Standing up for Jesus, with Jesus

Homily at the Baccalaureate Mass by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Chaplain, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 01 April 2022
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22   <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Photos by ANGELA WEISS/AFP | Robyn Beck/AFP from aleteia.org, 28 March 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of 2022 – our first batch to finally have a face-to-face graduation after two years in the COVID-19 pandemic!

Graduation is a high moment in life, specially at this time of the pandemic. You are a rare one among the rest. And so, like Mr. Denzel Washington, let me remind you my dear graduates and your families too that …

"At your highest moment, be careful, 
that's when the devil comes for you."
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Very true, my dear graduates.

What is very striking (no pun intended) is that it came from a celebrity star in Hollywood which is the bastion of everything worldly, and contrary to anything spiritual. So nice indeed of Mr. Washington who is not only a very fine actor but also a deeply spiritual person.

Imitate him.

After your graduation, there will still be more high moments coming into your life, so be very, very careful because the devil will never stop tempting you in order to destroy your life and crush your dreams

In your four or more years of studies and stay here at Our Lady of Fatima University, you must have felt in various ways the temptations and misleadings by the devil, dividing your mind, blinding your sight, telling you with so many seemingly valid reasons why you should just stop and go home, that nothing good will happen in this frustrating online classes.

Like in our first reading today, you must have felt many times telling yourself what the author of the Book of Wisdom experienced:

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

Wisdom 2:1, 13, 17, 20
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2019.

Praise God and congratulate yourselves for a job well done, dear graduates. You have passed the tests of your professors and teachers, and most especially overcome the temptations of the devil to destroy your beautiful plans of “rising to the top”, of becoming a doctor or a nurse or a medtech or a teacher or a seafarer.

Today we thank God in this Holy Mass that you have remained faithful to him, standing by his side in Jesus Christ at the Cross of sufferings and trials. Two things I wish to share with you, batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University to avoid the devil from destroying you.

First is to always stand and witness the truth of God who loves us so much even if we believe more in ourselves, in our science and technology. How unfortunate that despite the world’s sophistications and advancements in the sciences, we still have wars going on, we still have abuses in words and in deed happening right in front of us like that slapping incident at the Oscars. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech at the beginning of the American involvement at the Vietnam War in the 1960’s that “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Always stand for what is true which is our motto, Veritas.

Truth is not just an object but also a subject, a person when Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6). This we find when we examine the origin of the word “true” which came from the Anglo-Saxon “treowe” for “tree” that connotes something firm. And that is what is always true, firm and unchanging, never flimsy like lies and falsehoods. Like the tree, truth cannot be shaken nor moved for it will always be the same.

It is very interesting that from the Anglo-Saxon word “treowe” for tree came also its related word “trust” because where there is truth, there is always trust which connotes relationship. That is why the concept of “family tree” came also from the Anglo-Saxons who saw their family like a tree – a firm tree have deep roots with many connections or links. Wherever there is truth, there is also trust and relationships that lead to community borne out of commonality and sameness. Very close to this concept is the Latin genus from which came generation and gender that both refer to being of one or the same kind. Like trust related to true, the word related with gender and generation is generosity which is the act of giving that comes from knowledge of belonging and intimacy.

Hence, a truthful person is always a generous one, someone who can be trusted because he/she is always one with others. Never forget your beloved alma mater, Our Lady of Fatima University, your mentors and professors, your classmates and friends with whom you all shared the truth, whom you have trusted and shared common passion and brought you to graduation day.

At your highest moment in life, be careful, stand for what is true, think of others, be generous with them and most of all, stand for God by standing with Jesus at the foot of his Cross.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

Second, to keep you away from the devil in your high moments in life after your graduation, do not forget the other motto of our dearest alma mater, misericordia, mercy and compassion. From two Latin words, miseor and cor that literally mean to move the heart, mercy is more than a feeling but something that leads also into a concrete action. As I have told you in some of my talks, the Jews have that concepts of mercy of the heart and mercy of the hand that must always go together. It is not enough to feel the pain of another person but that feeling moves you to do something to ease that person’s pain.

One problem in our world today is how people have absolutized truth, always insisting on what they believe as true even in many occasions what they believe is not true at all. Nonetheless, let us remember that only God is absolute. We have realized and experienced in the past that truth can be so painful. To witness the truth of God is to be merciful and compassionate by enabling others to be liberated from their painful realities in life – not to bury and cement them in their sad predicament.

Being merciful, being compassionate in this time is to move away from the way of the world that is based on fame and power, always competing with somebody else for more likes and followers. To be merciful like God is to find the enormous giftedness we have that must be shared with those who have less in life, with those who suffer most, with those who cry in pain in silence.

This coming Sunday we shall the story of the woman caught in adultery, at how Jesus liberated the sinful woman from her miserable state in life made worst by the public shaming her, wanting to condemn her in public. See the beautiful image of Jesus bending down, not looking at the woman, letting her experience God’s mercy, offering her a chance to become better.

In today’s gospel, Jesus dared to speak the truth of God despite threats to his life because that mission was very clear to him.

As you embark on a new phase in life with more high moments as well as more challenges, more pains and hurts, never give the devil a chance to destroy you and your lives. Stay close to Jesus Christ. Stand with Jesus at the foot of his Cross, especially when everybody feels to be standing more on their own pedestals of fame and glory founded on shaky grounds. The path to higher moments in life with Jesus and in Jesus is to join him in his Cross, of going down in love and humility.

During these pandemic years, God has remained true and merciful with you, with everyone, with us, staying with us and never leaving us in our lowest moments. Let us do the same with many others losing hope and meaning in life in this time of the pandemic by sharing God’s truth and mercy so that others may experience some joy in life. Amen.

From Our Lady of Fatima University/FB.

The joy of coming home in the Father

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-C a.k.a. "Laetare Sunday", 27 March 2022
Joshua 5:9, 10-12 ><}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ><}}}*> Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Lourdes, France, 20 March 2022.

Life is a daily Lent, a coming home to the Father. As I have been telling you, the 40-days of Lent is a journey back home to God in Jesus Christ with each Sunday like a door leading us closer to Him. We rejoice this Fourth Sunday – Laetare Sunday – as we near God’s inner room, knowing Him more than ever as we experience His immense love and mercy for us like a Father welcoming his children to “enter” and celebrate home in Him.

But, are we really in the journey?

Or, are we just like the two selfish, self-centered brothers in the parable who took their father for granted by pursuing for their own very selves?

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “A man had two sons…”

Luke 15:1, 3, 11
Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Acting like the sons…

Once again, we hear another story from Luke that is uniquely his. It is more known as the parable of the prodigal son when in fact the center of the story is the loving and merciful father giving everything including his very self to his two sons.

There are two preceding parables before this third one, that of the lost sheep and of the lost coin that are in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. See how Jesus developed into a rising crescendo his series of parables starting with a lost sheep, a lost coin, and finally, lost sons. The common thread running through the three parables was the great joy of the shepherd, woman and father upon having their lost ones again. Clearly, God is the shepherd, the woman, and the father looking for the lost sheep, lost coin and lost sons. And here lies the very essence of the parables, especially in this third one about the loving and merciful father: “the Pharisees and scribes who began to complain why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

We are those Pharisees and scribes who doubt and refuse to believe, even run away from our loving God in the belief there must be somebody else there who could love us truly by giving us what we need.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Exactly like the younger son in the parable who sees God merely as a provider, an ATM or a Western Union counter who gives the cash we need to buy things we believe would complete us without realizing God is our life, our identity and root of being. This we find at what prompted the younger son to return home (return home, not come home which happens only when home is a person, not a place nor thing).

When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

Luke 15:14-19

Sometimes we are like the younger son who returns home just to preserve one’s self – to have a roof and to have food so as not to starve, never go hungry. It is the first temptation of the devil, teasing Jesus and us to turn stones into bread because man lives to eat! That is why we keep on asserting our own power so we can do everything because we have forgotten our being-ness in God. We hate having nothing, being empty and would rather fill our bellies with whatever we can stuff our mouth with that in the process even swallow our pride and dignity to have, to possess everything, even everybody except God.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019.

On the other hand, we are like the Pharisees and scribes “complaining why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them” so personified by the elder son who refused to enter their house to join the celebrations at the return of his prodigal brother because his manipulative schemes have been unmasked. For him, serving his father was just a show because he was only an actor, everything was a movie or a teleserye playing one’s roles in exchange of a fee and fame.

He said to his father in reply, “Look all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”

Luke 15:29-30

Again, we find here some semblance of the second and third temptations to Jesus and to us by the devil: worship him and you will be popular and powerful! We all want having the best for us to be the very best among our peers and neighbors. We are willing to buy time, even buy people just to be known and popular. We would not mind being patient over a long period of time believing in the end, we could end up having all.

When we think of our needs to be secured and safe, popular and powerful, the first that comes to our minds and consciousness are things that money can buy, food that fill stomach, and drinks that refresh the body. Like the two brothers, they were all concerned with material and physical, nothing spiritual nor emotional or even mental. A life without any depth like Alfie played by Michael Caine with music by Burt Bacharach asking, “What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?”

That’s the tragedy of our lives, of being like the Pharisees and scribes personified by the two brothers who were so lost in their own selves, refusing to see beyond to find others and God, now and eternity, earth and heaven.

Photo by author, view from the Old Jerusalem, May 2019.

…becoming like the Father

This is the grace of this fourth Sunday, its greatest joy and cause for celebration: our being home in God, being whole again in Him after realizing and accepting our broken and sinful selves.

Make no mistake that it was us who have found God; no, it is the other way around.

God is the Father always awaiting for us that He sent Jesus Christ to lead us home again in Him. In this parable, the late Fr. Henri Nouwen rightly said Jesus is the “prodigal son” who left heaven not out of rebellion but because of obedience and submission to lead us all back to the Father, the only One who loves us truly, our very “first love” for He is the one who loves us first and still loves us no matter what.

Stop seeking for the world’s basic staples of food and wealth, fame and power because the most basic truth in this life is we are loved by God who is love Himself because He is life. See Luke’s sense of humor: the prodigal son wanted only food and shelter but the father gave him back his status as son with the ring, fine clothes and slippers, and feast while the elder son was longing for a mere young goat without realizing it has long been his for everything the father has was his too! Like us in many occasions in life, we fail to see how much we already have in God that we turn away from Him to settle for lesser things.

See our foolishness in desiring the world when it has always been ours if we remain in God. That is why we need to celebrate because finally we have found what is truly basic and valuable, God who gave us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to Him and learn what is most valuable in life.

In this parable, Jesus is asking us to “level up” our existence, to rise above our very selves and be who we really are as beloved children of the Father who is merciful and rich in kindness.

Like in the first reading, no more manna for we have entered the Promised Land where we can have real food and real drink – Jesus Christ who sustains us to eternal life. Let us keep in mind and heart Paul’s reminder and call in the second reading that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation… so, let us be reconciled in God” (2 Cor. 5:17, 20). Only those who are reconciled in God in Jesus can experience true joy… so, stop complaining and whining of others getting close with God. Join us and celebrate! Amen.

Have a joyuful week ahead.

Lent is radical

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Lent, 14 March 2022
Daniel 9:4-10   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Luke 6:36-38
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.
Praise and glory to you, 
O God Our Father,  
despite our sinfulness 
you continue to bless us!

In this season of Lent
teach us the true meaning 
of penance by getting into 
the root of our sinfulness, 
of being radical, shamefaced
in fact like Daniel by wholeheartedly
admitting our wickedness in
rebelling and departing from your side, Lord:

“Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name ton our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land. Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced ever to this day like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you.

Daniel 9:4-7, 8
Indeed, we are shamefaced, 
O Lord, even to this day 
for our many sins against you 
when we neglected you 
in our brothers and sisters in need, 
unmindful of their great sufferings 
not only for their physical needs 
but most especially for their emotional 
and spiritual needs; we are shamefaced,
 O Lord in thinking the good times 
would never end, when we lived in excesses, 
bloating our egos as if we were gods.
Help us to return to you, 
O God through Jesus Christ
your Son by turning our hearts 
back to you, by going into the very
roots of our sins so that when we
have understood our sins, we may
no longer fall into its traps as we
get closer to you, becoming holy
and merciful like you.  
Amen.

The gift of touch

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week IV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 01 February 2022
2 Samuel 18:9-10, 14, 24-25, 30-19:3   >>> + <<<   Mark 5:21-43
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
As I thank you
God our loving Father
for this brand new month
of February, I pray only
for one thing:  let me touch
you and please, please
touch me too!

There was a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak. She said, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured.” Immediately her flow of blood dried up. She felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.

Mark 5:25, 27-29
If I could reach you
and do the same, Lord,
I would have done it a long time ago;
let me touch you in Jesus
among the poor and the sick,
among the fearful and lost,
among those crying in so many
pains and hurts.
Most of all, let me touch you, Lord,
in my loneliness, in my pains,
in my emptiness, in my weakness;
it is what touches me most, 
Lord:  when you search
for me despite my sins;
when like the dying daughter 
of Jairus, you take my hands
and lift me up again to stand
and walk with the same feeble
legs and feet; and when deep inside,
in your loving embrace, 
I realize how the Father weeps
for us sinners like David wept 
for the death of Absalom.
That is the most touching of all -
your divine touches, Lord:  
when like David in all his humanity
despite the sins against him by
his own son Absalom, he was
deeply hurt and sad at his death
because that shows the deeper
meaning of touching - that we are
all one, we are all linked together
in you and with you who is our 
source and our end.  Amen.

Our splinter and beam, Christ’s Cross

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 10 September 2021
1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Luke 6:39-42
Photo by author, April 2019.

Jesus told his disciples: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooded beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.'”

Luke 6:42
O God our loving Father:
So many times we act so silly
as if we have never learned 
from your prophets and then your
Son Jesus Christ and down to 
his Apostles and saints, notably
Paul.
So true are the words of Jesus
your Son when he told us how 
we would always see the splinter
in our neighbor's eyes without 
ever seeing the wooden beam 
in our own eyes!
But you know, dear Father,
what makes me rejoice this Friday?
Indeed, splinter and wooden beam
we all have right in our eyes that
we cannot see or even refuse to see
and remove; yet, there you are
in your infinite mercy you sent us
Jesus Christ to remove these 
splinter and wooden beam in our eyes
through his wooden Cross!

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lard has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:13-14
Larger and heavier
was the wooden Cross
willingly carried by Jesus Christ
for our own sake so we may
be cleansed of our sins and
cleared of our blindness
to walk your path of holiness;
loving Father,
teach us to be like St. Paul
to admit our sinfulness,
to voluntarily remove both
the splinter and wooden beam
in our eyes so we may see you
more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more closely
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

Schooling in time of COVID-19

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II 
Mass of the Holy Spirit for the College Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
06 September 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2021.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
- St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Last August 9 we celebrated the memorial of a modern saint who died at the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Second World War. She was a German Jew named Edith Stein who became an atheist but later regained her faith as she pursued higher learning in the field of philosophy that was so rare for women at that time.

As she progressed into her philosophical studies working as an assistant to Prof. Edmund Husserl known as the “father of phenomenology”, she converted into Catholicism, eventually leaving her teaching post at a university to become a Carmelite contemplative nun, adopting the name Teresa Benedicta dela Cruz.


Congratulations, our dear students in college who dare to learn and seek the truth by enrolling in this Academic Year 2021-2022.

Students and teachers are both seekers of truth. As St. Teresa Benedicta had experienced, every search for truth leads us to God, the ultimate Truth.

This is a very difficult and trying year for us all but like St. Teresa Benedicta and all the other saints as well as great men and women of history, they all sought for the truth in the most troubled time in history. Trials and hardships in life make learning more “fun” – and an imperative at the same time. In fact, the more we must study and search the truth during critical moments in history and in our lives in order to learn more lessons that are valuable not only to us in dealing with our problems but also with the succeeding generations.

Two important virtues we need to cultivate in seeking the truth, in learning our lessons in this time of the pandemic that I hope you, teachers and students will rediscover this Academic Year: patience and humility.


This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, 
teaching us the value of patience, 
of patient waiting for everything, 
reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced 
by allowing nature to take its course, 
without shortcuts nor rush, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Photo by author, 2019.

Patience is from the Latin “patior” that means “to suffer, to bear with.”

Learning is a process. We cannot know everything right away. It requires a lot of patience on every student and teacher.

This is the reason why Jesus assured his disciples at the Last Supper that he would send them the Holy Spirit he referred to as the Advocate.

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning… I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.

John 15:26-27, 16:12

In the last 20 years, so much have changed in our lives brought about by modern means of communication.

Great volumes of information have become so readily accessible at great speed, that many in the younger generation have seemed to have lost the virtue of patience. At the snap of your fingers, you can easily have almost everything you need aside from information and music – including food and groceries, clothes and appliances, plants and pets, even medicines and dates!

But life, most especially learning, takes time, requiring a lot of patience in waiting and searching.

Like the Apostles of Jesus who had to wait for the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, teaching us the value of patience, of patient waiting for everything, reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced by allowing nature to take its course, without shortcuts, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Let our Lord Jesus Christ be our example in following in the path of patience, of suffering; every trial becomes a blessing, a moment of transformation when seen in the light of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us on the Cross. His very life tells us that there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

This pandemic period is an extended Good Friday but in between those moments of sufferings, we experience little Easter if we try to be patient like what some of you have experienced when you graduated in this time of the pandemic.


Photo by author, January 2020.

The second virtue I wish to invite you to rediscover, teachers and students alike, is humility which is again from the Latin word humus that literally means “soil”.

From humus came the words human and humor.

Man was created from clay, a kind of soil. A person with a sense of humor is one who can laugh at things because he or she is rooted on the ground. We call a person with sense of humor in Filipino as “mababaw” or shallow – not empty but close to the ground or deeply rooted.

It is very difficult to learn anything nor discover the truth unless we first become humble. Pride and ego are the greatest stumbling blocks to any kind of learning. You will find in history, even in our personal lives how many opportunities in the past were lost simply because of our pride or “ego trip”.

Pride was the very sin of Adam and Eve that led to their fall. That is why when Jesus came to save us from effects of that Fall, humility became his central teaching when he demanded us to forget ourselves and, most of all, to become like that of a child so we shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

This humility Jesus himself showed us the path by being born like us – small and helpless.

And that has always been the way of God ever since: the small and little ones, those taken for granted, the unknown and rejected are always the ones used as God’s instruments, the ones always effecting the most far-reaching changes in history and our personal lives.

Even in the story of the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we find the centrality of becoming small to become a part of the whole.

It is the exact opposite of the story at Babel when people in the Old Testament dared to build a tower reaching to the skies; because of their pride, God confused them by making them speak different languages that led to the collapse of their tower and ambitions. During the Pentecost, the people were all united as one despite the different languages they speak because everybody was willing to listen, to become small in themselves to give way to others.

Like during the Pentecost, let us allow the “tongues of fire” and the “strong, driving wind” of the Holy Spirit part us of our fears and indifference, pride and ego during this Academic year 2021-2022 to fully realize and learn the important lessons and truth this pandemic is teaching us.

Photo from vaticannews,va, 13 May 2017.

Whenever, and wherever there is a search for truth that leads to the discovery of God through our patience and humility, there springs simultaneously the growth of a community. It is no wonder that wherever there is prayer and worship, there is always learning leading to bonding, or communing.

The first universities – from the Latin term universitas or “community of teachers and scholars” – where all offshoots of the efforts of the monks in their monastery as they evangelized peoples, teaching them not only prayers but also the basics of learning like reading and writing. Eventually monasteries had annex buildings as schools and universities that led to the establishment of towns and cities in Europe that spawned the growth of commerce and trade following the great many interactions among peoples.

Here we find the beautiful interplay of the search for truth that leads to discovery of God that bears fruit into mercy and love among people.

Another learned Saint who sought the Truth, Thomas Aquinas said that the more we learn the truth, the more we become intelligent, the more we must become holy.

How lovely it is, my dear students and teachers of Our Lady of Fatima University that wherever there is Truth which is Veritas, there is also Misericordia, the two mottos of our beloved University.

Amid the threats of COVID-19, amid the difficulties of online learning, let us continue to seek the truth, be patient and humble with one another as we try to build a community of “achievers” by “improving man as man”, “rising to the top” not to be conceited and proud but to be able to offer ourselves in the service of the country and of the world, for the praise and glory of God.

May our Patroness, the Our Lady of Fatima, lead us closer to Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Amen.

From Facebook.com/fatima.university.

Prayer for patience

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Third Week in Lent, 09 March 2021
Daniel 3:25, 34-43   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 18:21-35
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, UST High School, 2019.

Thank you, God our Father in heaven, for the gift of Lent. Now we are into its third week, I could strongly feel its character, its impact, making me realize of the need to pray for more patience. From you. And for me.

Patience from You.

Like Azariah in the first reading, we pray for your patience to bear with us for our many sins that have brought us to our lowest point in life. Teach us to pray for mercy and forgiveness like Azariah, to plea for your patience to our hardness of hearts.

For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with a contrite heart and a humble spirit let us be received; as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

Daniel 3:37-40

How wonderful it is, O Lord our God, of your patience — that virtue of enduring suffering and pain — when we are the ones who have turned away from you, we were the ones who have hurt you with our sins and here you are, bearing all the pains for us?

Thank you for bearing with us always.

And forgive us when we lack patience.

Please, grant us patience…now!

But kidding aside, how ironic that we keep on asking for patience from you and from others too when we cannot be patient at all in dealing with our fellow debtors and sinners like that unforgiving servant in the parable today. You have been so patient in forgiving all our debts yet we cannot forgive those who owe us with less.

Methinks maybe we have not suffered that much, we have never been patient at all that we have not truly felt and realized your patience for us.

Like Peter, we would rather be thinking of quantity, of how many times must we forgive those who wrong us that eventually we run out of patience because of the great number of sins against us.

We have never been patient at all if what we do is keep tabs of the wrongs and sins against us. We do not bear any suffering at all but merely count them like Peter.

Teach us to stop counting the sins of others and be like you in being patient with us sinners: you forgive because we are your children, because you love us.

That is perhaps the key to being patient: instead of counting how many times should we forgive, let us see more why we must forgive because we are all forgiven sinners in your Son Jesus Christ. Perhaps if we can keep that in mind, then we can always patient with our fellow sinners. Amen.

Welcoming Jesus

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 December 2020
Photo by author, 28 December 2020.

“Welcoming Jesus”.

It is not really the title of this piece but the name of this image of the baby Jesus above.

See His smiles and open hands with eyes exuding with warmth and joy to anyone who sees Him. Even with the dusts and cracks held intact by scotch tapes, it is one of my most loved and cherished possessions I would never trade for anything.

Given to me by a brother priest in Christmas 2017, Welcoming Jesus measures about eight inches and seems to be Mexican or African inspired with his dark skin and lively colorful design of baby dress. I have always loved this Baby Jesus who seems so alive that I have kept Him on my desk, giving me so many inspirations and “kicks” in my studies in the past three years.

Small and handy, and so fragile, I have always imagined Him to be just like the infant Jesus when He was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

As I turned off my lamp last night before retiring, I saw Him, smiling and yes, “welcoming” to remind me of a story I have read ten years ago about St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India when one of their patients threw to her a crucifix in a fit of tantrum. After pacifying the patient, St. Mother Teresa picked the crucifix and pieced together with a scotch tape an arm of Jesus that was broken. She then gave it to one of her nuns with instructions to hang it again on their wall with a note that says, “Let me heal your broken arm”.

In the same manner, as I looked onto my little image of “Welcoming Jesus”, I felt it my Christmas message for 2020 as we celebrate Holy Innocents’ Day: “Let me show you tenderness, Baby Jesus.”

If there is one thing we all need at this time of the pandemic, this Christmas 2020, it must be tenderness. Like the tender compassion of God, His mercy.

Tenderness is being merciful, being soft in the heart in a very positive sense. Some people think that being tender, being merciful and forgiving is a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it is pure power and strength.

The former US President Theodore Roosevelt who was a military officer before getting into politics used to tell that in any argument or discussion, the first to use one’s fist is always the one with less intelligence, less power who resort to force because they have ran out of reasons to argue.

Very true! Exactly with that off-duty cop who brutally shot and killed mother and son in Paniqui, Tarlac whose tiny brain could not control his humongous body much less understand everything that was going then.

Mercy and tenderness, like courage, are movements within the heart. The Latin word for mercy perfectly captures its meaning: misericordia or a stirring of the heart, a moving of the heart. More than a feeling, it is taking concrete actions to bow down and be one with those suffering.

That is why the Son of God became human, chose to be born as an infant like everybody else, to be one with us, to suffer with us, that is, compassion from cum and passio, to suffer with.

The eminent theologian Fr. Hans urs Von Balthasar, a good friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, wrote before he died that “the central mystery of Christianity is our transformation from a world-wise, self-sufficient ‘adults’ into abiding children of the Father of Jesus by the grace of the Holy Spirit. All else in the Gospel – the Lord’s Incarnation, his hidden and public lives, his miracles and preaching, his Passion, Cross, and resurrection – has been for this” (Unless You Become Like This Child).

A baby is always welcoming to almost everyone, and vice versa, anyone even the most hardened criminal would always welcome and be moved by the sight of a baby or a child.

How sad that until now, there are still King Herods among us who are insecured with children and infants. Worst are those who abuse and molest children, the single most damning crime by some in the clergy this century because it is directly opposite the central theme of Christ’s teachings and warning – “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matt.18:10).

Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, Baby Jesus in our Parish, Christmas 2020.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in our churches, the traditional kissing (pahalik) of the image of the Baby Jesus is scrapped. Perhaps it is a good reminder to us all to meditate more in our hearts the meaning of Jesus being born an infant – so weak, so dependent to adults like us.

It is a call for us too to do something concrete about the many sufferings children have to go through in this time, on one end those denied of basic goods and services while on the other extreme are the children with all the material needs except the warmth and love of their parents.

One saint I have discovered before our ordination more than 20 years ago is St. Charles de Foucauld, a French priest who lived among the Tuaregs of the Sahara desert in the early 20th century. In his room, he always had a baby Jesus and an altar for the Blessed Sacrament to adore daily.

His core value is founded on “littleness” – of finding Jesus among the little ones, of being little before the Lord.

Have that tender care that expresses itself in the little things that are like a balm for the heart… With our neighbours go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest of attentions. Be as tender and attentive towards those whom God puts on our path, as a brother towards brother or as a mother for her child. As much as possible be an element of consolation for those around us, as soothing balm, as our Lord was towards all those who drew near to him.

St. Chrales de Foucauld

What a beautiful reminder of the Child Jesus this Christmas and hereafter. If we can be tender with one another in the most minute detail like Jesus, then we can truly experience His coming to us, fulfilling us with His presence and love which is the spirit of Christmas. Amen.

Advent is tenderness of God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul-9
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Advent Week IV, 24 December 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 1:67-79
Photo by author, altar at our sacristy, 19 December 2020.

One thing that have really made this pandemic so bad and so sad is the lack of tenderness of our many officials to the people they are supposed to serve. Consider all these pains and inconveniences they have caused us the public from the fatal shooting of that Marawi veteran in Quezon City to the detention of Mang Dodong at the height of the lockdown to the closure of the largest network in the country mid-year then on to stupidities of first the motorcycle barrier, then the closure of U-turn slots at EDSA capped by the insane RFID at NLEX and now the inhuman shooting of mother and son by an off-duty policeman.

As one of my friends wrote on his FB page last April, “bakit kung kailan panahon ng pandemya na dapat magtulungan at magmahalan saka puro karahasan?” (why all the the violence happening during pandemic when we are supposed to be helping and more loving to one another?).

What a year indeed of natural calamities worsened by some public officials so detached from the sufferings of the people.

And that, my friends, is why we have to celebrate all the more – meaningfully – Christmas.

God is perfect and cannot suffer; hence, He sent us His only Son Jesus Christ to be one with us in our sufferings and miseries, to suffer with us – cum passio – express His compassion.

On this last day of our novena to Christmas, we see how Zechariah comes into full circle singing praises to God (called Benedictus in Latin) after being forced by the angel into full silence becoming speechless when he doubted God’s gift of a child to him and his wife Elizabeth.

Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.”

Luke 1:67-69
Photo by author, Advent Week IV, 20 December 2020.

Jesus already present among us in the coming of John

During the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Luke never mentioned Zechariah around the house so that Elizabeth and her baby in her womb were the only ones were filled with the Holy Spirit upon hearing Mary’s greeting.

Now, after naming his son “John”, Luke tells us how Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit too that he prophesied the meaning of the coming of his son as “prophet of the Most High” in 1:76.

See the three verbs he used after blessing God in his canticle called Benedictus: “Blessed be the Lord… he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.” The verbs are all in the past tense when in fact, what he was saying was supposed to be of what would happen after the birth of John, the coming of Jesus Christ.

Here we find the complete faith and trust of Zechariah to the plan of God like Mary in her Magnificat. Zechariah had seen something so big, something momentous taking place while still in the midst of darkness of his time and world just like us in this pandemic and calamities, callous officials in government and police.

Dear friends: Jesus has come, had set us free (saved us), and had risen to work all His wonders! Let us keep our faith and hope like Zechariah that God has already started working in our favor to turn the tide and soon, things will surely get better if we remain consistent to our response to His calls, standing for life and dignity of every person through whom Jesus comes, for what is true and just.

Photo by author, Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein-Karen, Israel (2019).

From the hand of God into the heart of God

Yesterday we reflected on how we have to allow ourselves to be “the hand of God”, to let Him do His work among us through our hands. Today in Zechariah’s Benedictus we find a movement from the hand of God to His very heart in Jesus Christ our Savior.

“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

After seeing the coming of the Christ in the birth of his son John, Zechariah now summarizes to us the very essence of Jesus our Savior, of God Himself: tender compassion or in the original Greek, splaghna or “tender mercy” of God.

It is not just compassion which is to suffer with us but at the same time be filled with tenderness that one is so moved to reach out, to do something by going down with the one suffering.

Like courage, mercy is a movement in the heart called misericordia in Spanish from the Latin mittere, meaning to be moved, to be stirred. It is something dynamic, not static. It is a deep feeling that moves toward someone in pain and suffering. An identification of Jesus with every person going through so much hardships and sufferings in life.

Zechariah’s heart is no longer hardened with negativity and cynicism – it was so stirred by God that he mentioned His tender mercy or compassion because he had personally felt it as he recovered his voice and speech. With the birth of John, he now believes that God’s love for his suffering people is deep and personal. As we say in Filipino, “tagos o sagad sa buto” which may be translated as “through and through”.

And that is perhaps one of the things we sorely miss so much these days from everyone, tenderness. The tender compassion, tender mercy of Jesus. Recall how during His ministry all four evangelists would narrate how Jesus was moved with pity and compassion to the people who were lost, tired and sick “like sheep without a shepherd” that no matter how tired He may be, He would always find time to teach them, heal their sick, and even feed them.

That is the mercy of God that Jesus had brought forth to us in His coming, experienced by Zechariah himself that he could foresee its coming at the birth of John.

Photo by author, Advent Week IV, 20 December 2020.

We priests and religious pray the Benedictus in our morning prayer called lauds (Latin for praises). It is so fitting because at the start of each day, that must be the one thing clear with us always – that the Lord is come to save us, to forgive us, to love us.

One saying I have always loved mentioning in my talks to people came from an anonymous writer I found on the table of a good friend long before I became a priest. It says: “If you have love in your heart, you have been blessed by god; if you have been loved, you have been touched by God.”

That is the Benedictus, the song of every faithful disciple of Jesus introducing His coming, His birth. So many people have forgotten God, do not know God, refused to believe in God because many among us He had lavishly loved have refused to share His love with others.

Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas! Thank you for following our reflections. Share it if you have been blessed.

Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

Christ the King: never imposing, always inviting

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Jesus, King of the Universe, 22 November 2020
Ezekiel 14:11-12, 15-17  >><)))*>  1Corinthians 15:20-26, 28  >><)))*>  Matthew 25:31-46
Photo by author, Chapel of the Graduate School of Theology, ICMAS, Guiguinto, Bulacan, 11 November 2020.

We Filipinos have a saying – sometimes taken as a riddle (bugtong) – that goes, “Utos ng hari, hindi mababali” that literally means the command of the king is unbreakable, always absolute.

Kings exist primarily to unite and help the people especially the weak, the suffering, and the voiceless; hence, kings are portrayed with strong bodies as well as sound minds to render justice. But, as we all know, power corrupts people that once kings like politicians have tasted the sweet elixir of authority and fame, everyone and everything is forgotten except one’s self interests.

And that has always been how kingship is seen based on power and supremacy, always imposing and domineering, insisting in their “power trips” that lead to divisions among peoples even nations that eventually, instead of serving others, they become the ones being served.

Exactly the opposite with the kingship of Jesus Christ that is not based on human power and authority but on the loving service of others, especially the weak and the marginalized. It was a radical move, of moving back to the very roots of kingship by God himself as prophesied by Ezekiel in the first reading. No wonder in Israel, kingship is closely seen in the imagery of shepherding.

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep. I will rescue them… I will pasture them… I will give them rest… The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal…

Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 16

This is the essence of our celebration today of the Solemnity of Christ the King: Jesus is in the other and within us, the Emmanuel or “God-is-with-us” that the greatest honor we can give him as our King is to lovingly serve him in one another. See our many images in art of him suffering and dying than regal as a king because Jesus is truly one with us in our most difficult and trying times. That is why he is the only one truly a king!

“Ecce Homo” by Murillo, from wikipediacommons.com.

Christ the King grounds us to God and others again

When Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925, the world was going through a lot of changes in every sphere of human life – for better and for worst – following the many advances in science and technology as well as in thoughts and ideas.

This continues to this day in our own age with its own twists that are more pernicious with everyone trying to reign supreme as kings and queens in life no longer with a scepter that was like a “magic wand” to get everything done but with the cellphones that can either build or destroy anyone with the slightest touch of ones’s fingers!

How sad that as the world had shrunken into a global community interconnected by modern means of communications invented to bring us all together, we have actually grown more apart from each other, polarizing us even further with every color of the rainbow signifying so many groups, agenda, and beliefs.

Worst of all, with these modern means of communications, we have become more focused with gadgets and things than with persons.

What an irony that we can be so close with those miles apart from us yet we hardly notice nor even recognize the persons seated next to us. Long before COVID-19, we have always been socially distant from each other, have always failed to appreciate or even look at the warmth and beauty of the human face now covered with a mask because we have always been “washing our hands”, escaping from our responsibilities as our brothers and sisters’ keepers.

See how in our readings this Sunday Jesus Christ is reminding us to go back to our solid grounding in God who dwells in each one of us.

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Matthew 25:31-32
Photo by John Bonding, Architecture&Design Magazine, 25 May 2019 via Facebook.

I have always loved this photo above that speaks perfectly well of our situation today, of how most of us are missing so much in life when everything is “media-ted” that we no longer touch ground as if we are “floating on air” with everything reduced to a mere show or “palabas” that must be caught, kept, and shared in Instagrams instead of being enjoyed in our collective memories.

More tragic is the fact how most of these are often fake and not true at all, leaving many of us empty, even alienated that have resulted in many instances of depressions and suicides.

What an irony when everybody is claiming to be their own king or queen and master, of being free from religions and God, the more they have become unfree and empty! The more our egos and self-interests reign, the more chaotic we have become with peace and fulfillment most elusive.

When Jesus is our only King reigning in our hearts and relationships, that is when we find fulfillment in our lives as we discover our rootedness in God and interconnectedness with others.

When Jesus spoke of separating the goats and the sheep, we are reminded of how these animals can sometimes be indistinguishable — exactly like when we fail to recognize our loved ones and persons nearest to us.

And true enough, even Jesus has become indistinguishable among us right in our homes and most of all, among the suffering people like the hungry and thirsty, the strangers and homeless, the sick, the poor we have stripped not only of their clothings but also of their dignity as persons, and those imprisoned.

Recall what Jesus told Pilate at his trial, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth…” (Jn.18:37) that “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1Jn.4:16).

All this comes to full circle today as Jesus tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt.25:40) and “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (Mt.25:45).

Jesus will surely come again

As we have reflected these past two Sundays, Jesus is coming again at the end of time to judge us if we have been faithful and loving to him through others. He himself assures us of his return as he declared When the Son of Man comes in his glory” and not the conditional If the Son of Man comes”.

The key is not to know the when and how but to be vigilant, of being awake, always finding Jesus our king with the least among us which is the truest sense of kingship — never imposed on others but always recognized and imitated. In Filipino, “sinusunod, sinusundan at tinutularan; hindi nasusunod”.

St. Paul reminds us anew in the second reading how Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross had decisively won over sin and death; but, he is coming again to fully establish his kingship when he vanishes sin and death completely to pave the way for new heaven and new earth.

When he comes again, will anyone recognize him among the poor and suffering like the hungry and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, the strangers and homeless, and the naked? May we all have the eyes of a child who sees God in everyone and everything! Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you all!

Photo by a parishioner of his son, Red Santiago, praying in our parish, November 2019.