How the Cross makes all beautiful

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Week II, Year I in Ordinary Time, 18 January 2021
Hebrews 5:1-9     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Mark 2:18-22
Photo by author, Carmelite Monastery in Guiguinto, Bulacan, November 2019.

So many things are running through my mind after a very long, and heavy Sunday, Lord Jesus. First I went to celebrate the Mass at the 40th day of the passing of a young mother – so young that she had gone ahead of her mother and father at the age of 56. And when I got back in my parish, I heard the news of a much younger mother of two, the wife of my former student in her early 30’s finally going to your rest after a long battle with cancer too. What pains me, Lord, is how I have been praying for her and suddenly, she’s gone. Now, I have to pray for her husband recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and yes, I am afraid of what could inevitably happen next.

Please, Lord, give him a chance to live long and see their two children mature. Please….

Sometimes I really wonder, Lord, if ever a day can ever pass without anyone dying, without anyone crying, without anyone suffering, without anyone sad.

How I wish, sometimes.

But as a priest so exposed to these many sufferings and pains of others, I am so thankful to you, too, dear Jesus in allowing me to experience these all as your priest, as someone you have called to share in other’s pains and sufferings like you.

Amid the many deaths and many crying I witness and experience, I thank you Lord in teaching me how to find God in pain; that, instead of asking God to take them away, may I imitate you, Jesus to embrace every trial and little deaths that come my way.

Continue to enlighten me, dear Jesus, to appreciate this paradox in life that it is incomplete without pain and sufferings; that it is in their midst do we find life’s deeper meaning as we grow deeper in love and compassion, strength and maturity as well just like you!

Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, January 2019.

Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son; this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Hebrews 5:1, 4-9

Teach me dear Jesus to see everything in the light and perspectives of your Cross, that I may shift in my approaches in dealing and looking at things to see more of your beauty than waste my energies whining and complaining. Amen.

Complaining from the heart, complaining from the mind

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2020
Number 21:4-9   >><)))*>   Philippians 2:6-11   >><)))*>   John 3:13-17
Photo by author, Lent 2019.

Thank you very much, God our loving Father, for this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ. Please increase our patience lest we complain like your people at the desert to Moses.

With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!

Numbers 21:4-5

You know, dear God, how we feel right now after seven months of journey in the pandemic: we are tired and exhausted, wearied and anxious, most of all, afraid of how things can go worst specially with the incompetence of our government officials.

Please, grant us patience to continue with the journey but allow us too to complain from our hearts, to cry out our pains and fears to you because it is only you who can help us in our situation. Most of all, let us complain from our hearts as an expression of faith and hope in you, Lord.

We are convinced of your love and presence but sometimes we are overwhelmed by the sufferings and difficulties on this period of the pandemic that we think more of ourselves, of our well-being that we forget you are our companion in the journey.

We fail and even refuse to see you in this journey as we complain from our minds, when we are filled with pride, believing in our ourselves that we question you, when we dare you, when we think of ways of manipulating you in our favor.

Open our eyes to see again on this feast and celebrate how you have transformed the worst signs of death and torture in history to be the doorway to life and healing like snakes becoming medicines to snake bites and the cross becoming the sign of love.

Open our minds that instead of complaining of the death of Jesus Christ, we celebrate his resurrection and glory in heaven. Instead of dwelling on pain and suffering, we focus more on healing and salvation.

May we keep in our minds that taking the form of a slave, of carrying our crosses leads to your exaltation, our loving and merciful Father. Amen.

Photo by author of Brazen Serpent Monument on Mt. Nebo inside the Franciscan Monastery in Jordan, May 2019.

Value of hiddenness

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 03 August 2020
Jeremiah 28:1-17 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 14:22-36
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News before a storm in Batanes, 2018.

God our Father, we come to you again fervently asking for your guidance and protection as the threats of COVID-19 infections are getting closer to home. More and more are getting sick and we could feel them so strongly for they are no longer statistics we read and see in news but persons we know very well in our home and community.

Thank you very much that finally, our government leaders have listened to the calls of medical experts to go on at least two weeks of quarantine to reassess our response to the pandemic.

In this quarantine period, we pray that we learn to value again silence and hiddenness that we have taken for granted in our 24-hour world of media and noise.

So many times, we have taken for granted things that are not seen, that are invisible and hidden, that we ourselves also hide in evil and sin, convincing ourselves nobody would know or “see” it.

And so, we try deceiving others with our false claims of knowledge and competencies like Hananiah and other false prophets among us who give false hopes to people who are eventually misled from you and from one another.

To the prophet Hananiah the prophet Jeremiah said: Hear this, Hananiah! The Lord has not sent you, and you have raised false confidence in this people. For this, says the Lord, I will dispatch you from the face of the earth; this very year you shall die, because you have preached rebellion against the Lord.

Jeremiah 28:15-16

In this time of modified enhanced community quarantine again, teach us O Lord Jesus to deepen our faith in you so that we may remain focused on you alone in moments of storms when it is so difficult to recognize you, when it is easier to “see” and “believe” the powers of the unseen winds like Simon Peter in today’s gospel.

Let us befriend your holy silence and stillness again, sweet Jesus, because in you, the most significant are always the most hidden too. Amen.

Holiness is for everyone, in all seasons

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher, Martyrs, 22 June 2020
2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15, 18 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 7:1-5
Photo by Dr. Mai Dela Peña, Tokyo, 2018.

Today we praise and thank you O God for two great saints of modern time who remind us that holiness is for everyone in all seasons because you are always relevant in every age, in every nation.

St. Thomas More and St. John Cardinal Fisher, two great men who taught us more than 500 years ago the need for us to be faithful to you and your Church than with the modern world and its modern thoughts, of the need for us to fight and oppose all forms of tyranny of men especially of those in power that always have impact on everyone especially those with less in life who take the brunt of such sinful excesses.

Both men were martyred because of their refusal to go with England’s King Henry VIII’s divorce from his first wife and eventual break from Rome and the Pope.

Both men, especially St. Thomas More who was a diplomat-lawyer and a family man, showed us that though we are in this world, we are not of the world; though we are citizens of the city of man, we are first of all citizens of the city of God.

How sad that we have refused to learn the value of their lessons of obeying you, our loving Father in heaven above all.

In fact, it was also the problem with Israel in the first reading when its capital city of Samaria fell into the hands of the Assyrians due to the people’s infidelities to God.

May we realize that every time we turn away from you O Lord, we turn away also from one another and go on our selfish own ways in life that further divide us apart and bring us into destruction and ruins.

Through St. Thomas More and St. John Cardinal Fisher, help us O Lord to examine our very selves, to see our own wickedness and shortcomings so we may effectively fight tyranny and deceit in this modern time. Amen.

From Pinterest.com.

Scoundrels are we?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 June 2020
1 Kings 21:1-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> <*(((>< <*(((>< Matthew 5:38-42
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, stranded people staying at the underpass near the NAIA after waiting for so long to catch their flights back to their provinces since March.

So many times in life, O God our Father, we hear so many stories of injustice, of how our neighbors are treated so badly that we feel so disgusted at how it could happen at all.

Like all these stories of people stranded in Metro Manila, of the lowly income earners who have to walk for hours just to get to work because there are not enough public transport system allowed to operate.

Of those made to suffer the strict quarantine rules when police officials and politicians were allowed to get off the hook or, the arrest and incarceration of a poor, elderly jeepney driver who had joined a protest rally while the former First Lady who was convicted of corruption charges two years ago was spared of any jail term because of her age.

So much inequalities happening shamelessly, with much impunity by those in power, O Lord!

Exactly like the evil Queen Jezebel who instructed her people to find two scoundrels to testify against Naboth so she could take his vineyard so desired by her husband King Ahab.

Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, “Naboth has cursed God and king.” And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite which he refused to sell you, because Naboth is nbot alive, but dead.” On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

1 Kings 21:13-16

Such stories are so revulsive, O God, not only of their nature but more because partly to be blamed is us — when we have refused to do anything good in fighting evil. Indeed, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Yes, O God, we are ashamed because we have unconsciously sided with the scoundrels when we chose to “see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing” of their lies, their harsh words and vulgarities, and their systematic killing sprees to solve the problems of the society.

We have misread the words of your Son Jesus Christ by becoming passive in the face of evil.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.”

Matthew 5:38-39, 41

Give us the wisdom and courage to turn our other cheek, to go the extra mile in asserting to evil doers that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ who must treat one another with respect and equal dignity as a person created in your image and likeness, God our Father.

Inspire us, O God, especially our leaders in the Church who have gone so timid and silent except for a very few on how we can be more prophetic in this time of crisis under an unfriendly government. Amen.

A view from Tagaytay by the author, October 2019.

What’s up on the mountain?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week X, Year II of Ordinary Time, 08 June 2020
1 Kings 17:7-16 <*(((>< + ><)))*> Matthew 5:1-12
Mount Sinai range at sunrise, May 2019. Photo by author.

Your words today Lord brought memories of childhood when I would always look up to the mountains, wondering what is up there or how wonderful it must be up there.

As I grew up, that fascination with the mountains remained until I had the chance to climb some of them and learned one very valuable lesson: it is so nice to be up on the mountain but always difficult.

One has to pour in a lot of planning and preparations, most of all, more sacrifices.

There is always that inverse proportionality when it can take so much efforts to ascend, always painstaking while every descent is always less than half the time and energy.

Most of all, every ascent to the mountain calls for trust, a great deal of trust in you, Lord, because anything can happen. In fact, one has to always expect the unexpected when ascending a mountain.

But rewards are so great and the feeling is always liberating and free.

Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2018 photo by author.

Teach me, Lord, to be like your Prophet Elijah, to always dare to climb mountains, to rely on your providence for water to drink and food to eat because more than these is the nourishment you provide for the soul and being of anyone willing to come near you.

Like your disciples and the crowd who followed you, Jesus, bless me with courage and trust to follow you up every mountain, listening and following your teachings.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:1-4

How blessed indeed, O Lord, to be high up on the mountain with you for heaven is no longer that far, so reachable with you — especially when beside your holy Cross. Amen.

What does it take to believe in God?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week VII, 25 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 19:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 16:29-33

Stained glass in our parish of the appearance of Jesus to Thomas Didymus. Photo by author, April 2020.

If you ask me Lord, or even anyone for that matter, I may never be able to answer completely and satisfactorily that question: what does it take to believe that you are God?

The disciples said to Jesus, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.”

John 16:29-30

As I prayed on your words today, dear Jesus, I wondered on what was it that you must have told the apostles that they realized you knew everything that you do not need anyone to question you that finally convinced them to believe you came from God?

Could it be that as you neared your Passion and Death, the more they felt your love?

As I have told you, if you or anyone asks me how I have come to believe that you come from God, that you are the Son of God, I cannot give any precise answer except that I have felt your love.

Love is your only distinction that enables us to believe in you.

Before we believe, before we know, we first felt loved.

Love is your simplest language, Lord, because you are love.

You are able to love us all because you know everything.

And that is why you love.

So unlike us.

When we have known the other person, usually, we stop loving. But not you: the more you know, the more you love.

Mary Magdalene knows it so well, she from whom you have driven out seven demons!

For that great love, I thank you dearest Jesus, for loving me so immensely through my parents and siblings, my relatives and friends, through all the people you have sent me to experience your love.

Photo by author, 2019.

When you called me to the priesthood, the first I really felt was your love, of how much you love me that I felt so special.

Before priesthood came, there was your love first.

That continues to these days. That feeling of being loved despite my sins and shortcomings make me believe you are from God, dear Jesus.

I am sure when St. Paul laid his hands on some disciples in Ephesus to receive the Holy Spirit, what they must have really felt to be so inspired and energized in doing their mission is your immense love.

Give us the grace to remember, to recall these many moments you felt us your love that we usually take for granted or disregarded.

Once we have retrieved those loving memories in you, give us the courage Jesus to share this love you pour on us daily, especially at this time of the pandemic when all we long for is a little love from one another: a smile, a pat on the shoulder, an encouragement, a kind word, a sweet voice calling our name.

Teach is to be more loving on this last Monday of the Easter Season, Lord Jesus. Amen.

We are God’s indwelling

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week V, 11 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 14:5-18 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 14:21-26

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Blessed Sacrament Procession in our Parish during quarantine, May 2020.

As we brace ourselves, O Lord, for the announcement this week of another possible extension of our quarantine period, we pray for more of your grace of presence and indwelling in us during this time that our churches remain closed to public worship.

Give us the fire and zeal of Paul and Barnabas in proclaiming your Gospel in words and in deeds.

Most especially, give us the same humility and decency to direct all praise and glory to your Divine Majesty and not to us.

Let us abide in you, O God our Father so that we may be your indwelling in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Photo by author, our closed church in time of corona virus, March-May 2020.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.”

John 14:23

May we always have the courage, O dear Jesus, to accept your invitation to belong to you wholly, to be at home in you.

Most often, we are so anxious of so many things, peace and calmness become elusive because we cannot rest in you, we cannot persevere and wait in finding you here in our very selves, in our daily life, in our worries and concerns.

Let us come home to you, Jesus, and abide in your love so that we become your indwelling of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Standing for Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week-III, 27 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 6:8-15 <*(((>< 000+000 ><)))*> John 6:22-29

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Panglao Beach, 2019.

Thank you very much, our loving Father for this very different Monday: it is the last for the month of April, but most of all, so unlike of all the other Mondays of our lives as we continue to stay home under our enhanced community quarantine extended until May 15, 2020.

We have been so used in our entire lives that Monday is always the start of work, the start of everything when in fact, Sunday is the first day of the week.

Due to COVID-19, we have started to lose track of dates and days, thus making us less mechanical and more natural, giving us with enough time to review our selves and our lives, to see the peoples and things we value most, and finally, to make a stand on so many things we have taken for granted and even disregarded in the past.

We have never been like your deacon Stephen in the first reading who at a very young age chose to stand for Jesus Christ and his teachings, never giving into the fear of going against prevailing thoughts and sentiments. Most of all, he never gave into the lies thrown against him by his many detractors.

Enlighten us, dear Jesus, to seek for “food that endures for eternal life so we can accomplish your works, O Lord” (Jn.6:27-28).

Let us believe in you always, Jesus.

Nourish and sustain us with your words of life so that we can remain firm in our faith and conviction in you, always willing to go back to Jerusalem and Galilee to start anew in you like the two disciples you walked with to Emmaus on Easter. Amen.

Prayer of the Lord’s servant

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe, Holy Monday, 06 April 2020

Isaiah 42:1-7 ><)))*> +++ 0 +++ <*(((>< John 12:1-11

Photo by author, Tabernacle of Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 05 April 2020.

In the midst of this most trying time in our modern world while we get into the holiest days of the year, grant me, O Lord Jesus Christ, the grace to be like you, a servant of the Father, filled with the Holy Spirit, “not crying out, not shouting, not making my voice heard in the street” (Is.42:1-2).

Teach me the path of non-violence when brute force is preferred by those in authority, to strive for what is just so that there may be peace and joy throughout the land as well as healing and health among the sick.

A bruised reed he shall not break, a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coastlands will wait for his teaching.

Isaiah 42:3-4

Help me O Lord, to bridge the gaps among people separated by pains and hurts in their past, differences in beliefs and color and status in life.

Give me the strength to grip and steadily hold those about to give up on life, in God, in their family, and in humanity.

May I open the eyes of those blinded by worldly possessions to see beyond material things, most especially the warmth of your loving face found in every child and persons we meet trying to make ends meet.

In my own struggles may I set free the many prisoners of sins and addiction as I try to bring your light, dear Jesus among those in darkness especially the poor who have always been with us but we have always forgotten. Amen.