Called without exception

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of Sts. Jude and Simon, Apostles, 28 October 2021
Ephesians 2:19-22   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 6:12-16
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, the 12 Apostles at the facade of the Basilica Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey in Barcelona, Spain, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
O God our Father in sending
us your Son Jesus Christ who 
calls us to be his disciples and 
collaborators without exception, 
regardless of our backgrounds;
how wonderful it is to ponder on 
this feast of his two Apostles, 
St. Simon and St. Jude that it has 
always been people who interested
him, not social classes or labels!

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.

Luke 6:12-13
Simon who was called the Zealot 
came in tenth place according to
Luke's narration of their order of
calling followed by Judas the son
of James also known as Jude to
distinguish him from Judas Iscariot
the betrayer.  How wonderful it is 
to meditate on the call of Simon
the Zealot - if he was really a member
of those nationalist Jews against
Roman rule in Israel, that puts him
directly opposite, a world apart from
Matthew the tax collector who was
a collaborator of the Romans!
It is so amazing, Lord Jesus that you
have united these men together despite
their varied backgrounds and marked
differences!
And so, we pray, too,
that we may transcend our
differences with our other co-
workers in your vineyard, 
that despite our individualities,
we come into unity in your name,
in your mission, in your call,
Lord Jesus Christ.
Transform the "zeal" burning in us
in our previous preoccupations and
advocacies to become a "burning zeal"
for you and your gospel of salvation;
may we see more of you, Jesus, our Caller
than your call to unite us in the mission
you have entrusted us.  Amen.

“Praying” to “pray”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 27 October 2021
Romans 8:26-30   ><)))'> <'(((>< + ><)))'> <'(((><   Luke 13:22-30
Photo by Ms. Eunice Vergara in Victoria, Laguna, 2020.
Thank you very much, dear God
for the grace of being able to pray,
of being able to reach out to you,
to listen to you, and be with you;
indeed, "we do not know how to 
pray as we ought, but the Spirit
intercedes with inexpressible 
groanings" (Rom. 8:26).
How silly and sad when so often
we believe so much in ourselves
that we pray on our own abilities
that we always demand you to take
cognizance of this feat, not realizing
we are merely responding to you
who has always been communicating 
with us ever since!
So many times, we pray and tell
you so many things that we need, 
asking and demanding you for everything
forgetting that prayer is more of
simply being with you, listening to you
because you know everything we need.
And so, dearest God our loving Father,
today I pray that you let me pray often,
that I grow deeper in my relationship with
you because that is what prayer really is;
let me not be concerned with other things
like numbers and quantities, of whether
many or few will be saved like that man 
in the gospel today because 
what really matters is I strive to grow 
in knowing you, loving you, and
obeying you so that in the end, 
I am conformed to you and in you 
through Jesus Christ your Son. 

For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30
I pray, O Lord, that my life
becomes a prayer in itself,
a oneness in you,
now and forever.
Amen.

Surprise us with hope, Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 October 2021
Romans 8:18-25   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 13:18-21
From Pinterest.com.
Today we share in St. Paul's
outburst of joy in you, O God
our loving Father when he claimed
"the sufferings of this present time 
are as nothing compared with 
the glory to be revealed for us"
(Rom. 8:18).  Like Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI, we are absorbed
in the reflection of St. Paul about hope:  

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that see for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

Romans 8:24-25
So true, indeed, loving Father:
we hope because while we do not see,
we still believe and we have faith
 in you through Jesus Christ
your Son and our Lord;
teach us to grow deeper in our
hope in you not just as a feeling
or a desire nor a wait-and-see
attitude but more as a conviction
in Christ that when worst comes to worst,
we hold on to you because only
you will remain even in the end,
loving us, believing in us,
transforming us.
Let us persevere in Christ with
our commitments no matter how hard
and even painful specially in this time
of pandemic and in moments of severe
trials and tribulations when people fail us;
like the mustard seed that grows into
a leafy plant providing branches for birds
and yeast that leavens a dough,
let us be surprised with your grace
of hope, Lord, by enabling us to see
light even in darkness,
life even in sickness and death
because to truly hope is to
trust and believe in you alone,
O God, who is our very life.
Amen.

Praying against blindness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 25 October 2021
Romans 8:12-17   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 13:10-17
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father 
for this gift of another Monday;
help us to live in solidarity
with your Son Jesus Christ
as brothers and sisters, 
heirs of your kingdom in heaven
that in our work and studies,
we may always be guided 
by the Holy Spirit to seek and
follow your Holy Will. 

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then, heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:15-17
So many times, O Lord,
we are like that synagogue official
in the gospel today:  blinded not only
by material things but most of all
by our religion - the worst blindness
 we have which we refuse to admit;
hence, we continue to plunge deeper
into its darkness of self-righteousness
as we outwardly profess we believe
 in you, we worship you alone
when in fact we have many other gods
ruling over us like our pride and ego,
our religious positions and titles,
even our ministries that are all
self-serving, too far from the people
specially the poor and sick,
and much too far from you,
dear God.
Give us the grace, dear Father,
through your Son Jesus Christ
in the power of the Holy Spirit to
enlighten our minds and hearts
to search more his light to illumine
the darkness within us and to find
more his face among one another
so that we may be truly in solidarity
 with him and your people.
Amen.

When the spirit is willing but flesh is weak…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. John Paul II, Pope, 22 October 2021
Romans 7:18-25  ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 12:54-59
Photo by author, 2019.
Thank you very much, 
dearest God our Father 
for knowing me so well like
St. Paul, of how I constantly have
to wage that battle against evil 
deep within me.

Brothers and sisters: I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.

Romans 7:18-21
There is an ongoing war deep within
each one of us between what is right
and good and what is wrong and evil;
there is always that inner struggle that
even if we know the right thing to do,
sometimes we choose what is wrong 
and sinful not simply because we are weak
as humans; like St. Paul, we are not 
offering an excuse to you but ask for
your grace for us to be responsible 
to our decisions and actions for it is 
only in admitting our guilt and sinfulness
can we truly see and follow you.
This inner battle between good and
evil within us are in fact the very roots
of the bigger wars and strife we have
among nations and peoples, of the more
pernicious indifference and self-centeredness
we choose daily in the face of widespread
poverty and hunger, corruption and deceptions
not only in our streets but also right in
our own homes and houses of worship.
Send us your Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus
to enlighten our minds and our hearts
to be able to read spiritually the things
happening in us and around us, 
that we may be able to judge for
ourselves what is right.  
Let us grow in the courage and wisdom
of St. John Paul II, your great Pope who
lived and served us with great example of
his life waging war against the many evils of
our time, standing for what is true and good,
your voice in this wilderness, telling us to
"be not afraid" to love like Jesus your Son
with Mary his Mother.  Amen.
From Twitter.com.

The “wages of sin”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 21 October 2021
Romans 6:19-23   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 12:49-53
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But what profit did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit what you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:21-23
In our modern way of living and
thinking, your words today O God 
our Father are difficult to grasp 
and accept because we are taught 
that any kind of slavery has to be rejected;
but, that is the irony of our time - we keep
on rejecting every form of slavery, 
insisting on our freedom to choose and
decide what we want in life that in the
process the more we are enslaved
to sin and powers of evil that lead
to death.
So many times in this modern way of living
we assert how each one of us is the captain
of my ship, free to determine my course in
life in the hope of finding meaning and fulfillment
that often end up with us getting lost and
alienated.  
How ironic that it is actually in being 
a slave to your grace in Jesus Christ as
St. Paul had asserted that we become 
totally free to offer ourselves unconditionally
to you our loving and merciful God and Father;
it is in surrendering ourselves to you as your
servants and slaves when we are more alive,
more fulfilled, more joyful and most peaceful
because slavery to you dear God and your
goodness bring all the good effects in life!
It is only when we empty ourselves to you, O God
that we are filled with your holiness, becoming
like you who is perfect.  Grant us the grace
to stand for what is true and good always,
standing by your side even if it means death
for it is in losing that we gain and in dying that
we truly live.  Amen.

Slave of sin vs. slave of grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 20 October 2021
Romans 6:12-18   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 12:39-48
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara, 2020 in Victoria, Laguna.
We are all slaves, 
born as your servants
O God our Lord and Master;
how sad that the more we refuse
to accept this reality, the more
we are enslaved to sin;
the more we assert our freedom
and decide to choose whatever
we want, the more we become unfree.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the patterns of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:16-18
Jesus our Lord and Savior,
let us realize this truth applies to us all;
that although you have saved and
justified us with your offering on the Cross
that continues in our Sacraments like
Baptism and the Eucharist that have
brought us closest to you and the Father,
it is not something like a "magic"
that fixes everything, that automatically
brings us to heaven.
Let us be faithful and prudent stewards,
slaves of grace in you like in today's gospel
who faithfully await your return
with good works and deeds.
Let us keep in our minds and hearts that
the more we profess our faith in you, dear Jesus,
as your servants, the more we have to participate
in your grace to produce fruits of
the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Amen.

Claiming God’s grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 October 2021
Romans 5:12, 15, 17-19, 20-21   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 12:35-38
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com
Praise and glory to you,
our loving God and Father
in giving us so much hope today,
inspiring us to be better, to be free
to choose and follow you,
to love and serve you in one another.

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:20-21
Let us live in your Son
Jesus Christ, in the realm of grace
than live in Adam in the realm of sin
and death, enslaved to our passions
and selfish desires.
Let your Holy Spirit work within us,
dear Jesus, to allow us to live in a way
pleasing to God our Father.
Like the psalmist, enable us to proclaim,
"Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will."
Open our eyes to the reality,
O God, of the two kinds of humanity
pervading:  the sinful humanity and the
redeemed humanity in Christ;
how sad that so often, especially
in the news we read and follow,
it is always the humanity in solidarity
with Adam in sin that seems to prevail.
Let us claim your abounding grace,
"girding our loins and lighting our lamps"
to be focused more on our justification
found in your righteousness in Christ.
Amen.

Touched by Jesus, touching Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist, 18 October 2021
2 timothy 4:10-17   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 10:1-9
Painting of “Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin” by Flemish painter Roger van der Weyden (1400-1464); photo from en.wikipedia.org.  
Of all your Evangelists, Lord Jesus,
Saint Luke is the most artistic of all,
giving us those rare glimpses with 
vivid details of your life and teachings
that began in the annunciation 
of the birth of your predecessor, 
John the Baptist to the birth and 
spread of your Church with unforgettable
characters and stories like the
Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan,
the Good Thief, and conversion of St. Paul.  
He wrote extensively like his teacher 
St. Paul, leaving us with
two volumes of your Gospel.
Though scholars could not ascertain
if St. Luke was indeed one of those 72
disciples you have sent out two-by-two
in today's gospel, his writings teem
with so many instances as if he was
with you in your preaching and 
journeys, Lord Jesus.
In his writings, you seemed to have
touched him as he narrated your
story that in the process, he appeared
like touching you all throughout!
It is not difficult to imagine that
because as St. Paul had told
Timothy today in the first reading,
it was only St. Luke who had remained
present with him in his darkest hours 
of imprisonment and trial in Rome.

Beloved: Demas, enamored of the present world, deserted me and went to Thessalonica, Crescens to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. Luke is the only one with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is helpful to me in the ministry.

1 Timothy 4:10-11
Indeed in his writings
and maybe in his paintings too,
St. Luke had shown us that true
"communication is more than the
expression of thoughts and
indication of feelings:
at its most profound level,
it is the giving of self in love"
like what you did on the Cross,
Lord Jesus Christ
(cf. Communio et Progressio, 11).
If we could just have that grace
and discipline to rediscover
the beauty of writing in this age
of electronic media
 when our communications are fleeting
 and superficial, always in a hurry,
mediated with many other things
like images and sounds,
teach us to rediscover writing letters,
journal writing, and even painting
so we may get in touch with our
inner selves to find you there
and eventually touch you too
for you have been touching us
for so long without us realizing it.
But most of all, like St. Luke,
give us the grace and courage
to write your Gospel
with our lives.
Amen.

The things we wish vs. things we pray to Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIX-B in Ordinary Time, 17 October 2021
Isaiah 53:10-11 ><}}}*> Hebrews 4:14-16 ><}}}*> Mark 10:35-45
Photo by author, 10 October 2021, Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Five minutes before our Mass last Sunday afternoon at the Holy Cross Parish in Paco, Obando, two rainbows appeared in the sky, freezing me for a while to cherish the moment as I felt God smiling at me, promising me a better week ahead.

It was only after a brief pause savoring the moment when I had the chance to take a shot of the lovely sight before getting inside the church at exactly 530 PM for the Mass. The following Monday, I had the photo posted on “my day” with everybody asking what was my wish upon seeing the double rainbows

When I told them I did not make any wish at all, they said it was “sayang” (what a waste!), that if I had made a wish, it could have been granted or fulfilled.

But, looking back, I did not make any wish at all because at that very moment I felt I had Jesus in my heart, that God had me on his palms, assuring me of his loving presence.

Why make any wish at all when you already have God? Besides, I felt too old for those wishing upon a rainbow or a falling star thing!


My dear friends and relatives, this Sunday, Jesus asks his disciples, brothers James and John “What do you wish me to do for you?” (Mk.10:36); next Sunday, the Lord will ask a blind man “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk.10:51).

It is very interesting to note that Jesus outrightly explained to James and John he could not fulfill their wishes while next Sunday, he would restore the sight of the blind man named Bartimaeus who pleaded to him as he passed Jericho. It seems that there is more than meets the eye between a wish and a prayer!

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.”

Mark 10:35-38
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos when a rainbow appeared as we went around around my former parish assignment bringing the Blessed Sacrament to bless then people on the first Sunday of our quarantine lockdown, 22 March 2020.

Wishes are only granted in fairy tales…

Jesus is now nearing Jerusalem where he would suffer and die but on the third day rise again. He had just repeated for the third and last time to his disciples of his coming pasch but, sadly, they still could not comprehend it fully.

The other Sunday, they could not answer Jesus when he asked them what were they arguing about while along the way to Capernaum because they were discussing among themselves who among them was the greatest.

They could not understand how their Lord and Master, the Messiah of Israel will have to suffer and die; it was beyond their grasp. Nonetheless, amid their lack of understanding and fears of its true meaning, they still followed Jesus, believing he would eventually triumph as a King.

And that is what the brothers James and John were thinking, the two closest to the Lord along with Peter who was earlier rebuked by Jesus at Caesarea Philippi for going against his pasch: they thought of Jesus as a “political leader”, a “game changer” who could surely change their lot for the best, assuring them and their future generations with the good life.

When Jesus asked the brothers James and John, he knew the two were just “fancying” on something not so true. That is what a “wish” is all about: something so fancy, almost untrue like coming from fairy tales that could come true with so slim a probability like hitting a jackpot in lottery or meeting a superstar. We make wishes to fairies often represented by celebrities who try to bring some joy to children suffering from cancer. Or, politicians who for a day would give some voters with huge amounts of money without any conviction at all to fulfill their promises.

As we say in Filipino, “suntok sa buwan” that literally means “punching the moon”.

But again like last Sunday when Jesus looked with love to the man asking him how to gain eternal life, Jesus respected the brothers James and John by entertaining their “wish”, asking them questions until he flatly told them “to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mk.10:40).

When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant: whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2016.

Prayer changes the person, not the situation.

Recall how Jesus assured his disciples and us last Sunday of great rewards awaiting those who have left everything to follow him; but, along these come persecutions because following Jesus means standing for what is true and good that invite enemies and detractors.

There will always be persecutions coming in our life – even if we do not follow Jesus along the way because that is a fact of life. Jesus came not to remove but join us, accompany us, be one with us in our sufferings and trials.

Today, Jesus opens our eyes to the realities, beauty and nobility of discipleship that is unfortunately becoming rare even among us in the clergy. True discipleship in Christ is first of all sharing in his passion and death in order to have a part in his glorious resurrection.

Once again, we feel the Lord’s recurring teaching these past weeks of us entrusting everything to the Father’s hands like children filled with confidence on God’s promises. This is the meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading that spoke of the “Suffering Servant of God” who “through his suffering shall justify (save) many” (Is.53:11).

See the gentle humility of Jesus in explaining things to his disciples. There was no hint at all of anger nor exasperation but pure love and understanding, patience and perseverance hoping someday the Twelve would realize in the most personal manner his kind of kingship, the true meaning of being the Messiah.

Photo by author, Garden of Gethsemane, the Holy Land, 2017.

Here Jesus exemplifies so well in his very self the kind of relationships his followers must have based on love and respect, serving the weakest and lowliest, so unlike the way of the world that is based on relations of power and dominance. This we continue to experience when we pray fervently especially before the Blessed Sacrament and most of all when we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist which is the summit of our Christian life.

In the Holy Mass, Jesus the Son of God leads us to the Father in signs perceptible to human senses, exactly what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of in the second reading, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Heb.4:16).

So, instead of wishing upon rainbows or shooting stars, better pray!

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for understanding 
our lack of understanding 
and appreciation to your coming
to us daily in the many sufferings and 
pains we go through in life;  help us
to be more realistic, to stop all 
wishful thinking of living happily
ever after and instead become
more loving and kind, finding you 
with everyone we meet.  
Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!