True unity in God is love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 20 May 2021
Acts 22:30-23:6-11   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 17:20-26
Photo from inquirer.net

How should we pray today, Lord Jesus Christ when you are the one praying for us? How wonderful indeed that at the Last Supper, you have already thought of us who would come to believe you 2000 years later. And what a beautiful prayer you have for us all – that like you and the Father, we may all be one in love!

Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed, saying:
"I pray not only for these, but also for those 
who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one, as you, Father,
are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me."
(John 17:20-21)

Yes, Lord Jesus: being one is being like you and the Father, a unity expressed in love and mutuality. It is a unity that comes from above, from you, and not simply from below or from us that is so fragile, so easily broken because of so many divisions within our very selves and among us.

Exactly what St. Paul had wittingly exposed when he spoke before the Sanhedrin – the polarity in beliefs of their religious leaders at that time, of the Pharisees who believed in resurrection and in angels and spirits and the Sadducees who refused to believe in these at all.

Teach us, Lord, to be witnesses of your love and unity in the Father in this time when unity is seen more as uniformity than oneness in diversity that spawns respect for one another.

Let your prayer be on our lips today so that in our lives of witnessing to your love and unity, the more we make you and the Father present in this world that has come to reject spirituality, accepting only what is materially tangible.

"Righteous Father,
the world does not know you, 
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name
and I will make it known, 
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them."
(John 17:25-26)

We pray, O Lord, for those losing hope in humanity, for those who have become cynical that we can still change and work for a better tomorrow as a Church and as a nation. Amen.

“Breakout” by Swing Out Sister (1986)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 09 May 2021
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

A blessed happy Mothers’ Day to all the sweet and hardworking moms! Thank you for bringing us out into this world and most of all, thank you for making this planet a better place to live in filled with love and joy. Like Jesus, you make our joy complete with your kindness and affection, fidelity and dedication.

That is why we have chosen this greatest hit by the Swing Out Sister in 1986, Breakout. Composed by lead singer Corinne Drewery, its video features her former profession as fashion designer who also modeled her creations.

Though she looks formal, Corinne exudes with great spunky spirit in her singing filled with courage and joy that one feels the intense love and passion she has in her art and maybe even life – exactly what the gospel tells us today of the need to remain rooted in the love of Christ so we may bear fruit with much love for him and with others.

Love and joy are closely linked with each other: when there is love, there is joy. Without love, there can be no joy; without joy, clearly there is no love at all (https://lordmychef.com/2021/05/08/let-our-joy-be-complete-in-christ/).

Breakout may not be speaking about love and joy but as you listen to its music and lyrics, it is very affirming of one’s worth as being loved so much by God even by others.

When explanations make no sense
When every answer's wrong
You're fighting with lost confidence
All expectations come
The time has come to make or break
Move on don't hesitate
Breakout
Don't stop to ask
Now you've found a break to make at last
You've got to find a way
Say what you want to say
Breakout

This Sunday, we are so blessed with so much love from God and others. “Breakout” from your negative thoughts and other imprisonments that prevent you from experiencing complete joy in Jesus!

A joyful Sunday to everyone especially to our dear Mothers!

Let our joy be complete in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sixth Sunday in Easter, Cycle B,  09 May 2021
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 ><}}}'>  1 John 4:7-10  ><}}}'>  John 15:9-17
Photo by author, December 2020.

Today we come full circle in our readings and teachings of the Lord since Easter, appropriately prepared last Sunday with his discourse being the true vine and we his branches who must remain in him to be fruitful in love.

Yes, love is the only fruit expected of us by God in Christ Jesus. When we die, it is the only thing the Lord would ask us, “gaano ka nagmahal” (how much have you loved)? It is the origin and the end of everything in this life, the only one that would remain in eternity (1Cor. 13:13).

God created us because of love, and because of that love as the second reading tells us, saved us by sending us Jesus Christ whose very life, words and actions are all rooted in his love for the Father and for us. That is why in our gospel today, Jesus spoke of love at every turn during the last supper to emphasize centrality of love that is rooted in God.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, 
so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, 
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:9-11)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Love and Joy

God alone really knows what love is because “God is love” (1Jn.4:16). Notice how Jesus spoke of love in the gospel today by linking it closely with joy as he tells us that when there is love, there is also joy. Without love, there can be no joy and without joy, clearly there is no love at all!

In its truest sense, joy – like love – is more than an emotion. It is a conviction deep within us borne out of faith that no matter what happens to us, there is God who truly loves us, remaining faithful to us until end when everything and everyone is gone.

Joy is deeper than happiness that is always coming from the outside when lips smile or laugh at something or someone funny and happy. Joy is always coming from within when the heart smiles even when you are in the midst of pain and sufferings. Recall those moments when during a major setback or a struggle in life you still managed to feel joy within through a deep sigh after seeing a beautiful sunrise of sunset or a lovely flower. There is always that feeling of comfort and relief so assured that you have somebody by your side — Jesus who assures us of his love this Sunday, asking us to remain in him “so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn.15:11).

Photo by author, ICSB-Malolos, 26 April 2021.

When joy is not complete and not in Christ


Our joy is not complete, not in Christ 
when we refuse to love because we feel unloved.

So many times in life, we cannot experience true joy when we refuse to love another person whom we feel not loving us at all. We “hate” them because we feel they do not love us, they do not care for us, that they take us for granted.

I have seen this happening to me so many times when I suspect other people of being angry with me, of being biased against me and worst, of being “insecured” with me!

But too often, I do not have bases in believing so.

Most of all, I have realized in life that we cannot force people to love us or even like us inasmuch as I do not want being coerced to do the same too! What is most true in my experience is that when some people do not seem to love me, the challenge for me is to love them more. Not hate them or not love them.

I know this is easier said than done but try to understand that it is only in loving those who do not love us or do not care for us or even hate us when we truly love because when we do so, that is when we let God intervene to make his love work in us, through us, and with us.

When we love those who do not love us, we surrender ourselves to God which is an act of self-giving like Jesus Christ on the cross, letting him fill in whatever is lacking in us to truly love. It is the truest love we can have when our love is not reciprocated by another, thus enabling us to rediscover God, our very selves and others. In the process, we begin to experience joy because we have started truly loving without expecting anything in return by loving those who do not love us nor care for us at all.

Photo by author, 2019.

Our joy is not complete, not in Christ
when we love only those like us.

Only God can love us perfectly. Human love is always imperfect as we always have that tendency to go only with those like us – in our looks and bearing, beliefs and tastes in almost everything. In that case, we limit ourselves with the people we interact with that in the process, we never grow in love and never really become joyful because we do not love at all!

Love is always outward in movement, always to another person as we mature. As a matter of fact, we love because we want to be become like the one we love who is always someone we look up to and admire. That is why love becomes more wonderful and fulfilling when we love somebody not like us or totally different.

There lies the problem with our kind of love, especially those portrayed in the movies, television, and modern music where we love only those like us that is very selfish because we only love ourselves.

We will never experience joy completely if in our loving we seek only those who are like us or worst, twist others to become like us, fitting them into our own image so that whom we love is not them but us found in them!

Crazy but it happens so many times when we manipulate others to become like us than let them be free to become their true selves.

“Love is our true destiny.We do not find meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations.The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love.”

Thomas Merton, “Love and Living”

The surest sign that we have truly loved is when we have found another person to love more than our very selves.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Rhode Island, April 2021.

Our joy is not complete, not in Christ
when we refuse to forgive those who have hurt us,
especially those we have loved so much.

It is easy to claim that we love if we do not really love at all. No matter how hard we profess that we love, its lack cannot be denied in the absence of joy in our selves, in our lives because we have been hurt by those we love.

This is more difficult than the first when we refuse to love because we feel we are not loved that may not be true at all; this is evidently clear, somebody had hurt us, had betrayed us, had been unfaithful to us.

And the saddest part of it despite all the denials is that we still love deep within us those who have hurt us! Is it not? Kaya masakit kasi nga mahal pa rin natin.

I am not talking here of a disordered or foolish love; this is something like the love of a husband or a wife to one’s partner who had fallen into infidelity for some reason. Or a prodigal son or daughter who had gone wayward in life.

This kind of love is the most difficult, but once overcome is the most sublime, the loftiest of all because the very reason why we are aching and hurting inside is because we still love. This is the kind of joy that would surely burst in fulness and completeness if we learn to forgive and let go.

Again, easier said than done but such is the power of love: the more we love, love is perfected in us that we slowly get a glimpse of God in others, and the more we become like Jesus his Son (1Jn.4:12).

So many times in life, we need to imitate St. Peter in the first reading by simply allowing God’s irresistible initiatives overtake us that while he was explaining things to the household of Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening that he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:44, 48).

When we love, love freely!

Let that love flow, do not hold it, just let it go like what mothers do most of the time: even if they are hurting inside, even if they feel not loved and cared for, even if sometimes they seem to be so hard on us insisting on their own ways, they just love, love, and love.

And that is the secret of true love rooted in Christ: when we love, we can do nothing but good. Then our joy is complete.

A joy-filled week to everyone! And happy Mothers’ Day too.

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel at Israel, 2014.

Praying to rediscover JOY

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 06 May 2021
Acts 15:7-21   ><)))*>  ><)))'>  ><)))*>   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to rediscover joy. Teach me to be joyful again. Most of all, complete my joy in you, sweet Jesus as you have promised us before you were betrayed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's  commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:10-11)

You know very well, Lord, how hard our lives have been since this pandemic happened last year. Aside from the difficulties and sufferings of getting sick, of avoiding COVID-19 came the many days and nights of loneliness and depression, of feelings of being alone and not cared for. Even forgotten.

Indeed, as experts claim, 2021 is the time when we are all “languishing” – not really depressed but not having zest in life, unproductive, and yes, lacking in joy.

And if we lack joy, it means only one thing: we do not have you because we do not love truly. Or at all.

Teach us to love again, Lord. To continue loving others without distinction, especially those who are not like us. Open our eyes to see the way you see everyone, that no matter what is one’s color or gender or belief or background in life is blessed and saved in you alone.

Saint Peter is absolutely right at the opening of the Council of Jerusalem in our first reading today.

"On the contrary,
we believe that we are saved 
through the grace of the Lord Jesus,
in the same way as they."
(Acts 15:11)

Only you, O Lord Jesus and no one else or nothing else can ever complete our joy for it is only in truly loving you through others, especially those difficult to love, that we truly love and thus become truly joyful.

And that is when our joy becomes complete. Amen.

A “Monday exam” prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Third Week of Easter, 19 April 2021
Acts 6:8-15   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   John 6:22-29
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2015.

Your words in the first reading today sound like an exam, a personal quiz for each of us your follower and student, Lord Jesus.

Are we like "Stephen, filled with grace and power, 
working great wonders among the people?" (Acts 6:8)
Are we like Stephen who spoke with wisdom
and the Spirit? (Acts 6:10)
Are we like Stephen accused falsely
for echoing your teachings, Lord Jesus Christ? (Acts 6:13)

Forgive us Lord when lately we have been lacking in courage and vigor and enthusiasm in teaching and speaking what is true, what is just, what is good.

Sorry when we are no longer bothered by the many inconvenient truths prevailing these days, from the rampant disrespect for life and of the environment to our silence to injustices happening around us.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, dear Jesus, to be bold enough like Stephen in following your life by witnessing your stance for what is right and true, just and holy. Enable us to perceive the deeper meaning of things happening in us and around us that are signs of your presence, indicating your will and mission for us.

May we work for “the food that endures for eternal life” (Jn.6:27) by first believing wholly in you as the Son of God to whom we must pledge our total and unconditional commitment.

More than receiving you as the Bread of Life in the Holy Communion, may we realize that to believe in you dear Jesus is to be like you – a bread who nourishes others with one’s total self giving in loving service founded on justice and respect for one another. Amen.

From Be Like Francis page at Facebook, 14 April 2021.

Loving like St. Joseph in the time of pandemic

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16  +  Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22  +  Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
Photo by author of the site believed to be the workshop of St. Joseph in Nazareth, 2017.

Today’s celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph as most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a very special one being in the “Year of Saint Joseph” that began last December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021 in commemoration of the 150th year anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the beloved saint as Patron of the Universal Church.

In launching this Year of Saint Jospeh last year, Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart) how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.

The Holy Father explained that the “ordinary” people like those who kept our lives going especially during the lockdowns resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation” (Vatican News, 12 December 2020).

I really hope you can have time to read today this very short letter by Pope Francis who is a known devotee of Saint Joseph having popularized among us during his 2015 Papal Visit the image of “Sleeping Saint Joseph”.

In Patris Corde, Pope Francis gives us some helpful points on how we can love with the heart of God our Father like Saint Joseph during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these traits the Pope invites us to imitate from Saint Joseph is his “creative courage” in loving God and loving others.

If the first stage of all interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creative courage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.

Pope Francis, Patris Corde #5

A creative person is always someone who is deeply in love with another person or with one’s craft, art, career or whatever passion.

The most loving person is always the most creative like Saint Joseph who sought ways expressing his love for Mary and her child by deciding to silently divorce her as the gospel tells us.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Jospeh, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago of a mosaic at the San Padre Pio Shrine at Rotondo, Italy of the angel appearing to Saint Joseph in his dream.

Holiness is having creative courage like Saint Joseph.

Notice how the Pope’s description of Saint Joseph is not far from St. Matthew’s calling him a “righteous man” – a holy man – who obeys the Laws of God handed down to them by Moses, including their other traditions meant to keep them clean and pure before God.

Problem during that time is how people have lost sight of God and of others that they were so focused on the letters of the law than its spirit, becoming impersonal in the process as we have seen in instances when they would ask Jesus why he healed the sick even on sabbath day. Worst is when people brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery, reminding him of Moses’ instruction to stone her in public.

Such was the dilemma faced by Saint Joseph with Mary being pregnant with a child definitely not his!

In deciding to silently leave Mary, Saint Joseph expressed his righteousness or holiness wherein he showed the true interpretation of their Laws by upholding the dignity of every person, respecting life above all. Like Jesus Christ, Saint Joseph showed that real holiness is authentic love that is willing to sacrifice for the beloved by having the courage to be in pain in giving up or losing a beloved.

Here we find Saint Joseph was not only courageous in facing the painful truth about Mary having a baby not his but also very creative in the sense that because of his great love for the Blessed Virgin, he did not want her exposed to shame and public humiliation in allegedly breaking the seal of their betrothal.

Having courage is more than being able to do death-defying acts that is more on physical strength; courage is a spiritual virtue, a spiritual strength when we do extraordinary things because of higher ideals and values like the love of Jesus who offered us his life on the Cross.

Courage is from the Latin word “cor” for heart which is the seat of our being. And to have courage is to be true and loving that we have such expressions to speak from the heart, to listen to our heart, and to act from our heart when we dare to lose ourselves because of love.

Photo from Aleteia.org of “Let Mum Rest” image St. Joseph nursing the Infant Jesus while Mary sleeps, 2019.

A person who truly loves is always creative, 
finding ways in expressing one's love even sometimes 
it may be painful and difficult.

A “creatively courageous” person like Saint Joseph is someone so deeply in love with Mary and with God: after learning the circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, St. Matthew tells us “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Mt.1:24).

Saint Joseph’s love for Mary found ways to spare her all the pains and hurts that may result if found with a baby not his; but after learning the truth, the more we find him creatively courageous when he sought many ways to save Mother and Child from all harm and even death like bringing them to Egypt in the time of Herod.

See that when Saint Joseph accepted Mary, Jesus came forth to us while at the same time, when Saint Joseph accepted God through the angel as expression of his deep faith and love, he took Mary as wife.

And this is what Pope Francis further explains in Patris Corde that at the end of every account in which Saint Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up and takes Jesus and Mary who are the most precious treasure of our faith.

Taking Jesus and Mary like Saint Joseph as creative courage calls us Christians to always love the Church and in loving the Church, we love the poor for whom Jesus came and Mary identified herself with in her Magnificat which she sang after accepting the Annunciation by the Angel of Christ’s birth which we celebrate next week on March 25.

In this time of the pandemic, we are called to be creatively courageous in finding Jesus among those people too familiar with us as well as with those so different from us. Don’t you find it so funny that the people we always take for granted are those either so close to us like family or completely strangers?

Being creatively courageous in this time of the pandemic means being more sensitive with others especially in our words and actions like Saint Joseph.

I was wondering during prayers why did he not ask Mary about the truth of her pregnancy so that he would have been spared with all the thinking and praying? That is when I realized the value of Saint Joseph’s silence: he did not speak at all to Mary as a sign of his love and oneness with her who must have been into some difficulties too with the situation of being the Mother of Christ. sympathy.

In his silence, Saint Joseph expressed his complete trust in Mary and in God. And in his being silent, Saint Joseph was creatively courageous expressing aloud his tenderness and care for Mary and her Child, something we need so much in this time of the pandemic.

Let us pray to Saint Joseph in this time of social distancing that like him, we may have the creative courage in touching others with the love of God, especially those who are sick and suffering, those in difficult situations, and those forgotten by their families and friends and even by the society. Have a blessed Friday, everyone!

Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!

Photo from Vatican News, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, 14 December 2020.

Becoming the TLC of God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Homily, Wednesday in Lent Week IV, 17 March 2021
Isaiah 49:8-15     + ++     John 5:17-30    
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Today we resumed the community Masses on a limited basis at the Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) in Valenzuela where I am now serving as their chaplain.

Our aim is very simple:  to share Jesus with everyone in our Fatima community including their families and friends.

Sharing Jesus means being tender and caring with one another like God our Father in heaven who gave us the loveliest description of these attributes in the first reading today by being like a mother.

Thus says the Lord:  “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

isaiah 49:15

If there is one thing missing in our country
 in this one year old pandemic and lockdown, 
it must be tenderness.

In the gospel of St. Luke, we find Zechariah singing praises to God at the birth of his son John the Baptist:

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79

St. Luke used the Greek word “splaghna” to designate tenderness as “tender mercy of God”

Mercy, or “misericordia” which is also our University motto is from the Latin “misereor” that means to stir, to move. More than a feeling, mercy is compassion in action wherein one is moved or stirred in the heart to go down, reach out and be one with the suffering like Jesus Christ.  And that is when we are filled with tenderness of God. Then we become caring.

Tenderness of God as tender compassion is misericordia that is “tagos sa buto” as in “sagad-sagad” that even if we feel tired and hungry, or afraid and anxious, we still go out to help, to uplift, to keep company and inspire those in pain and suffering, those about to give up in life, those who are lost because of sickness, poverty, and other difficulties.

This we find and do in Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus who said in our gospel today, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn.5:17).

Remember that scene of the feeding of five thousand in the wilderness when Jesus and the Twelve crossed the lake to the other side to rest but a vast crowd followed them and even got ahead of them to the site.  When Jesus saw them, he was moved with pity because they were like “sheep without shepherd” that despite his being hungry and tired, he taught them many things, healed their sick, exorcised the possessed and later, fed and satisfied them all from just five loaves of bread and three pieces of fish.

Tenderness is when we are moved to help those in need while we ourselves are also suffering. Hence, it is not surprising at all to find that the most tender and caring people are also the ones who suffer most. Like moms and these days, the medical front liners who continue to serve us amid the risks they face!


Being tender and caring
are essentially the works of God
made known to us in Jesus Christ.

It has been a year since we had the longest lockdown in the world. It is fitting that as we recall those days even if dark clouds still loom above us these days that we remember the people who have cared for us and made life bearable: all those working in the hospitals supporting our doctors and nurses; the market vendors who ensured we have food on the table; the staff members of the botica we usually visited to get our medicines; the panadero who prepared our daily bread; our teachers who braved the digital world so we may continue with our schooling and learning process, and many more.

It is a tremendous grace from God to be able to be tender with someone because that means we care like Jesus Christ.

Photo from GMA-7 News of Mang Dodong.

Today, God reminds us that amid this great darkness still looming above us in this time of the pandemic, He cares for us very much and wants us to care for one another too, especially for those going through many trials and difficulties in life.

Let us give Jesus our hands and our hearts to be vessels of his divine Tender Loving Care. Amen.

“Up Where We Belong” (1982) OST of “An Officer and A Gentleman”

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 14 March 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Rhode Island, February 2021.

We are now halfway through to celebrating another Easter amid the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic worsening anew with a recent surge in infections. But today’s Sunday readings especially the gospel give us so many reasons to celebrate and rejoice for the gift of life and love, light and hope in Jesus Christ who had come not to condemn us but to save us (Jn.3:16-17).

By his dying on the Cross, Jesus had opened a path for us back to the Father by uplifting us from our sins and miseries, becoming our light that dispelled the many darkness that enveloped us if we follow him with our sacrifices and efforts to be good like him (https://lordmychef.com/2021/03/13/the-joy-of-lent-4/).

This we find in our gospel story of Jesus conversing with Nicodemus under the cover of darkness of the night, reminding us of the 1982 hit Up Where We Belong by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the equally smash hit movie of that year, “An Officer and A Gentleman” starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger.

The movie is also interesting for us because of some references to the Philippines with the opening scenes of Zack played by Gere growing up with his father who was a Navy officer assigned at the Subic Naval Base.

Like Nicodemus in the gospel, Zack had so many darkness within him following his mother’s suicide and his living with his father who initially refused to take him, afraid he would not be a good father after separating from his mother earlier in childhood. After graduation in college, Zack went to train to become a Naval aviator where he encountered more darkness in life especially from their tough and hard-driving Marine training officer played by Louis Gosset Jr. that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film (the first African-American male to do so).

More instances of darkness in Zack were also shown in the film like the suicide of a fellow trainee and friend whose marriage proposal was rejected when his girlfriend learned he had left Naval training. Zack almost quit his training because of that but was prevailed upon by Gosset after an unsanctioned fight bout.

After graduation, Zack went to see his girlfriend at work (Debra Winger), declaring his love for her. And when she said yes to his love, they kissed, after which he carried her in his arms as he walked out of the factory while her co-workers clapped their hands in a round of applause.

The scene is so touching, so lovely. And that is when Jennifer and Joe began their duet.

Who knows what tomorrow brings
In a world few hearts survive
All I know is the way I feel
When it’s real, I keep it alive
The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world below
Up where the clear winds blow
Some hang on to used to be
Live their lives looking behind
All we have is here and now
All our lives, out there to find
The road is long
There are mountains in our way
But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong
Where the eagles cry
On a mountain high
Love lift us up where we belong
Far from the world we know
Where the clear winds blow

The song is very Lent, in fact very spiritual that some Christian stations in the States have reportedly adapted it into some religious variations as it speaks so well of overcoming every obstacle in life with determination and perseverance. And of course, with a lot of help and light from above, Jesus Christ. Have a joyful and blessed week ahead, everyone!

*Video was uploaded by Roadvideo 404.

The color of Lent is also green

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Third Week in Lent, 12 March 2021
Hosea 14:2-10   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 12:28-34
Photo by author, December 2020.

When we were growing up, you know it so well, God our Father, how we fondly recited a rhyme from “Mother Goose” that says: “Roses are red, violets are blue; Sugar is sweet, so are you. And I love you!”

How lovely is this elementary rhyme for the great truth it imparts even in this season of Lent when our motif is violet for repentance which is also the shade representing fidelity, modesty, humility, and simplicity that to give a violet means “I love you too in response to what a red rose says, “I love you”!

To be sorry for sins is a great expression of love; but, to forgive like you dear God is the greatest expression of love!

And that is why, while violet expresses our love for you by being sorry for our sins this season of Lent, then, it can be rightly said that the color of Lent is also green for wherever there is love flowing from contrition for sins and its forgiveness, then there is found life in you!

When there is love, there is always life — like the verdant shades of green you told Hosea in the first reading today:

I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; they shall blossom like the vine, his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Hosea 14:6-8

Remind us always, Lord, that Lent need not be dry and drab; it is characterized by joy and life because of the love and mercy you have poured upon us through Jesus Christ. What a lovely scene that finally today in the gospel, a scribe came to Jesus not to debate him but be clarified of which is the first of all of the commandments.

May we imitate that scribe to come to you to sincerely seek wisdom and truth with a humble heart so we may realize that to love God above all means loving one’s self and loving others too at the same time. That love of God is always expressed in the face of every person we must see as a brother and a sister in Christ.

Let us return to you, O God in Jesus through others so that life may bloom again in us and around us. Give us the grace of contrition, to be sorry of our sins so our hearts may be cleansed to finally see how roses are red, violets are blue turning to shades and hue of green when life blooms in YOU. Amen.

Photo by author, December 2020.

“Try Again” by Champaign (1983)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 07 March 2021
Photo from turbosquid.com.

The Season of Lent is like a refresh or reset button of the computer: it is a time when we “reboot” ourselves with prayers, fasting and abstinence, and alms giving to be connected anew with God and with one another. It gives us another chance to make things better in our lives marred by sins and many pains and hurts in the past.

And that is why for this Sunday we have chosen American R&B group Champaign’s 1983 single “Try Again” from their album Modern Heart. It peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot100 of that year.

I find the song very lenten in character. The music is sober but not bland. In fact, the cool instrumentation especially at the start kept ringing in my ears as I prayed over the readings this whole week, kind of convinced me of how truly sorry was Pauli Carman to his beloved in failing to be more loving, more intimate, and more personal to her.

I been starin’ at your photograph
Wondering where you’re at today
And I’ve been hanging by the telephone
Hopin’ that you’d call home and stay
You told me you needed
More walks, more talks
More feelin’ close to me
I want to be close to you
I didn’t know you needed
Some roses, some romance
A little candlelight and slow dance
That’s not how it’s been
But maybe we can try again
Try, try, maybe we can try again

Sometimes in life, we take people around us for granted, we always presume everything is given, everything is well and good, that our loved ones know or assured that we love them so much. Worst is how we sometimes forget that in our love for our family and friends, we have been so focused in our other pursuits purportedly for them that in the process we actually forget them. Things can never replace persons who need to be loved and cherished.

I always tell couples that after years of living together with the coming of kids and career and problems, always remember, first there was your wife or husband for you. No matter what happens, God first called you to each other. Continue the courtship, keep surprising each other with expressions of your love for each other. Watch movies, have romantic dinners together.

The same with us priests: before all the demands of the ministry and apostolate came, there was first Jesus Christ who had come to call us, loving us that every day we have to pray, make time for him.

Try Again exactly tells us what the readings this Sunday teach us: of how we must cleanse ourselves to find our first love again, the person dearest to us. And the good news from God is that we can always try again and make up for our past sins and shortcomings to him and to one another.

Refresh, reset or reboot your self this Lent by making time for your loved ones for intimate and personal moments.

Have a blessed and refreshing week ahead!

Music video by Champaign performing Try Again. (C) 1981 Sony Music Entertainment