Won over by Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the
Solemnity of the two pillars
of the Church, St. Peter and St. Paul
who are poles apart in their 
temperament and in their social,
cultural, and religious backgrounds,
help us imitate them in being open
to your grace always, in being open
to your plans so we may set aside
our own agendas in order to be won
over by your Son Jesus Christ. 
Nothing is impossible with you,
dear Father:  
Peter denied Jesus
during the passion while 
Paul persecuted Jesus in
the persons of his disciples;
Peter was impetuous and 
presumptuous but sometimes
hesitant yet solidly loyal to
Christ while Paul was proud 
of his Roman citizenship and of
his being a Pharisee, demanding
his title as Apostle but likewise,
admits his fragility as a "pot of
clay", most unworthy vessel of Christ; 
Peter was attached to his Jewish
roots and convictions but did not resist 
the Holy Spirit in leading him where 
he did not want to go while Paul was 
resolute in being led by the Spirit in
proclaiming Jesus to the gentiles
while deep inside was torn within 
by the resistance and
rejection of his fellow Jews.
Merciful Father,
let your Son Jesus Christ
win over us like what he did
to St. Peter and St. Paul
who both gave their lives as 
a living worship to you,
witnessing your love and mercy,
kindness and majesty;
give us the grace to know Jesus
and love Jesus first so we may
follow him to his Cross 
for your greater glory.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

Easter is openness and emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022
Acts 10:34, 37-43  ><}}}*>  Colossians 3:1-4  ><}}}*>  John 20:1-9 
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House, Baguio City, January 2019.

Easter is one big event composed of so many stories of openness and emptiness that all started and were prepared at Holy Thursday and Good Friday. In fact, our celebration today is the one we have prepared these past 40 days of Lent and what a tragedy – and a foolishness – when people skip Easter!

Easter is so big an event that beginning today until the Pentecost – all 50 days are counted as one big day for we cannot contain all the joy and mysteries of Christ’s Resurrection in just one day or even one week.

Most of all, the joy of Easter is a reality that continues to happen to us everyday as we join Jesus Christ in our daily passover or pasch by remaining open and empty in him, with him, and through him.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

John 20:1-3
Photo from GettyImages/iStockphoto.

One of the many rituals I began having since turning 50 years old was preparing my daily medicines which I put into those little boxes with labels of the day of the week and time like morning, mid-morning, noon, evening and bed-time. For those of my generation, I’m sure you can relate so well that it is like playing sungka when we were kids!

Last Monday as I prepared my meds and reflections for the Holy Week and Easter, I noticed how it has become more difficult to open bottles, boxes and packets of medicines that all come with a reminder, “Do not accept if seal is broken”. In an instance, I realized how we have been so conscious with our safety and privacy these days that everything now goes so tightly sealed with a lot of other safety features to prevent it from contamination and hacking that include food and drinks, gadgets like cellphones and computers, and smart devices. It is more difficult and frustrating for non-techies and forgetful like me when online bank accounts and various social media accounts require many verifications and updating of passwords due to threat of scams and other cybercrimes.

How ironic that the more we are supposed to be free and mobile, when life is meant to be easier and enjoyable but in reality, the more we are locked up to ourselves for fears of being hurt or disrespected, even killed!

And so, instead of opening, the more we close in, the more we hide, the more we become secretive, worst, the more we are imprisoned by our own devices as the Eagles claimed in their classic hit in the 70’s, Hotel California.

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

Easter is opposite: the grace of this event and season is experienced and received when we open ourselves to the many new possibilities in life Jesus himself had opened for us when he rose from the dead conquering evil and sin.

Like that stone in his empty tomb, Jesus had removed everything that have locked us inside our insecurities and fears, sins and failures, pains and hurts in the past so that we can go out freely each day to face the world with joy in order to grow and mature as persons.

Jesus had removed everything that blocks us and prevents us from seeing the many beauties and wonders life offers us found in the people God sends us to express his love and care, mercy and kindness for us.

But, are we also open to him and to life itself?

In the first reading, Peter spoke to the people of Jerusalem, asking them to open themselves to the truth about Jesus as the Christ sent by God to save us from our sins being his witnesses to “what had happened in Judea that started in Galilee” (Acts 10:34).

Recall last night how Luke in his version of the Resurrection recorded the two Angels telling the women who had come to the empty tomb to stop “seeking the living among the dead” (Lk.24:5).

Being open means breaking the news to others that Jesus is risen with our very lives full of joy and hope. Unlike Mary of Magdala and Simon Peter on that early morning of Easter, we need to be empty first of our suppositions and doubts about Jesus Christ. See how they at first doubted the empty tomb but later especially after Pentecost, they all proclaimed the good news of salvation of Jesus Christ.

Being open to Jesus and being empty of doubts of his Resurrection mean that we have to focus more of the things of above, of the more essential than the superficial and fleeting.

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

Please forgive me but I felt so sad with the people during the celebrations these Holy Thursday and Good Friday: so many of us are trapped in those little cellphone cameras spending more time recording the beautiful rites we have had after two years of lockdown. Experience the moments! Experience Jesus Christ, experience the person next to you! Keep those cellphones during celebration of the Sacraments which is the saving presence of Jesus! Remove the “media” and be actually present.

Maybe you have seen that cartoon of the Resurrection before pandemic when Jesus was surprised coming out of the tomb with people waiting for him with their cellphones; yes, it is funny but the joke is on us. We have been trapped and imprisoned by these gadgets that we have stopped living in reality and more in virtual reality so that many of us are no longer grounded, so out-of-touch, even alienated with self, others and sadly, with God.

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above… Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Open yourself to Jesus, empty yourself of all fears and doubts. Be kind and be gentle with yourself. Jesus had forgiven you, forgive yourself for your sins and mistakes in the past if you have confessed these or gone to confessions this Lenten season.

Move on with the present moment, dare to go out and challenge yourself to learn again, to work again, to love again, to dream again! COVID-19 may still be around but Jesus Christ is stronger, so let us rise again from our sickness and diseases! Let us not be afraid of the giant stone covering us for Jesus had removed it so that we can go out and celebrate life in him.


Lord Jesus Christ,
let me celebrate the joy of your
Resurrection not only today but everyday
by being open to your daily coming
 by emptying myself of my pride;
like the disciple whom you love,
let me believe in your rising again
by being contented with the little
signs of life and order you give me,
with the little bursts of joy and light
that assure me that it is you whom
I follow each day.  Amen.

From PPT-Backgrounds.net.

When “ordinary” is “extraordinary”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Week 1 of Ordinary Time, Year II, 10 January 2022
1 Samuel 1:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 1:14-20
Photo by author, 2019.
Glory and praise
and thanksgiving to you,
God our loving Father for 
bringing us to this Monday,
the beginning of our Ordinary
Time in the Church calendar.
Send us your Holy Spirit 
to enlighten our minds and our
hearts not to look down upon 
what we consider as "ordinary" -
ordinary people, ordinary days,
ordinary food, ordinary tasks,
ordinary as same usual fare,
ordinary as less than grand and
special things.
Help us rediscover the true meaning
of "ordinary" which connotes orderliness
from the Latin roots ordo, ordinis for
order and ordinarius for orderly.
Let us live up to our faith in you
during this ordinary days when 
many of life's challenges happen 
like your servant Hannah, the mother 
of your prophet Samuel:

Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren. This went on year after year; each time they made their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord, Peninnah would approach her, and Hannah would weep and refuse to eat. Her husband Elkanah used to ask her: “Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat? Why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

1 Samuel 1:6-8
Keep our eyes and our hearts
open like the brothers Simon and 
Andrew, James and John for your
Son Jesus Christ who comes to us
in the most ordinary days, in the 
most ordinary circumstances like 
casting nets and mending nets.
Let us be on guard, dear God, during
ordinary days and time for these are 
extraordinary moments because you
have made everything and everyone
so special.  Amen.

Advent is making God present

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Third Week of Advent, 15 December 2021
Isaiah 45:6-8, 18, 21-25   ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 7:18-23
Lord Jesus,
like the disciples of John
the Baptist, we are so
tempted to ask you at this
time of pandemic and confusion:
"Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?"
(Luke 7:18)
Yes, dear Jesus,
you are the One 
who is to come because
all these things like healing 
of the sick and proclamation 
of the good news to the poor
are happening before our very
eyes even to these days.
The problem, Lord Jesus,
is our failure or hesitancy and 
sometimes refusal to contribute 
our part in making your presence
known and felt in this time of the
pandemic and election campaigns.
Liberate us, Jesus, 
from the blindness, deafness,
paralysis and darkness that 
prevent us in making your Kingdom
and power felt here on earth;
in the same manner you have used
the pagan king Cyrus, use us, O Lord,
in building your Kingdom here on earth
so that people may finally find that
there is no other God except you alone.
Amen.

Jonah & Martha in the Divine Mercy of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Sr. Faustina Kowalska, 05 October 2021
Jonah 3:1-10  ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:38-42
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
My Lord and my God, Jesus:
as we celebrate today the memorial
of your modern saint, Sr. Faustina Kowalska
whom you have chosen to deliver 
to the modern world your message 
of Divine Mercy which is as old as eternity, 
I have realized too how I have not
fully grown nor matured in you -
in prayer and in spirituality;
like our readings today, I can see myself
so clearly both in the persons of 
Jonah in the first reading and 
Martha in the gospel.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on a sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.

Jonah 3:4-6
Forgive me, Jesus,
for being like your prophet Jonah
in so many times and occasions:
always running away from you,
always reluctant to proclaim your words,
and always thinking of myself;
like Jonah, I pray but as much as
possible, I cannot let go of myself,
of the things I know and feel so much
that I cannot let you control 
everything in me, including me!

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41-42
Forgive me again, Jesus,
for being like your friend Martha
in so many times and occasions:
always busy working for you
without really doing your work,
always looking at the shortcomings
of others without seeing mine,
and always complaining to you
of having my hands filled with 
things I believe you want me to do;
like Martha, I love having you in my life,
always welcoming your coming to me,
but always forgetting the most important
of all, YOU.
Lord Jesus Christ,
help me shed off the Jonah
and Martha in me; let me be like
St. Sr. Faustina to give not from
my wealth but from my want:
too often, I just give you some
of my time, some of my money,
some of my talents, some of myself,
keeping more to maintain my security;
teach, Lord, to give more of my time,
more of my money, more of my talents
 and more of myself so that
I may truly give you the chance
to show me and let me experience
your boundless love, your Divine Mercy.
It is only in totally surrendering
myself to you can I truly pray,
"Jesus, King of Mercy,
I trust in YOU."
Amen. 

Opening our ears and heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIII-B in Ordinary Time, 05 September 2021
Isaiah 35:4-7 ><}}}'> James 2:1-5 ><}}}'> Mark 7:31-37
Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

Since the start of our Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last month, I have always admired the faithful people who continue to celebrate Mass with us outside our church as well as those in other places like Quiapo.

I have nothing against ECQ but I have always questioned the government decision in prioritizing churches in every lockdown when we have always been very strict in our protocols unlike malls and groceries. Most of all, it is during this time of crisis when we must give people the chance to express their faith in going to houses of worship to pray in silence and celebrate with the community while observing protocols.

It is very touching and inspiring to see people – young and old alike, healthy and sickly going to churches every Sunday, catching up with our Lord Jesus Christ even outside, rain or shine.

And that is why our gospel this Sunday is again very timely at this time we have reached the two-million mark in less than a year in the number of those infected with COVID-19 while those in government corruption are also breaking the billion peso mark in anomalous transactions! That is how evil those people are that while many are suffering in the pandemic, there those in government with gall to steal big time.

Has God forsaken us his people, especially at this time we are celebrating our 500th year of Christianization? Of course not!

Jesus Christ continues to come to us everyday not only to cleanse by washing our hearts of evil and sin as we have seen last Sunday in the gospel; today, Mark tells us how Jesus comes also to open our ears in order to hear and listen to his words that eventually open our hearts to freedom and salvation.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”

Mark 7:31-34

“Jesus went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into Decapolis

Of the four evangelists, Mark is the only one who portrays Jesus as always on the go without even telling us details of his itinerary nor of the places he visited and people he had met. As the first gospel account written, Mark wrote in straight news style as he felt the urgency of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.

However, when Mark gives even the slightest details of the places and people in the journeys of the Lord, it always means something else. Like in our gospel today.

Photo by author, Sea (Lake) of Galilee, 2017.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.

Mark 7:31

You will recall that in July when Jesus sent his disciples to their first missionary journey, they were told to seek the “lost sheep of Israel”, to not go to pagan and Samaritan lands.

Today, it is the Lord himself who left Tyre and Sidon in northern Israel to go into the pagan territories of Decapolis that literally means “ten cities”.

Here we find the universality of Christ’s mission, not just for his fellow Jews. His love is so encompassing covering all the peoples of all time, then and now.

Jesus seeks us out who are in totally alien territory in life like this pandemic because he loves us.

When we look back and reflect in our lives, we find so many instances in the past how it was in the most foreign and lost situations when we have actually found God, is it not?

Reflecting further in this scene in the Decapolis, Mark is reminding us how we could also be those people who have brought the deaf-mute to Jesus, begging him to heal the man.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.

Mark 7:32

Those people who have begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute are the same people who went out of their ways since the start of the pandemic helping others in their many needs and sufferings, those people who sacrificed time, talent and treasures for the less fortunate like the community pantry.

They were also those elder brothers and sisters who have helped their younger siblings to learn and thrive in the new mode of learning online that began last year.

Those people who begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute were also the same medical health frontliners who have died or still continue to serve us despite our callous government officials led by the health secretary.

Though there were so many abusive people last year -mostly civil servants and police officials who have notoriously made headlines – there were still more generous and kind people who made Jesus present to someone in need during this pandemic.

How wonderful it is to realize – and relish this Sunday as we find ourselves in this unusual and surreal situation of the COVID-19 pandemic that Christ is also with us, staying with us, speaking to us.

But, are we listening to him? Are we not also the same deaf-mute who needs Christ’s healing?

Photo by author, Caeasaria in northern Israel, 2017.

“Ephphata” – Be opened!

Notice another significant detail that Mark has mentioned in this gospel scene. Aside from identifying the Lord’s coming to the pagan territory of Decapolis, Mark surprisingly tells us in details the unique and unusual manner of healing by Jesus there.

There must be something very important in this unique healing by Jesus whereas before, he would just lay his hands on the sick or most usually, he would merely speak. Remember that we could also be this deaf needing Christ’s healing.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

Mark 7:33-35

Opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves.

This is why Jesus “took him off by himself from the crowd.”

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Prayer in fact is an awareness of our presence that leads us to God’s presence. Unless we learn to separate from others and the usual ordinariness of our lives characterized by madness and toxicity in everything, we can never experience the presence of God in Jesus Christ in us and among us as well as in the sacraments and prayers.

That putting of Jesus of his finger into the man’s ears and touching his tongue with a spit indicate the personal encounter of the Lord with each of us, of how he would reach out to us daily to feel and experience his presence but we are always “out-of-touch”.

It is said that our heart is the shape of two ears put together.

I believe so. Opening to God is opening our ears to Jesus speaking to us daily. He has been trying so hard to converse with us but we hardly notice him around us because of those ubiquitous ear pods and headphones always stuck into our ears. We shut ourselves from the world to be into our own world, separated from everyone including God. We would rather listen to influencers and personal playlists that confirm things we believe as true, no more room for others especially the poor and marginalized as James noted in his Letter we have heard proclaimed in the second reading.

Beginning this Sunday, let us set ourselves apart from the rest to open ourselves to Jesus to see his light and hear his words so we can walk his path of joy and peace because he is “the Way” (Jn.16:6).

Let our hearts be strong, not to fear this crisis because God has fulfilled his promise prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading on Christ’s coming with “vindication and divine recompense to save us” (Is.35:4).

Have a blessed first week of September!

Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.

Opening to God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 12 February 2021
Genesis 3:1-8     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Mark 7:31-37
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, 07 January 2021.

Listening to your words as the day unfolds, dearest Lord, I have realized that not all “opening” is good after all. Sometimes we want to open so many things in ourselves that only lead to opening to sin and evil, instead of opening to truth and peace and justice found only in you.

Teach us, O God our loving Father, to open only to you and completely trust you in your opening to us because it is when we start opening other possibilities like gaining more knowledge, more life, more of ourselves that we actually start closing out from you like in the story of the fall of man.

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked. When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:6-7, 8
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

So many times in life, dear God, we cannot accept other’s openness because we are so closed to ourselves. There are times that instead of going out into the open, we hide from you as if we can conceal what is exposed and open.

Open our eyes to see you in ourselves, to see ourselves in you and in others too.

How funny that in the gospel today, your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, healed a deaf man by opening his ears. And in doing so, he first “took him off by himself away from the crowd” (Mk.7:33), then healed him by looking up to heaven, groaning with the word “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”).

Ultimately, Lord, it is always easy to open our eyes and see or, open our ears and hear without really opening ourselves, opening our hearts that connect all senses into our whole being.

What matters most which we all pray today is to open us, O God, to you completely so that we may see and listen with our hearts inclined to you. Amen.

Advent: A parable of our life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-B (Gaudete Sunday), 13 December 2020
Isaiah 62:1-2, 10-11 >><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 >><)))*> John 1:6-8, 19-28
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday at the Parish, Advent 2019.

Advent is a parable of our lives. Three months ago we reflected every Sunday the many parables of Jesus and we have learned that a parable is a simple story that contains deep meanings. Just like Advent: a season that comes in our church calendar every year that we take for granted not realizing the deeper meanings it teaches in the four weeks before Christmas or the Second Coming.

On this third Sunday of Advent also known as “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday”, joy is the motif of all our readings for indeed, we are moving too closely to Christmas – and parousia. The lovely shades of pink remind us that we have to be alert to experience the advent of Jesus. Once again, its precursor John the Baptist guides us this Sunday in grasping the parable of Advent during his time and in our own time.


We are all a John the Baptist -
a reminder of Christ present among us.

All four evangelists mention John the Baptist in their gospel version before telling the ministry of Jesus Christ; but there is something so different with the approach of the author of the fourth gospel in introducing the Lord’s precursor.

In the fourth gospel, he is simply called “John”, omitting his title “the Baptist” for he is the only John in this gospel. The author of the fourth gospel never named himself preferring to be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” or simply “beloved disciple”. We learned his name is John through the other three gospel accounts, that he is the brother of another apostle James, both being the sons of Zebedee.

Why the author of the fourth gospel never identified himself with his name John is another topic; what matters to us is that there is only one man named John in his gospel and that is no other than John the Baptist whom he presented in the most unique manner like an official pronouncement, full of solemnity by declaring that this “man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn.1:6-7).

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 20 September 2020.

Here we find John the Baptist clearly being placed by the author of the fourth gospel in relation to the Christ that is essentially the meaning of our being a baptized Christian — we are another John to remind people of Jesus present among us. It is one of life’s parables we always miss, something that can elicit joy in everyone.

And the more we find ourselves like John the Baptist in his mission, the more we experience Jesus closest to us too!


Life is a perpetual Advent
of Jesus who needs a 
John the Baptist in us.

After formally introducing to us John as man sent from God to testify for the Christ, our gospel today skipped the rest of the Prologue and jumped into the mission of John to introduce the ministry of Jesus Christ. See how in a few verses we find transitions from John to Jesus then to us.

Painting by Raphael of John preaching in the wilderness; photo from wikicommons.

John said: “I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said. I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John 1:23, 26-27

John is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. But, at the same time, he is the continuation of the Old into the New as he stood present pointing to Jesus Christ who had come and would come again!

This we find in his last reply to the query of the Pharisees: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This is the parable of Advent: it is a perpetual event, something that keeps on happening even in our time that needs a John the Baptist to remind us that Jesus had come, that he is coming and most of all, he is come!

Aside from preparing others for Jesus Christ’s coming – we need to be like John the Baptist who also prepared himself for his Lord and Master!

In telling us that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize”, John humbly prepared himself to recognize and receive Jesus when he identified the Lord while coming to him for his baptism as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, saying “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me'” (cf. Jn.1:29-30).

But most of all, we find the most beautiful lesson of John in preparing for the Lord’s coming when like him, we allow Jesus to reveal himself to us, always saying “He must increase; I must decrease” as he taught his disciples asking him about Jesus’ ministry.

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

Advent is being alert
and open to the Holy Spirit
who always comes with Jesus.

Advent is a parable of life when we hope in joy and humility for the Second Coming of the Lord who also continues to come to us in so many ways we never expect. It is a time of prayer and reflections when we try to become more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading we are reminded of the exact words of the Prophet that Jesus proclaimed in their synagogue when he came home to preach that,

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

Isaiah 61:1-2
Photo by author, Advent 2018.

After proclaiming those beautiful words of the prophet, while people were all eyes on him, Jesus declared “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That is the power of the word of God, it is always effective and performative as the very sign of his presence among us. That is why Advent is the season when we are encouraged to cultivate that habit of praying the Sacred Scriptures that cleanse our hearts to be empty and ready to receive Christ in his coming. We encounter God first in his words filled with parables that enrich our lives.

To be open for the word of God and to the Holy Spirit means being alert that Jesus is “one among you whom you do not recognize” as John had told us.

Like John, it is finding the “whole” of God’s plan for us from the Old Testament to the New Testament and into our own time in the Church. It is the joy of discovering in this myriad of events and happenings, there is a God personally coming to us, loving us in the most personal way.

Like John, we are sent from God to give testimony to Jesus who had come, will come again and always comes.

That is the parable of Advent: when we realize deep within that we are able to rejoice and be glad to be alive to meet Jesus. May we heed to the words of St. Paul in the second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Have a blessed and joyful week!

Photo by author, Advent 2018.

Disturb me to follow you, Jesus!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, 30 November 2020
Romans 10:9-18     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Matthew 4:18-22
Photo by author (May 2019), shore of Galilee at Capernaum where Jesus called the brothers Peter and Andrew to come and follow him.

Praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ, on this second day of Advent you have given us the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle known as the “protoclete” or protokletos, the first to be called to follow you because he was also the first to entertain be “disturbed” by you.

Grant us this grace of being disturbed, of being moved within in a positive manner to seek out the truth like St. Andrew.

The moment he first saw you when John the Baptist identified you as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” he was there, moved in his heart and so disturbed that he asked you, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  And when you invited him and his companion to “come and see,” he believed you are the Messiah (Jn.1:35-41)!

I wonder what did he see in you, in your home, Lord Jesus that convinced him right away you are the Christ? What disturbed him?

Then in the wilderness as you tested Philip and asked him where you could buy food to feed more than 5000 people, Andrew again felt his heart so disturbed with the situation they were into that he was moved to bring to you a boy with five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish but at the same time, sincerely admitted to you how disturbed he was when he asked you, “what good are these for so many?” 

You never answered his question, dear Jesus, but Andrew remained with you and the crow until the great miracle happened when everyone was fed and satisfied with so many leftovers (Jn.6:1-15)!

St. Andrew must have been more disturbed than ever with what he had seen and experienced that he came to follow you more closely like his brother Peter!

For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

Romans 10:10

St. Andrew always believed in his heart, always allowed his heart to be disturbed with your words, with your presence, with your feelings.

And he never kept to himself those stirrings in his heart, always asking you or voicing out what he felt or thought no matter how crazy or even stupid they may be!

It was because of this openness with himself to you with his inquiries that you were made known as the Christ that eventually in his death, he chose to be crucified in the most different manner because he had truly owned your cross!

Give me that same grace, dear Jesus, to be honest in recognizing the inner stirrings in my heart no matter how crazy they may be, always telling these to you as part of carrying my cross. Like St. Andrew, may I have the courage to lovingly, faithfully and sincerely embrace your cross by expressing to you always whatever disturbs me that in the process you are more revealed in me and to others. Amen.

Following Jesus on the road

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 November 2020
Photo by author, Petra at Jordan, May 2019.
"As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging"
So many times I see myself in him
blinded by sins
and false securities
preferring to remain
at the safe side
at home with my comfort zone;
but soon 
I get tired of begging
of being blind
deciding to leave the roadside
to finally meet Jesus,
asking him to restore my sight.
O what a scene to behold
of the beautiful journey
that unfolds
only if I go 
to the middle of the road
to be with the Lord! 
Photo by author, a sycamore tree in Jericho, May 2019.
"At that time Jesus came to Jericho;
but Zacchaeus was short in stature"
So often in life
Jesus truly intends to pass
through wherever we are
only to test
if we would dare
to rise above our selves
to see and meet him there;
the key is to admit reality
that we are always short
in moral standing
but never in humility
if we can truly
forgo everything
then we see its beauty
when from the middle of the road
the Lord looks up to us
calling us to come down
for he had come to be with us!
Photo by Mr. Roland Atienza, 12 June 2019.
This is the most lovely 
thing I have heard
the Lord said:
"Those whom I love,
I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door
and knock.  If anyone hears my voice
and opens the door, then I will 
enter his house and dine with him,
and he be with me."
The Lord always comes,
bidden and unbidden,
but, are we open to meet him,
willing to leave
the roadside, climb a tree
if needed or turn the knob
to see and meet him?
Yes, Jesus is always passing by,
do not let yourself be left behind.