Ang Diyos at ang kulay ng hangin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Setyembre 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda, bukang liwayway sa Lawa ng Tiberias, Israel, Mayo 2019.
Kay sarap namnamin,
kaninang pagkagising
Iyong tugon Panginoon namin
sa mga tanong ni Job
na amin ding dinaraing
sa gitna ng maraming hirap at tiisin:

"Job, 
nakalikha ka ba
kahit isang bukang liwayway?
Ang daigdig ba ay ang iyong
naigawa ng tanglaw?
Napunta ka na ba sa
pinagmumulan ng bukal?
Nakalakad ka na ba sa 
pusod ng karagatan?
Alam mo ba kung saan nanggaling
ang liwanag, o and kadiliman,
kung saan nagbubuhat?
Ang mga ulap ba iyong mauutusan
sa lupa ay magbuhos ng malakas na ulan?"
(Aklat ni Job 38:12-13, 16, 19, 34)
Inyong ipagpaumanhin
Panginoong namin
kapangahasan Ikaw ay tanungin, 
usisain kapag mabigat aming pasanin
 kami ay patawarin
katulad ni Job iyong dinggin:

"Narito, ako'y hamak, 
walang kabuluhan,
walang maisasagot, 
bibig ay tatakpan
hindi na kikibo, 
mga nasabi'y di na uulitin"
(Aklat ni Job 40:4-5).
Hinding hindi namin
makakayang sagutin
ni arukin kalaliman 
nitong maraming lihim 
ng buhay lalo't kung madilim;
sana'y Iyong dalisayin, Panginoon
aking mga paningin, upang Ikaw ay
malasin tulad ng kulay ng hangin!
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Jo Villafuerte, pagbubukang liwayway sa Atok, Benguet, Setyembre 2019.

Good news is when truth hurts

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 01 August 2022
Jeremiah 28:1-17   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 14:13-21
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias in UP-Diliman, QC, April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father 
for this gift of the month of
August, of another 31 days
for us to be better and stronger,
firmer in faith, vibrant in hope
and unceasing in charity and love.
On this first day of August when
we celebrate the memorial of 
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, patron
of moral theologians, we pray 
for the grace of accepting and 
embracing, owning the truth,
avoiding lies and falsehoods always.
I have heard and experienced the
veracity of the expression "truth hurts" -
so true and so painful indeed!
Let me not be like Hananiah who
prophesied in the name of the Lord
falsely in today's first reading,
sugarcoating the true situation of
the Israelites held bondage in Babylonia
for its wickedness; instead of telling them
the painful truth of their exile, Hananiah
lied and spoke of "good news", of deliverance
from Nebuchadnezzar and a return of 
the stolen vessels of the Lord's temple.
Give me the courage to tell the painful
truth, to stand by it always even if it is
unpopular like your prophet Jeremiah 
who spoke of your truth during the
Babylonian Captivity: of the need to
reform their lives and ways, to atone for
their sins and go back to you, O God;
let me keep in mind, dear Jesus, that
a good news is only good when it is 
difficult, uncomfortable, and disturbing
like the feeding of the vast crowd in the 
wilderness; a good news is not good at all
when there is no Cross.
Remove me, O Lord, 
from the way of falsehood
and favor me with your law;
take not the word of truth
from my mouth, for in your
ordinances is my hope (Ps.119:
29, 43).  Amen.

Fighting life’s battles

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week I, Year II in Ordinary Time, 13 January 2022
1 Samuel 4:1-11   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Mark 1:40-45
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, January 2021.
As we go into another year
with a new surge in COVID-19, 
teach me, dear Lord,
how to fight life's many battles;
just when we thought we are almost
done with the pandemic, recent 
events indicate more battles are
still coming our way for sure.
May we learn from the lessons of the
past two years to equip us better
this 2022 by deepening our faith in
you and stop manipulating you.

So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God. When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

1 Samuel 4:4-5, 10-11
Forgive us, God our Father,
whenever we remember you most
when we are losing life's battles; 
and worst, when we manipulate
you to turn the tide in our favor!
Forgive us, God our Father,
when we behave and act like
pagans, believing more in our
images and signs of your presence
than in your very Person.
How foolish like lately in an
accident in Brazil, many among us
even questioned why you have allowed
a boat named "Jesus" crushed by a 
falling rock that killed ten people on
board including a child?!*
Teach me, O Jesus, to have the same
attitude of that leper who approached
you and humbly pleaded for healing,
"If you wish, you can make me clean."
And you were so moved with pity that
you stretched out your hand and touched
the leper, telling him, "I do will it.  
Be made clean" (Mk.1:40-41).
You have come to join us in our battles,
Lord Jesus; let us then fight with you, 
and give us the courage
to approach you and humbly beg you,
trusting you which is in itself a way of
fighting our life's battles.  Amen.  

* For the article, click https://aleteia.org/2022/01/11/boat-named-jesus-crushed-by-falling-rock-in-brazil-why-did-god-allow-it/

To be encouraged to encourage

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 07 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:1-7   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by author, Nazareth in Israel, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians are so encouraging, so comforting as they are truly meant for us, too, in this time of trials and difficulties due to the pandemic.

In greeting the Corinthians as well as other Christians in the region who were facing tremendous tests and sufferings, St. Paul prayed fervently for them by introducing the virtue of “encouragement” – mentioning it ten times that we can feel his deep concern not only for the Corinthians but with anyone in any period of time like us going through severe tests like in this time of COVID-19.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,  
who encourages us in our every affliction,  
so that we may be able to encourage those
 who are in any affliction with the encouragement 
with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Encouragement or comfort is what we really need at this time, Lord Jesus, in order to strengthen us “in enduring the sufferings” (2Cor.1:6) we are going through. It can only come from you for it is a grace that enables us to live out true blessedness found in your Beatitudes we heard in the gospel today.

So many among us are getting weak not only physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually in this prolonged quarantine periods when our mobility is so limited.

So many among us have lost their jobs and livelihood, with still many others so limited in their earning abilities while financial obligations are piling up.

So many among us feel so uncertain about the future, finding it so hard to focus on whatever we have at the moment so we can make the most out of every opportunity that comes out from this pandemic.

Worst of all, there are some of us who are in deep emotional traumas at this time when problems arise in their marriage and family life.

O God, you know the situation we are into, even the mess some of us have got involved with due to our own sinfulness and carelessness.

Send us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter and Encourager par excellence for us to be encouraged to persevere and to strive, to remain blessed so that we may encourage others too. Amen.

The lure of “Athens”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs, 12 May 2021
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1   ><)))'> + ><)))*> + ><)))'>   John 16:12-15
Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, 2019.
After Paul's escorts had taken him to Athens,
they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy
to join him as soon as possible.  Then Paul stood up at the
Areopagus..... When they heard about resurrection of
the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, 
"We should like to hear you on this some other time."
And so Paul left them.  
But some did join him, 
and became believers.
(Acts 17:15, 22, 32-34)

How amazing and different indeed are your ways, O Lord Jesus Christ! You have brought Paul to Athens that was the cultural capital of the world at that time and center of learning but, alas, it never became a hub for the proclamation of your Gospel.

Cities of lesser importance like the decadent Corinth would in fact be better off than Athens for Paul’s missionary endeavors that this is the only time he had gone to this famous city. Despite his best efforts at preaching, the people of Athens who were considered “bright and learned” did not accept your Gospel.

They could not accept your dying on the Cross and your Resurrection because for them God is never defeated, God is never put down, God is never humiliated.

They have great ideas of what is a God that speak so well of who they are – forgetting that in this this life, the most important is to know who you are, O Lord, so we may know what are we here in this life.

In this world described as highly competitive and so modern, we are easily lured into the glow of greatness and sophistications, of human intelligence and mastery of technology but so empty of our souls, of the inside not knowing you our Lord and God.

As you have promised during your last supper in our gospel today, send us the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our hearts to believe in you, to believe in the folly of your Cross, to believe and accept your very person so we may enter into a relationship with you that is personal and intimate like Saints Nereus and Achilleus who were both Roman soldiers but after experiencing your love and mercy, they turned away from Rome and chose to fight for you in their lives of witnessing.

We pray today for those having a hard time believing in your loving presence, Lord Jesus Christ because of this pandemic. Those who have lost their jobs, those who could not make ends meet due to their very limited income, those who have take care of their sick family members.

Too often, O Lord, it is when your Cross is so heavy that many of us begin to doubt you, not realizing that it is on the Cross precisely where we meet and experience you truly, changing our person, changing our views as you make us realize the path to Easter is through the Cross. 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.

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.

Praying to control anger

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 March 2021
Monday, Third Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God
2 Kings 5:1-15     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     Luke 4:24-30
Photo by author, NLEX in Pampanga, January 2021.

Yesterday in the gospel you were angry, Lord Jesus, when people turned the temple into a marketplace that made you drove them away along with their animals and doves being sold, scattering the coins of money changers who have set up shops in your Father’s house.

Today we find in our readings some people getting angry and we hope to learn some lessons from you regarding this misunderstood emotion in this season of Lent.

First to get angry was King Joram of Israel when he received a letter of recommendation from the Aramean king seeking a cure for Gen. Naaman’s leprosy.

When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man would send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!”

2 Kings 5:7

So many times, we burst into anger not really of a present situation before us but of things that happened in the past or worst, things that are mere imaginations or suppositions we have in our minds like King Joram of Israel. Teach us to be open with the present situation before us; make us understand what is being asked of us. Disarm us of our mistrusts and suspicions of others as if people are always seeking a fight with us (when in fact we are the ones who are quarrelsome like the king of Israel).

Then, there was also the famous Syrian general Naaman who got angry when Prophet Elisha did not come out to meet him, feeling being “snubbed” despite his stature:

Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean. But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the Lord his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.”

2 Kings 5:9-11

Much ado about nothing! So often we are like Naaman getting angry more because of pride, of expecting so much from others on how we should be treated with importance.

Forgive us for our fits of anger just because we felt not treated with honor, forgetting the more essential things we need in life like healing than massaging our ego. There are times, Lord, we get angry when we do not get what we expect or demand from others. Teach us openness and humility too. Make us learn to be discerning on the more essential things in life like you, O Lord, the one who truly heals and blesses us!

And lastly, in the gospel we find the people getting angry with you, dear Jesus because you spoke the truth.

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.

Luke 4:28-29
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Anger is an emotion that must be released positively like with what you did at the cleansing of the temple, Jesus.

Most of the time, the devil rides on our anger to lead us into sin, even to grave sins like murder or slander because we are “hurt” by truth like those people listening to you at the synagogue. They could not handle the hard truth about their pride and bloated egos that they wanted to kill you after telling them of their lack of faith in God.

Help us get to the roots of our anger, to accept who we are so we may not be overcome by anger and thereby not sin that much anymore.

Let us control our anger and not let anger control us. Amen.

God’s encompassing love

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
Photo by author, ancient fortress of Masada in Israel, 2017.

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.”

Mark 1:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020, Infanta, Quezon.

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.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2020.

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.

Photo by author, an oasis in the Dead Sea area of Israel, 2017.

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.

1Peter 3:18-21
From Google.

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.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

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.”

Genesis 9:12-15

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.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

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.

A blessed week to you!

Photo by author, 2019.

Email me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Ang ating pagkakamali

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