When we are lost, then found

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 17 April 2023
Photo by author, 08 February 2023, Taal Vista Hotel, Tagaytay City.
We all know 
that feeling happening
more often lately
a foreboding of senility?
when we go like crazy
why can't we see suddenly
some things we have
held or kept momentarily
until we sound the alarm
and call everyone
to join in the search
but still nowhere to be found.
It could be the key
or the glasses or the phone
that in exasperation
we say begone
only to make us
forlorn figures
in our own home
or tiny room
but sometimes too soon
other times would take
too long, our lost 
things are suddenly found!
Is it part of the riddle
of that black hole they call
when missing things
suddenly appear
without being sought
much less thought?
But here is the thrill:
when things even persons
are missing,
are we not the ones
who are lost
and waiting to be found?
More than the
naked shouts of eureka
is our profound joy
when missing things
even persons suddenly
appear because the truth
is, we were the ones lost
and could not be found
in our cluttered minds
and hearts shut and closed
by our fears and doubts, 
anxieties and insecurities.
In this life
far wider than the world
where planes still go missing
amid modern technologies
and endless searching,
could it be that we are 
missing our bearings
as beings, forgetting 
God and others when we are
lost to our own beliefs or
locked in our small world
of lies and prejudice?
To find those missing 
persons or things dear to us
it might help if we first lose
whatever is holding us
for the world is so wide
for anyone or anything 
to just disappear 
they surely must be here
awaiting for our hearts 
to be clear until we hear
that sweet voice
giving us peace within. 

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 

John 20:19-20
Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

When we fall, feeling down…

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 October 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was a Monday morning when rains started falling as I was about to complete my first round of walks when I saw an old lady with a cane tripped on the inclined pavement. I ran to help her but in her frantic efforts to rise, she had dragged down her caregiver too.

Upon reaching the old lady, I asked her to keep herself down and take deep breaths while I checked her for possible injuries. Thank God there was none except a broken cane and perhaps a bruised amor propio as tears were rolling from her eyes while telling me, “nakakahiya naman sa inyo, Father.” I told her not to worry as I invited her to have a seat near our gate but, she seemed so embarrassed and left.

When I resumed my walking in the rains, the scene kept flashing in my mind and had me musing…

When we fall,
when we are down,
just be still
to feel the earth beneath
then roll your eyes to see
the skies above everything
between.
When we fall,
when we are down,
do not rush to rise up
do not be ashamed 
you slipped
or tripped
there is no trick.
When we fall,
when we are down,
it is better to cry
to shed some tears
surely there are pains
and aches deep within
we have not yet seen.
When we fall,
when we are down,
people standing on ground
would always offer a hand
to help us stand
shake off dirt from us
even clean our hands.
When we fall,
when we are down,
everyone will understand that
no one, nothing remains up
all must go down; 
it is time for us to be calm
Jesus is coming, our Good Samaritan.
Photo from cbcpnews.net, May 2020.

Prayer when “groping” for God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 25 May 2022
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     John 16:12-15
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.
God our Father,
your words today are so
loving, so caring especially
for us who feel lost or at a loss, 
simply could not find our bearing
and directions in life at the moment
for so many reasons like situations
and peoples so unfavorable to us.
St. Paul in the first reading perfectly
said it, we are groping for you in the
dark, dear God.  Please help us
find our way back to you in Christ!

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.”

Acts 17:15, 24-27
I know, dear God that you
are always at my side;
and I know very well that 
always, we are the ones
who turn away from you,
we are the ones who get lost
and not you.
Thank you in sending us 
your Son Jesus Christ who always
finds us when we are lost;
so many times in life we feel
it is us who find you, that we are 
the ones searching for you 
and eventually discovers you.
And we are grossly wrong.
It is you, O God in Jesus, 
who finds us always.

Yes, it is true our heart is restless
until it rests on you but it is only you
who can move our hearts to desire you,
to search you, to look for you.
And we always find you because
you found us first!
Today I pray, dear Jesus,
that when life has so many lessons
to teach me and I could not bear it,
please send me quick the Holy Spirit
to enlighten my mind and my heart
to speak to me the things that are coming
while I forge on with life's many trials
until your glory is revealed.  Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

Being lost, Getting lost in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVI-B in Ordinary Time, 18 July 2021
Jeremiah 23:1-6 ><}}}'> Ephesians 2:13-18 ><}}}'> Mark 6:30-34
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao del Sur, 2018.

Being lost or getting lost is sometimes not totally bad – or a loss – like in traveling when new routes and destinations are discovered along the way. Our readings this Sunday are about being lost, getting lost – both in the good sense and in the bad sense.

Let us reflect first on what we mean by getting lost in the good sense, that is, of getting lost in Jesus which is resting in the Lord.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.

Mark 6:30-32
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, 2019.

Getting lost in Jesus, with Jesus

Our gospel today is the conclusion of last Sunday’s topic about the mission of the apostles that includes us in this time which is to proclaim the good news of salvation by preaching repentance and casting away evil spirits that destroy life’s beauty.

Mark now presents to us the other two essential elements of our being missionaries of Christ: of getting lost in Jesus, that is, resting in him and last but not least, seeking and comforting those who are lost in this life.

To rest in the Lord is to make time, spend time with him in disciplined prayer, of having a prayer life that is the most essential component of one’s life because without Jesus, we die.

As missionaries of Christ, we can never share and preach him to others unless we first have him in ourselves. Hence, right upon the return of the apostles amid their joys of reporting how they have accomplished their mission so well, Jesus asked them to cross the lake anew to a deserted place to be with him alone to show them that without him, they cannot do anything.

Here we find the great wonder of prayer life, of the discipline of making time for Jesus every day in prayerful meditations and contemplation: the more we spend time with Jesus, the more we can see and feel the people we serve, their needs and aspirations. As we enter into communion and intimacy with Jesus, the more we become one with others.

No apostolate, no ministry, no service will be fruitful without Christ at the center found only in prayer. The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his reflections that the more we become active in the ministry, the more we must be contemplative; while, the more we become contemplative, the more we become active.

Photo by Ms. JJJimeno of GMA7-News, June 2019.

It is in getting lost in Christ when we are absorbed to him in prayer where much of our mission and ministry truly happens because that is when we are most purified, when we lose ourselves to let Jesus take over us in directing our lives.

Getting lost in Jesus is entering the true sabbath, a return in Eden where we stop playing God and simply be his image and likeness again as the crowning glory of his creation.

It was after creating human when God saw everything he did as good and completed when he rested and blessed the sabbath day. He rested because he had accomplished his works; on the other hand, we rest in order to accomplish further our work in him through Jesus Christ.

To rest in the Lord is not to stop working and do nothing – resting in the Lord is getting lost and finding him in ever new circumstances and conditions that unfold before us, deepening our intimacy with him that we are eventually recreated and transformed in him.

That is the loss we must go through like St. Paul in order to gain Christ (Phil. 3:8-10) because that is when we truly find our very selves and one another as one in belonging in Jesus and the Father, that we are all indeed, one like him and the Father.

This will get clearer when we enter the third essential element of being missionaries of Christ:

Finding and comforting those lost

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark gives us a very brief account of the return of the apostles to Jesus with a dash of humor when the people saw them leaving to rest at a deserted place and arrived at the place even before them! There is really not much time at all to rest for the missionaries of the Lord!

Imagine how the apostles must have felt when they saw the crowd who have arrived ahead of them at the deserted place.

They must have been so disappointed, even disgusted.

But, Mark tells us a completely different picture of Jesus:

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Mark 6:34
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The more time we rest in Jesus, the more we become like him – sensitive to the needs of the flock. To be moved with pity is not just a feeling mixed with some disdain or condescension for those in misery that we have heard and read a lot during this time of the pandemic wherein the poor are being blamed for being stubborn and everything that caused the spread of COVID.

Pity characterizes God like when we appeal to him when we are in deep trouble and suffering like the blind and lepers begging Jesus, “have pity on me”. Pity is a deep feeling that moves us to do something to relieve the pain and suffering of others.

It is oneness with those suffering, of “making sakay” as we say in Filipino or “riding on” or being on their same shoes. It is empathy and sympathy in action.

Notice the words of Mark: Jesus was moved with pity for they were like sheep without a shepherd. This is something deeply rooted among the people of Israel and elsewhere shepherding is largely a part of life and culture.

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

A sheep getting lost without a shepherd is the worst thing that can happen to any member of the flock.

A lost sheep is surely a prey to wild animals without any defense nor defender at all.

Likewise, a sheep is a very communal animal that when lost, it bleats so miserably wandering in the desert or the open field, feeling so “kawawa” or miserable.

Did we not feel so the same the first time we went to the big city to study or work? Imagine our own feelings when we were lost, trying to find our ways into school or work or life in general when moved residence here or abroad? There was that feeling of being alone, with nobody to turn to in case of emergencies or dangers.

It is also the most common feeling we have since the start of the pandemic, of being locked down, of not knowing where to go as a result or who to trust.

No wonder, so many among us have suffered some forms of depression or emotional turmoil, from young children who could not process what they were going through to the elderly who are refused entry to almost every establishment. There is that feeling of being lost as to what have happened or why are things going like these!

This is then usual bad case of being lost, of being alone with nobody to rely on, to trust. That is the image of a sheep without a shepherd, almost facing certain death.

It is a very scary and traumatizing situation in life that Jesus felt so much with the crowd who followed them that despite his being tired, he gathered them and preached to them (next Sunday, he would feed them).

This is the context of the prophecy by Jeremiah in the first reading that God was so angry with the unfaithful shepherds of Israel who have misled and scattered his flock, promising to “raise up a righteous shoot to David” (Jer.23:5) fulfilled in Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 2:13, 17-18

Jesus came to gather those who are lost as he specifically told the Twelve to “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt.10:6, Wednesday, Wk. 14).

This is the problem, ironically, in our age of instant mobility and accessibility when feelings of being lost is hardly noticed nor even recognized especially during this time of the pandemic. So many people, young and old alike, feel so lost. Many of them are shouting inside in desperation for their many other losses in life like losing a loved one, losing a business, losing so many chances in life.

Let us join Jesus in crossing the lakes of this life, getting lost in him in prayers, to find those who are lost and reach out to them. A smile, a simple gesture of kindness like a short text or a phone call could surely bring relief to them to find themselves again and discover new directions in life in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima, locally stranded people near NAIA, June 2020.

When we are lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, 13 June 2020
1 Kings 19:19-21 <*(((>< ><)))*> <*(((>< ><)))*> Matthew 5:33-37
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019

Glory and praise to you, O Lord Jesus Christ, on this most joyous feast of St. Anthony de Padua, our patron saint for lost items like keys and money. Nobody really knows for sure why he is the one invoked upon whenever we lose something.

But, one thing so beautiful about this most humble saint of great intelligence and gift of speaking is how he leads us back to you, O Lord Jesus and to our loving Father with his teachings and homilies.

He reminds us in his writings to be always be filled and guided by the Holy Spirit in our speech and action.

The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speech.

From a sermon by St. Antony of Padua (Office of Readings, June 13)

Most of the time, we are lost because we have become empty of you, Lord, and filled with our very selves, with our ego and pride, insisting on what we know, what we want.

From Pinterest.com

Most of the time, Lord, we are lost that we cannot “mean ‘yes’ when we say ‘yes’, and mean ‘no’ when we say ‘no'” as you reminded us in the gospel today.

Give us the courage like Elisha who accepted God’s call to replace the Prophet Elijah by slaughtering his 12 oxen and cooking them with his plows and yokes to feed the people as he bid goodbye to family and friends for his mission.

In this time of pandemic and many other social problems, we pray for those who feel lost in life without any sense of directions, those who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19 and other illnesses, those who have lost their jobs and means of livelihood, those who have lost their faith — for all of us lost, help us find our way back to you, Lord! Amen.

St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us!

Perfecting the Love of God in Our Imperfect Love

the feast of nuestro padre jesus nazareno
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday after Epiphany of the Lord, 09 January 2019
1 John 4:11-18///Mark 6:45-52

            God our loving Father, we praise and thank you in giving us your Son Jesus Christ who taught us and showed us everything about love.  He is your love, Father, as He is love.  Indeed, “no one has ever seen You.  Yet if we love one another in Christ, You remain in us and Your love is brought to perfection in us” (1 Jn. 4:12)

            Our love is always imperfect.  Only You can love us perfectly.  Remind us always this truth so we stop looking for perfect love among us.  Instead, keep us loving one another even in the darkness of fears and doubts of Your presence when we are so afraid we would lose everything and everyone, when we are afraid of being naked and hungry, when we are afraid of not being loved and forgiven.  Let us always find Jesus Your Son amid the storms of life, like the Black Nazarene carrying His Cross, speaking to us, “Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid!” (Mk. 6:50).  AMEN.  Fr.Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Photos from Google.

pista-ng-itim-na-nazareno-0261

And Life Goes On…with Love

howietaal
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXXIII-B, 18 November  2018
Daniel 12:1-3///Hebrews 10:11-14, 18///Mark 13:24-32

            A clockmaker was about to finish a grandfather’s clock when the pendulum spoke and begged him not to be given that task of swinging back and forth to measure time.  “I am afraid I might not be able to do my job well when I have to swing every second or 60 times a minute, about 3600 an hour or 86400 a day,” the pendulum explained to the clockmaker who assured him everything would be fine.  The pendulum believed his maker.  Life goes on with the pendulum, tick-tock, tick-tock, sounding the chime every hour long even after his clockmaker had died.  In a sense, our lives are like the pendulum continually swinging, sometimes late, sometimes advanced.  When 2018 started, we felt so unsure of how this year would be but here we are, about to end the year as we look forward for the coming 2019.

           After celebrating All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, we are now in the penultimate week of our liturgical calendar set to close on Sunday with the Solemnity of Christ the King.  Today we are invited to focus on the “end time” called the eschaton or days of fulfillment of all that God has promised.  In fact, every celebration of the Mass is oriented towards this end, especially when we proclaim the mystery of faith, “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”  In the Apostle’s Creed we profess every Sunday our belief in Jesus Christ “who shall come again to judge the living and the dead” as well as in the “communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting.”

             Jesus said to his disciples:  “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” (Mk.13:24-25)

             Jesus was still in the Temple and the people were marveling at its beauty when he spoke of these words, predicting its fall that would happen in the year 70 AD when Rome sacked Jerusalem.  But most of all, Jesus was speaking here in the classical language of apocalypse (from the Greek apocalypsis or revelation).  It is the same literary genre used in our first reading from the Book of Daniel.  Apocalyptic writings are not meant to be taken literally or even be imagined and pictured in its cosmic upheavals alluded to.  Jesus is not scaring us of the coming tribulations but is trying to evoke in us the image of a new creation dawning where the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its light as the stars fall before His splendor as the returning Son of Man (see Rev. 21:23).  Recall how in Genesis God first created light by separating it from darkness when earth was all chaos and formless; then, He created the sun, moon, and stars to light the earth by fixing days and nights and years.  “In those days” life was simple and a bliss until sin came and everything was shattered.  In His infinite goodness, God preserved His creation and promised salvation to renew everything in the coming Savior.  “In those days” though there were disturbances and breaks from all the beauty of creation, life went on.  There was no need to destroy everything to start anew.  God perfects His creation amidst the many imperfections we are into.  Just like in our own experiences with the many tribulations we are going through like sickness, losses and deaths.  These words of the Lord and of the prophet Daniel are actually encouraging us to look at the fulfillment of the good news, the Gospel of Jesus Christ Himself personally coming to us, personally involved with us and in us.

             “And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.” (Mk.13:26-27)

             A cousin in Canada emailed me one early Sunday morning last month of his being diagnosed with advanced stage of liver cancer.  A former soldier who had spent ten years in Mindanao as a Scout Ranger, he simply told me to pray for him in his life’s final battle.  More than the sadness is the pain still in my heart with his condition that it took me the whole day to write him back to assure him of my prayers. His siblings along with some cousins and relatives flew to visit him in Toronto, all praying for some miracle.  I chose to be silent in their prayers for a miracle because that very day he told me of his cancer, I have offered him to God.  Like Jesus Christ, it is not being a “kj” or killjoy to focus more on the coming eschaton and apocalyptic realities of present tribulations we are going through.  Death surely comes.  We are all going through many tribulations at the moment as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation.  And things could even get worst before things get any better, here or hereafter.  That’s the reality of life we must face with joy and anticipation.  The prophet Daniel mentions in his vision seeing God sending us Archangel Michael to help us in our battle with evil in this life.  God recognizes the severity and gravity of our tribulations that He had sent us St. Michael so that life would go on while we await that eschaton that must be our gaze despite not knowing when it would be.  What the Lord is telling us is to learn from the fig tree, to always see each passing day as a changing of season, a time of rebirth, of living in His presence which the author of the letter to the Hebrews implies as always standing and faithful in our duties as disciples of Christ now“seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven”.
 

           Life goes on with all the tribulations in and around us because God never leaves us alone.  There would always be destructions and endings in life to give way to more recreations and new beginnings.  The key is to be like the pendulum, remaining faithful in our task of lovingly serving God among those around us.  In 1996, the rock musical “Rent” opened in Broadway.  Its theme song is called “Seasons of Love” which says life is measured not in minutes or time but in love.  Very true!  The most important and memorable events of our lives are those moments we have loved or we have been loved.  To live is to love and that is why if you want to be eternal, love for only love shall remain.  And it is love that will see us through in this life that is passing.  You are loved!  AMEN.Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022.

*Photo by Mr. Howie Severino of GMA-7 News, Taal Lake, 13 November 2018.  Used with permission.  Photo below from Google.

romans823

On Searching the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Thursday, 08 November 2018, Week XXXI, Year II
Philippians 3:3-8//Luke 15:1-10

            Today, O Lord, I am searching for the meaning of the word…search.

            The psalmist sings in our responsorial psalm today, “Let hearts that rejoice who search for the Lord.”  In the gospel, you tell us the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin that were both searched and eventually found.

            We search for something that is missing, for something or somebody lost.  We search for something and someone very important.  That is why we search.  Therefore, in life, we must first lose everything to realize the most precious ones we must have!

            The shepherd searched for the lone sheep because his flock would never be complete without that single, missing sheep.  And so did the woman who lost one coin and searched for it because the ten coins would never be a whole without that cent.

            St. Paul lost everything and had to start anew in his life to gain you, O Lord Jesus Christ.  He had the best of everything like family and lineage, education and position in life.  And when he had lost everything in a flash on the road to Damascus, he searched and found you.

            We always have you, Lord, but as we grow and mature, and prosper in life, we gained more of the world and start to lose you that sooner or later in life during hardships and trials, we then search for you.

            But what is truly amazing and wonderful, O Lord, it is you who is searching for us when in fact you never ever lost us.  Besides, it does not really matter if you lose us because you would always be God.  Thank you for searching and finding me, O Lord, that made me realize also my true value.  Without you, I am nothing.

restlesshearts

            So, let me always search you even if I have already found you.  AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022.

*Photo from Google.

When Despair and Hope Come Together

LordMyChef “T-G-I-F” Quote, 05 October 2018:

“No loss can be mourned without some intuition that we will find new life… That’s how we generally approach the Eucharist.  With a strange mixture of despair and hope.  As we listen carefully to the deeper voices in our heart we realize that beneath our skepticism and cynicism there is a yearning for love, unity and communion that doesn’t go  away even when there remain so many arguments to dismiss it as sentimental childhood memories.”

Henri Nouwen, “With Burning Hearts”, pp. 39-41.

DSCF0808

Photo by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, Chapel of St. Jerome, Bethlehem, 18 April 2017.

What to do with our losses?

LordMyChef “TGIF” Quote, 14 September 2018

“If there is any word that summarizes well our pain, it is the word ‘loss.’  We have lost so much!  What to do with our losses?  That’s the first question that faces us.  This is how the journey starts.  The question is whether our losses lead to resentment or to gratitude.

Mourning our losses is the first step away from resentment and toward gratitude in our celebration of the Holy Eucharist.   The tears of our grief can soften our hardened hearts and open us to the possibility to say ‘thanks.'” (Fr. Henri J.M. Nouwen, “With Burning Hearts”, pp. 28, 32, 34)

41564804_246238176078082_7351724361268592640_n Photo by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, Betania Retreat House, Tagaytay City, 21 August 2017.