When harbor is not a harbor…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of First Martyrs of Holy Roman Church, 30 June 2022
Amos 7:10-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 9:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Nazare, Portugal, March 2022.

Harbor (noun) – a place on the coast where vessels may find shelter, especially one protected from rough water by piers, jetties, and other artificial structures.

Harbor (verb) – keep (a thought or feeling, typically a negative one) in one’s mind, especially secretly; also, shelter or hide (a criminal or wanted person). In Pilipino, “magkimkim”.

On this final day of June 2022
as we honor all the martyrs in the
persecution under Nero in 64 AD Rome,
you gave me O Lord the word "harbor"
as a focus of prayer and reflection after
finding the playful twist in the gospel
of Jesus crossing the lake into his own town 
where he healed a paralytic by telling him 
"Courage, child, your sins are forgiven" 
(Mt.9:2).

At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?”

Matthew 9:3-4
What a sad turn of events that continue
to this day when prophets come into our midst, 
especially those of our own like Jesus to his folks, 
who are denounced for speaking your words, 
O God our Father; instead of finding shelter among
us like a "harbor" for telling the truth, prophets
have always become targets of negative thoughts
we "harbor" within like when Brazilian Archbishop
Helder Camara said, "When I give food to the poor,
they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor,
they call me a communist."
Bless us, dear Father, to be like a "harbor"
to your prophets; let us not imitate Amaziah
in the first reading who drove away your prophet
Amos back to Judah to earn his keeps as
shepherd and dresser of sycamores;
forgive us when we "harbor" negative thoughts
on those who tell and speak to us your truth;
and most especially, let us "stir into flame 
the gift of God that we have" (cf. 2 Tim.1:6)
at Baptism, the sharing in Christ's prophetic
ministry of witnessing your truth and mercy,
justice and love among the people at all time.
Let us not fear, O Lord, 
to cross the seas of this life
to spread your gospel of salvation,
finding only in you our safe harbor
from all storms that come our way
in carrying your Cross.  Amen.

The best of the very best

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, 22 November 2021
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20  ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>  Luke 21:1-4
Photo from http://www.reddit.com.
Very often in life, we rarely
think of you dear God our Father
when we try to consider the best
we could ever have; if ever we
remember you, you always come
last because we always want 
the finest and most premium as
something tangible, something we
can hold and even possess.
On this final stretch of our 
liturgical calendar before we move
to our "new year" with the First Sunday
of Advent, your words remind us 
very well how we continue that practice
of searching and possessing the best -
food, clothes, vessels, gadgets, 
even minds and talents or persons
like King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,
the conqueror of Judah who ransacked 
your Temple of its precious vessels and 
threw your people into exile.
When he asked for the brightest and 
best men of Judah be separated to serve
at his court, he gave them the best food
and wine to ensure that they function well
when summoned; how amazing were your
servants led by Daniel who refused to eat
the king's food and wine in your honor; 
despite their simple meals of vegetables 
and water, Daniel and his company emerged 
as the best young men in the king's court.

In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.

Daniel 1:20
Meanwhile at the donation box
of the temple, your Son Jesus
found the widow who gave two
small coins as the best donor
of all because she gave her very self
to God unlike the rich who gave only
a portion of what they no longer needed.
Teach us, dear God, that you are
the very best of the best we can ever
have and offer in this life;
may we aspire to have you more -
your love and kindness,
your mercy and justice,
your wisdom and understanding,
your very life and presence
so that we may also learn to give
our total self to you.
Like St. Cecilia, may we sing
your song, O God in our hearts,
giving our very selves to your
loving service for others.  Amen.

Living in the presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr, 12 November 2021
Wisdom 13:1-9   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 17:26-37
Photo by author, Taiwan, 2019.
God our Father,
help us distinguish the
difference between finding
you in everything and making
anything as you, an object
of worship, an idolatry.
Fill us with your wisdom 
to see you among the beauty 
of nature, on each every person
we meet but at the same time
be wise to never stop at them
that we forget you totally.

For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair. But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

Wisdom 13:7-9
It happens often with us,
Lord, when we get so caught up
with nature or people or with
our very selves that we miss
You as the very source and
subject of our wonder! Open
our eyes and minds and hearts
to see you more.
Do not let it happen again
like what the people did with
St. Josaphat that they were so 
blinded by their culture and faith,
by their convictions and failed to see
you speaking and working through
him, leading to his murder just like
Jesus Christ your Son; while it is true
the we live in a world where everything
is touched by you, let us not miss YOU
like in those days of Noah when the flood
came and destroyed the people who 
have become so complacent with your
presence.  Amen.

St. Lawrence: the saint we need during this pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, 10 August 2021
2 Corinthians 9:6-10   ><}}}}'> + ><}}}}'> + ><}}}}'>   John 12:24-26
“Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Deacon” by Hipolito de Rioja (16th c.) from commons.wikimedia.org
God our loving Father,
give us the grace in this time
of pandemic the zeal and fervor,
kindness and humor of Saint Lawrence,
deacon and martyr of the second century.
You must have loved him so much,
lavishing him with your grace to 
witness the gospel of Jesus Christ
for St. Paul said:  "God loves a 
cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
Saint Lawrence was so cheerful
in his dedication and fidelity to his
office as deacon, serving the Pope
and the people by distributing alms 
and other help to the poor and suffering.
In this time of the pandemic 
when so many people lack
food and money and other essentials,
give us the courage to trust in you
Lord to share whatever we have. 
Most especially, in this time of lockdowns
when so many of us are emotionally drained
with spirits sagging due to quarantine fatigue, 
gift us with the wit and humor of Saint Lawrence
who asked his executioners to turn his body
to make his roasting even on all sides!
Above all dear Father,
like Saint Lawrence may we realize
that to see your Son Jesus 
is not only with one's eyes but 
with one's total self, willing to lose 
one's life like a grain of wheat that dies 
and produces much fruit in Christ (Jn.12:24).
Amen.

True freedom

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr, 01 June 2021
Tobit 2:9-14     <*(((>< + ><)))*>     Mark 12:13-17
Photo by author, inside the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem, 2019.

Glory and praise to you, O God, our loving and merciful Father for this month of June as we go through the last 30 days of this year’s first half. How fast time flies! It is so relieving how we have gone through almost half of this extended year of pandemic.

As we celebrate today the Memorial of your great apologist and martyr, St. Justin, we pray for more enlightenment to always seek and follow and most of all, stand by the truth of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not enough that we merely seek the truth because it can easily be faked like the Pharisees and the Herodians in our gospel today.

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not?”

Mark 12:13-14

Truth can only set us free as Jesus had taught us if in our search for the truth we break away and discard our biases and prejudices. To truly seek the truth is to be empty in order to accept it so we can follow the truth and most of all stand by it.

Forgive us for the times and moments we have been like the Pharisees and Herodians who are not genuinely seeking the truth as they were evidently from the start were seeking a confirmation of a lie they insisted to be true. There are times we are like them even in coming to you not to find the truth but be affirmed with our own beliefs when deep inside us we know it is not right and true at all! It seems it is more difficult for us to discard lies and wrongful assumptions and beliefs than simply accept the bare facts of truth.

At the same time, give us the humility to accept truth because there are times, too, in our deep devotion to you like Tobit, we become blinded with our righteousness that we cannot accept the truth presented to us by others.

Help us masticate today’s responsorial psalm: “The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

Like St. Justin, give us the courage and determination to seek and follow and stand by the truth by understanding it so well, ready to explain it and most of all, defend it even with our lives. Freedom comes from truth when we are not held captive by lies and unfounded beliefs.

Let us trust in you alone and make us not so proud and arrogant nor so righteous that we are enslaved by our ego that blinds us in our search for truth. Amen.

When we are disturbed

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
First Friday, Memorial of St. Agatha, 05 February 2021
Hebrews 13:1-8     >><)))*>   +++  <*(((><<     Mark 6:14-29
Photo by author, Silang, Cavite, September 2020.

Your words today are very disturbing, Lord Jesus. So many times I find myself like Herod perplexed at listening to your words, praying your words, analyzing and learning your words for they are so delightful to the feelings but so disturbing when I am in a state of sin.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, in making into a cliche that beautiful prayer we once in a while utter to you, “Disturb us, O Lord.” So often we hear and read this beautiful prayer without really meaning it so well like Herod in today’s gospel.

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee…

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison.

Mark 6:20-21, 25-27

Disturb us, O Lord?

So nice to read, so good to say but never easy to totally feel and live out its real meaning!

There is no doubt at how your words disturb us, dear Jesus, bothering our conscience, making us feel uncomfortable specially when we are deeply into sin and evil; but then, we would reason out with our usual alibis and justifications that eventually we find a way out of your teachings like Herod in taking the wife of his brother Philip.

Ironically, and yes, tragically, when our words are put to test by somebody else’s words, we feel more distressed like Herod when asked for the head of John after making a pledge to his daughter to ask for anything. Shamefully, that is when we are pushed to edge to finally make a decision on something so wrong simply because we felt challenged and dared to assert our position and power. We act instinctively without much thinking if we are just being taken for a ride, of being manipulated like Herod.

Beheading of John the Baptist from wikipediacommons.org.

O Lord, you know us so well. Too often in life, we would rather bear the daily hurts no matter how painful for as long as we look good among others than suffer big time in confronting and accepting our true selves before you for fear it could badly wound us, exposing our true selves and other vulnerabilities as a person like Herod. Yes, we would rather save face than save souls.

Give us the grace and courage, Lord Jesus Christ, to face up and dare ourselves to rise to your challenge of purifying ourselves into better persons like John the Baptist who truly played his role as your precursor with his prophetic preaching.

Like St. Agatha your holy virgin and martyr, may we persevere in our sufferings, not disturbed at all at what others may say except in how we may witness your Gospel of love and mercy for you are always “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Amen.

A mosaic of St. Agatha of Sicily whose breasts were cut off by her torturers hoping she would renounce her faith in Christ. She remained faithful to Jesus who sent St. Peter to appear to her in a vision to console her and thus became the patron saint for those with breast cancer. She eventually died a martyr while in prison as a result of the repeated cruelties inflicted to her around year 251. Photo from aleteia.org.

Prayer to remain in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, 21 January 2021
Hebrews 7:25-8:6  >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>  Mark 3:7-12
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, November 2020.

Lord Jesus Christ, you know how things are going on in our country and in our lives these days. Things are not getting any better and in fact, 2021 is beginning to look more like an extension of 2020.

We are not complaining, dear Jesus.

All I am asking you is to help us remain in you, to hold on to you, to trust in you no matter how tough and difficult are the situations many of us are facing.

Like those workers of Makati Shangri-la to be laid off next month and the many others who have earlier lost their jobs and means of livelihood, still seeking employment at this time.

I pray for those who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19, cancer, and other illnesses recently. Help them grieve and cope in their losses.

I pray also for those undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, and physical therapy.

Most specially too to our tired and exhausted medical frontliners still battling the pandemic while many among us seem to not care at all in getting infected or spreading the COVID-19 virus.

We all come to you, sweet Jesus, like those large number of people from all over Israel – Jews and pagans as well – not only to seek healing from you, but most of all to remain one and united in you as your followers (Mk.3:8).

Lord Jesus, more than the favors we can have from you is the relationship we want to keep with you.

The main point of what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up… Now he has obtained so much more excellent in ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.

Hebrews 8:1, 6

Give us the grace of courage and fidelity in you like the young St. Agnes who firmly stood her ground as a martyr, a witness, to your gospel of love and salvation.

Help us realize, Lord, that you have come to seek our relationships, our oneness in you more than just being healed or being blessed with things we wish for. Amen.

Generous and cheerful

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Lawrence, Martyr and Deacon, 10 August 2020
2 Corinthians 9:6-10 >><}}}*> // + \\ <*{{{><< John 12:24-26
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Dearest Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous and cheerful too, because sometimes our generosity is filled with sadness or bitterness as it is comes from having excess of anything that we have. Worst, it is only when we are forced to become generous by others or due to circumstances.

True generosity is always borne out of joy when our only reason in giving and sharing is due to our faith in you — that no matter what happens to us, you will never abandon us, Lord, providing whatever we need in this life.

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8

Most of all, generosity with cheerfulness is always a choice, a decision freely made in imitation of you, Jesus Christ like St. Lawrence your deacon. Those who give or share anything with a heavy heart, if given the choice, would rather keep whatever they have to remain like a grain of wheat without dying.

Like St. Lawrence, teach us generosity that is naturally human and divine, that like him while being roasted alive, he had the sense of humor to ask his persecutors to turn him so that his grilling may be perfect and even. Amen.

“Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Deacon” by Hipolito de Rioja (16th c.); from commons.wikimedia.org

Prayer for our co-workers in the Church

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Saturday, Memorial of St. Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions, 28 September 2019

Zechariah 2:5-9, 14-15 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 9:43-45

From Google.

Today, O God our loving Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of our first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz along with his companions martyred in Japan on this day in 1637.

What a great blessing too, dear Father, that our first saint is a layman, someone we need these days to look up to and follow your universal call to holiness.

Bless our lay people who make up most of our faithful who are also our most essential co-workers in your vineyard, Lord.

We need them so much in this world that has become very secularized.

Restore their faith not only to you O God but also to us your priests, their priests and teachers and guides to you. May the lay people be faithful to your teachings through the Church they now question in the name of progress and liberalism.

Like San Lorenzo Ruiz, may the faithful trust again their priests and bishops despite the scandals that continue to rock our wounded Church.

What a beautiful sight to behold the martyrdom of San Lorenzo Ruiz with other fellow lay faithful and Dominican priests who all comprise the Body of Christ, the Church. In them were fulfilled your words to the prophet:

“People will live in Jerusalem as though in an open country, because of the multitude of men and beasts in her midst. But I will be for her an encircling wall of fire, says the Lord, and I will be the glory in her midst.”

Zechariah 2:8-9

May we all trust you, O Lord, especially in this time of varied forms of persecution against the Catholic Church here and abroad. May we have the courage of San Lorenzo Ruiz and companions to suffer with you, and to suffer for you. Amen.