in sins that he decided to destroy everything by sending a great flood. However, he found Noah as the only one along with his family still living uprightly. So, God asked Noah to build an ark where they stayed during the flood along with the different animals representative of every species. In effect, Noah prefigured the new Adam in Christ who came to be the new beginning of the human race, clean and without sin. After the flood, God sealed a covenant with Noah with the rainbow as its sign.
God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”
As I was telling you at the start, Lent is so rich in meanings. When you look on the Crucifix and find those arms of Jesus outstretched when he died on Good Friday, that is the new rainbow of his covenant with us we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.
Remember when you look at Jesus Christ crucified, he is the rainbow promised to Noah by God that he would never destroy all mortal beings again.
During the first Sunday of the COVID-19 lockdown that fell on the Fourth Sunday of Lent that was also my 55th birthday last year, we decided to carry around my previous parish the Blessed Sacrament so that the people may at least adore God after churches were ordered closed and public Masses suspended.
On the last leg of our route, it began to rain but I told our driver to go ahead with our “libot” until suddenly, as we turned to a long stretch of road in the middle of rice fields, there appeared over the horizon a rainbow! The sight made me cry as I felt God assuring me on my birthday that we can pull through this pandemic, that he is with us and would protect us, keep us safe.
And he kept his promise. Our parish had the lowest incidence of COVID-19 in the town of Santa Maria. From then on every Sunday afternoon, we would borrow the F-150 truck of our neighbor and I would carry the Blessed Sacrament around our parish, blessing the people who knelt at the side of the road. Eventually, it led us to innovations like “walk-thru” and “drive-thru” Holy Communion when I would announce the distribution of Holy Communion after our online Masses in front of our Parish Church and in some designated areas along the highway.
It was the most memorable Lent I ever had in my life when everything felt so real like Jesus in the desert being tempted. Yes, life is like in the desert where the devil and wild beasts attack us.
Have faith, be firm, and take courage in Jesus Christ for we are all covered and protected in his power and might, love and mercy. He is the Father’s best sign of his all-encompassing love for us sinners. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, 03 February 2021
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr
Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15 <*(((><< +++ >><)))*> Mark 6:1-6
O God our Father, thank you for enlightening us today about the sufferings we are going through especially at this time of the pandemic. Forgive us for those times we have doubted you and your love for us when we go through many sufferings, forgetting that these are a part of our lives you have allowed to happen so we may grow and mature.
Forgive us when at the slightest sign of pain and sufferings, we balk at taking the path of the Cross of Jesus Christ, choosing to commit sin than being faithful to you.
Help us realize that when we suffer, the more you are nearer to us truly as a Father who lets his children go through trials and hardships to make him better and stronger in the future.
Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.
Hebrews 12:7, 11-13
We pray, O Lord, for those going through so much sufferings today especially those undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, and physical therapy; those who have lost loved ones, who have lost their jobs.
Most specially, we pray for those suffering from rejection like Jesus when he came home to his native place and people took offense at him after hearing him spoke at the synagogue and healed so many sick people in other places.
It is one of the most painful sufferings anyone can go through, of being rejected by family and relatives, co-workers and colleagues, friends and neighbors.
Like St. Blaise, may we bear all pains and sufferings in life so we may strengthen the weak among us and offer healing to those who are sick and afflicted.
Most of all, like St. Blaise, as we accept the pains and sufferings coming our way, may we strive hard to never be the source of pains and sufferings to others. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-B, 24 January 2021
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 >><)))*> 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 >><)))*> Mark 1:14-20
The sea evokes mixed feelings of both joy and fear at the same time. It symbolizes life itself that may be nice and lovely but difficult and dangerous too. For many people, the sea is the sign of abundant life, a source of livelihood while for some, a reminder of death and misery.
Such is the mystery of life too that at the start of the ministry of Jesus Christ, we find Mark locating its setting by the sea as we embark fully into the Ordinary Time of the liturgy.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.
Mark wrote the first gospel account that became the framework for Matthew and Luke in writing their own versions. He was in a hurry in writing his gospel because he felt the urgency in making known the good news of Jesus Christ; thus, his gospel is also the shortest, doing away with so many other details without losing the essentials.
This we find in his brief presentation today of the beginning of Christ’s ministry set by the Sea of Galilee.
Our sea of discontent.
First thing we notice is the very nature of the coming of Jesus Christ that happens when we are in rough waters, perhaps even with a violent storm at the middle of the sea called life: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The setting was not totally good. John had been arrested. People must have been disappointed. But, that is always the cue in God’s coming called “kairos” or fullness of time, the day of judgment.
It is when we are going through difficult situations in life when we must examine ourselves too, of the need to set aside our own plans and agenda to let go and let God.
Every here and now is the time of fulfillment, a time of God’s coming to us.
Do we have the room, the space in us to welcome him to bring us into fulfillment? Hence, the need to empty ourselves, to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, the gospel himself.
Secondly, it is when we are sailing through rough seas when we also experience within that feeling of discontentment, of emptiness when there seems to be something missing in our lives even if everything is going fine like with our career or business, relationships, or family where nobody is sick or maybe the kids have all grown up and now on their own.
There comes a time in our lives when our problem is not having any problems at all — when we are no longer contented with being happy and satisfied but longing for fulfillment.
Rejoice and be glad when feeling this way! Emptiness leads to fullness as discontentment in life is always a sign of spiritual growth if we heed the calls of Jesus when desolation is a prelude to consolation.
Like in the story of creation, out of chaos comes order, exactly the experience of the first four disciples of Jesus.
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
When we are sailing through rough seas in life, that is when we have to trust God more so he can do and move in our lives to achieve the great plans he had created us for. “Be still and confess that I am God!” (Ps. 46:10), so the psalmist tells us.
Money and material things were not a problem for Simon and company. They must be well to-do as they have their own fishing boats at the time, even with men hired to work for them. Opening their hearts to listen to Jesus, they must have felt deep inside them that finally, they have found direction in life, something they have been searching for a long time.
Did they understand the meaning of “fishers of men”? We have no way of knowing it but Mark tells us how upon listening to Jesus, Simon and Andrew left everything behind and followed the Lord! Imagine the great fortune they have left behind.
Even Zebedee, the father of James and John, did not complain nor run after them to at least ask them to stay behind so they would help him run their family business because he too must have been praying for his sons to grow up and mature! Recall how the mother of James and John requested Jesus the favor to have them seated beside him when reigning in his kingdom they thought to be like the kings of their time living in a palace. Or, their attitude in asking Jesus to burn down a Samaritan village that refused them passage. These instances indicate how the brothers James and John may have been like today’s typical happy-go-lucky rich kids of their time but searching for meaning in life amid the many troubles and misadventures in life.
Jesus comes to us in a similar manner, in the ordinariness and problems and struggles of our lives like when Simon and Andrew, James, and John were busy working near the Sea of Galilee. The Lord speaks to them about what they were doing as fishermen to express to them his plans to make them fishers of men.
We do not find God;
it is God who finds us.
Every day, Jesus Christ is passing by, calling us, inviting us to repent and believe in his gospel, challenging us to face our responsibilities and most of all, asking us for our commitment. He never imposes but would always patiently wait for us.
We all search for meaning in life; for some, it may come early in life while for others, it might come later. But surely, our search for meaning, for God always come for sure because we were created that way by God.
In my personal experience, I have realized that we do not really find God; it is God who actually finds us! Moreover, nobody escapes God as attested by so many saints and even ordinary people we have known who have experienced conversion.
One beautiful story of God coming to us, searching for us, and saving us from storms at the middle of the sea of life is that of Jonah and the city of Nineveh in the first reading. Jonah himself tried to escape God when his ship encountered a severe storm in the middle of the sea that he was thrown out to be swallowed by a whale. Of course, it is symbolic but it tells us in a nutshell the urgency of proclaiming God’s message of conversion, of not escaping God. This we find when Jonah was surprised at how a pagan nation like Niniveh listened to his preaching that they were spared of God’s wrath and punishment.
Jonah and Niniveh both give us beautiful lessons in resolutely turning back to God and his ways without wasting any instant as well as God’s immense love and concern for everyone, offering his mercy and forgiveness no matter how serious our sins are.
The characters of Jonah and of the inhabitants of Niniveh may be exaggerated but they are very true even among us in our own days! Recently we have seen how things have gone worst in this life in almost every aspect especially since last year with the coming of COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why St. Paul’s call in the second reading is so timely: “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. For the world in its present form is passing away” (1Cor.7:29,31).
When St. Paul wrote the Corinthians telling them to act as not having wives or weep as not weeping means we have to detach ourselves from all that perish like material things as well as jobs and careers, and even this life we have. We have to focus more on things that last who is ultimately God in Jesus Christ.
Last week, I was so saddened with the news of the closing of the Makati Shangri-la Hotel next month. One of our parishioners is a young man working there as a chef since 2004. He is a very good man, always dropping by the parish after work, never missing a Sunday with his father who died last summer. When COVID-19 started, he would always attend our online Mass wherever he may be.
I texted him the night the news came out of the closure of their hotel next month. Beside is a screenshot of our chat that turned my sorrow into joy upon realizing Carlo’s deep faith in God.
That night, I thanked God in my final prayer, for letting Jesus passed by my room while chatting with Carlo, in taking care of Carlo.
Yesterday after Mass I talked to him again and he was already very upbeat, looking forward to celebrating the Mass with us more often while looking for a new job.
Let us pray this Sunday for everyone going through many hardships these days so they may remain open in their hearts, listening to Jesus who is passing by, calling them to be his fishers of men in this troubled seas. Amen.