Blessed are we

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 07 February 2023
Genesis 1:20-2:4     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 7:1-13
What a blessed Tuesday we have today,
God our loving Father as Genesis tells us
in the first reading how you blessed thrice 
the last three days of creation:
on the fifth day, you created and blessed
all water creatures and winged birds;
on the sixth day you created and blessed 
man and woman;
and finally on the seventh day,
you blessed the day of sabbath.
Lately we have been meditating 
what is to be blessed:  Elizabeth called
Mary "blessed" because she believed your words
spoken to her would be fulfilled;
the other Sunday in his sermon on the mount,
Jesus called the poor in spirit, the meek,
the merciful, the grieving, the hungry and thirsty
as "blessed"; and today, after creating the birds and fish,
man and woman, and day of sabbath,
you blessed them all.
In today's story of creation, you bestowed 
your blessing O God to fish and birds and people
after creating them, telling them to be fertile
and to multiply in number;
in blessing the seventh day as sabbath,
you also blessed it as a day of rest;
whether it is used as an adjective or a verb,
being blessed and to bless mean being 
filled with grace, abounding in grace,
and most of all, spreading and keeping
that grace from you as expressed by
your command to the fish and birds and people
to go and multiply; to fulfill that command, we
need to rest on sabbath so that we may keep our
ties and link with you, thereby, to have the
strength to care for all creation,
to keep your grace from flowing!
Forgive us, dear Father, in failing to keep your
command to care for your creation, 
most especially in neglecting one another as
a brother and sister in Christ when we
"nullify the word of God in favor of our many 
traditions we have handed on" like the
Pharisees (Mk.7:13);
help us cleanse our inner selves,
recover our blessedness in you
so we may share your blessings anew.
Amen.

In the beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial, St. Pedro Bautista & Companions, Priests/Martyrs, 06 February 2023
Genesis 1:1-19   <*(((>< + ><)))*> + <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Mark 6:53-56
Photo by author, 6:30 AM, 29 January 2023, in Bgy. Igulot, Bocaue, Bulacan
"In the beginning,
when God created the heavens
and the earth, 
the earth was a formless wasteland,
and darkness covered the abyss,
while a mighty wind swept over 
the waters" (Genesis 1:1-2).
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
in waking us up to a wonderful 
morning, reminding us of 
another beginning!
Though many of us have 
the Monday blues,
whining and complaining
of great tasks ahead,
of the many problems still not
solved especially unpaid bills
while others are still sick with
some feeling lost and empty
for so many reasons;
forgive us in first seeing what we
do not have without seeing what
you have given us!
Awaken our senses, Father!
Awaken us to this great 
reality of our daily "genesis" story:
of how in the beginning
there was nothing at all!
Help us appreciate how we
all started in the beginning
without the many things
we have today that despite 
the gloom and darkness,
pains and hurts,
we are still better off today
than before when we were just
beginning in our career,
in our business,
inn our studies,
in our lives.
Let us keep that in mind
and heart, O Lord, that 
in the beginning,
there was nothing until 
you blessed us with everything
that is good.
Let us be filled with hope
in you that while everything 
may be in chaos in every
beginning,
order soon follows
as you unfold your 
wonderful plans
for us.
Your Son Jesus Christ
came to enable us to start anew 
in daily life, to find every day 
a new beginning, a genesis,
and go back to you, Father;
to be touched with your love
and mercy so that we too
may touch others to experience
new beginnings in life.
The great martyr-priests 
of Japan led by St. Pedro Bautista
suffered greatly in bringing the faith
in the land of the rising sun;
their martyrdom may have ended
their lives but their faith in you
touched so many others that
brought new beginnings to life
here on earth; may we touch 
others with your love and mercy,
dear Jesus today to start a new
beginning 
for a new earth.  
Amen.

Life’s many crossovers

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 30 January 2023
Hebrews 11:32-40     ><0000'> + ><0000'> + ><0000'>     Mark 5:1-20
Photo by author, sunrise at Bgy. Igulot, Bocaue, Bulacan, 29 January 2023.
Thank you dear Jesus
for this Monday;
another "crossing over"
from Sunday rest yesterday
to working days beginning
today.
Today's gospel speaks
so beautifully of life's many
crossovers with you leading us,
joining us, coming to us to heal us,
to cleanse us, to forgive us:

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.

Mark 5:1-3
Many times, O Lord,
we have been bound by chains
of sins and shackles of vices
we have found comfort with;
like that man, some of us have
been living in tombs among
the dead and zombies;
but worst, dear Jesus,
were the people who drove you
away after you have cleansed
that man of his evil spirits,
giving more importance to the herd of
swine that perished than to the one
possessed person freed from evil.
Lord Jesus,
life is a series of crossing overs
from darkness to light,
from ignorance to wisdom,
from slavery to freedom,
from sin to grace;
let us not be afraid to cross
over to the other side to follow you,
to cross with you in faith;
let us lead others into crossing
over through the nights of life into
the day filled with your grace and
challenges; most of all, let us cross 
over life with firm faith in you,
persevering even if we do not receive
"what had been promised" because
"God had foreseen 
something better for us" (Heb.11:39-40).
Amen.

From shadow to image

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2023
Hebrews 10:1-10   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><  -  ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 3:31-35
God our loving Father,
help us grow from being 
your shadows into your
image and icon among peoples;
thank you for sending us
your Son Jesus Christ who came
to do your will of offering his
very self as a sacrifice for the
forgiveness of our sins
so that in the process,
we too may learn to
offer ourselves to you, 
surrender ourselves wholly to
you like Jesus to become your mirror.

Brothers and sisters: Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Then he (Jesus) says, Behold, I come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:1, 9-10
There are times, dear Jesus,
that I listen and speak of your words, 
very much "inside" with you
in the church, 
in our community,
among our family and friends;
but sadly, Lord, I am so far
from doing the will of the Father
after listening and preaching
your words.
Teach me to be like your Mother,
Mary:  though she was "outside"
that house where you were staying
teaching the people gathered around you,
she was very much "inside",
in you in her total identification with you
and your mission until the end.
Enable me, Jesus,
like St. Francis de Sales
who used to have a fiery temper
and problem in handling his anger
to surrender myself to you,
to make the Father's will my own,
experience liberation from sin
and sanctification in your Spirit
to become united as one in 
the Father, his mirror
and image.
Amen.

God remembers… don’t quit!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 17 January 2023
Hebrews 6:10-20     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 2:23-28
This prayer I offer 
for those losing hope,
wanting to quit and leave,
losing patience and sense
in all their efforts for the
betterment of others and the world,
for those disappointed or frustrated,
for those always on the distaff side,
always seen as odd and weird
because of their firm stand for
their beliefs and values:
remind them, Father, 
that you are aware of all their
noble efforts for the uplifting
of lives of many,
for their fight for justice
and truth.

Brothers and sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.

Hebrews 6:10
Dearest Jesus,
you know so well
how difficult and even
painful to remind people 
of their giftedness,
of their dignity,
of their honor;
many times, we feel tired
and sad at how others see us
and all our efforts for their good;
we are not asking for quick fixes
nor shortcuts for we know that indeed,
doing your work is never easy,
it is always a process;
all we are asking is rest,
a break perhaps
like your apostles one sabbath
who picked the heads of grain;
many times like the Pharisees
people give more emphasis and
importance to rites and rituals,
to rules and laws without any regard
for persons.
Lord Jesus,
remind us always that when
people fail to see our personhood,
our self-dedication to you and
your works,
remind us to never sag in spirits,
to never be sluggish
but instead be filled with more
fire and ardor in doing your work
until they realize that "The sabbath
was made for man, not man for 
sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man
is lord even of the sabbath"
(Mark 2:27-28).
Amen.

Something old, something new

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 16 January 2023
Hebrews 5:1-10     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Mark 2:18-22
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father,
for this brand new day
to begin anew in life,
to bridge and process
our past so we may live fully
in every present moment 
as we project our future.
Beginning today,
teach us in Christ Jesus your Son
the need for us to understand fully
and put into practice his teaching
"new wine is poured into
fresh wineskins" (Mk.2;22).
Enable us to always welcome change,
to find you coming to us in new
and often unexpected situations or
things and persons;
may we learn to bridge,
in fact become a bridge like Jesus,
the old and new,
the past and the present,
God and your people:
"In the days when he was in the Flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications
with loud cries and tears to the one
who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience
from what he suffered; and when he was made
perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:7-9).
Dear Jesus,
teach me to have new perspectives,
new outlook in life in you,
by focusing more on you,
by believing in you,
in seeking and following you,
most of all, 
in seeing everything in you
so that I may learn to accept 
things of old
like pains and sufferings,
need for trials and difficulties
so that I may grow in
strength and maturity,
love and compassion
like you.
Amen.

The human child, mystery of God’s love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 15 January 2023
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><]]]]'> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><]]]]'> Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Photo from reddit.com.

The photo above is a sculpture called “Love” by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov he created in 2015. I have kept the photo as a bookmark in one of the books I have read and saw it recently. Milov rightly called it “Love” because it shows how that mystery of love expressed to us by God in Christ’s coming continues if we could only be like a child!

See how the sculpture depicts two adults after a disagreement sitting with their back to each other while their inner child in both of them wanting to connect. What a beautiful expression of our condition when despite our vast learning and knowledge, we seem to can’t live without ego and pride, hatred and grudges that prevent us from forgiving and moving on in life. The free spirit exhibited by children in this sculpture shows our true nature which is the very core of Jesus Christ’s teaching, of being a child always.

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven… See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Matthew 18:1-3, 10

On this Sunday of the second week in Ordinary Time, we extend our Christmas celebration for a day with the Feast of Sto. Niño or Child Jesus in honor of the crucial role of that image gifted by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu 500 years ago. It was the Sto. Niño who actually conquered our country to become the only Christian nation in this part of the world – proof enough of Christ’s teaching about being a child so powerful in God’s eyes!

This Feast is a very timely for us too as we go into the busyness of our lives to be reminded anew even for a day of the meaning of Christmas, of Jesus Christ’s coming in love. He came because of love, coming as love himself by being a child, an infant.

It was only recently as a chaplain in the hospital have I felt and realized why a baby is called a “bundle of joy” – my heart melts whenever I visit mothers with their newborn babies especially twins. It is said that even the most hardened criminals are softened upon seeing babies and children. And that is because of what Jesus told us today in the gospel,

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Matthew 16:10

What is there with children and the face of God?

I think that is God’s gift of love in each of us, so innately in us right during our moment of conception when life begins as the Church rightly insists based on Sacred Scriptures. It is nurtured and cared for first by the mother that even after we have matured, we call on our mother when surprised or shocked as in “Inang ko po!” or “Nanay ko po!”. See how those approaching death would always speak of seeing their departed mother, coming and visiting them.

This shows and proves to us the deep impact of a mother’s love to each of us because she is always the first to make us experience God’s love in her womb that even long after our umbilical cords have been cut off at birth, there remains an invisible line always between us and our mothers.

It is not only with our mother but also with everyone. This love innately gifted upon each of us by God who is our very first love remains in us through our family and friends and later the people we meet in life as living representatives of that invisible love of God in us. This is what Jesus meant when he warned his disciples in the gospel today,

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Matthew 18:10

How sad when this love that has always been in us and in the world suddenly becomes unrecognizable – even unrealistic – because of the darkness of sins and evil. When the child is born and begins to see, experience and realize the absence of love in the family, of a lack of that love between the child’s mother and father who quarrel or separate, or when the child himself/herself is threatened or hurt by anyone he/she looks up to, then trouble happens.

Children can only grasp the gift of life and of their existence when they experience the concreteness, the reality of love first right in their homes. One thing we adults always forget which I insist on every man and woman entering marriage that it is always the children who bear all the pains and sufferings when they separate. Experts claim that criminals mostly come from families where children witness domestic violence, especially when the husband beats the wife.

It is unfortunate that today’s gospel did not include Jesus Christ’s most terrible curse against those inflicting harm on children when he said in the same scene that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt. 16:6).

As chaplain of a university, I have been hearing the confessions of our students, recently from junior and senior high school. After listening to their stories and woes, I tell them point blank about their parents and family, of the love among them and they start crying. I do not blame parents for their apparent lack of love for their children nor for their separation nor for their need to work abroad; I stress to young people human love is always imperfect. Only God can love us perfectly.

When the world and the people around us miserably fail in showing us the face of our loving God, that is when all the more we have to be like children anew as Jesus tells us today. It is is in going inside our inner child within, in becoming like a child trusting in the great love of God in us like when we were in our mother’s womb can we grasp again this invisible love poured upon us in Jesus Christ.

This is the challenge for us of the Sto. Niño: let us keep the face of God aglow in us, on our face and in our lives like the light Isaiah spoke of in the first reading when the Messiah comes. Anyone who lives in the gospel of Jesus Christ, even amid all pains and sufferings, would always be aglow with that radiant face of God filled with love and mercy, kindness and compassion despite our many imperfections. The beloved disciple said it so well, “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1 Jn. 4:12). Simply love, love, and love. No ifs nor buts. Just love.

Let us remain children of God most especially in our adulthood like Jesus Christ who upon his death on the Cross called God Abba – Father – because he has always been the Son, the Child of God. Remember how at the Last Supper when he gave the new commandment of loving one another as he loves us: it is “new” because unlike the love the world knows which is all feelings and self-centered, Christ’s love is rooted in God through him, in him, and with him.

Let us pray:

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Eph. 1:3),
as he chose us to be born
and be filled with his love as 
icons and representatives of his love;
enlighten the eyes of our hearts, Father,
so we may always answer your call
in your Son Jesus Christ for us to follow
him in being like a child
manifesting your face full of
warmth and love,
kindness and care
especially to those 
feeling unloved.
Amen.

The gift of “rest”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 13 January 2023
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, April 2022.
O God our loving Father!
You are so wonderful and amazing,
so marvelous that you lavish us
daily with love and mercy.
What else can I ask you except 
that I "enter your rest" which 
the author of the Letter to the
Hebrews had enunciated so well
in the first reading today.
In fact, I have counted six times 
he had used in six verses that 
little yet powerful word "rest"  we 
often take for granted especially in
this restless world.

Let us be on our guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed… Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:1, 11
How ironic, O God
that while we all desire 
to enter your eternal rest
in heaven, no one really cares
to value your day of rest
in this life as we busy ourselves
with everything except you
and our loved ones;
make us realize that rest is
primarily about you, 
being with you,
returning to you
just like when you
rested after creating everything.
Make us realize that to rest 
is to be one in you and with you
in Christ Jesus; to rest is to let
your will be done again like in
paradise before the fall;
to rest is enter you in Jesus.
That is why 
I love our Filipino word
for rest which is "pahinga" -
to be breathed on.  
By whom?
By you, O God!
Let us rest 
and be breathed on 
through your words
and sacraments,
through our private 
and communal prayers,
through our personal experiences
and through one another.
Dear Jesus,
help us imitate 
those courageous men who
opened up the roof above you
to lower their paralytic friend
because to rest is of God,
from above; enable us, Jesus,
to rest in you always
in every here and now
so we may finally rest 
in eternity.  Amen.

Prayer of upliftment

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 11 January 2023
Hebrews 2:14-18     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 1:29-39
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2022 in France.
Lord Jesus,
allow me to imitate today 
your Apostles Simon and Andrew,
James and John in "immediately 
telling you" (Mk. 1:30) 
of how sick and down with all kinds 
of problems our own family members
and relatives, friends and everyone
going through trials in life;
come, Lord Jesus, "grasp their hands"
like Simon's mother-in-law 
and "help them up" (Mk.1:31).

Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hebrews 2:18
At this very moment,
Lord Jesus, I pray for those
going through their medical
exams - please calm them,
assure them of your presence;
accompany too, dear Jesus,
those going through dialysis,
chemotherapy,
surgery, and other medical procedures
for their ailments;
comfort and console those
living separately who have to endure
the pains and troubles of worrying
their loved ones going through
difficulties in far and distant lands;
touch and ease the pains of those
who have experienced failures
and disappointments, even frustrations
to assure them that it is better to be
fruitful than successful in life;
uplift, O Lord, those with sagging
spirits in being good,
in being holy,
in being honest and true,
in being faithful and just;
touch them, Jesus,
pat their shoulders
that they may forge on
with you in being good.
Amen.

When ordinary is extraordinary

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 10 January 2023
Hebrews 2:5-12     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Mark 1:21-28
Photo by author, Nasugbu, Batangas, 06 January 2023.
Today we begin the Ordinary Time
in our liturgical calendar; please do not
let us be misled, O God our Father, 
taking these days for granted,
of thinking ordinary as bland,
or usual
or nothing special;
make us realize that ordinary
means something about order,
of being orderly,
of being the rule
and ordo.
Make us see like the psalmist
the beauty of what is ordinary:
"O Lord, our Lord, 
how glorious is your name 
over all the earth!
What is man that you should be
mindful of him, or the son of man
that you should care for him?
You have made him little less 
than the angels, and crowned him
with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over 
the works of your hands, 
putting all things under his feet"
(Responsorial Psalm 8:2, 5, 6-7).
Our loving God,
you have made Jesus your Son
and our Lord so ordinary like us
to be one with us in our sufferings
and pains, even death, so that in his
resurrection we may share in his
extraordinary glory; Jesus is able to
help us because he has become ordinary
like us that is why, let us embrace
wholeheartedly our humanity
including our frailty
to be one in Jesus.
Cleanse us, dear Jesus,
of our impurities,
of our sins,
of our narrow-mindedness
and biases that make us
resist your holiness found
in ordinariness like that
unclean spirit possessing
a man in the synagogue;
let us not stop in just admiring,
of being astonished with your
words and works and wonders;
let us submit ourselves to your
authority, Lord Jesus, beginning
with the most ordinary things in life
like listening and putting into practice
your words and teachings so we may
experience your extraordinary
healing and presence.
Amen.