Surely, there will be Christmas 2020….

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 November 2020
Photo by author, Christmas decors at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.
Surely, there will be Christmas this year
despite the pandemic
but there will be less traffic, 
less madness in malls and streets
and more praying and silence
in our homes and parishes.
There will be less dinging
of cash registers
and maybe more singing
from the hearts
as we begin to see more 
of Jesus in the other 
person despite 
the face mask.
Surely, there will be Christmas in this time of corona
as there will be more presence
of persons and loved ones
than presents and gifts recycled
or bought without any thoughts;
there will be more crèche
and boughs of greens
so we do not have to be mean
if we do not receive anything.
For so long
we have been receiving gifts
when it is not us celebrating
birthday but the Lord
who only asks for our open hearts.
Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, QC, 2019.
Surely, there will still be Christmas amid COVID-19
when we shall finally be hearing
music celebrating Christ's coming
not cheesy songs masquerading as carols 
wishing for every maiden's Prince Charming;
there may be less cheese and ham and wine
for our Christmas dinner
with memories and dreams overflowing
as we gather filled with faith, hope and love;
it does not matter if there are no blinking lights
or even Christmas trees with all the trimmings
or boxes of gifts below or socks hanging
for as long as the glow of Christ's light
and warmth bursting in everyone's hello!
Surely, there will always be Christmas
no matter how favorable or
unfavorable each year
because Christmas
is more than a date to
keep and remember
but an event, a Person
to cherish and welcome,
to follow and imitate,
to care and let grow
within us, among us
the God who became human
 like us so we can be divine 
like Him.
Surely there will always be Christmas every year
but after 2020, may our Christmas be for real:
less hugging and kissing 
but more loving and caring;
less laughing and merrymaking 
but more of rejoicing and comforting;
less having and buying
more giving and sharing;
more sacrificing
more striving
for justice and peace;
less clapping, less "liking", less "trending"
more praying, more kneeling
to Jesus our Savior and everything!  AMEN.
Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

Crying is praying too!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 November 2020
Revelation 5:1-10     >><)))*> + <*(((><<  ||  >><)))*> + <*(((><<     Luke 19:41-44
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Thank you, dear Jesus, in joining me in my tears, in my crying. I have been crying a lot lately for so many reasons. And what a wonderful feeling to cry because so often, it has become my prayers too, even my food for the soul.

In the first reading, St. John “shed many tears because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to examine it” (Revelation 5:4); while in the gospel, you wept over Jerusalem as you drew near the city for refusing to recognize and accept you as the Messiah (Luke19:41).

In both instances, tears express the deep love within us for one another, an outpouring of love that have become like beads of prayers.

Photo by author, Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) Church where Jesus wept over Jerusalem, 2017. Roof is shaped like tears.

Thank you dear Jesus for enabling me to cry like you for it means that my heart is still beating, my heart is aching because it is loving.

Tears do come from ducts near the eyes but they come from the soul longing for you, Lord, forming in the heart, secreted from those many scars left open whenever we give away a part of ourselves to somebody else out of love.

Tears are always a grace from you as they cleanse us inside, clearing our eyes of the many blurs so we may see your face among the persons next to us.

Bless us as we cry, O Lord, that our tears may eventually pave the way for smiles and joys some other day when like your prayer for Jerusalem, we may recognize your visitation in the many trials and tests we endure for our loved ones. Amen.

To live is to love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 13 November 2020
2 John 4-9     >><)))*> |\  >><)))*>  ||  >><)))*>     Luke 17:26-37
Photo by author, ICMAS Theologate Chapel, 05 October 2020.

My prayer to you today, O God our loving Father, is simple: thank you very much for the gift of a new day, thank you very much for the warm sunshine amid overcast skies, thank you very much most of all for the gift of life.

Once again you have made us experience your saving hand and protection the other night from the terrifying winds and rains of typhoon Ulysses; then yesterday, everybody was surprised at how fast the waters have risen following widespread floods.

So many of us are asking – not complaining – why all these things happening this year 2020?

Open our hearts, open our eyes and ears to listen and heed your voice amid these calamities happening among us.

Make us more sensitive to the needs and cries of others by living in love and charity, of witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ your Son instead of entertaining so many “progressive” ideas and thoughts that lead nowhere.

Let us live in love, Lord.

For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments… Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh… Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.

1 John 6,7, 8-9

May these calamities open ourselves to the reality and mystery of Christ’s coming again, of how we must strive to live in love, to see every body not just as a body like vultures but as somebody needing love and attention. Amen.

On leaving and living

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 09 November 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 30 October 2020.
I have always believed
life is more on coming
than on leaving 
because 
whenever we leave,
we also come.
But, 
there is something
about leaving 
that makes 
it strongly felt 
than coming:
from the pain of leaving
follows emptiness -
the angst of still living
when someone is missing.
Most painful part of leaving
is when you are the one left behind;
it is the one who leaves
who actually comes
to somewhere else
while the one left
bears the scars
of leaving,
like grappling
with the unseen
presence
of nothing
but memories
gone 
with the one who had left
who might never come again.
But, I think
it is when leaving 
is truly hurting
that it turns into a coming -
an arrival 
of blessing
of opening 
to a new lease on life 
and living when we discover 
somebody anew
filling what's missing within 
not necessarily seen
that together we spin
a new thread in life again.
The other person
gone is never replaced
by a newfound one;
that's the beauty
of every leaving
and coming
when we leave
in order to come
creating a space
for a new one
until it leaves again
to come another one
until finally
we become one in the Only One.

Friendships should depend on nothing like TIME and SPACE. Remove TIME and what we have is NOW; remove SPACE and what we have is HERE. Don’t you think we could meet once or twice between NOW and HERE?

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 07 November 2020.

Praying for our Church and churches

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 09 November 2020
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12  >><)))*>  1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17  >><)))*>  John 2:13-22
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

Glory and praise to you O God our Father who had sent us your Son Jesus Christ to establish his Body among us, both as the Church made up of his people and made of stones. As we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, we pray also for Pope Francis, all bishops and priests, and all the faithful who make us the Body of Christ.

May our temple of stones be a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, your Building among us as St. Paul reminds us today.

Let life flow like waters from the vision of Ezekiel in the first reading from our Church and give life to its members especially the sick and the poor, the marginalized and the forgotten.

Dearest Jesus, help us draw inspiration from the beauty and harmony of your beautiful churches despite our many flaws and sins to form a unity in you in the Holy Eucharist we celebrate day in, day out in our sacred buildings to proclaim your glory and majesty.

At the same time, as we strive to follow your will in building a spiritual temple of people who worship in truth and in spirit, may this feast remind us also to take special care in keeping your house in order where we meet you in our liturgy. Guide us with the Holy Spirit to make every sacred building a living temple of your love, a church of the poor. Amen.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

God perfects our works

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 30 October 2020
Philippians 1:1-11          >><)))*>  ||+||  <*(((><<     Luke 14:1-6
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What a beautiful last Friday of October 2020 today, God our loving Father! After so many struggles in life this week, you send us our favorite people and friends, favorite memories, favorite sights and smells, and every other favorites that delight and console us, comfort and assure us.

You never allow bad things to continue hitting us! Just as we are about to give up, there you are always coming to us in so many ways like with St. Paul who have received some gifts from the Philippians — his most beloved and favorite community as he wrote them while in prison awaiting trial and sure death in Rome.

It happens so often with us too, Lord, and I am convinced you surely have a hand in them because as St. Paul wrote the Philippians:

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

We are not complaining for our many struggles in life; at least we are still alive because the moment we no longer struggle, then we must be with you in heaven!

I love the way how St. Paul told us that you, O Lord, perfects -that is, completes – every work we have done, always with us in whatever struggle we have, starting right at the moment we were born literally struggling for life.

Please bless our work and our efforts, our struggles that sometimes we feel going nowhere, feeling all is wasted.

Like that man healed on a sabbath at a home of a leading Pharisee, may we come to meet you always in faith as you have to be with us body and blood and spirit in Jesus Christ to bless and perfect our efforts and works, even sickness and sufferings.

May we pray to grow in love like St. Paul:

And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11
Amen.
Amen.

Amen.

Alleluia!

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

To live in love is to live as children of light

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 October 2020
Ephesians 4:32-5:8     >><)))*> ||  >><)))*>  ||  >><)))*>     Luke 13:10-17
Easter Vigil in the midst of COVID-19, 2020.

How beautiful are your words for us, loving Father, on this last Monday of October 2020!

Despite the rains caused by a typhoon, our first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is so heartwarming in reminding us of our new humanity in Jesus Christ your Son, encouraging us to live moral lives by “living in love” (Eph.5:2) as “children of light” (Eph.5:8).

Living in love is living as children of light by first being imitators of you, O God, which is to be holy as you are holy. Remove from our minds that holiness is being sinless; teach us to realize that being holy, being “whole” and perfect is a process of being filled with you, dear God.

Teach us to be open to let you fill us, God, full of life and zest, raring to explore and move forward despite the many pains and setbacks we have had.

Cleanse us of immorality and impurity in our minds and hearts and lips.

Keep us grateful to your many blessings we have received specially those we never asked from you yet you have generously given us.

Most of all, make us truthful and sincere in our love for you through our neighbors; take off our masks of hypocrisy like the leader of the synagogue where Jesus healed on a sabbath a woman crippled by a spirit for 18 years (Lk.13:14).

To live in love as your children of light Lord is also to free others from the many burdens burdens in life they carry so they may start living in you through Jesus Christ. Amen.

“Alfie” by Dionne Warwick (1966)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 25 October 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary in Quezon, 2020.

Sorry for being away these past four weeks without any secular music inspiration for our Sunday gospels. Hoping to make up with you my dear Reader on this partly cloudy and warm Sunday with a classic song from a 1966 movie that starred Michael Caine, Alfie.

Written by the highly successful duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, sang and recorded for the said movie by their favorite interpreter Dionne Warwick, Alfie gives in its opening stanza the questions that create the drama of this 1966 film about a self-centered playboy who cared only for himself, using the people around him for his own gratification and satisfaction.

I have not seen the original 1966 film except its 2004 remake starring Jude Law that I find too “sleazy” that lacked what I suppose as the British “touch of class” and deep drama found in Caine’s starrer.

Nonetheless, we have chosen this song because of our Gospel this Sunday when a scholar of the law challenged Jesus with the question “which commandment in the law is the greatest”. Jesus answered the question so well by taking us all to the very foundation of all laws which is loving God with one’s total self expressed in loving others as we love our selves.

Here we find Jesus doing away with our legalisms that focus on the letters and individual laws and commandments, summing them all in love (https://lordmychef.com/2020/10/24/the-test-of-love/).

Jesus “passed the test” by the Pharisees and the question now is, how do we fare in the same test of love?

Do we love enough?

And that is why we have chosen the song Alfie that speaks so well of the same question.

There is a very interesting line in the song’s second stanza that relates perfectly well with Jesus Christ’s summary of the laws into love of God expressed in love of others:

And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie
I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in

For years, many listeners including artists like Ms. Barbara Streissand have been baffled with the possible meaning of that line “What will you lend on an old golden rule?”; it has always been interpreted in so many ways despite Mr. David’s admission it meant nothing at all but just a line to fill in Mr. Bacharach’s music.

In that case, all the more we find how music is indeed more of the soul, touching our hearts with its deep meanings that transcends our physical world, giving us a glimpse of the Divine, of a personal and relating, loving God.

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day, Alfie
Alfie …

The problem with love, my dear Reader and Friend, too often our words are not enough to truly express it. Most often, when we love, we just have to love, love, and love!

A lovely and loving week to everyone!

Provided to YouTube by Rhino Alfie (2013 Remaster) · Dionne Warwick Playlist: The Best Of Dionne Warwick ℗ 1967 Scepter Records Producer: Burt Bacharach Producer: Hal David Writer: Burt Bacharach Writer: Hal David Auto-generated by YouTube.

The test of love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXX-A in Ordinary Time, 25 October 2020
Exodus 22:20-26  |+++|   1 Thessalonians 1:5-10   |+++|   Matthew 22:34-40
Nuns bringing relief goods during the lockdown due to COVID-19 last summer. Photo from Facebook.

Our gospel this Sunday is a very usual scene happening daily in our modern world when we keep on testing Jesus Christ like the Pharisees for so many things about life we feel we know better than even God.

We keep on “pushing the lines” to avoid crossing them lest we break the laws and commandments when our hearts are clearly bent more on the legalisms than their spirit and sense.

How unfortunate that until now, when we would rather see the small parts than the whole that we keep on breaking down everything specially laws as if they are entities unto themselves, forgetting that each part leads to greater good.

Such is the essence of the one law of love, love of God is always love of neighbor and vice versa. They cannot be separated, like a face with two cheeks.

But more important than understanding the nature of the law of love which is the inseparability of love of God and love of others is passing its final test of loving.

I have always loved this actual photo of a banana vendor during the lockdown who kept his prices low as part of his effort in alleviating the sufferings due to COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Smart, March 2020.

We keep on testing Jesus
who has passed every test we have
subjected him into...
Can we pass his test of love, too?

As we come to close our liturgical calendar in the coming weeks, our Sunday gospel today challenges us to examine our very selves too if like Jesus, can we pass the test of love?

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Matthew 22:34-36

The scholar’s question to Jesus was partly a result of the confusion among people of his time when their experts and scholars of the Laws broke down into minute details and parts the Decalogue that eventually ended having over 600 precepts including those rituals of cleansing of things Jesus and his disciples were often accused of disregarding whenever they came to gatherings.

The sad thing is that instead of simplifying them so the people may find more the spirit of the Laws than its legalisms, the Jewish leaders “did not lift a finger” about it for selfish motives.

And now they were using it to test Jesus which we sadly continue in our present time.

While it is true that evil exists in lawlessness or when we live lawlessly, God’s law is directly opposed to a legalistic understanding that must be seen always in the light of faith.

This is perhaps the main point of Pope Francis in his recent statement proposing for “civil coexistence law” (convivencia civil) that will protect homosexual people from mistreatment and social rejection even from among their own family circles. The Pope is not calling for same sex civil union nor same sex marriage. We have to go beyond the legalese and legalisms of laws to see the Holy Father’s genuine concern and love for people with homosexual tendencies he had longed to bring back to the fold.

We cannot separate law and love if either is to bring deepened relationships and unity among peoples that are in fact the goals of both law and love. Law and love always take into consideration the other person often forgotten when we have an excess of our very selves.

In the first reading, we are reminded how the laws themselves are manifestations of God’s love for his people, of laws coming directly from him without any hint whatsoever of the distant lawgiver we have always seen and experienced among men.

See how he admonished everyone to be kind with everybody specially aliens for after all, we are all immigrants and travelers of this earth whom he takes care of. In declaring “I am compassionate” (Ex.22:26), God assures everyone of his oneness with us, that to love him is to love others, to hurt others is hurting him too! The very same thing Jesus is telling us today!

He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus easily passed the “test” by the Pharisees at that instant and would prove it more decisively and concretely on the Cross when he gives himself up to the Father for our salvation as the supreme sign of love that is true.

His answer takes us all to the very foundation of all the laws we have which is loving God with one’s total self expressed in loving others as we love our selves. Here we find Jesus doing away with our legalisms that focus on the letters and individual laws and commandments, summing them all in love.

Again, following the background and personality of Pope Francis, here we find his love in action being bogged down by legalisms and limitations of the language.

What does he really mean with convivencia civil or civil coexistence law minus any romantic meanings in adherence to our moral laws?

I do not know but in my heart, I could feel the love and compassion of this Pope for homosexuals we have long ostracized from the Church and even society, making fun of them, forgetting their feelings and well-being and persons. It might still take some time before the Pope’s idea is realized even in the Church. What we need at the moment is openness to the leading of the Holy Spirit to finally find those words and terms to encapsulate the love and compassion Pope Francis has for them.

That is the problem with love — always beyond words. One has just to do it, to just “love, love, and love” as Leo Buscaglia would always say.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us how the world continues to frown upon us Christians striving to live the life Christ had called us to. We can see the continuing biases in the society even in social media against us Christians standing for what is just, moral and true. It is in this context where we are challenged to be true witnesses of the love of Jesus Christ that the credibility of his gospel is proven daily as the only path towards peace and harmony.

Jesus passed the tests of his enemies about his love for God and love for us; all the past Popes have proven too their complete love for God and for others in their lives of holiness. Pope Francis has striven while still in Argentina to witness this immense love of Jesus for the marginalized. Instead of wasting our energies debating about his recent statements despite his being passed the same test of love, let us now examine ourselves how are we faring in this test of love too?

And loving and lovely week ahead of everyone in Jesus!

Photo by author, 2019.

Faithful and upright

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. John of Capistrano, Priest, 23 October 2020
Ephesians 4:1-6     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 12:54-59
Pope Francis delivering his “Urbi et Orbi” before an empty St. Peter’s Square in Rome, 27 March 2020 at the height of COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Vatican Media/AFP via Getty Images.

So many things have happened in the past 24 hours, O God our Father, that the peoples of the world felt as if the earth was shaken and thrown off its course following the news of the Pope’s recent interview.

So many have spoken without really reflecting the Pope’s statement proposing a “civil coexistence law” (translation by Fr. Darwin Resuello) among people with homosexual tendencies “so they may be legally covered” (Pope Francis, Catholic News Agency) “in seeking mutual help or helping another” (Fr. Resuello).

Many were quick to conclude Pope Francis is endorsing same sex relationships or same sex-marriage when in fact nowhere did the Pope said it; in fact, he had avoided using the word “marriage” in his adherence to our teaching that marriage is only between man and woman.

Everybody is now taking it to advance each one’s popular opinions and preferences long rejected that would never be allowed in the light of your teachings and commandment to truly love like your Son Jesus Christ.

In this world so divided and colored with different beliefs, guide us Lord Jesus in the Church as we seek ways to be compassionate and loving to everyone like Pope Francis, may everyone see it is always in your desire to be one, just as you and the Father are one.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received… striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one Body and one Spirit, as you were called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1,3-6

We pray for Pope Francis, his continued guidance by the Holy Spirit as he tries to reach out to more people marginalized especially in the Church – which is so ironic. Help him in his efforts to bring into the fold those outside, those driven away by our lack of love and mercy.

Do not deter him from being your sign of unity despite his portrayal by some especially those in media who keep on presenting him as breaking away from tradition. May his life of kindness and compassion convince others of his fidelity and uprightness before you like St. John of Capistrano who called on us priests to be examples for others in holiness.

We pray also for everyone to be more reflective to avoid sowing confusion and divisions with the Pope’s pronouncements, just like during your time when those around you were so focused on themselves than on those truly in need. Amen.

The Chair of St. Peter, sign of the Primacy of Rome which is about the primacy of love and service especially to those neglected and unrecognized; how sad some sectors use these efforts by Pope Francis for their own agenda. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.