Praying for respect and paying respect

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 07 May 2021
Acts 15:22-31   <'(((><  +  ><)))'>   John 15:12-17
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Today, O Lord, you give us some lessons about respect. And so, I pray first for the grace of respecting others and secondly that I learn to pay respect to the highest order of all, to you our Lord and our God!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, 
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard 
from the Father."
(John 15:14-15)

Thank you dear Jesus in taking us as your friends, as having a special relationship with you that is deeply personal, for bringing us closer to the Father too.

How I love to think in this part of your teaching the word friend: if you remove the letter “r”, what is left is the word “fiend” or enemy. For me, the letter “r” stands for “respect” that literally means in Latin to “look again” or “re specere” (from specere came spectacles, spectacular).

Whenever we look again at the other person, we remember he/she is a brother/sister; failure to look again is when we disrespect, when we refuse to recognize him/her as a brother or a sister or a loved one. And that is when sins occur: infidelity, betrayal of trust and everything.

Teach me to respect always at all times like you, to always look again, and again and again at the other person as a friend, a beloved with honor and dignity, who must be held with respect and esteem because everyone is an image and likeness of God.

If I cannot look at the other person as a friend or a brother or a sister, then, let me see you, dear Jesus, in him/her so I may be respectful like your Apostles in the first reading when they decided “not to place on the gentile converts any burden beyond what is necessary” (Acts 15:25). The apostles looked again and again to finally see your face, O Lord, among the gentiles being your friends and beloved too!

This is the highest respect we can pay to everyone – to see you dear Lord in their face, in their person so that like the Apostles, we may be respectful to God, especially to the working of the Holy Spirit among us.

How lovely were the apostles to recognize and paid their highest respect to you when they declared “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us” (Acts 15:28).

It is the highest respect to see the hand of God in our every endeavor.

And this I ask and pray from you, Jesus, in the same manner that you have told us everything from the Father. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Praying to rediscover JOY

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 06 May 2021
Acts 15:7-21   ><)))*>  ><)))'>  ><)))*>   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to rediscover joy. Teach me to be joyful again. Most of all, complete my joy in you, sweet Jesus as you have promised us before you were betrayed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's  commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:10-11)

You know very well, Lord, how hard our lives have been since this pandemic happened last year. Aside from the difficulties and sufferings of getting sick, of avoiding COVID-19 came the many days and nights of loneliness and depression, of feelings of being alone and not cared for. Even forgotten.

Indeed, as experts claim, 2021 is the time when we are all “languishing” – not really depressed but not having zest in life, unproductive, and yes, lacking in joy.

And if we lack joy, it means only one thing: we do not have you because we do not love truly. Or at all.

Teach us to love again, Lord. To continue loving others without distinction, especially those who are not like us. Open our eyes to see the way you see everyone, that no matter what is one’s color or gender or belief or background in life is blessed and saved in you alone.

Saint Peter is absolutely right at the opening of the Council of Jerusalem in our first reading today.

"On the contrary,
we believe that we are saved 
through the grace of the Lord Jesus,
in the same way as they."
(Acts 15:11)

Only you, O Lord Jesus and no one else or nothing else can ever complete our joy for it is only in truly loving you through others, especially those difficult to love, that we truly love and thus become truly joyful.

And that is when our joy becomes complete. Amen.

Maturing in Jesus our true vine

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 05 May 2021
Acts 15:1-6  ><)))'> + <'(((><   John 15:1-8
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father 
is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch 
that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does
he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  
You are already pruned 
because of the word that I spoke to you."
(John 15:1-3)

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ, for finding me, taking me, and making me a branch of you our true vine. Most of all, thank you that I have been “pruned” because of the word you spoke to me.

But, what does it really mean to be pruned?

Yes, it has been a very, very long and tedious journey with you, Lord Jesus. And just maybe, I have grown and been fruitful after all those years in having identified with you closely and with your values and ideals. However, it is not enough.

I know… the pruning never stops until it is only you who is seen in me as I fade from the scene.

I could feel my need for more pruning, Lord, especially at times when I still insist on myself, on what I believe, on what I see as most important for you and for others.

Like those early Jewish converts to Christianity, particularly those who belonged to the party of Pharisees insisting that Gentile converts must be circumcised and observe other prescriptions of the Mosaic law (Acts 15:5).

There are still many things to be pruned in me, a lot of trimmings here and there that need to be cut off and removed until the “me” in me is totally gone, and only you remain.

Preparing for a Mass by the shore of Lake Tiberias in Capernaum, 2017.

Pruning is painful, Lord, but as time goes by, as the Father prunes me unknowingly in daily prayers and striving to be patient and better person, perhaps it is slowly bearing fruit as I begin to see you more clearly in my life.

And all the more the pruning must continue until everything becomes new in me!

Keep me open to you, dear Jesus, like the Apostles and the presbyters who met together to see about the issues raised by the Jewish converts to Christianity in the first reading.

Let me be open to other possibilities of meeting you, of sharing you, of working in you and with you by denying some of my natural appetites and tendencies.

Give me the grace to gladly and willingly give up whatever I hold on and keep that is contrary to you so that in the end, You are are my only joy and consolation, O dear Jesus. Amen.

Are we proud of our love for God?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 04 May 2021
Acts 14:19-28   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:27-31
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King, 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"but the world must know that 
I love the Father and that I do 
just as the Father has commanded me."
(John 14:31)

Your words today, dear Jesus are so striking. It was your “last supper” with your disciples before you were betrayed and then crucified. You were reassuring your disciples, telling them – and us – not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid as you give as your peace (Jn.14:27).

Those last words you have said struck me deep inside as a person and as your disciple. It is a wonderful feeling to be in a loving relationship with God our Father through you, in you, and with you. But, it made me feel so ashamed too at the same time of how I take for granted this relationship with the Father.

Am I also proud like you, dear Jesus, in making “the world must know that I love the Father”?

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to be willing to carry my cross and be crucified for what is true and just, for what is faithful and loving.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to keep on praying even if nothing good seems to be happening in our lives.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to let me surrender myself to your will and power, to let go and let God by setting aside my own plans and agenda in life so that his will is done not mine.

Making the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is letting myself decrease so that you may increase in me!

Grant me, O Lord, the zeal and courage of St. Paul in the first reading who continued preaching your good news despite his being stoned and rejected by the people in the cities they have visited. How amazing of all that after being driven out from the city, St. Paul even came back to preach your gospel of peace and mercy!

 They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in faith, saying,
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God."
(Acts 14:22)

Shame on me, O Lord! Please forgive me for never thinking like you that “the world must know that I love the Father” through my life of witnessing, of sacrifices, and of loving service to others.

Forgive me, sweet Jesus, in backing out from the mission and work you have entrusted me when I face some discomforts and pains, when rejected and unaccepted or even disliked by people I try serving.

Grant me the gift of perseverance like St. Paul and St. Barnabas in proclaiming your good news in words and in deeds, in season and out of season. Make me proud of you and the Father always, dear Jesus, by being more loving and humble with others. Amen.

From a Facebook post.

Prayer to deal with life’s many questions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Feast of St. Philip and St. James the Less, Apostles, 03 May 2021
1 Corinthians 15:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 14:6-14 
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, January 2021.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught me in my many experiences in life that a man is known by the questions he asks, not by the answers he gives. So often, the answers we have are always wrong or simply not true at all.

But, if we ask the right questions, even if there are no immediate answers or if we do not fully grasp and understand especially your answer, it is always more than enough than everything we need to know and realize in life.

So many times, we are afraid to ask you because we think more of our selves than of the truth that would set us free. Help us imitate your apostle St. Philip who dared to ask you again something you have been teaching them – and us! – yet have not fully understood yet. It is even doubtful if he really got what you meant when you answered him during the last supper which is exactly the same thing with us until now who forget and could not master the things you have been teaching us.

Philip said to Jesus, 
"Master, show us the Father, 
and that will be enough for us."
Jesus said to him,
"Have I been with you for so long a time 
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works."
(John 14:8-10) 

Give us, Lord, that same courage and humility of St. Philip to keep on asking things we cannot understand, things we cannot dismiss, things that keep on bugging us because that in itself is a grace from you so that we may know you more, so we can love you more, and most of all, follow you more closely.

If St. Philip had not asked you that question – even if you seem to have sighed in exasperation, did you, Lord? – even us until know would have not realized that you are indeed the em-bodi-ment and the in-carna-tion of the Father in human form.

On the other hand, there is another question that we most of the time avoid confronting: the need to address difficult situations in our lives that affect our interpersonal relationships and the way we live out your gospel, Lord Jesus Christ.

In writing to us a “pastoral letter”, St. James the Lesser tried answering the many questions about our practice of faith that boils down to the most essential which is to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (James 1:22).

Likewise, it was St. James with St. Peter (Acts 12:17) who tried to face and resolve the questions about the difficult relations between the Christians of Jewish origin and those of pagan origin regarding the integration of Jewish practices and beliefs into Christianity during the Council of Jerusalem:

After they had fallen silent, 
James responded,
"It is my judgment, therefore,
that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles
who turn to God, but tell them by letter
to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage,
the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
For Moses, for generations now,
has had those who proclaim him in every town, 
as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath."
(Acts 15:13, 19-21) 

As we celebrate their feasts today, we ask for their intercessions, Saints Philip and James the Lesser that like them, we may also dare to ask and address questions especially when they blur our relationships and proper understanding of you and the Father so that your light, dear Jesus, may shine more than ever in our lives. Amen.

Photo by author, ICMAS-Theologate Chapel, 2020.

Prayer to work centered on the Lord like St. Joseph

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, 01 May 2021
Genesis 1:26-2:3   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, site of St. Joseph’s workshop in Nazareth beneath the chapel in his honor, May 2017.

God our loving Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of St. Joseph whom you have called to be the husband of Mary and the foster father of your Son Jesus Christ here on earth. In him, you have shown us the value of sharing in your work to nurture earth and its resources.

Most of all, in St. Joseph you have taught us to work centered on our Lord Jesus Christ by integrating work with family and with fatherhood to become truly a provider not only of food, clothing and other material needs but most of all in providing love and guidance to the family.

In St. Joseph, the motivation and the purpose of work is solely to serve Jesus Christ which is very evident in the gospel today.

Jesus came to his native place
and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son?"
(Matthew 13:54-55)

How beautiful that in the “wisdom and mighty deeds” displayed by Jesus, the people remembered St. Joseph the carpenter – what a marvelous job he must have done in forming and providing for our Lord!

He must have worked diligently for you, dear God, never focusing attention to himself so unlike these days when we have categories of workers like those doing “white collar jobs” and “blue collar jobs”.

Dearest God our Father, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic when so many people have lost work and are now suffering the adverse effects of quarantine, we pray in the most special way for our workers to please protect them from all harm and sickness especially those working in the hospital.

We pray for those trying to find work these days so they may continue to provide for their families.

Photo by author, Chapel of St. Joseph, Nazareth, Israel, May 2017.

Open our hearts on this year of St. Joseph as proclaimed by Pope Francis last December 8 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as patron of the universal church:

The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!

Pope Francis, “Patris Corde” #6

O most chaste St. Joseph, pray for us! Amen.

The need to be one in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 30 April 2021 (St. Pius V, memorial)
Acts 13:26-33   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:1-6
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me."
(John 14:1)

O dearest Lord Jesus Christ, how can we not let our hearts be troubled these days?

How can we not be troubled and worried with this prolonged pandemic and resulting quarantine made worst with our government’s inefficiency and incompetence, thriving in lies and malice against everybody who is not on their side and political color?

How can we not be troubled, Lord, when more and more people are sinking into depression, languishing, losing hope and meaning in this life?

Like your apostles at that time, we are trembling in fear as to what will happen to us, to our jobs, to the schooling of children, to our sick family members, to our very selves as well as to our country and its future.

We know that now is the time to be ever closer to you, Lord Jesus – to be one with you, to be one in you but, like Thomas, we do not know the way.

Help us in our unbelief and increase our faith, Lord!

Most of all, let us imitate Thomas your Apostle who dared ask you the simplest question we are afraid to ask because we also fear your answer might demand courage from us to totally identify ourselves to your values and attitudes being the Way, the Truth and the Life yourself.

Our hearts will always be troubled unless we have that deep relationship in you and with you, Jesus.

Like Paul in the first reading, give us that sense of firmness and certitude in your very person so that we may firmly and joyfully proclaim your Good News of salvation in these most troubling times of pandemic and divisions among us your people. Amen.

Praying for my “His Story”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 29 April 2021
Acts 13:13-25   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><     John 13:16-20
Photo by author, Caesarea in northern Israel, May 2017.

I love that word “history” – somebody said the word stands for “His story”, the story of Jesus Christ’s coming to us, of the eternal Son of God entering our temporal world, giving meaning and fulfillment to our lives.

History in Filipino becomes more deeper and profound in meaning as “kasaysayan” that is, “meaning and sense” from the root “saysay” or “kahulugan” or “katuturan”.

All these came to me, dear God, as I prayed before you, as if listening to Paul in the first reading when he narrated to his listeners your salvation history, of how you have acted in the past to bring everything to fulfillment in the coming of Jesus Christ.

What a beautiful image of Paul standing to preach by motioning his hand, reminding us all of our “His story” in our own lives:

So Paul got up, 
motioned with his hand,
and said, "Fellow children of Israel
 and you others who are God fearing, listen."
(Acts 13:16)

So many times, Lord, I have failed seeing you present in my life, especially when you have saved me from so many dangers in the past without me knowing it.

So many times, Lord, you have given me with so much that I have never asked but still, I ask for more from you.

So many times, Lord, I have disregarded you, have forgotten you in my many sins, turning away from you as if you have ever left my side but still there, offering me your mercy and forgiveness to start anew.

Thank you, dear God our Father through Jesus Christ your Son who made your presence so real in our lives, for being with us in every here and now. In Jesus, you have assured us loving Father of your presence not only in the past and present but even in the future by being one in him in the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, Lord, for being present in me, in weaving my story into your story we now call History. Amen.

God sets us apart to bring us together

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 28 April 2021
Acts 12:24-13:5   ><)))"> ><)))"> ><)))">   John 12:44-50
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, 2019.

Your words again, O God our Father today speak of separation – but this time not because of persecution or by any human design whether good or bad. Today you are teaching us a different kind of being separated for you and your mission in order to be one with you and your people.

How amazing, indeed, are your works, Lord, because when you set us apart from family and friends to be with you, to fulfill your mission, you actually bring us together with our loved ones in you!

Just like what you did with Barnabas and Saul.

After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,
they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark.
While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting,
the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them."
Then, completing their fasting and prayer, 
they laid hands on them and sent them off.
(Acts 12:25, 13:2-4)

Come to us, Lord Jesus!

Be our light in the many darkness of our lives, in the many “separations” we have had in our lives not as you have planned for us.

Enlighten our minds and our hearts to see distinctly when we have to be set apart as you plan, not according to our own ideas and agenda.

Sometimes it happens too that we refuse to be set apart from others and from situations simply because we cannot let go.

Be the one to set us apart from others and from work and routines to do your work and mission.

Make us realize your words, dear Jesus that though you and the Father who sent you are apart and distinct from each other, you are both one in perfect unity.

And that is the beauty when it is you who set us apart in order to be one with you and with others. Amen.

Praying to gather those scattered

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 27 April 2021
Acts 11:19-26   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 10:22-30
Photo by author, October 2020.

Your words today, O God our Father, speak both of scattering and of gathering: of how we must respond when the world scatters us and when we must join you to gather those scattered.

Those who had been scattered by the persecution 
that arose because of Stephen went as far as
Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch,
preaching the word to no one but Jews.
There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them,
however, who came to Antioch and began to speak 
to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.
The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number
who believed turned to the Lord.
(Acts 11:19-21)

Teach us to trust your amazing ways, dear God, when we are disturbed, when we are thrown off-balanced from our usual ways of doing things like when the early Church was persecuted in Jerusalem, it became a blessing in disguise and led to its quickly spreading to other parts of the known world.

But at the same time, help us realize that every time the world destabilizes and scatters us, let us take it also as our cue to gather one another closer to you.

Like Barnabas who was sent to Antioch to encourage and strengthen those early followers of Jesus Christ who were scattered even among many gentiles.

Most of all, let us go out of our way like Barnabas to find and gather those lost and scattered like Saul who was doubted with his conversion. Help us to bring home to you and to one another those who have been separated from us due to various reasons.

Let us be the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd gathering the lost sheep into one flock.

Merciful Father, with so many problems and sufferings we have been going through with this pandemic that had scattered us literally and figuratively speaking, give us the grace to gather once again our family and friends, to let go of our many differences, and to forgive those who have wronged us through Christ our Lord. Amen.