Trusting God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest/Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2020
Job 9:1-12, 14-16  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>   Luke 9:57-62
Photo by author, city of Jerusalem from Dominus Flevit Chapel, May 2017.

God our Father, sometimes I feel our situation today is very much like during the time of Job when sickness and destruction are all around us with the threats of death no longer lurking out in the dark but most present and getting nearer to us even at daylight.

And that is why lately, I have felt very much like Job too that I want to engage you in a conversation to ask you why all these things happening to me and those special to me. I am so afraid, God, of getting sick that I chill inside when I hear those dear to me going through surgery, chemotherapy, and dialysis.

I feel like asking you why these things going on, why them getting sick instead of just praying for them but, every time these things cross my mind, I just feel like Job:

Job answered his friends and said: I know well that it is so; but how can a man be justified before God? He does great things past finding out, marvelous things beyond reckoning. Should he come near me, I see him not; should he pass by, I am not aware of him; should he seize me forcibly, who can say him nay? Who can say to him “What are you doing?” How much less shall I give him any answer, or choose out arguments against him! Even though I were right, I could not answer him, but should rather beg for what was due me. If I appealed to him and he answered my call, I could not believe that he would hearken to my words.

Job 9:1, 10-12, 14-16

I wonder, Lord, if my faith and trust in you have deepened during this pandemic or, have I just become passive with how things are going on, getting used to the new situations, blankly hoping things will soon get better.

Have I really learned to trust you more than ever, surrendering everything into your hands like Job as I have realized too your immeasurable greatness, your being God beyond my limited knowledge and understanding that you make me wonder and be awed with your transcendence?

Yes, Lord, deep inside me amid all these fears and questions is the conviction you can never be doubted, that all I need is to completely trust you and strive to be good. Thank you for that grace as I continue to pray for healing of those dearest to me.

Let me grow closer to you as your disciple, forgetting everything about myself, surrendering myself to you in complete trust unlike those called by Jesus to follow him in the gospel today filled with many alibis and excuses.

May I have the devotion and discipline of St. Jerome whose memorial we celebrate today in finding you, loving you, and following you in the Sacred Scriptures as well as in the people we serve.

Like St. Jerome, may I have the courage to contemplate like Job on things beyond this world and life like death and eternity without bargaining or haggling with you except to trust in you completely. Amen.

Photo by author, mosaic on the wall of the Chapel of St. Jerome in a cave underneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where he had lived for 34 years until his death in 420 devoting himself in prayers and studies of the Sacred Scriptures while directing some women like “Paula” towards holiness (May 2017).

Every good seed is from God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Wednesday, Week 3, Year 2, 29 January 2020

2 Samuel 7:4-17 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 4:1-20

An oasis near the Dead Sea, Israel. Photo by author, May 2017.

God our Sower, every good seed is from you.

Thank you very much in giving us the best seed of all, your Son Jesus Christ, the “Word who became flesh”, himself the very fruit of the “seed” you promised to King David long, long ago.

That night the Lord spoke to Nathan and said: “Go, tell my servant David, ‘The Lord also reveals to you that he will establish a house for you. And when your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his Kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.'”

2 Samuel 7: 11-13, 16

Cultivate us, O Lord, to become good soil who will be open to receive your seed to make it sprout and grow and bear fruits.

So many times in our lives, we choose to be like the “path” where seeds fall and we do not mind at all. Likewise, we sometimes choose to be like the rocky ground who joyfully received Jesus for a while but when trials come, we give up on him because we have not taken him into our hearts to take root in us.

There are those among us, O Lord, who choose to be among the thorns, who choose to believe in science and technology, in materialism that choke the word in us until it dies out and bear no fruit.

In all instances, the problem is with the soil, never with the seed that is so good if given a chance to grow on rich soil would surely be fruitful.

Teach us to be a rich soil, one who is patient and still, willing to wait for your coming each day sowing us the good seed who value silence, and most of all, who uphold the sanctity of life itself so that YOU, O Lord will grow in us, be nurtured by us, be loved and embraced by us.

Show us anew the beauty of your words, O Lord, so we may immerse ourselves in you, be still in your presence to receive and digest your words as food that delights us and strengthens us. Amen.

Darkness in every beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Week IV-A, 26 January 2020

Isaiah 8:23-9:3 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 ><)))*> Matthew 4:12-23

Photo by author, July 2019, Tagaytay City.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.

Genesis 1:1-2

The Bible clearly tells us everything in the beginning was dark. And since then, almost everything has always begun in darkness, like human life itself, or every new day, even new year!

Some relatives and friends have been complaining to me how 2020 started off with a lot of darkness.

And I totally agree with them!

Since the Christmas Season until last Friday, I have been officiating funeral Masses for parishioners and friends as well as praying for some relatives and friends who have passed away this January abroad. Also included in this vast swathe of darkness are some relatives and friends diagnosed with serious illnesses like Alzheimer’s and cancer.

In the news we find so many darkness at the start of 2020 like fears of World War III when an Iranian military officer was killed in an American drone attack in Baghdad on January 03; the January 12 phreatic eruption of Taal Volcano now threatening a catastrophic eruption anytime; and, this fast-spreading new corona virus from China that is reportedly so deadly.

Everything is so dark at the start of 2020 and January is not even over yet!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima, GMA-7 News, 15 January 2020.

Darkness leads us into light

Even our readings today speak about darkness, especially the beginning of the public ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ after John the Baptizer was arrested.

When Jesus heard John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Napthali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled.

Matthew 4:12-14

However, these same readings assure us that not all darkness are gloomy after all. In fact, it is in darkness where we see the light of the gospel shining brightly.

Sunrise at Lake Tiberias (aka, Galilee), May 2017. Photo by author.

Despite that dark note on the arrest of John the Baptizer, we actually have here the beginning of the good news of salvation with the start of the preaching and public ministry of Jesus Christ.

Darkness is always a prelude to light, like chaos is to order.

Sometimes, we need to experience some darkness for us to realize the need to be enlightened, to see more the beauty of light, to seek light – most especially of the love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ who had come to us on the darkest day of the year, December 25.

See how in our lives when bad things have to happen first before we can learn our lessons so well or find particular values we now treasure in life.

Sometimes, God allows us to be plunged into darkness to find him, to see him, to desire him and eventually have him.

First the Lord degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the end he has glorified the seaward road, the land west of the Jordan, the District of the Gentiles. Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness: for there is no gloom where but now there was distress. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.

Isaiah 8:23-9:1

Jesus comes to us in darkness

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Bohol Island, 2019.

Darkness in the bible signifies sin and evil, failures and disappointments, struggles and sufferings, and finally, sickness and death. No one is immuned from darkness.

But with the coming of Jesus Christ who conquered evil and sin, darkness has become a blessing, an invitation for us to find him, to listen to him, and to follow him.

Fram that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make yo fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him. He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him.

Matthew 4:17-22

Jesus opted to start his public ministry and preaching in the “darkest region” of Israel at that time, among the peoples living in darkness of sins and lack of meaning and directions in life. He comes to us most of the time during our moments of darkness to enlighten us and give us direction.

That makes every darkness a blessing in itself for that is when Jesus – the Gospel himself – shines brightly.

Lake Tiberias at the back of the ruins of the Capernaum synagogue where Jesus preached. Photo by author, May 2019.

Let everything begin in the words of Jesus

Right away at the start of his preaching and ministry, people began following to listen to Jesus in Galilee, particularly at Capernaum where he used to preach in their synagogue near the shores of the Lake of Galilee (a.ka., Tiberias).

Everything began with the words of Jesus Christ: the sick were healed, those possessed by evil spirits were cleansed, sinners were forgiven, and those troubled found comfort in him.

Most of all, people found meaning in life as experienced by the first four disciples of Jesus, Simon and his brother Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee, James and John.

They were all rich and money was not a problem because they owned fishing boats that was very expensive at that time. Simon Peter is believed to be a very successful fisherman with many hired workers while the brothers James and John were beginning to learn the trade from their rich dad.

All four grew up together, worked together, most of all shared the same darkness in life, searching for meaning and direction in life that they have finally found in Jesus Christ while listening to his preaching. And that is why they immediately left everything and everyone behind after being called by Christ!

Very surprising was the attitude of Zebedee also who did not even bother to call or drag his sons back to their boat to help him because he must have felt and seen the bright sparks within his sons who have finally found meaning and direction in life through the preaching of Jesus Christ – “the Word who became flesh” – according to John who later wrote the fourth gospel account.

The Gospel Book (Evangelare) enthroned at our altar for the Bible Sunday celebration, 26 Jan. 2020. Photo by Angelo Nicolas Carpio.

Such is the power of the word of God who cleanses us of our sins, empties us of our pride and foolish self to be filled with the wisdom and light of Jesus Christ.

In a decree issued last week, Pope Francis has declared every third Sunday of Ordinary Time as “Bible Sunday” to emphasize the importance of praying the Sacred Scriptures, listening to God himself present in his words found in the Bible.

Even today, everything begins with the words of Jesus Christ: that is why it is the very first part of the Mass, equally important with the Eucharist.

We can never experience Jesus Christ in his Body and Blood at the Holy Eucharist or even among our brothers and sisters gathered in the celebration of the Holy Mass unless we first meet and experience him in his words.

Most of all, we can never experience him in person without praying the Sacred Scriptures because according to St. Jerome, “Ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of Jesus Christ.”

Is there ay darkness in your life these days?

Try dusting off that bible you have kept in a little corner of your shelf — read it, study it, and pray it.

Be surprised in its powers for,

“Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart”

Hebrews 4:12

A blessed Sunday to you!

Rejoicing in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Saturday, Week XXVII, Year I, 12 October 2019

Joel 4:12-21 ><}}}*> ><}}}*> ><}}}*> Luke 11:27-28

Mosses have always amused me since childhood. This photo taken at the St. Paul Spirituality Center in Alfonso, Cavite last month during our annual clergy retreat.

Today I join the psalmist’s call to “Rejoice in the Lord, you just!” We have not yet won our battles, many of us are still struggling with illness and many other problems and issues in life while our nation is not getting any better with leaders so far from us who simply want to amuse us like clowns.

Still, we have to rejoice because you are with us, Lord.

Keep us steadfast in our struggles to follow your will, to be patient and persevering.

Enlighten our minds and our hearts with your Holy Spirit to always listen and obey your will revealed in the Sacred Scriptures.

Despite all the heat and mess we are into, life thrives under your loving shade that may sometimes be dark and damp. Just like the moss, take care of us and dwell in us, Lord, and let us live in you. Amen.

Prayer to understand God’s word

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Thursday, Week XXVI, Year I, 03 October 2019

Nehemiah 8:1-4, 5-6, 7-12 ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 10:1-12

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our loving Father, today I pray to you for more understanding of your words like the first reading.

Twice successively Nehemiah told us how

Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand.

Nehemiah 8:2, 3

Then, a few more verses, your prophet tells us

Ezra reads plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read.

Nehemiah 8:8

Until, finally, Nehemiah concludes today’s reading with a solemn pronouncement:

Then all the people went to eat and drink, to distribute portions, and to celebrate with great joy, for they understood the words that had been expounded to them.

Nehemiah 8:12

Dearest God, I pray for all who read and pray our blog each day. I pray that they may understand your words.

Most especially, I pray for us priests and lay preachers to always read, study, and pray your words.

Let us be the first to understand your words by praying that you, being the “harvest-master”, to send more laborers for your harvest.

Most of all, to truly understand your words, O God, let us be emptied of ourselves so we may only be focused on Jesus Christ, the word who became flesh. He alone is the one we must preach and share in word and in deed. Amen.

Hope for our difficult personality

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Monday, Memorial of St. Jerome, 30 September 2019

Zechariah 8:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 9:46-50

St. Jerome painting by El Greco portrayed as wearing the Cardinal’s robe to represent his highly esteemed works and contributions to the Church as one of the Four Western Fathers along with St. Augustine, St. Ambrose of Milan, and St. Gregory the Great. Photo from Google.

Praise and glory to you, God our loving Father! Thank you very much for giving us saints, men and women like us who were sinners with so many weaknesses but through your grace were able to lead holy lives.

Through your saints, you give us so much hope to be become better persons despite our many imperfections like our great Doctor of the Church, St. Jerome, the Father of Catholic biblical studies who immersed himself in the study and prayer of the Sacred Writings right in the Holy Land.

Considered as one of the great theologians of the Church, St. Jerome is said to be approachable but notorious for being a difficult person too due to his temper as well as sarcasm and being argumentative at times.

I confess, O God, that I am exactly the opposite of the kind of person Jesus Christ is telling us to be like – a child. Instead of being childlike, many times I have become childish, difficult to handle with my burst of temper and sometimes annoying sarcasm.

Like St. Jerome, fill me with your grace, with courage and willpower to conquer my irascibility and direct all my negative energies in pursuing you in prayers and good works.

Help me to follow St. Jerome in his call to “let us translate the words of the Scriptures into deeds.”

Fill me with your words, O Lord, cleanse me of my sins and iniquities so that your Holy Spirit may dwell in me, suffuse me with your holiness. Amen.

My favorite depiction of St. Jerome by Italian painter Antonello da Messina (c.1430-79), “St. Jerome in his Study.” Again, we see St. Jerome in red robe and hat like a Cardinal at his study desk with his faithful lion in the background which tradition says he had helped in the forest by removing a thorn in its paw. At the foreground are two birds: a peacock which is an ancient Christian symbol of eternal life that our saint meditated often (reason why he always has a skull in other paintings), and a partridge, a reference to St. Jerome’s notorious temper as the bird often represents jealous rage. Photo from Google.