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.

Put Christ before everything

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Benedict, Abbot, 11 July 2022
Isaiah 1:10-17   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 10:34-11:1
Photo by author, Church of St. Agnes, Jerusalem, Israel, May 2018.
Your words today, O God
are not only disturbing but 
also puzzling; it is disturbing
for us who continue with all of
our fake religiosities that are more
of a show than an intimacy with you.
Your words through Isaiah
should awaken us to be more truthful,
to show more our love for you in our
actions that are just and fair to others.

“Trample my courts no more. Bring no more worthless offerings; your incense is loathsome to me. Your new moons and festivals I detest; they weigh me down, I tire of the load… learn to do good. Make justice your aim, redress the wronged; hear the orphan’s plea; defend the widow.”

Isaiah 1:13, 14, 17
Your words are also puzzling,
as spoken by Jesus Christ your Son
who declared: 

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.”

Matthew 10:34
Puzzling and disturbing are
your words, Lord, and we thank
you for disturbing us, for puzzling us:
may we have the courage to confront
our true selves, strip ourselves naked 
of our pretensions of being good and
faithful so we may be true to your call
to be holy and just, loving and merciful;
so many times, even in our religion and 
faith, it is not you whom we put first but
our very selves.
Through the prayers and examples of
St. Benedict, may we put Christ before
everything by thinking more of others
than of ourselves; may we always begin
our works by appealing to Jesus our Lord
to bring these to perfection and lead us to
everlasting life.  Amen.

St. Benedict, 
Pray for us!

Meeting God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop & Martyr, 28 June 2022
Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 8:23-27
Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.
Disturbing words by Amos in the
first reading and a violent storm in
the gospel while the apostles where
crossing the lake with Jesus asleep
remind us dear God our loving Father
of the inevitable "meeting with you".
Who would not be shaken with the 
words of Amos threatening:

Does a lion roar in the f0rest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened ? If evil befalls a city, has not the Lord caused it? So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.

Amos 3;4-6, 4:12
Forgive us, Lord, for being complacent
in knowing you, feeling one with you
even if our lives are far from your
teachings that we neither see your
nor are you seen in us or in our live; 
help us realize that because 
you have given us so much, much are
expected from us.
At the other extreme, many times
we are like the apostles in the boat
caught in a violent storm while at the
middle of the sea and even if Jesus were
with us, we act as if he were away.
Many times we do not meet you
because we do not live our faith in you
faithfully, so afraid of what others would
say to us; but, there are also many times
we do not meet you when our fears overtake
us that we do not see you being with us.

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life… Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies
Help us imitate St. Irenaeus who lived
his faith faithfully that he saw you daily
in his life.  Amen.

Meeting God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time, 10 June 2022
1 Kings 19:9, 11-16   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 5:27-32
Photo by author, Los Baños, Laguna, 14 May 2022.
I do not want to say
that we find you, God because
the truth is it is you who find us
always; that is why, I prefer saying
meeting you.

So often, you find us but we do 
not meet you at all because we
look for you, always expecting you
in great things and spectacular sights
and happenings, in shows where we are
the focus not you, where we are heard
and you are disregarded.

Teach us to be patient and silent
like Elijah, awaiting for your passing
in the most simple and ordinary things
like the tiny whispering sound.

O dearest Lord, forgive us in our
many inanities of trying to meet you in 
great things while we indulge in little
things we consider as harmless and 
nothing at all like a simple look at women
filled with lust that reveal great tendencies of 
corruption within us.

May we learn to take care of the little
things in our lives that truly matter most
when aggregated into a whole.  Amen.

Easter is “re + membering”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday within the Octave of Easter, 21 April 2022
Acts 3:11-26   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 24:35-48
Photo by author, Easter 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ, for the
most wonderful gift of memory:
more powerful than any memory
card or computer chip, you have
made our memories so powerful
not only in keeping the past alive
within us but most of all, enabling
us to make these memories present
again in every here and now - the gift
of "re + membering".
Thank you dear Jesus for this most
wonderful gift of all that even if 
our memories fail due to age and
sickness, we always re + member
those dearest people to us from
the past:  we make them a member
of today, that is, re-member!

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Luke 24:35-36
Before Easter happened,
during supper on the night you
were betrayed, you commanded 
your disciples to always remember,
to "do this in memory of me":
at Emmaus, the two disciples did
remember and recognized you,
Lord Jesus and from then on, we have
always re-memebered your commandment
and you yourself who becomes present
most especially in the Holy Eucharist and
when we live its essence of love.
Refresh always our memories,
Jesus, so we may keep re-membering you,
making you a member anew in every
present moment in our witnessing to
your very person and your most loving act
of self-giving.  Amen.

The Cross, our door to heaven

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, 10 April 2022
Isaiah 50:4-7  +++  Philippians 2:6-11  +++  Luke 23:1-49
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, ICS Chapel, 2016; sculpture by National Artist Ed Castrillo.

Officially we begin today the Holy Week leading to the Triduum of the Lord with Easter, the Mother of all feasts in the Church. Today we enter the “innermost room” of the house of God our Father after our 40 day journey in Lent.

We are actually celebrating today two distinct rites merged into one, the procession and blessing of palms to commemorate Jesus Christ’s entry into Jerusalem that led to his arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday which we heard in the gospel proclaimed earlier. As early in the fourth century, Christians in Jerusalem have been commemorating the Lord’s entry to Jerusalem from the city gate while a hundred years later, the Pope ushered in the Holy Week in Rome by proclaiming the long gospel we have heard of the Lord’s crucifixion and death. With the reforms of the liturgy in 1963 at Vatican II, these two celebrations were merged as one with the designation as “Palm Sunday in the Passion of the Lord”.

More than a going back to the past, our celebration today reminds us of the ever-newness of Christ’s saving work and love for us while at the same time assuring us of the future that would bring us into the fullness of life in him with the Father in heaven. This we find in the last three words recorded to us by Luke while Jesus was on the Cross.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

The mercy and forgiveness of God

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

Very consistent with his theme of the mercy and forgiveness of God to us as shown the other Sunday in the parable of the merciful father, a.k.a. the parable of the prodigal son, Luke presents to us again this most wondrous and touching trait of God in Christ even while crucified.

Again, only Luke has this detail of Jesus praying forgiveness for his enemies while being reviled and mocked by them on the cross.

It is another example of Luke’s artistry in presenting to us God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ in a sort of play of words, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” as we confront our selves with the question, “what do we really know?”

What do we really know at all that we continue to crucify Jesus today, nailing him on the cross with our many sins as we pretend and assume to know so many things in life?

Until now, we still have wars raging in various parts of the world, and more than half of these conflicts according to studies are ironically due to our different religious beliefs! Until now debates continue as everyone would want to have the power to decide for themselves who shall live and who shall die, from abortions to artificial contraceptives to capital punishment. Until now we pretend to know the truth and yet the more we have shown our ignorance as our problems become more complex than ever leading to more deaths, more disillusions, more anxieties and more emptiness in life.

And right there on the cross, Jesus continues to pray to the Father to forgive us for we do not know what we are doing to pave the way for the conversion of more others like Paul who realized he “acted out of ignorance in my unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). In his other book the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us how Peter said in a speech to the people how they “acted out of ignorance in putting Jesus to death” (3:17). Here we find Luke driving at the basic truth how so often it is in our sinfulness and “ignorance” that eventually we come to “know” and realize God who is always ready with his unfailing mercy and forgiveness. The key is to emulate Dimas, the good thief crucified at the other side of Jesus on that Good Friday.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

The promise of Paradise

He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43

Imagine the evil that men do portrayed by Luke in Christ’s crucifixion, of the relentless insults and mockery by the people on the ground and even up there on the cross when one of those hanging reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us”(Lk.23:39).

See how we are not contented and satisfied in putting others to shame but would even bury them deeply with insults as we say in Filipino, “baon na baon”. But, all is not lost as there is always a glimmer of hope. especially among the sinners and the ignorant who open themselves to god’s grace like Dimas who rebuked his fellow criminal, reminding him how they deserved the punishment but not Jesus “who has done nothing criminal” (Lk.23:41). It was at that instance when he snatched heaven by telling the Lord, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk.23:42).

And we all know the response of Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What a great God do we really have in Jesus Christ! Despite the pains and sufferings of being nailed on the cross, he not only begged the Father for our forgiveness because we do not know what we are doing but most of all, readily handed our salvation, promising Paradise to anyone who would humbly surrender one’s self to him like Dimas.

See that Jesus was very precise in assuring Dimas and us with Paradise – right at the very moment we are in him, with him on the Cross of pain and suffering, of truth and righteousness – not later when they die nor on Sunday when he rises from the dead but TODAY, right now!

The very moment we open ourselves to accept Jesus Christ our Savior, that is also precisely the very moment he is very present in us and among us. The other moment Luke used the word TODAY to indicate the very moment of here and now was at the birth of Jesus when the angels told the shepherds “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk.2:11).

What a beautiful reminder to us all of God present among us in every here and now, not yesterday nor tomorrow, but today for indeed our God is “I AM WHO AM”!

Anyone who is always one in Jesus, one with Jesus is assured of Paradise, in fact already entering Paradise, our end and ultimate destination in life. This leads us to the third important words of Jesus on the Cross according to Luke…

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Coming home to the Father

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23:46

All four evangelists attest in their respective gospel account that Jesus died on the cross at the ninth hour or about 3:00 PM. Most of all, they tell us that Jesus died while praying.

In Luke’s account, Jesus’ final prayer was from Psalm 31:6, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” As we have mentioned in our previous reflections, Luke presents Jesus always at prayer like during the second Sunday of Lent during his transfiguration; only Luke tells us why Jesus went up that high mountain with his three Apostles in order to pray. Inasmuch as the transfiguration was a prayer moment, the crucifixion is the Lord’s prayer moment par excellence. Recall how we truly learn to “pray” when in deep pain and trials like before a surgery, when we no longer know how to pray or even have forgotten what is prayer all about except that we give ourselves entirely to God and to our doctors.

There on the Cross at his final moments, Jesus never ceased from doing good, always praying, always united and one in his Father in heaven. In commending his spirit into the Father’s hands, Jesus shows us exactly what discipleship is all about: everything we have, all we are are God’s. We have nothing to lay claim as ours in this life and that is the challenge to us daily: to live for God in Jesus through our loving service to others.

In this long passion narrative we heard today is the gospel, the very good news of our salvation as proclaimed by Paul in the second reading of how Jesus gave his total self in love to the Father for us all.

May we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus, relying only in him like the Suffering Servant for he shall never put us to shame. We cannot experience the joy of his Resurrection unless we imitate Simon Cyrene, Dimas, John and the Blessed Virgin Mary in welcoming and following him in our daily life whether in the comforts of Jerusalem or the sorrows of Calvary for that is where we truly enter Paradise with Jesus, in Jesus. On the Cross. Amen.

When God seems to be far and does not care at all

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 30 March 2022
Isaiah 49:8-15   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 5:17-30
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, local residents stranded at the airport hoping to fly home to families during the 2020 lockdown.
There were so many times
in life especially during the
first year of the prolonged
COVID-19 lockdown that we
felt like your people thrown
into exile to Babylon, crying
out, "The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me"
(Isaiah 49:14).
But looking back to those days of
the lockdown, of how we have 
survived COVID and so many other
problems, sickness and difficulties, 
the more we have realized your loving
presence and involvement in our
struggles and hardships; you have not
only healed and saved us but even
opened many opportunities in life
during those trying moments!

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

Isaiah 49:15
Deepen our faith in you, O God,
especially when we could not 
understand the things happening
in our lives and around us; many times, 
we could not also understand your
very words expressed to us by 
Jesus like in the gospel today.
In times like that, Lord, please
let us just feel you, love you,
and trust you for surely, nothing
ever happens without your knowing.
Amen.