The gift of “today”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the First Week of Ordinary Time, 12 January 2023
Hebrews 3:7-14     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 1:40-45
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, Liputan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 10 January 2023.
The word "today"
resonates so clearly this day
in your words, O Lord our God:
indeed, let us not harden our hearts
if today we hear your voice;
let us not be like your people at 
Meribah who quarreled and rebelled
against you for lack of water in the
desert; let us not be like your people 
in Massah where they failed your test
of faith and trust, even Moses who
struck the rock twice instead of once
as you have commanded him.
Meribah and Massah continue to exist
today right in our hearts when we rebel
against you and those above us like 
our parents and teachers, 
our elders and superiors
and leaders in the Church;
until now we refuse to heed your
voice,
recognize your presence
in Jesus Christ in every
here and now,
in each day,
in the TODAY.
Forgive us, merciful Father,
let us hold on to faith to be
"partners in Christ"
by finding him, loving him,
and serving him in the
here and now.
Like that leper,
let us have that complete
trust and faith in you, Jesus,
waiting for you each day,
in every TODAY to tell you,
"If you wish, you can make me
clean" (Mk.1:40) because you
have always been present with
us in all our lives, especially in
our pains and sufferings;
you always have that compassion
for us that always, your grace appears
most when we are in our crosses.
And for that, we praise and
thank you,
dear Jesus!
Fill us with your Spirit,
make us enthusiastic like
that leper in every TODAY
to proclaim you saving presence.
Amen.

Christmas, an overshadowing by God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Fifth Day of Christmas Novena, 20 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022.

I have stopped listening to Christmas carols and music long before the COVID-19 pandemic came. During that time, especially with the sudden spread of Christmas countdowns and early playing of Christmas music, I felt it as the high point of commercialization and trivialization of this blessed celebration.

But when the pandemic came in 2020, I began appreciating Christmas carols again as I longed for something to cheer me up on those days of lockdown. Unfortunately, I never had the time to make a Christmas playlist that as I drive to my Simbang Gabi Masses since last week, I have never sang nor hummed Christmas carols. All I have in my car stereo are my secular music playlist that surprisingly conveyed the Christmas messages of love and faith, family and friends, life and death.

That is the power of music which transcends seasons and celebrations like this old favorite by Don McLean, the Birthday Song which is about his intense experience of love with a lost loved one.

You see I love the way you love me
I love the way you smile at me
I love the way we live this life we're in...
I don't believe in magic but I do believe in you
And when you say you believe in me
There's so much magic I can do

Okay. Call me cheesy. And old.

But what McLean sings is very true. It is like Christmas with its “magical” powers and beauty! What I mean here in the word “magical” to describe Christmas is the sense that it is indeed an event, a reality that happened and continues to happen among us only if we allow the Divine power of God to overshadow us.

If you try to listen to this song, it speaks of an intense love relationship that not even death could separate. McLean claims in his song that his experience was too deep for words. Difficult to express.

Like in the experience of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother.

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:34-35
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

Luke’s choice of the word “overshadowing” evokes a strong sense of power from God, of his personal intervention into humanity. The eternal God entering the temporal. It is something so powerful to show that contrary to usual human thought that God remains in the spiritual realm, here Luke shows us that God is God indeed – omnipotent, all powerful!

The Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) said there are two moments in the life of Jesus that God intervenes directly in the material world: his virginal birth and his resurrection in which Jesus saw no corruption at all. These are totally unacceptable to modern minds because they believe God is concerned only with spiritual things, that God acts only in the spiritual world, not in the material world.

Such kind of thinking is so prevalent among many people these days, and, unfortunately, even among those who profess to believe in God!

When the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her, it meant God personally acting in her, coming to her which she totally welcomed with her fiat.

Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

To be overshadowed by God the Most High means a deep intense presence of the Holy One which is a favorite theme of Luke especially in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is the power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit acting and moving through the apostles that made Jesus so present even if he had ascended into heaven.

Moreover, to overshadowed by God is also deep and transforming divine presence in Mary wherein in her cooperation, the entire human history was radically altered which until now is felt worldwide with our celebration of Christmas itself which the world unfortunately tries to relegate to mere holiday by removing Christ himself.

Unlike in the case of the annunciation of John’s birth to Zechariah yesterday, Mary is here presented as totally absorbed with the event, with her conversation with the angel, God’s messenger. She was totally aware of everything, very present before God, sincere and true. Recall that Zechariah angered the angel yesterday because he challenged God – who else could convince him of the good news if he still refused to believe God had answered their prayers with the angel already in front of him?

Worst was King Ahaz in the first reading who entered into alliance with neighboring kingdoms of Israel while at the same time signing a secret pact with their common enemy, Assyria just to be sure they would not be invaded and conquered. That angered God and eventually led to Israel’s downfall.

But that did not stop God in involving himself with us and human history with Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah or Emmanuel, Jesus Christ who is the God-with-us.

When Isaiah prophesied to King Ahaz about “the child to be born by a virgin”, it was not just meant for the people of Israel at that time about 700 years before Christ’s coming but also for all of us in this time. Isaiah’s prophecy was for all of us to realize that indeed, God had already come, the Virgin had given birth to the Messiah that began the personal entry of God into us, his direct involvement in our lives so that it would finally lead us to fulfillment in him.

This prophecy that had been fulfilled in Jesus through Mary should convince us once and for all that God is true and truly among us.

Like Mary, are we personally engaging with God in Jesus, through Jesus?

If we can just create that sacred space within us to allow Jesus be born right in our hearts, to speak his words of love and belief in us, we could do so many great things like Mary in this world. Or, like Don McLean in his song. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
let me feel your presence in me
like Mary your Mother;
let me believe in your presence,
let me listen to your voice,
to your affirmations
so that I may start living in you,
in your presence,
in your love,
in your kindness.
May I be a sign of your
intense presence in this world
that have relegated you in the clouds
and world of ideas and spirits;
let me be a sign of your transforming presence
in this world that badly needs
healing and mercy,
forgiveness and kindness,
comfort and consolation
amid the many confusions
that keep us all apart from one another
and from you, our Lord and God,
our grounding and destiny.
Amen.
Photo by author, 07 December 2022.

When Advent is also a Sabbath

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent-A, 27 November 2022
Isaiah 2:1-5  ><}}}}*>  Romans 13:11-14  ><}}}}*>  Matthew 24:37-44
Photo by author, November 2022.

A blessed happy new year to everyone!

Yes, our new year in the Church begins this Saturday evening as we usher Advent Season, the four Sundays before Christmas which also falls on a Sunday this year. What a truly blessed Christmas we are having this year since COVID-19 came in 2020. For the first time in two years, we are celebrating Christmas face-to-face which is the essence of the event when the Son of God became human like us in everything except sin so we may experience God in person!

Like a light piercing through the darkness of the night – here and today – we experience Jesus Christ’s coming to us this Christmas 2022 most true that his call in the gospel is so appropriate especially at this time.

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your day will come.

Matthew 24:37, 39-42
Photo by author, November 2022.

“Therefore, stay awake!”

Staying awake does not mean not going to sleep. In fact, for us to be awake, we have to sleep and be fully rested always to be awake and alert whether at night or at day.

That is why Advent is a sabbath, a day of the Lord when we pause to rest and allow God to fill us with his breath and spirit so we may be more attuned with Christ’s coming.

To rest in Filipino is “magpahinga” that literally means to be breathed on. Sabbath as a day of rest is to be breathed on by God, “magpahinga sa Diyos, mahingahan ng Diyos”. Unless we are filled with the breath of God, with his spirit, we will never experience Christ’s coming to us this Advent nor this Christmas nor at any time.

This is the whole point of Christ’s teaching today. Advent is an invitation for us to examine and review our attitudes to life, to God, and to others. Like in the gospel, Jesus reminds us how we conduct ourselves in this life, of being attuned to the Holy Spirit, lest “one is taken and the other one will be left”.

Life has been so difficult for everyone these past two years. Some of us have lost a loved one or relatives and friends to COVID. Many have lost their businesses or career and many other opportunities in life. And sadly, there are others who have lost or wounded and bruised relationships too.

But, have we also lost ourselves that in the process lost God too that we have lost all sense of decency and kindness with one another?

Photo by author, November 2022.

The other day, a former classmate suddenly texted me, saying hi and asking when she and her husband may visit me. Such messages coming out of the blue from anyone – especially her – make me wonder what’s wrong? What’s her problem this time?

She said she just wanted to keep in touch, reminding me how she has always been grateful for my help and prayers. However, she insisted that if we can’t meet, can I send her a prayer via text message because according to her, my prayers and blessings have “magic” as they always come true considering her prospering business and finally, her youngest child about to finish medicine.

I did not answer her until afternoon by sending her a prayer she had requested. And a reminder to her that my prayers have no magic powers nor lucky charms. I told her, “you are blessed abundantly by God because he loves you very much. Because he knows how well you pray hard and strive to be good and fair in your dealings with others. Most of all, because you are grateful. Keep serving the Lord.”

Many times even in our faith and spiritual life, we believe more in luck or swerte than in God as a person loving us, blessing us. That is why our faith has no communal dimension at all because we remain self-centered even in our worship and faith without even finding and experiencing God himself in Jesus Christ who had come to us more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.

On this first Sunday of Advent, we are reminded to rekindle in our hearts that ardent desire for God and his kingdom, for the return or Second Coming of Jesus Christ who had come and remains with us, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to keep us awake in finding God always in us and in others.

This first Sunday of Advent is calling us to fine tune our attitudes to God anew, to recall the beautiful lessons of this COVID-19 pandemic we now seem to have forgotten totally like importance of God and prayers, of one another, and value of life.

Like the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading, we find ourselves today in the same situation of many wars going on not only in Ukraine or Mindanao but also in our families and communities yet, we continue to march forward to God’s final fulfillment of his promises. Imagine and feel the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may in his paths. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:3, 4-5
Photo by author, November 2022.

What a lovely imagery of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks as we walk in the light of the Lord that is happening NOW!

That is one of the challenges of our Advent preparation which is to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts (and arms too!) to find and welcome Jesus Christ already present with us, right here and right now!

That can only happen if we can rest this Advent in the Lord through prayers and meditations of his words that are so rich these days; of having silent moments to find ourselves anew instead of going back to our old ways of crazy Christmas rush shopping and the many external preparations that have become more of a show or a palabas.

Advent is a sabbath calling us to come home to God, to find him in Jesus Christ who had come and comes daily inside us, in our family and friends, in everyone and in various occasions and event in our lives. When we find God, that is also when we find our true selves. And that is Christmas – the coming together of man and God.

Advent is a sabbath when we go back to paradise which last Sunday we find also on the Cross with Jesus Christ as he promised Dimas with “today you shall be with me in Paradise” when God takes charge of everything and we just follow him.

Advent is a sabbath when we recover that original attitudes of man and woman to obey God always, to find more of our goodness and of others and nature, and to live in God’s presence.

Let us heed the call of St. Paul to struggle not only to be morally upright in life but most of all to share the light of Christ when he asked us “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom.13;14) so that we become his very presence in this world.

Let us rest in Jesus so we may be awake in his coming in every here and now. Amen. Have a blessed and restful week, everyone!

Photo by author, Advent 1, 2021.

God living among us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, 25 November 2022
Revelation 20:1-4, 11-22:2   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Luke 21:29-33 
God our loving Father,
your words today spoken both by
John and your Son Jesus Christ
are frightening at first hearing;
but, as we dwell more on your words,
we are comforted because your promised
end of the world is the beginning
of "new heaven and new earth"
(Revelation 21:1-2);
it has started coming already
in the birth of Jesus Christ 
as we join the psalmist
in proclaiming this wonderful truth,
"Here God lives among his people"
(responsorial psalm).
"My soul yearns and pines for 
the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my flesh 
cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest in which
she puts her young ---
your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my king and my God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
Blessed the men whose strength
you are!"
(Psalm 84:3, 4, 5, 6)
Despite the many trials
and sufferings we have been going 
through, you never ceased to
guide us to life and fulfillment
in you through Jesus Christ.
Make us aware and conscious
of your presence among our brothers
and sisters especially those in pain
and in the margins;
may our eyes,
our minds,
and our hearts
be open to your presence
in everyone we meet inasmuch
as we can read the signs of 
the fig tree and other trees
(Luke 21:29-30);
may we stop for a while
in our tasks and duties
to feel each one's humanity
and personhood to find you
and experience you.
Amen.

Roadtrip, vroom, vroom with Jesus & Zacchaeus, to the Moon!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 30 October 2022
Wisdom 11:22-12:2 ><000'> 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 ><000'> Luke 19:1-10

You must have heard so many times that rap music called Moon used as background music in almost every video posted on social media. The lyrics and its beat are simply amusing, easy to follow so fitted on everything including this Sunday’s gospel!

Sa'n ka punta?  To the moon
Road trip, vroom, vroom
Skrr, skrr, zoom, zoom
So fake, no room, mga mata namumula
Asan ang trees, nadala mo ba?
Bawal ang tus at peke sa byahe
Kung isa ka d'yan, ika'y bumaba...

Written and performed by a certain Nik Makino, Moon speaks of a young man’s ambition of getting rich through rap music; he is also aware of the fact that his dream is so “high like the sky” with everyone’s eyes prying on him as he strives so hard in working while still young.

I gotta mission, pumunta sa top
Buhay mahirap, gawing masarap
Gawa ng milyon, gamit ang rap 
Iwanan kasama na puro panggap
'Di mo 'ko magets, pangarap ay highs
Singtaas ng jets, tingala sa sky...

I have been asking some young people about the rap and mostly are stunned why I listen and so interested with it especially when I rap it too, saying how they find it so baduy (crass), meaningless or “walang kuwenta” with some calling it as ugly or “pangit”.

And that is how I realized this rap music Moon is so related with this Sunday’s gospel about Zacchaeus the tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus while passing by the city of Jericho.

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy.

Luke 19:1-6

Again, only Luke has this story about Zacchaeus met by Jesus in Jericho, his final stop before entering the city of Jerusalem for his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Keep in mind that Luke’s narration of the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem is more of an inner journey into ourselves than found in maps. What happened in Jericho shows the importance of the events that would take place at Jerusalem when Jesus offered himself for our salvation and how we can participate in his pasch through the example of Zacchaeus who reformed his life.

Unlike the parable last Sunday, here we have a real tax collector named Zacchaeus described by Luke as a “wealthy man”. Notice how Luke described Zacchaeus was “short in stature” which is not only literal but most of all figurative in meaning. Like the publican in last week’s parable by Jesus, tax collectors were despised by Jews at that time who were seen along the ranks of prostitutes as the worst of all sinners because they were not only thieves but also traitors who collaborated with their Roman colonizers.

Calling Zacchaeus as “short in stature” was really something else, that he was nothing at all. That is why he had to exert so much to see Jesus by climbing a sycamore tree. And there lies the beauty of the story, of how God had come in Jesus to meet us and save us.

When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Luke 19:7-10

This is the most startling move by Jesus in this event at Jericho that is repeated in many instances in Luke’s gospel account to show God’s loving mercy to all sinners who humbly make the efforts to come to him, to see him, and experience his healing and forgiveness.

Luke had repeatedly shown us this unexpected and even shocking gesture of Jesus to everyone – then and now – at how he would favor sinners and bad people like that sinful woman who poured oil on his feet while dining at the home of a Pharisee (Lk. 7:36-50) and Dimas, the “good thief” on the cross to whom he promised paradise (Lk.23:39-43).

Jesus always comes to meet us but are we willing to meet him too like Zacchaeus? How far are we willing to truly embrace and welcome Jesus by letting go of ourselves, of our sins and other possessions?

If we could just have that sense of sinfulness again, we would realize that in this world, we are all small in stature before God. All these titles and wealth that seem to give prestige to us are all temporary and nothing. What God looks in us is our admission of our being small in stature before him, of being powerless like the persistent widow the other Sunday and the publican last week begging his mercy for we are all sinful.

Imagine that beautiful image of Jesus passing through Jericho, coming to our daily lives, making a stop over right in our hearts to stay and dwell. Most of all, see at how Jesus looks up to find us!

I love that gesture of Jesus looking up to us so much. Normally, we are the ones who look up to God up in the sky, heavenwards when asking for his mercy and favors. But there are many times that it is Jesus our Lord and God who looks up to us mere mortals who are so small in stature before him! What happened at Jericho under that sycamore tree was a prefiguration of what would take place at the Last Supper when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, of how he bowed down before them and looked up while wiping their feet dry. So wonderful! And that happens every day when we go back to him, when we do everything to get out of our way just to go to Mass, most especially to Confessions.

In the first reading, we are reminded how we are nothing before God but he chose to preserve us, to save us because he loves us so much:

“Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men that they may repent. But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls.

Wisdom 11:22-23, 25

There is no doubt about the love of God for us, of his mercy and forgiveness expressed to us in his Son Jesus Christ who comes to us everyday in various events in our lives, in the people we meet and most especially in our individual and communal prayers like the Mass and Sacraments.

Jesus is always passing by and would surely come again as St. Paul assured us in the second reading.

The grace of this final Sunday of October as we go to the last stretch of the Church calendar this coming November is that God gives us freely the grace daily to make the efforts in meeting his Son Jesus. Every day.

Our desire to rise above our present state and status is an expression of that grace within us to become better although many times due to other factors, we misconstrue this in aspiring for material things like wealth and money as the rap Moon tells us. But on a deeper reflection as we continue in our journey in this life, we realize sooner or later that more than the things we can physically have, there are always more precious than these.

Like going to the moon, of being high up there in the sky, being one with God, enjoying his peace and salvation.

Like Zacchaeus and, Nik Makino, let us continue our roadtrip to the Moon in Jesus Christ by being true to ourselves – vroom, vroom, skrr, skrr, zoom, zoom – that we are beloved sinners and children of God.

Tara bumyahe pa-ulap
Sakto 'yung auto ko full tank
Pero kahit maubusan, paangat tayo tutulak
Bawal na muna ang pabigat
Lalo sa byahe na palipad
Kailangan kong makatiyak
Bago magka-edad, 'di na 'ko taghirap
Alam kong marami ang nakamasid
Dama ko marami ang naka-abang
Kung ano 'yung mga kaya kong gawin
Malamang ay 'di nila nagagawa
Kaya siguro lagi nakatingin
Kasi 'yon na lamang magagawa
Inaabangan ako na mawala
Kaso lang ang malala nadapa kakatingala.

Stay safe everyone and dry during these storms. Have a blessed week! Amen.

*Photo credits: Moon over the city by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News (2022); second and third by the author at Jericho, Israel (2019); fourth and fifth also by author in Tanay and Pililla in Rizal (2021).

Bearing with one another

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 21 October 2022
Ephesians 4:1-6   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 12:54-59
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Another week is closing,
another week is beginning
and still, Lord Jesus,
as you have noticed,
we still can't interpret
the present time as
your very presence
in everyone of us.

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain – and do it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot – and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?

Luke 12:54-57
St. Paul's admonition
to the Ephesians is most
timely even to us these days
when our season is in transition
but not our sensitivities to one another;
teach us to live in a manner worthy of
our calling as "Christians" - brothers and
sisters in you, dear Jesus and most of all,
your followers.
Teach us, dear Jesus, 
to "bear one another through love,
striving to preserve" our unity
as one family in one loving Father above;
so many times, we can read the weather
but not people, becoming callous
and numb to one another's presence
and needs, pains and hurts;
heighten our sensitivities so
we may be more compassionate
with everyone, be more consoling
and caring, most of all, understanding
and kind by seeing God's image and 
likeness in each one's face.
Amen. 

God in our time, our time in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of San Padre Pio de Pietrelcina, Priest, 23 September 2022
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 9:18-22
From Quotefancy.com
Thank you, dear God our
loving Father for your words 
today of the most common thing
we all have and share but
misunderstood and 
taken for granted,
TIME.

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens… He (God) has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11
Indeed, there is a time for everything,
but you alone O God has determined
the perfect time for every event 
to happen in our lives and in history 
to which we have miserably failed to
respond properly, rightly as we 
manipulated "each" time we have without 
recognizing the uniqueness and
blessedness of every past,
present and future; there are times
we cling to the past, refusing to
learn its lessons that we find it hard
to move forward to the present as we
likewise deny the beauty and fulfillment 
of the future in you; forgive us for being
foolish not to see and recognize you in our time
that we often miss that great mystery 
and reality that we are in your time.
From Quotefancy.com
Thank you, dear God,
in giving us your Son Jesus Christ
that we are now able to understand
and accept not only his words but 
also the reality of his Passion, Death 
and Resurrection unlike the Twelve 
in their time; but, unlike them, 
until now we could not own 
and live that reality of Christ's pasch
in our very selves and own life that  
up to this time, many people are still
confused and could not find Jesus
truly present in our time.
Dearest Jesus,
I do not ask for the special
graces you gave our most
loved San Padro Pio; I do not need
stigmata nor powers to heal nor
read people of their sins; all I ask
you is the grace to live in your
presence always to experience
San Padre Pio's prayer,
"My past, O Lord, I entrust
to your mercy; my present
to your love; my future 
to your providence."

San Padre Pio,
Pray for us!
Amen.
From UST Facebook, 2020.

True wealth

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 18 September 2022
Amos 8:4-7  ><}}}}*>  1 Timothy 2:1-8  ><}}}}*>  Luke 16:1-13
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of Amos sounds like coming from a recent publication denouncing the corruption and social decadence in most countries these days, of the rampant injustice and exploitation of the poor, of how hypocrisies thrive among the rich and powerful and religious too!

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”

Amos 8:4-6

How sad that long before the coming of Jesus Christ and more than 2000 years after his birth with all the civilization and religion all over the world, nothing has really changed at all: greed for power and money continue to divide peoples and nations, causing many losses of lives from crimes and wars that have ensued.

"Everything has a price, 
everything has to be summed up 
that sadly in the process, 
God and people are commodified 
while things are personified! " 
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, April 2022.

Throughout history, we have never learned and perhaps, have continued to refuse to learn from God, beginning from his prophets like Amos down to his own Son Jesus Christ, the important lesson of giving more value to him and to one another. We have always put more premium and value on things that perish than on those of true value that remain even to eternity, none other than God and one another.

“If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Luke 16:11-13

True wealth vs. dishonest wealth

Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem, intensifying his teachings on discipleship with two parables this Sunday and next week to deepen our knowledge and relationship with him and others as disciples.

We have heard today his parable of the wise steward who reduced the debts of his master’s creditors to ensure he could find employment in them when fired from his job. Jesus did not approve of his wily scheme but praised him and those like him of the world in finding ways to “win hearts” of people with their pakikisama as we call in Pilipino which is often a wrong sense of camaraderie when people help each other even in shenanigans and other corrupt practices.

(Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

If we could just find means in truly helping each other in life with the same ardor, we could probably have a better and more humane society where we value persons more than things. That is the kind of discipleship Jesus is teaching us today with his sayings after narrating this parable — of having God and one another as our true wealth in life, not dishonest wealth of money, power and fame that feed on our pride and ego. Having God and others as our true wealth means valuing them most in our lives through Jesus Christ.

Problem happens when we value things like money and fame more than God and persons like in the time of Amos that continues to this day as we focus more with how much we shall earn, of what’s in store for us in terms of profits and returns without giving the slightest concern for people and God. Everything has a price, everything has to be summed up that sadly in the process, God and people are commodified while things are personified!

Sorry to say this but the clearest example of our commodification of God is this online Mass when we make him like a canned good or a video on-demand like in Netflix we take out to watch and consume when we just have a feel for it. No relationship at all. Just like that, as in ganun lang… in case of an emergency, we take out God like a life vest tucked under the plane seat.

In the same manner, we commodify people when we see them in utilitarian perspectives, in their usefulness for us in attaining our selfish goals. We commodify people when we totally disregard them as “no body”, as if they do not exist that we do not recognize them at all, not caring for them as “some body” like in next Sunday’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Even us in the Church contribute in this commodification of God and of people long before the advent of online Masses in the way we regard parish assignments. How do we priests look at the people and the parish, really?

What a shame at how we priests persist that unChristian frame of mind in distinguishing parishes as “big parish” and “small parish” in reference to their income and collections, never in terms of population or number of souls and their pastoral needs! This results in the tragic mire we are stuck called careerism fueled by the never-ending competition among priests for parish assignments, forgetting altogether our sense of service and mission.

Sad. Very, very sad.

"True wealth and riches are God and people.
We live to love.  
Let us put an end to restrictions on whom to love, 
whom to value for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ..." 
Photo by author, 12 August 2022.

This Sunday, Jesus is blessing us with the grace and challenge of examining deeply in our hearts what and who do we value most?

If we consider material things as riches, then, we have not moved away from the time of Amos; we are still living in ancient time of decadence and immoralities despite the sophistications we now have like hi-tech gadgets we use for cheating others as we hide in our fine clothes and air conditioned homes, offices, and vehicles.

True wealth and riches are God and people. We need more people, more children, more family, more friends to share and celebrate life with. Not more money nor more houses and cars we cannot use at the same time; we do not need more food nor more clothes for we live not to eat.

We live to love. Let us put an end restrictions on whom to love, whom to value for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today. Most of all, the great apostle tells us to value everyone, from our leaders down to the common tao we meet everywhere, praying for one another for it is God’s design that in the end, we shall all together dwell in him in heaven, the true wealth and riches we must all aspire. Amen. Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Photo by author, 14 September 2022.

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Praying to remember, to never forget

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 12 August 2022
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:3-12
Forget-me-nots photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Now, more than ever, 
I am convinced dear God
that we are indeed "beings of forgetfulness";
we easily forget, and sadly, we enjoy,
we choose and we "love" so much 
forgetting the past, 
forgetting people,
forgetting our roots, 
and worst, forgetting you
our loving Father.
How striking are your words
to the Prophet Ezekiel today,
"making known to Jerusalem
her abominations", of how as a 
nation like a newborn child left 
in the dirt with her umbilical cord
still uncut, wrapped in her blood
and all until you O God took her, 
bathed and dressed her with
finest clothes, fed with good food,
bestowed with your dignity 
that nations loved her (Ezekiel 16:3-14) 
only to forget you, O God... 
just like us today.

But you were captivated by your own beauty; you used your renown to make yourself a harlot, and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by, whose own you became. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you, that you may remember and be covered with confusion, and that you may be utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord God.

Ezekiel 16:15, 60, 63
Let us remember you
Lord always;
teach us to make you a 
"member", a "part"
 of each present moment,
thus, "re" + "member"!
Let us enter into communion
in you, with you in Christ Jesus,
remembering, honoring
your divine plans since
the beginning like marriage;
forgive us for the "hardness
of our hearts" that we have relished
in forgetting and disregarding you
 and your plans in the past,
your blessings and plans for the future.
Let us stop "separating"
not only husbands and wives
but most especially our lives,
our selves from you, dear God,
 for you are our life, our being,
our origin and end.
Amen.