Beauty and blessedness at sunrise

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 May 2022
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias (Galilee) in Israel, May 2019.

Our gospel last Sunday spoke of the Risen Lord’s third appearance to his disciples at the Lake of Tiberias. No one, except the beloved disciple recognized Jesus standing at the shore after he had told them to cast their net to the right side of the boat that led to their plentiful catch of fish.

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

John 21:4-7
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake of Tiberias, May 2017.

I love the way it is narrated. What a wonderful interplay of realities, of John the beloved recognizing Jesus standing at the shore upon seeing the many fish caught in their net!

The story speaks of the beauty of every sunrise many of us seem to take for granted, of how so many of us miss the beautiful sight and silence of the morning. It is a story of every new day filled not only with promises but in itself a blessing we can surely experience when we first recognize Christ present in us.

That is perhaps one problem with us who always prefer spectacular sights and events to find God.

Unlike sunset, sunrise does not have radiant displays of colors and shades. It is very simple which is the lesson of Easter to us, of how our great God comes to us in the simplest moments of life. Recall too that Jesus was born in the middle of the darkest night of the year when everyone was asleep and rose from the dead very, very early in the morning that no one had seen! And here lies one of the wonderful mysteries in life – the hiddenness of God!

It is in God’s hiddenness that we can find him not because he is hiding but inviting us to be hidden in him too. That is the beauty of sunrise when you have to wake up early to see the beauty of life unfolding, awaiting something we are totally unaware of what is going to happen next. It is easier to wait for the sunset because you have been up and going the whole day; you just have to stop and pause for a while to await the sun going down.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, September 2019.

Sunrise is different. It is like awaiting a total stranger, compared with sunset after we have befriended the the day about to end.

Every morning when we wake up, we do not know what is in store for us. Some people are excited, others are not while the rest simply got the blues or too lazy to work and study that they would rather sleep more.

Maybe that is why sunrise is more subdued with its hues and shades. Like God, sunrise is so kind, very accommodating with everyone, no spectacular display of colors so that one could buy his own time on whether to go out and move or snuggle more in bed, alone or with somebody else.

Like a beloved someone or God himself, sunrise looks soft and calm, reassuring everyone the day ahead would be just fine for us all.

Its light is so gentle, though bursting filled with life but never insistent to the eyes, so gentle. This we feel in our favorite word and activity every morning – breakfast – which came from the literal “breaking of fast” the night before by the monks in the monasteries. We can feel this gentleness of sunrise in that Christian hymn Morning Has Broken, whether you sing it or listen to Cat Steven’s cover or to its original Gaelic Scottish tune. And along this line, we find sunrise as the sweetest breaking of all in Angela Bofil’s 1981 love song Break It To Me Gently.

Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, November 2018.

Sometimes, sunrise can be a bit wild, bursting with light that can penetrate one’s soul with its light traveling so fast, eager to cover the whole surrounding with the good news of life coming.

Think of the Beatles’ 1969 Here Comes the Sun with its lovely guitar introduction, assuring everyone, especially your beloved “little darling” that “it’s all right” with “smiles returning to the faces.”

Photo by author, sunrise at Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

That is the most beautiful part of catching the sunrise when all is silent with you all alone, listening to Jesus whispering, “Little darling, it’s all right” because whatever had happened yesterday, with all your sins and mistakes, are all forgotten and forgiven. Today is a new beginning, like what he told Peter in last Sunday’s gospel when he asked him thrice, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Photo by author, sunrise at Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep… And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”John 21:17, 19

John 21:17, 19

It is said that whatever one feels in describing the sunrise is one’s perception of love – warm and refreshing, joyful and so alive, filled with hopes and raring to go.

Sunrise is beautiful because it is when we experience closest with our truest self, with those most faithful and loving to us, and most of all, with God, our very root and being. Every morning is the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy of each of us becoming a John the Baptist whose name means “graciousness of God.” This we pray every morning in the Benedictus (cf. Lk.1:68-79):

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,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

May you be blessed every morning, every day of the week. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson, sunrise at Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, 27 April 2022.

Advent is when God comes to free and raise us up to him

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Simbang Gabi 9, 24 December 2021
1 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16   ><]]]*> + <*[[[><   Luke 1:67-79 
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

As we complete today our nine-day novena to Christmas, Zechariah comes to full circle in the gospel when he sings the Benedictus (Latin for “Blessed”) to praise and thank God not only for restoring his speech but for the gift of a son John the Baptist and of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Last Wednesday we have mentioned to you how we priests, monks and the religious along with other dedicated lay people would sing or recite Mary’s Magnificat at the end of our Evening Prayer called Vespers, Zechariah’s Benedictus is what we pray at the end of our Morning Prayer called Lauds (Latin for praises).

It is a wonderful prayer welcoming the new day filled with God’s blessings of life and fulfillment, joy and peace, love and mercy. What a way to start each day already assured of being a blessed one for everyone.

As we prepare for Christmas tonight and tomorrow, it is worth praying the Benedictus today to pause at three important verbs we find at its beginning:

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 up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.

Luke 1:67-69

For Zechariah, God is blessed because “he has come (or visited) to his people, set them free (or worked redemption), and has raised up for us a mighty Savior from the house of David”. Like Mary’s Magnificat, we notice in Zechariah’s Benedictus the verbs are in the past tense when everything seems to be just starting with John’s birth who would herald the coming of Jesus still be born six months later.

But, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit when he sang this that he must have perceived that early – like Mary – the many great things God had done to him personally and to them as a nation. Most of all, he had sensed- finally, after months of forced silence – the most unique wonderful things God is doing for him and everyone including us today.

This is the reason why we pray the Benedictus every morning for it affirms and not just awaits the tremendous blessings God has for us each new day.

Photo by author, altar of the Church of St. John the Baptist, the Holy Land, 2019.

Everyday, God comes to us, visiting us with his gift of life. A few months ago, former US Secretary of State and decorated soldier Colin Powell died of complications from COVID-19. An accomplished military officer and manager, one of his leadership lessons is that “It ain’t as bad as you think.”

Powell explains that after every disaster, there is always a solution and a way out of every mess in life. There is no need for us to worsen the situation with overthinking because in the coming of each new day, things get better.

So true! Zechariah had the worst days of his life of not having a child for the longest time then made mute by an angel for challenging the wisdom of God. After being forced into silence for nine months, he realized how each day is filled with blessings with God himself coming to us.

Rejoice every morning you wake up by first praying and connecting to God who comes to us daily before checking on your gadgets for messages and news that often dampen your mood. Like Zechariah, the first thing to come from his mouth and lips when his tongue was loosened was praise and thanksgiving to God.

When God comes, his first blessing is always our liberation from sins and baggages that have overburdened us, enslaving us for so long that we have practically stopped living. To experience God in Jesus Christ is always to experience freedom to do what is true and good. To be free in Jesus means to be free from sins and anxieties and fears brought about by our bondage to evil and darkness.

Zechariah felt so free that he was able to praise and thank God for his gifts of life and a child. And Savior, Jesus Christ who had come to his home when Mary visited Elizabeth earlier.

Everyday is blessed primarily because God raised up for us a mighty Savior in Jesus Christ. This is the most wonderful part of Zechariah’s Benedictus, “God has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David”. It was very clear with him the role of his son John, a herald of the coming of the Savior who is the fulfillment of God’s promise of old.

Photo by author, 2019.

Each day in Jesus promises us to make it better than yesterday. If we were sick yesterday, today we can recover our health. If yesterday we have failed, today we shall triumph. If yesterday we have lost, today we shall gain for Jesus has conquered everything even death for his love for us.

Likewise, we are invited to become a John the Baptist everyday not only to prepare the way of the Lord but most of all be the sign of the Lord’s presence.

As John the Baptist, we are challenged first to examine our very lives, our inner selves. So many times we get carried away with the many parties and activities of Christmas like gifts to give or receive as we focus on the wrong aspects of this most joyous feast of the year.

Like his father Zechariah, let us rejoice in the presence of God who became human like us so we may also rejoice in the presence of every person especially our loved ones who make Jesus present among us. Let us make this Christmas a true celebration of the presence of Jesus in us not only today but throughout the coming 2022 as God continues to bless us with lower COVID infections. Amen. May God bless you always, heal you of your sickness, and fulfill your prayers this Simbang Gabi!

Of wages and gifts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorials of St. John Eudes & St. Ezechiel Moreno, Priests, 19 August 2020
Ezekiel 34:1-11 >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, February 2020.

As we go through more difficulties and sufferings during this time of pandemic, your words today dear God speak so well of what we need most – a true shepherd who will care for the lost and injured sheep.

Yes, you have fulfilled, O God, your promise a long time ago to Ezekiel that you yourself will come by sending us your Son Jesus Christ to look after and tend your sheep after the shepherds of Israel have miserably failed in their duties and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there are still so many shepherds today in government even in Church who continue to pasture themselves!

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who has been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; I swear I am coming against these shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:2-4, 8, 10

Teach us, O Lord, through the examples of two great shepherds of souls whose feast we celebrate today: St. John Eudes who was one of the early pioneers in propagating devotion to your most Sacred Heart and St. Ezechiel Moreno who served for 15 years in the Philippines and later in South America where innumerable cancer cures were attributed to him.

St. John Eudes and St. Ezechiel Moreno showed in their lives of faithful and loving apostolate for the poor that shepherding is always a gift, never to be counted or equated nor even be seen in terms of wages and pay like in the gospel.

Remind us sweet Jesus in the midst of this pandemic when we are called to be good shepherds like you, may we always see your call and mission to us as gifts freely given not as tasks or work to be compensated by material things because you believe in us.

May we always go the extra mile in answering your call, O Lord, which is in itself a tremendous gift we must cherish for we are not even worthy at all to receive. Amen.

From Google.

“When The Morning Comes” by the Kalapana (1975)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 23 June 2019
Sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, 02 May 2019. Photo by the author.

Our Sunday music on this Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ is an original composition by Daryl Hall of the dynamic duo “Hall and Oates” included in their “Abandoned Luncheonette” album released in 1973. Two years later, the upcoming rock group who called themselves “Kalapana” based in Hawaii did a cover of the Hall composition that became a hit that many thought it to be their original.

What I like with Kalapana is how they can make sad songs sound good like “When the Morning Comes” or their more popular hit “The Hurt”.

There is too much darkness in their songs, of disappointments but, the way they sang them you forget all their sad messages.

Went down town to see my little lady
She stood me up and I stood there waiting
It’ll be alright,
When the morning comes

Well now I’m up in the air with the rain in my hair
Got nowhere to go I can go anywhere
It’ll be alright
When the morning comes

I’m just passin’ and I’m not askin’ that you be anyone but you
When you come home, try to come home alone
It’s so much better with two

Well now I’m out in the cold and I’m growin’ old
Standing here waiting on you
It’ll be alright 
When the morning comes

Ooh ooh ooh ooh
When the morning comes
Ooh ooh ooh ooh
When the morning comes

There will always be darkness in our lives.

And that is why Jesus came, not really to remove darkness but, to accompany us so we can make it through the night until the morning comes.

But most of all, on this Solemnity of His Body and Blood, Jesus invites us to be his presence in the world plunged in darkness by always trying to see him in the face of everyone we meet.

As most people say, darkness ends and morning comes the moment we come to recognize the face of another person as our brother or sister.

Happy listening to everyone and enjoy your Sunday!

Sealed With the Holy Spirit

RaffyIceland15
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Friday//19October2018//Week XXVIII, Year II
Ephesians 1:11-14///Luke 12:1-7
 
             It’s a Friday again, God our loving Father.
             Thank you for the many blessings you have given us this week, especially for those gifts we never asked from you.  Forgive me in failing to manifest you and show your glory in my work and in my life this week.  Most of all, in failing to show the “seal of the Holy Spirit” we have all received from the redemption worked on us by your Son Jesus Christ (Eph.1:13).

             Help me O God to always remember this seal of the Holy Spirit in me, of my task to praise and worship you always as my Lord and Master.  Let me be careful with things that I say and whisper, with things I keep in secret and darkness because sooner or later, everything shall be revealed in your light for nothing escapes you (Lk.12:2-3).

              Let me be like the northern lights at this time of the year, O Lord, when every little thing like air and humidity, gases and light, including every little degree of earth’s tilting all work in a dazzling symphony of lights that liven up the cold, dark nights of winter.  AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. E-mail to lordmychef@gmail.com for free subscription.

*Photo courtesy of Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Iceland Northern Lights, 08 October 2018.  Used with permission.

We Are Evangelists of the Lord

St.Luke
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Thursday//18October2018//Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist
2Timothy 4:10-17///Luke 10:1-9

             Today we thank you O Lord for opening our eyes through St. Luke in showing to us that what we need most in this world are people who would reveal to us and enable us to experience the mystery of your coming and presence among us.  You never told us to pray for more machines or technology, more gadgets or more money for the abundant harvest.  What we need are people – laborers – or evangelists who would write with their lives your gospel of love, your gospel of life like St. Luke.

             “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Lk.10:2)

             Of your four evangelists, only St. Luke made known to us how he had “decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence” (Lk.1:3) everything about you and your teachings, O Lord.  With his life and writings, we were able to have a glimpse of the mysteries of your life especially stories of your Annunciation and Birth up to your presentation at the Temple that have endeared the Christmas season to us.

             It was St. Luke who always told us the many instances you have prayed to stress the need for an intimacy with God always in this life.  He was the only one who told us the beautiful Emmaus story that has been a constant reminder of Easter burning always within our hearts.  And it was also St. Luke who remarkably showed us how Mary has always been your model disciple until the Pentecost.

             Give us, Lord Jesus, the same grace as a laborer and an evangelist which is the ability to see and communicate God working in our lives daily in the power of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. E-mail to lordmychef@gmail.com.

*Photo from Google: “Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin” by Flemish painter Roger van der Weyden (1400-1464).  It is one of the most important paintings from Europe in the United States now kept on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  It is a very lovely and very interesting painting too!

When Little Things Mean So Much

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The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Wednesday//17October2018//Week XXVIII, Year II
Galatians 5:18-25///Luke 12:13-21

            Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught us to be like little children, to be always the least.  In you we have found the beauty of being small.  And how wonderful when little things we often take for granted like the Holy Spirit can really mean so much for our growth and maturity!

            The Holy Spirit often means so little for us because it is the Person in your Blessed Trinity who is least known, least understood.  But as St. Paul tells us today in the first reading, a little of the Holy Spirit that can hardly be imagined or visualized lead to a harvest of great fruits in us of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal.5:22-23)

             On the other hand, small thoughts of sin and evil always lead to our own destruction like “immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies and the like.” (Gal.5:19-21)

             There are times we are like the Pharisees and the scholars of the law you have scolded in the gospel today who “pay tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb” forgetting the more essential demands of love for God through others, of always seeking seats of honor when our lives are empty and rotten inside like graves or when we burden those around us with many demands while we refuse to lift even a finger to do the same (Lk.12:13-21).

             Yes, we are guilty O Lord of making little things of nothing into something, forgetting the little things that mean so much.  Give us the grace to spice up our lives with great little things of your Holy Spirit like St. Ignatius of Antioch who preached the unity of the Church by emphasizing the importance of every little community united in you and the Pope.  AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. E-mail to lordmychef@gmail.com.

Photo by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, Church of St. Agnes garden in Jerusalem, 20 April 2017.

The Spirit of Prayer

St.Johnxxiii
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Thursday//11October2018//Week XXVII, Year II
Galatians 3:1-5///Luke 11:5-13

            Fifty six years ago today, your Holy Spirit O Lord breathed fresh air into our Holy Mother Church with the first session of the Second Vatican Council convened by Pope St. John XXIII whose memorial we also celebrate today.

             A man of great wisdom and wit with great love for the poor, St. John XXIII came to be known as the “good Pope” because the faithful saw in him your goodness, O God.  Even if his pontificate lasted only five years as he was already advanced in age when he became a Pope, St. John XXIII accomplished so much in his words and actions because he was evidently sustained with a profound spirit of prayer.

             Like St. Paul, he called on the entire Church to go back again to the Gospel Himself – Jesus Christ so we can be more responsive to the modern time.  But 56 years after the start of Vatican II, we have become “stupid” like the Galatians who, “after beginning with the Spirit, are now ending with the flesh?” (Gal.3:3)
 

             Help us O Lord, through the prayers and inspiration of Pope St. John XXIII to always go back to the spirit of prayer, to persist in asking for you, in seeking you, and knocking at your door so we could enter into your heart and be closer to you so you would take over us.  That is the true power of prayer:  it is not with what we say but how we say like in today’s parable.  AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. E-mail to lordmychef@gmail.com.

st.JohnxxiiiPrayer

Photos from Google.

Praying With Courage Like Jesus

DSCF0913 (2)
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Wednesday//10October2018//Week XXVII, Year II
Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14///Luke 11:1-4

             What a wonderful grace for your apostles to have witnessed you prayed, O Lord!  It must have been a great sight to behold, seeing you deep in prayer that they asked you to teach them how to pray.

             How sad, though, that we have taken for granted the only prayer you have taught us to pray, the Our Father.  It has become so ordinary, even mechanical for us.  Sometimes, we really do not pray your prayer but merely recite it, lacking courage and vibrancy to inspire others to pray.

            Give us courage, O Lord, a lot of courage to pray your prayer with more conviction by making “God’s kingdom come and His will be done” as we pray it. Give us courage to pray it not only begging for forgiveness to our sins but most of all to forgive those who have sinned against us.

            Like St. Paul in the first reading, give us the courage to boldly profess to everyone, even to our peers, the truth of your gospel.  Make us truthful in praying the “Our Father” so that when others see and hear us, they may ask us too to teach them to pray like the Twelve. AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. Send e-mail to < lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Photo by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, the Church of the Our Father, Holy Land Pilgrimage, 19 April 2017.

A Lamp of Jesus

person standing on shoreline beside gray tubular lantern
Photo by Alan Cabello on Pexels.com

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Monday//24September2018//Week XXV//Year II
Proverbs 3:27-34///Luke 8:16-18

            God our Father, it is again a Monday.  Thank you for the gift of life, the gift of work, the gift of responsibilities, the gift of one another.  Give us the grace to always do whatever is good and remain humble before you through others (Prov.3:35).

            Open our eyes to see more of the many things we can learn instead of seeing the many faults and failures of others as well as shortcomings in many situations we find ourselves in.  The world is one vast classroom with so many wonderful things to enjoy and cherish!
             Make me a lamp of the light of your Son Jesus Christ to dispel the darkness not only in the world but most especially within each one of us.  Make me a lamp that would reveal the truth of our being your beloved children, sanctified and forgiven in Christ Jesus.  Let us all gain more of your love and mercy, more of your justice and peace, more of you in the power of the Holy Spirit.  AMEN.Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022.