Without exceptions

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, 19 October 2022
Ephesians 3:2-12   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 12:39-48
Photo by author, 2021.

Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”

Luke 12:41
Teach me, Lord Jesus,
to be your "faithful and prudent
steward" like St. Paul, "the very
least" of your Apostles you have
called to preach to the Gentiles
your "inscrutable riches" (Eph.3:8);
forgive me, Lord, when many times
in life I take exceptions from your
teachings and instructions, 
having that feeling of entitlement
and even privilege.
Help me realize, dear Jesus,
this wonderful gift you have 
given each one of us of being
called to reveal and make known
to everyone your mystery of
love and mercy, kindness and
compassion; deepen our faith
in proclaiming your good news
of salvation to all so that like
St. Paul, we may "have 
the boldness of speech 
and confidence of access
through faith" in you.
Amen.

Ang Diyos at ang kulay ng hangin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Setyembre 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda, bukang liwayway sa Lawa ng Tiberias, Israel, Mayo 2019.
Kay sarap namnamin,
kaninang pagkagising
Iyong tugon Panginoon namin
sa mga tanong ni Job
na amin ding dinaraing
sa gitna ng maraming hirap at tiisin:

"Job, 
nakalikha ka ba
kahit isang bukang liwayway?
Ang daigdig ba ay ang iyong
naigawa ng tanglaw?
Napunta ka na ba sa
pinagmumulan ng bukal?
Nakalakad ka na ba sa 
pusod ng karagatan?
Alam mo ba kung saan nanggaling
ang liwanag, o and kadiliman,
kung saan nagbubuhat?
Ang mga ulap ba iyong mauutusan
sa lupa ay magbuhos ng malakas na ulan?"
(Aklat ni Job 38:12-13, 16, 19, 34)
Inyong ipagpaumanhin
Panginoong namin
kapangahasan Ikaw ay tanungin, 
usisain kapag mabigat aming pasanin
 kami ay patawarin
katulad ni Job iyong dinggin:

"Narito, ako'y hamak, 
walang kabuluhan,
walang maisasagot, 
bibig ay tatakpan
hindi na kikibo, 
mga nasabi'y di na uulitin"
(Aklat ni Job 40:4-5).
Hinding hindi namin
makakayang sagutin
ni arukin kalaliman 
nitong maraming lihim 
ng buhay lalo't kung madilim;
sana'y Iyong dalisayin, Panginoon
aking mga paningin, upang Ikaw ay
malasin tulad ng kulay ng hangin!
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Jo Villafuerte, pagbubukang liwayway sa Atok, Benguet, Setyembre 2019.

The majesty of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2022
Job 38:1, 12-21, 40:3-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by Greg on Pexels.com
God our loving Father,
open my eyes
open my mind
open my heart and soul
to your majesty
to experience your
immense mystery
so profoundly
unthinkable
unexplainable
yet so true
that it can be felt
and experienced
because we live
in you though we
are not aware.

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface? The earth is changed as is clay by the seal, and dyed as though it were a garment. Have you entered the sources of the sea, or walked about in the depths of the abyss? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Job 38:1, 12-14, 16-18
Dearest Father,
many times I have asked you
so many questions 
and would still have more to
follow you up with but,
when I contemplate
your love and presence
in my life,
among the people you
have surrounded me with,
then I realize 
you are all questions 
that in itself more than enough
for me to see, even imagine you!

Like Job,
let me remain silent
and be wrapped by
your majesty
and glory!

Then job answered the Lord and said: Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.

Job 40:3-5
Open my eyes
in Jesus your Son
to appreciate more
your coming
your loving presence
your healing
O God our Father;
let me listen
and be more attentive
to Jesus,
your Word who became
flesh to dwell
among us;
like St. Jerome,
give me the grace
to read and study
especially to pray
your Sacred Scriptures
each day of my life
to be still
and remain
in you always.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.

Ascension: a “leveling up” to God in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, 29 May 2022
Acts 1:1-11 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-23 ><]]]]'> Luke 24:46-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Ascension at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

Today’s Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is a celebration of the mystery of Jesus Christ our Savior. It is not just an episode in his life because it is something about his very person and his personal relationship with us his followers that continues to this day.

In his Ascension into heaven, Jesus had brought us closer to heaven – and God – even while we are still here on earth! It is part of the mystery of his Person whose coming and going, so to speak, closed the wide gap before between heaven and earth which is actually relational than spatial in nature. Hence, the Ascension is not about Christ’s departure to a distant galaxy in the universe where heaven is supposed to be but a new and higher or deeper kind of relationship of humans with God in Jesus.

Ascension is a leveling up as kids would say these days in our relationships with God in Jesus. This we realize in a careful reading of our short gospel account by starting at its ending:

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.

Luke 24:50-53

Did you notice Luke’s description of how the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy”?

Photo by author, inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, 2017.

Normally, we feel sad in every departure of a loved one, be it permanent like in death or temporary like when they move to a new residence or work or when kids go to college. Every parting with loved ones brings sadness in our hearts, rarely a great joy.

So, where did that great joy of the disciples come from after Jesus left them and ascended into heaven?

Recall how these past two Sundays when Jesus insisted on his disciples including us the need to obey his commandment to love, reassuring them not to let their hearts be troubled and disturbed when he leaves them. Loving Jesus is keeping his words of loving one another as he has loved us. Where there is love, there is always the gift of presence and relationships, of peace, of intimacy. Even if we are apart from one another, even if we do not see each other, love transcends the physical distance and presence; hence, heaven is oneness with God while hell is separation from God!

Mystery of Christ, our intimacy with God

The joy of the disciples at the Lord’s Ascension is the continuing intimacy they have with Jesus because of his commandment to love and his gift of peace. He said last Sunday that anyone who keeps his words shall be loved by him and the Father who shall both dwell on that person.

Jesus and the Father dwelling in us is intimacy, a deep and personal relationship that is as close as our breath. This is the whole point of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews in explaining the great difference of the old temple worship and worship in Jesus Christ: “Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself” (Heb.9:24) that enabled us all to reach and enter heaven “by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh” (Heb.10:20).

Heaven is not just a place or location but most of all a state of life, a state of grace made possible by Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ. It is something we already have in our hearts which we feel and experience when we strive to live in communion with Jesus and everyone around us through personal and communal prayers, especially in the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, part of the site believed where Jesus stepped on during his Ascension inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

Keep in mind the upward movement of the Ascension which calls for a “leveling up” in our perspectives and way of life, of “witnessing” Jesus Christ to everyone “to the ends of the earth” as he instructed them outside Bethany (Acts 1:8) before “going up” to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God our almighty Father.

But that mystery of Christ is not everything. See how Luke mentioned both in Acts and in his gospel account the disciples as “witnesses” of Jesus.

The Ascension challenges every disciple of Christ to witness his mystery in a life in union with God, a mystery we must nurture and keep, calling us to “approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy” (Heb.10:22-23).

Ascension is therefore a call to holiness, to a life centered in God. But with the recent turn of events both here and abroad, we find we are still too far from the gifts and realities of Christ’s Ascension as life and societies seem to go down to the pit of death and destruction, pains and despair.

May 25: People attend a prayer vigil for the Robb Elementary School students and teachers killed in a mass shooting Tuesday at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas.
Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images

All mystery and tragedy, but no Christ?

We are thousands of kilometers away from Uvalde, Texas but we too were pierced in the hearts by the reports of the killing of 19 school children and their two teachers in a shooting spree by an 18-year old who started his carnage by first shooting his own grandmother at home before going to their local school.

Two weeks earlier, another ten people were also gunned down in Buffalo, New York that has made mass shooting like a persistent plague in the US getting worst each year without any signs of being eradicated at all with the never-ending debates about guns especially by politicians.

See how amid all these decadence in our time, from the mass shootings in the US to the war in Ukraine and the never ending bickering in our local politics show us the exact opposite of the mystery of Christ expressed in this Solemnity of his Ascension, of how we have sank deeper in evil and sin, away from one another and from God.

Everybody is speaking each one’s point of view but never considered God at all and the value of every human life especially at its most vulnerable stage in the womb and old age. Media barrage us with so much statistics but never about the value and importance of virtues like kindness and love and spirituality.

Going back to our gospel this Sunday, Luke leads us to finding and witnessing Christ’s mystery as a person and of his Ascension in its opening when Jesus said to his disciples:

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:46-48

See the flow starting from the Scriptures or words of God that were written leading into its fulfillment in the Pasch of Jesus Christ we are tasked to preach and proclaim in words and in deeds which is what witnessing is all about.

This Sunday, Jesus is leading us out of our homes like his disciples to meet him in our churches where his mystery is celebrated daily in the Holy Eucharist as we listen and pray over his words in the Sacred Scriptures that open us to the many tasks of improving our relationships with one another, in learning to forget ourselves and love like Jesus did, not in attacking each other or defending ourselves from their attacks.

How sad that until now, so many of the faithful are still hesitant of going back to church celebrations due to misplaced priorities in life while some of us in the clergy continue to twist and bend the words of the Lord to suit their own way of thinking, especially in politics.

When we examine the life of Jesus, there has always been the letting go of everything in him, including his very life that when his Ascension came, he was totally light and free to go back to the Father. This in turn left so much imprints on his followers’ hearts including us today that even we have not seen Jesus, we can feel him present in us and with us.

How willing are we to be witnesses of Jesus, of letting go of our personal agendas and plans that prevent us from leveling up or arising to new heights of relationships with God and with others in Christ? Have a blessed and safe week ahead!

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

This God who connects us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Holy Trinity-B, 30 May 2021
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 ><}}}'> Romans 8:14-17 ><}}}'> Matthew 28:16-20 
From Pinterest.com

If there is anything most difficult and frustrating next to COVID-19 these days, it must be having your internet going “off line” as you lose “connections” with family and friends – and NETFLIX – while isolated in your home due to the pandemic. Making it worst is when it happens on a Saturday evening with no one to even answer your calls at the supposed to be 24/7 hotlines of internet providers that we were flooded with complaints and queries as we could not air our online Masses last Sunday.

As we went back to “stone age” without any internet signal for almost a week, I realized some beautiful things this modern lifestyle we all enjoy with a lot of great patience courtesy of our unreliable telcos. See the terms we use these days that speak of our modern life but at the same time reveal to us something so ancient, so true, and so basic that we take for granted or even disregard – GOD.


Unlike the internet that can be cut off for many reasons, 
our connection with God is permanent --- 
upgraded to the highest level more than 2000 years ago 
in the coming of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit!

God is the original internet, the very first Wi-Fi! He cannot be seen but can be strongly felt. Most of all, God is always around, never goes off line. All we need is make the effort to connect. He has created the whole world and universe as his “Wi-Fi Zone” where we are all interconnected in time and space that we can go back to our past and be healed in him or look into the future and be assured with all of his support.

Unlike the internet that can be cut off for many reasons, our connection with God is permanent — upgraded to the highest level more than 2000 years ago in the coming of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit!

It is in this light that I wish to invite you to join me in reflecting the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity we are celebrating on this first Sunday of the resumption of Ordinary Time.

From shutterstock.com via Aletheia.com

God in our midst

The challenge is not to explain fully 
the mystery of the Trinity, 
of the three Persons in one God 
but how we make that mystery 
a living reality in us and among us.

Before the people of the Bible reflected and wrote about the origins of the world and the universe, they were first preoccupied with their long experience with God. They have felt and have wondered how somebody bigger than them, more powerful yet so loving and caring related with them in a personal way in the many events of their lives employing various signs and wonders that instilled the whole spectrum of feelings like joy and fear, guilt and thanksgiving, commitment and love, and all the other emotions we also go through in our own experiences of him!

And that is the most amazing about his total mystery: we cannot fully know and understand God but we know deep inside us he is true, he is real, he exists. We can prove beyond doubt his very existence and use so many illustrations to explain him but will never be enough.

What matters most is that we “know” him, that he is real, that he is true.

To know in the Jewish thought is not only an intellectual assent but more of a relationship: to know a person is to have a relationship with that person. Hence, every knowledge and recognition of God implies a lifelong commitment and relationship with him!

Moses said to the people: “Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other”

Deuteronomy 4:32-33, 39

Beyond doubt, God is always present, the perfect present in fact as he told Moses at the burning bush, “I Am Who Am” (Ex.3:14) that to say the very word GOD means he exists, a foolishness to claim that “there is no god” (Ps.14:1).

We have come to know him in our many experiences, giving us a sense of “belonging”, of being linked and interconnected like Wi-Fi that we do not see and for all we know, has always been there present in the airwaves, in the atmosphere tapped only recently through our modern communications technology.

The challenge is not to explain fully the mystery of the Trinity, of the three Persons in one God but how we make that mystery a living reality in us and among us.

Photo from kimaldrich.com

To be wrapped by – not to grasp – the mystery

Unlike the internet signals we have discovered only lately in history, God as a reality revealed himself to us in his relationships in the past, reaching its highest point in Christ’s coming that was affirmed and enlightened to the Apostles at the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Jerusalem which continues to our time.

For this Sunday, we use the majestic conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Matthew that has a very strong Trinitarian flavor with the Lord’s command before ascending into heaven.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached, and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Matthew 28:16-20

Last Thursday after Pentecost we celebrated the new Feast of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Priest to remind us of our sharing in the priestly ministry of Jesus when we were baptized. That is, to adore, honor, praise and thank the supreme majesty of God in our prayers. We see this exercise of our common priesthood in Christ in this gospel we have heard: the disciples went to a mountain in Galilee as ordered by Jesus. The mountain indicates the presence of God, conveying a message of praying and coming to him.

The Sign of the Cross is essentially an ascent to a mountain, a prayer in itself to God in the Holy Trinity. When we make the Sign of the Cross, we become the embodiment of God’s mysterious threeness of persons in one God. We affirm his reality as we enter into his mystery of the Trinity by fulfilling Christ’s triple mission given to the apostles.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” To truly experience the mystery of the Trinity is to lose one’s self in Christ as his disciple. In his teachings and very life, Jesus had shown us the importance of forgetting one’s self as his follower, of becoming like a child that whoever wants to be the greatest must be the least and servant of all. The mystery of God is not something we grasp but something we allow to envelop us to be covered with his transcendence in order share in Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Remember that it is not difficult to find God who reveals himself to those truly seeking him by following Jesus on the Cross.

“Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We have seen how since the start of the Church after Pentecost, baptism has been conferred to those who welcomed the Gospel of salvation from Jesus Christ. Through him, with him, and in him, every baptized person is born into God’s life in his Holy Trinity as beloved children of the Father and coheirs of his kingdom in heaven, as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, and as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we become a holy people to God, one again in him as he had deemed since the beginning that was fulfilled in Jesus our Eternal High Priest at the last supper and Good Friday.

“Teach them to observe all I have commanded you.” St. Matthew has been very particular in this aspect in his entire gospel account, of the need to put into practice the Lord’s teachings. It is not enough that people are baptized, that they welcome in faith Christ’s commandment to love: they have to live it up! That is when the Trinity becomes so real and true in us when we live in love, when we are willing to give ourselves in love for others.


In this world that has become so highly sophisticated and complicated as well, when what matters most are fame and popularity, connections that do not last at all, always erratic, never contented with what is most essential like value of persons and life, it is no wonder that even God is slowly being removed from the daily equation of life.

Photo by author, Bangui Windmill, Ilocos Norte, 2011.

This is most especially true in this post-modern generation without absolutes, when anything goes as everything is relative; and worst, when something that cannot be proven as tangibly present and real, then the mystery of the Trinity is even pushed even to the back seats of our lives.

See how so many people are so ashamed of even doing the Sign of the Cross in public!

This solemnity of the Trinity that we celebrate on the first Sunday at the resumption of Ordinary Time reminds us of the daily coming of God into our lives, of his personal relationship with us that is being challenged strongly by the ways of the world that is opposite his ways of love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, simplicity and humility.

Let us ask the help of the Holy Spirit to lead us as “children of God, not slaves” of the world’s selfish ways (Rom. 8:14-17) so we may maintain that strong connections in the Father through Jesus Christ. Amen.

A blessed first week of June 2021 to everyone!

The hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 September 2020
Photo by author, sunset at the Lake of Galilee (Tiberias) in Israel, May 2017.

August has always been a “ghost month” for me since elementary school. Long before I have heard these stories and words of caution against many things in the month of August, I have always dreaded this month when days are grindingly slow.

Specially this year 2020 when the whole month of August felt like the season of Lent when everything was dry and empty, even literally speaking in our churches when the five Sundays of August were like five Good Fridays.

But, for the first time in many years during this pandemic, amid the dryness and emptiness of August 2020, I felt and “found” God anew in his most unique and wonderful characteristic — his hiddenness.

Hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”.

Hiddenness is something both simple and complicated but beautiful and wonderful when we find God in his hiddenness.

Hiddenness of God means more than not being seen per se; it is that feeling with certainty that he is present but, just hiding somewhere. In fact, if God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all!

And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him!

Photo by author, April 2020.

Remember when we were kids and could not find the things that our mother had asked us to get from somewhere in the sala or kitchen or her tocador? She would threaten us with the classic line my generation have all heard and memorized, “Pag hindi mo nakita yan, makikita mo sa akin!”

It is one of our funniest memories of childhood! I am sorry for my English-speaking readers but there is no appropriate translation for this because it is very cultural and even spiritual in nature. Literally translated, it says that if you do not find what you are looking for, you would find it with me. Crazy and insane, is it not?!

I told you, hiddenness of God is both simple and complex but whenever we remember those “sweet, maternal threats”, we laugh and shrug off the experience as we were dead serious then searching for whatever thing mom had asked us because deep in us we knew too well, it must be somewhere there. Sabi kasi ni Inay! (Mom said so!)

That is how it is with God too! We know for sure he is around, he is present. But in hiding because that is how loving God is, like moms and some lovers with surprises for us his beloved.

The Prophet Jeremiah experienced it so well when he wrote:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter, everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding itin, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:7-9

No one can understand this without having experienced such intense kind of love of God or of another person that even if we are pained, we just cannot walk away or leave. More so with God, the most intense lover of all!

At the very center of Jeremiah’s torment is the invincible power of attraction of God. This is also the reason human love – whether for another a friend or a spouse, for the Church or any institution – must always be based on the love of Christ who told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If our love remains in the human level, it can never go deeper or higher making it so sublime, so true, so pure.

That is how God is in his hiddenness who is like a lover who never stops looking for us, calling us, luring us, even seducing us to come to him, search him and once found, we may dwell in his great love; hence, even if we do not “see” him, we keep on following him as we also find him in his hiddenness!

Hiddenness of God, mystery and gift of Easter

This hiddenness of God is both the gift and mystery of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It is a gift because in his hiddenness, God has become closest to us more than ever while at the same time, a mystery because it is in his very hiddenness that we truly find and discover God.

Remember the two disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter afternoon who was accompanied by Jesus while traveling? They did not recognize him but as they talked, their “hearts were burning” as he explained the Scriptures. Then joining them at their meal at sundown upon reaching Emmaus, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it — and the disciples’ eyes were opened, recognizing him as the Lord who immediately disappeared! The two then rushed back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that Jesus had indeed risen.

That is the beauty of hiddenness, its giftedness and mystery that we find God even our beloved who had died or not physically present with us but deep within, we are certain of their presence as being so true and so real.

Hiddenness is a deeper level of relationship coming from one’s heart and soul not dependent on physical presence. This is the reason why upon appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, Jesus asked her not to touch him because from then on, knowing and relating with the Lord need not be physical and corporeal as he used to relate with them before his Death and Resurrection.

All these we must have experienced like when after a friend or a relative had died, that is when we felt growing closer with the person than when he/she was still alive and physically present with us. Or, when we were feeling low and down, we experienced sometimes so amazed at how we have felt the presence even the scent of our deceased loved ones comforting us, assuring us that all would be better.

This quarantine period invites us to experience and discover God anew in his hiddenness through prayers and silence so we can reflect on the many lessons this pandemic is teaching us today. In the darkness and emptiness of this pandemic are grace-filled moments with God hidden in our poverty and sadness, sickness and even deaths around us.

Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Some people have already asked me about what or how would our Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebrations be. They are sad and worried that it must be a very bleak Christmas for everyone with so many out of work.

But, despite this gloom, I tell them that Christmas 2020 would be one – if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have despite forecasts that there would be less of everything, materially speaking.

So often in life, when we have so much material things, that is when we fail to find and experience God.

Recall that in Bethlehem more that 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, God came to us hidden in a stable, on a manger in the darkness of the night.

And do not forget, too, that Christmas is not a date but an event, the very person of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who came to us hidden in a child, who upon becoming an adult, was crucified and died. These are sad and down moments for us but for God, it is his hiddenness, his presence. Let us go and find him again for he continues to come to us in hiddenness. Amen.

Let Christ possess us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIIIth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 28 June 2020
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16 >><)))*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 >><)))*> Matthew 10:37-42
Photo by author, Dome of the Chapel of Nativity at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Jesus continues his lessons to us his disciples being sent to look for the “lost sheep of Israel”, to be not afraid for he is with us in this journey and mission. But, it is not enough that we have Jesus on our side and be present among us: we have to allow Jesus to take possession of us completely!

From having no fear because Jesus is here, Christ now deepens his presence by inviting us to be possessed by him, to be in communion with him.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:37-39
Photo by author, processional Cross at the altar, 2019.

The Mystery of the Cross

Discipleship in Jesus Christ is more than a total allegiance to him who is neither a demanding nor exacting Lord and Master for he does not arbitrarily impose himself upon us.

Nothing like that of subservience but something more lofty because it is wrapped in a mystery — a mystery of love freely given and shared to us by God even if we do not deserve it all. Remember the mystery of the Blessed Trinity four Sundays ago (June 07)?

Ever since, God has never imposed himself upon us, that we should love him back in return for he does not really need our love. He gave us the gift of freedom so that we may love him freely for he never imposes on us.

And here lies the beauty of discipleship, of this relationship we have with God that is based solely on love expressed to us in the most personal manner by giving us his Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the Cross but rose again on Easter. This we were reminded by the Solemnities of the Body and Blood of Jesus and of his Sacred Heart last June 14 and 19 respectively.

Now you see my dear readers the clearer picture of our liturgical celebrations expressing our concrete experiences of being loved by God in Jesus Christ most especially during times of trials and sufferings like in this COVID-19 pandemic.

It is Christ who made the initiative to be one with us in our pains and sufferings; God did not remove our crosses in life but made them holy in his Son Jesus Christ so that every time we go through life’s many difficulties, we share in the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

That is why, we are invited to take and carry our cross every day for it is through the Cross we are saved. It is not enough to simply believe in the person of Jesus but we need to accept and embrace his Cross because it is through which he had won our salvation by dying on it and rising again.

This is easier said than done. It is so difficult to love Jesus more than our loved ones like family and friends. And it is most difficult to love the Lord more than our selves, when we have to let go of our plans and agenda.

Letting go and letting God in itself is already crucifying — but that is when this mystery of Christ’s love and of his Cross deepens further when we lose ourselves in him!

Celebrating Mass without te congregation during the ECQ, March-April 2020.

Possessed by Christ

To be possessed by Jesus is to receive God and his gift of salvation through the mystery of Christ and his Cross. Like our Christian life, proclaiming the gospel carries with it the sign of the Cross of Christ.

We are not asked to reenact or reproduce his Crucifixion nor is Jesus asking us to be suicidal or go against our natural aspirations and dreams.

To be possessed by Jesus means we continue to take care of ourselves without neglecting the needs of others.

To be possessed by Jesus means being generous to others in the same manner Jesus has always been generous to us.

To be possessed by Jesus means to realize that every act of self-giving is really an act of receiving!

Photo by author, Malagos Park, Davao City, 2018.

That is the paradox of the Cross, of discipleship in Christ: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt.10:40).

And that is also where the mystery of Christ’s love deepens because whatever we give is not really ours but Christ’s.

Every time we give love, it is the love of Jesus.

When we are kind and generous with others, it is the kindness and generosity of Jesus we give and share.

When we are patient and understanding to others, it is still the patience and understanding of Jesus in us.

Even if we give and share material things like money, food, clothing… whatever good we share and give are all from Jesus not from us.

And the more we give, the more we receive!

Have you noticed especially during this pandemic how the generous among us are now more blessed?

Wonder no more because you have allowed yourself to be possessed by Jesus Christ!

This is what the woman at Shumen had realized after welcoming the Prophet Elisha into her home in our first reading. She even gave him a room to stay every time he comes for his mission while the Lord provided all her needs, even rewarded her with a son as promised by Elisha.

When we allow Jesus to take over us, when we enter into communion in him and with him in his very life, we become more free to love, we strengthen our relationships with others, we wander less and worry less in life; most of all, we feel lightened in our burdens with the presence of Jesus giving us fullness of life in him.

This is the grace I hope we have seen from this quarantine period, especially those two months of lockdown when were freed from our usual grind and busyness with more time to be silent and still, to pray and reflect on our relationships with God and with others. It was a difficult and very trying period that had given in return a lot of opportunities to others.

Photo by author, Marcos Highway, 2019.

Dead to sin, alive to God

Brothers and sisters: We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:9-11

It has been four months since houses of worship were ordered closed to help stop the spread of the corona virus. Somehow, the lockdown had made us realize the importance of receiving the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist.

But, sacraments are not everything for we have the bigger roles of putting into practice its reality of being the saving presence of Jesus Christ.

Now that lowly life is beginning to go back to its usual grind especially the traffic, soon we might forget again the more important things in life like God and our relationships in our family and friends that it is hoped we have rediscovered during the quarantine period.

That is why I strongly feel the government must now allow Churches to open so the people may experience again God in the sacraments and in our rites and rituals lest they get busy again with so many things only to miss finding anew the meaning of our lives found in silence and stillness before the Cross of Christ.

It is my hope that in this quarantine period, may we find through the Cross of Jesus that when we learn to submit and surrender to him, that is when we truly become free; and, when we lose and give away our lives to him, that is when we gain fullness of life in him. Amen.

A blessed week and a more abundant July to everyone!

And God said… get real, man!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle A, 07 June 2020
Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9 ><)))*> 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 ><)))*> John 3:16-18
Our empty church at the height of the lockdown in March-April 2020.

Two young ladies attended our 4:00 PM Mass last Sunday. Just before the Lamb of God, the other lady collapsed and fell on the floor. Thank God she suffered no injury; later after the Mass I checked on her to see if she was sick or maybe hungry that caused her to collapse.

She said she could find no other reason for feeling dizzy and later collapsing except that they have walked two kilometers from their home under the intense heat of the sun that afternoon to celebrate Mass in the parish. She added that sometimes they also ran so as not to be late.

Then, they told me something that really touched me and broke my heart: “sawa na po kami magsimba sa Facebook Live kaya po kami nagpunta sa Parokya para magsimba” (we are fed up joining Facebook Live Masses that we decided to celebrate Mass at the parish).

As I prayed this week, reflecting on this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, that story from my two parishioners kept on echoing in my head because that is the reality of God in the Holy Trinity: a God who loves because he keeps on giving, without taking anything in return.

The reality of God in the Holy Trinity

Beginning this Sunday as we resumed Ordinary Time in the liturgy, we are celebrating three solemnities successively: Trinity today, Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi next Sunday and Friday after that, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In a sense, these three solemnities remind us that God is with us always; hence, on this Sunday as we celebrate his being God in three Persons, he is also telling us to “get real” with him especially in this age of virtual realities and media manipulations.

Getting real with God is like my two parishioners who walked two kilometers under the sun just to celebrate Mass in the parish because they were fed up with online Masses that cannot capture entirely the experience of God in an actual Mass.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

When we come to think of it, God does not need to prove himself to us. He simply shows us himself. That is why those two parishioners were willing to sacrifice walking two kilometers because they must have received something, must have experienced something from this God who is so personal, relating and so real that they wanted to experience him personally in the actual Mass.

The same must be true with us all who miss going to actual Masses, who continue to pray at home.

Why do we pray, why do we praise God, why do we ask him for mercy and forgiveness for our sins, why do we ask him for so many things, and the list can go on with one essential question: why do we come to God?

Is it not because he comes first to us? He makes himself known to us by giving himself to us, showering us with many blessings both material and spiritual, surprising us with so many wonderful things and sights like sunset and nature that we praise him? Most of all, he is so kind and loving that we feel sorry when we are mean with others, when we choose to do wrong, when we are not that good like him?

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3:16

That is the essence of God, a personal and relating God who gives everything because he loves us. Only God can adequately “speak” of him to show us he exists in ways so marvelous we cannot even dissect yet jump into conclusion right away that “it is the Lord!” like Peter in Lake Tiberias.

When we speak of a Trinity, of Persons, we speak of relationships that presuppose giving and loving. That is God in himself that he poured out this love in him by first creating everything (Father), then giving us his Son to save us after we have turned away from him, and to ensure that we never get lost again and find our way back to him, gave us the Holy Spirit as Advocate and Counselor.

Here we find God is more than a concept or an abstract and structure in our minds that we have construed or created. He has always been there. He has no need of proving himself to us, unlike us who always have to prove ourselves with others.

God is the giver and the gift himself because he is perfect and complete unlike us who can only give gifts and things as representations of our very selves.

And there lies more the mystery of the Holy Trinity — in his being both the gift and the giver, God remains perfect and one even if he keeps on giving and giving without taking anything for himself, a mystery he shares with us by asking us to be like him in giving so we would remain full like him.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa at Carigara, Leyte, 2019.

Something’s got to give

This mystery of the Trinity, of a relationship of persons that only gives yet never depleted or exhausted reveals to us what we must can and must always do as created image of the loving God.

Time and time again we have proven in history and in ourselves that it is only in giving when we truly receive, when we are truly human, truly loving.

This pandemic is telling us in no uncertain ways that our lifestyle of having and gaining has led us to more wanting and more wasting, more destruction and more separation.

God is telling us in the midst of this pandemic that we get real — learn to give and forgive, to let go and let God!

We are all linked together as one, a community of beloved, saved and forgiven though imperfect and sinful. On Mount Sinai Moses saw for himself this God giving everything despite his people being so stubborn, that he asked God to accompany them in their journey.

Since then God has always accompanied us in our journey in life though we always turn away from him, wandering off in the wilderness, following other paths that we end up more lost, more tired.

What are we willing to give up in this life to experience fullness in God and with others?

Getting real is giving up ourselves so we may be filled by God so we may experience life’s fullness in him and in our relationships with others and even with nature. Amen.

Our closed church but open hearts willing to give, willing to sacrifice will enable us to go through this crisis, more complete, more fulfilled.