“Got to be There” by Michael Jackson (1971)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 June 2021

It’s a lovely and warm Sunday perfect for reminiscing our pre-COVID-19 days when we could all be together with family and friends without fears of getting sick, sharing meals and conversations as we unwind and prepare for another week of work and school.

It is what we miss most in this more than a year of pandemic and quarantine – the gift of presence of everyone.

It is also the essence of our Sunday celebration of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus when our Lord gave a new meaning to our most common human activity of sharing meal to become his everlasting sign of presence among us (https://lordmychef.com/2021/06/05/god-simply-present-always-here/).

That is why we have chosen Michael Jackson’s debut solo single released in 1971 called Got to Be There which also became the title of his first solo album released the following year.

Though it is a characteristically Jackson 5 song, Got to Be There is so irresistibly a Michael Jackson masterpiece with his artful grace of a voice so moving and touching that was still full of innocence when recorded in 1971-72.

It is a classic MJ song when listened to in this time of the pandemic that makes you miss him and our era of good old days.

Imagine it is Jesus Christ telling us how he would always be here present with us to face every challenge in life, to fill us with his love, and share his life with us. That is the meaning of God becoming human, of being present Body and Blood among us so we can also be present with others with our very own presence.

Got to be there, got to be there (got to be there)
In the morning
When she says hello to the world
Got to be there, got to be there (got to be there)
Bring her good times
And show her that she’s my girl
Oh, what a feeling there’ll be
The moment I know she loves me
‘Cause when I look in her eyes I realize
I need her sharing the world beside me
So I got to be there, got to be there (got to be there)
In the morning
And welcome her into my world
And show her that she’s my girl
When she says, “hello world!” (got to be there)
I need her sharing the world beside me

Try being a present – a gift – with those in need, especially the lonely and sick.

Have blessed Sunday and week ahead, everyone!

God. Simply present, always here.

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 06 June 2021
Exodus 24:3-8  ><}}}'>  Hebrews 9:11-15  ><}}}'>  Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

The one most important thing this pandemic has cost us for over a year now is the simple joy of presence of our loved ones. For more than a year, we have stopped or limited our visits and celebrations with relatives and friends for fears of spreading the virus especially to our older folks.

It has become so insane for many of us, most especially with those health protocols when even couples were prevented from riding together in bikes!

But at least, the pandemic had taught us the value and importance of presence of everyone, of being present to those we love who, unfortunately, many have also died this year due to the virus and other sickness without us even seeing them at all.

This is the gist of our celebration today, of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ: the simplicity of God and his simple presence among us.

For the second Sunday in a row after the Pentecost, we celebrate another major feast of the Lord in Ordinary Time to show us that our God is a reality, not just a mystery of the Trinity that we cannot fully understand nor explain.


When Jesus Christ said 
"this is my body" and "this is my blood of the covenant", 
he brought to new significance 
the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal 
and the insignificant food of bread and wine 
so common among peoples in every nation and culture. 

Photo by author, 2018.

The simplicity of God.

Last Sunday we celebrated and reflected on the central mystery of our one God in three Persons called the Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate his meaning and reality as a person, a God who relates with us in the most personal manner with his presence.

Recall our basic catechism of God being perfect – all knowing, all powerful, and always present because of his main attribute: his simplicity.

In our world that has become so complicated like our Facebook relationships or with all those gadgets and apps we have including our “intelligent” cars and homes, God remains so true, so real, so present with us because he is simple. No fuss, no nothing. Just pure presence among those who are willing to be still and simple. And present in the moment.

The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

Mark 14:16, 22-24

See the simplicity of the story, the simplicity of Jesus Christ who took the initiative to prepare everything for their Passover meal that his disciples “found it just as he had told them”.

When Jesus Christ said “this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant”, he brought to new significance the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal and the insignificant food of bread and wine so common among peoples in every nation and culture.

During their supper, Jesus gave a new meaning not only to their Passover meal but even to our most basic and common act of having a meal, of eating together to become a celebration of life, not just to feed one’s body but also one’s soul!

In becoming human like us, sharing in all of our experiences except sin, Jesus leveled up our very being and lives at his Last Supper when he established the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to be the everlasting sign of his loving presence among us and thus, revealed to us the deeper meaning of the common meal we used to take with everybody as a giving and sharing of our very selves with others.

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands… he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his won blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Hebrews 9:11, 12, 14

Like Jesus Christ, it is not really the food and drinks that we share whenever we eat together and dine with others but our very selves. No wonder, in every celebration and milestone of our lives, from a simple date of a young man and woman trying to get to know each other to weddings, birthdays, and other significant occasions, there is always a meal we host to share our joys, our triumphs, our lives with others.

And the most beautiful part of these meals we share with everyone is the deeper meaning we convey that it is essentially a thanksgiving to God for all of his abounding love and grace poured upon us which is the meaning of the Greek word “eucharistia”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our presence in the Lord with others

The word present, of being here now, is the other word we use to refer to “gift” like when we say birthday present or Christmas present. And that is the meaning of this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood: God as the gift and the giver in Jesus Christ.

In the Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ wholly, nourishing us, blessing us, and most of all, enabling us to offer also ourselves to him through others.

But, are we present to him?

Are we willing to give ourselves to him?

From the very start since God entered into a covenant with his chosen people, he had shown his simple presence demanding nothing except our simple presence too to him and with others. This is the meaning of the offering of blood which symbolizes life, our sharing in the life of God.

But unlike the pagans, we offer our selves to God not to lose but to transformed our lives in him. With Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday foreshadowed by his Last Supper on Holy Thursday, we discover how life given to God is not lost but saved which is the meaning of the ratification by Moses of the covenant in the wilderness with the Israelites:

Taking the book of the covenant, Moses read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of life.”

Exodus 24:7-8

Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, we ratify the new covenant of Christ with us, when we give our great “Amen” to him like the Israelites at the desert, vowing to “heed and do” whatever he told us. That is also the meaning of attending a party or a dinner hosted by a relative or a friend: we renew our ties with them, promising to be there to give ourselves to them especially in times of need and danger.

But, how willing are we to remain true and faithful, always present to God, our family and friends especially in this time of the pandemic?

What a tragedy that while celebrating the Sunday Eucharist, we turn away from God in our sins in the same manner we turn against those people we share meal with and attended parties they hosted.


Let us be still 
in the calming presence of God 
in Jesus Christ's Body and Blood.  
He is more than enough 
to suffice all our needs and longing in this life.  
Like the bread and wine, 
we can all be transformed 
into his Body and Blood 
to be a present to others.

In celebrating this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood on this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we are challenged in our faith and conviction of truly being present like Jesus before him and with others in our daily life especially in this time of the pandemic with so many in great need of basic necessities.

Like the Lord Jesus Christ, do we take the time and effort to prepare for every Sunday Mass celebration as he prepared their Passover meal?

Jesus is not asking us to be particular with the details. All we need is the essential: our very presence with the Lord. Simply be our selves: no need to fake anything, to be somebody else because Jesus loves us as we are.

It is good to remember on this Solemnity too how take simplicity for granted as being bare, without much fanfare and even spectacle as we always want something to feast our eyes on like what we have done to many of our rites and rituals. We are never contented that less is always more that many times, our religious celebrations have become banal in nature with all the pomp and pageantry we have added like to our processions. Instead of turning to God, our attentions had turned into our very selves, clearly a case of “triumphalism” when we “exaggerate” even spiritual activities.

Let us be still in the calming presence of God in Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood. He is more than enough to suffice all our needs and longing in this life. Like the bread and wine, we can all be transformed into his Body and Blood to be a present to others. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz at Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

This God who connects us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Holy Trinity-B, 30 May 2021
Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40 ><}}}'> Romans 8:14-17 ><}}}'> Matthew 28:16-20 
From Pinterest.com

If there is anything most difficult and frustrating next to COVID-19 these days, it must be having your internet going “off line” as you lose “connections” with family and friends – and NETFLIX – while isolated in your home due to the pandemic. Making it worst is when it happens on a Saturday evening with no one to even answer your calls at the supposed to be 24/7 hotlines of internet providers that we were flooded with complaints and queries as we could not air our online Masses last Sunday.

As we went back to “stone age” without any internet signal for almost a week, I realized some beautiful things this modern lifestyle we all enjoy with a lot of great patience courtesy of our unreliable telcos. See the terms we use these days that speak of our modern life but at the same time reveal to us something so ancient, so true, and so basic that we take for granted or even disregard – GOD.


Unlike the internet that can be cut off for many reasons, 
our connection with God is permanent --- 
upgraded to the highest level more than 2000 years ago 
in the coming of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit!

God is the original internet, the very first Wi-Fi! He cannot be seen but can be strongly felt. Most of all, God is always around, never goes off line. All we need is make the effort to connect. He has created the whole world and universe as his “Wi-Fi Zone” where we are all interconnected in time and space that we can go back to our past and be healed in him or look into the future and be assured with all of his support.

Unlike the internet that can be cut off for many reasons, our connection with God is permanent — upgraded to the highest level more than 2000 years ago in the coming of Jesus Christ and the sending of the Holy Spirit!

It is in this light that I wish to invite you to join me in reflecting the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity we are celebrating on this first Sunday of the resumption of Ordinary Time.

From shutterstock.com via Aletheia.com

God in our midst

The challenge is not to explain fully 
the mystery of the Trinity, 
of the three Persons in one God 
but how we make that mystery 
a living reality in us and among us.

Before the people of the Bible reflected and wrote about the origins of the world and the universe, they were first preoccupied with their long experience with God. They have felt and have wondered how somebody bigger than them, more powerful yet so loving and caring related with them in a personal way in the many events of their lives employing various signs and wonders that instilled the whole spectrum of feelings like joy and fear, guilt and thanksgiving, commitment and love, and all the other emotions we also go through in our own experiences of him!

And that is the most amazing about his total mystery: we cannot fully know and understand God but we know deep inside us he is true, he is real, he exists. We can prove beyond doubt his very existence and use so many illustrations to explain him but will never be enough.

What matters most is that we “know” him, that he is real, that he is true.

To know in the Jewish thought is not only an intellectual assent but more of a relationship: to know a person is to have a relationship with that person. Hence, every knowledge and recognition of God implies a lifelong commitment and relationship with him!

Moses said to the people: “Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other”

Deuteronomy 4:32-33, 39

Beyond doubt, God is always present, the perfect present in fact as he told Moses at the burning bush, “I Am Who Am” (Ex.3:14) that to say the very word GOD means he exists, a foolishness to claim that “there is no god” (Ps.14:1).

We have come to know him in our many experiences, giving us a sense of “belonging”, of being linked and interconnected like Wi-Fi that we do not see and for all we know, has always been there present in the airwaves, in the atmosphere tapped only recently through our modern communications technology.

The challenge is not to explain fully the mystery of the Trinity, of the three Persons in one God but how we make that mystery a living reality in us and among us.

Photo from kimaldrich.com

To be wrapped by – not to grasp – the mystery

Unlike the internet signals we have discovered only lately in history, God as a reality revealed himself to us in his relationships in the past, reaching its highest point in Christ’s coming that was affirmed and enlightened to the Apostles at the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Jerusalem which continues to our time.

For this Sunday, we use the majestic conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Matthew that has a very strong Trinitarian flavor with the Lord’s command before ascending into heaven.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshipped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached, and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Matthew 28:16-20

Last Thursday after Pentecost we celebrated the new Feast of Jesus Christ, the Eternal Priest to remind us of our sharing in the priestly ministry of Jesus when we were baptized. That is, to adore, honor, praise and thank the supreme majesty of God in our prayers. We see this exercise of our common priesthood in Christ in this gospel we have heard: the disciples went to a mountain in Galilee as ordered by Jesus. The mountain indicates the presence of God, conveying a message of praying and coming to him.

The Sign of the Cross is essentially an ascent to a mountain, a prayer in itself to God in the Holy Trinity. When we make the Sign of the Cross, we become the embodiment of God’s mysterious threeness of persons in one God. We affirm his reality as we enter into his mystery of the Trinity by fulfilling Christ’s triple mission given to the apostles.

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” To truly experience the mystery of the Trinity is to lose one’s self in Christ as his disciple. In his teachings and very life, Jesus had shown us the importance of forgetting one’s self as his follower, of becoming like a child that whoever wants to be the greatest must be the least and servant of all. The mystery of God is not something we grasp but something we allow to envelop us to be covered with his transcendence in order share in Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Remember that it is not difficult to find God who reveals himself to those truly seeking him by following Jesus on the Cross.

“Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We have seen how since the start of the Church after Pentecost, baptism has been conferred to those who welcomed the Gospel of salvation from Jesus Christ. Through him, with him, and in him, every baptized person is born into God’s life in his Holy Trinity as beloved children of the Father and coheirs of his kingdom in heaven, as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, and as the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Thus, we become a holy people to God, one again in him as he had deemed since the beginning that was fulfilled in Jesus our Eternal High Priest at the last supper and Good Friday.

“Teach them to observe all I have commanded you.” St. Matthew has been very particular in this aspect in his entire gospel account, of the need to put into practice the Lord’s teachings. It is not enough that people are baptized, that they welcome in faith Christ’s commandment to love: they have to live it up! That is when the Trinity becomes so real and true in us when we live in love, when we are willing to give ourselves in love for others.


In this world that has become so highly sophisticated and complicated as well, when what matters most are fame and popularity, connections that do not last at all, always erratic, never contented with what is most essential like value of persons and life, it is no wonder that even God is slowly being removed from the daily equation of life.

Photo by author, Bangui Windmill, Ilocos Norte, 2011.

This is most especially true in this post-modern generation without absolutes, when anything goes as everything is relative; and worst, when something that cannot be proven as tangibly present and real, then the mystery of the Trinity is even pushed even to the back seats of our lives.

See how so many people are so ashamed of even doing the Sign of the Cross in public!

This solemnity of the Trinity that we celebrate on the first Sunday at the resumption of Ordinary Time reminds us of the daily coming of God into our lives, of his personal relationship with us that is being challenged strongly by the ways of the world that is opposite his ways of love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, simplicity and humility.

Let us ask the help of the Holy Spirit to lead us as “children of God, not slaves” of the world’s selfish ways (Rom. 8:14-17) so we may maintain that strong connections in the Father through Jesus Christ. Amen.

A blessed first week of June 2021 to everyone!

Praying for my “His Story”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holiness in gentleness

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Monday, 29 March 2021
Isaiah 42:1-7   ><}}}*>   John 12:1-11
Photo by author, December 2020.
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am well pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice  to the nations,
not crying out,
not shouting, 
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break, 
and a smoldering wick  he shall not quench.
(Isaiah 42:1-3)

On this Holy Monday of our holiest week, we pray to you, O God, for gentleness for us to be holy like your “Suffering Servant” according to Prophet Isaiah and fulfilled in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

In this world saturated in a cacophony of many voices and noises competing to be heard in the various social media platforms, teach us to be gentle, to never view ourselves better than someone else when we would rather be silent to listen more, “not crying out, not shouting, not making our voices heard in the street.”

In this world where “size always matters” while power is always expressed in force and violence, teach us to be gentle with them who are actually weak and soft inside, even broken like the reed or a smoldering wick.

Teach us holiness in gentleness through Jesus Christ who showed us the path to real power is in weakness, that instead of asserting superiority, we would rather help others to assert their innate goodness especially when the weak come forward to express their gentleness too like Mary who poured oil and perfume on his feet.

Give us the grace to dwell today on his words, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (Jn.12:7-8).

O how foolish we can be, dear Father, to miss this essential truth that we can only love the poor in you and through Jesus your Son. Take away that attitude of Judas Iscariot among us of “thinking the poor” yet always feeling superior to them, even to Jesus our Lord!

Make us gentle in our thoughts and in our words, most especially in our actions so that everyone may feel your gentle mercy and compassion in Christ. Amen.

Praying for our relationships and the ties that bind us

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2021
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10  +  Hebrews 10:4-10  +  Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago of a mosaic of the Annunciation at the Shrine of St. Padre Pio at Rotondo, Italy, 2018.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father on this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ! Thank you very much in fulfilling your promise, in sending us the perfect offering we can have to be one with you again.

Brothers and sisters: It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:4-7, 10

In his becoming human like us, your Son Jesus Christ taught us the value and beauty of obedience to you, O God, even unto death on the cross to restore our relationships with you and with one another destroyed by sin.

Teach us, O God, as we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord, that more than the many things we expect in this life like our plans and dreams are the relationships and ties that bind us together as family and friends, as a nation and your people.

Give us the grace to offer our very selves, to let go of our many plans and agenda in life like the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as her most chaste husband St. Joseph to always say “yes” to your words, to your calls and invitations.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

May we be like Mary giving flesh to your Word Jesus Christ, bringing his peace and mercy to this world so wounded by our many divisions and self-interests even in the midst of a pandemic. Amen.

Photo by author, site of the Annunciation, Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

The joy of Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after Ash Wednesday, 19 February 2021
Isaiah 58:1-9     <*(((><  +  ><)))*>     Matthew 9:14-15

Today I remember, O Lord, our old days of yore when Fridays were of simple food of all fish and veggies without any meat, of how we were told to remember this day so special because of Good Friday even if it were not the Season of Lent.

Austerity and low key were all over as peg to make your presence, O God, during Lent that the prevailing mood was more of joy than of being somber and serious as most people would think these days of fasting and abstinence as self-inflicted sufferings and pains.

Forgive us this modern age of instants and affluence, fasting has become centered on our very selves, with our “piety” like the Pharisees (Matt.9:14) who questioned Jesus why his disciples did not fast unlike them and the followers of John.

Enlighten us on this first Friday of Lent to realize anew that this is a season of joy and rejoicing because when we fast, we become empty of ourselves, of our filth and sins so we can be filled with your Holy Spirit to become your vessels of justice and love and joy with one another.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

Isaiah 58:6-7

How lovely and beautiful the world must be if we shall heed your words, fulfill your longing from us in true fasting more focused only in making you present among us who have gone to choose darkness over light.

O God our Father, give us the wisdom and courage to return to you so we can offer ourselves for others to feel you as we await the great rejoicing of Easter, the very joy of Lent. Amen.

Everything begins in God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 07 February 2021
Job 7:1-4, 6-7 >><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 >><}}}*> Mark 1:29-39
Photo by author, January 2021.

Mark continues to show us a slice in the daily life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We have seen last week how everything began at the synagogue where Jesus preached and healed on a day of sabbath.

The Lord is clearly telling us that everything must begin and end in God. Always.

This Sunday we see a complete 24-hour look not only into the life and ministry of Jesus but most specially to his very person as the Christ, the Son of God as he continued his preaching while proclaiming his good news of salvation to everyone.

And to truly experience him and his gospel, we have to make that effort of meeting him.

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waiting on them.

Mark 1:29-31

Day time with the Lord…

Photo by author, morning inside our parish church during last summer’s lockdown.

We all know by heart God’s third commandment to keep holy the sabbath day. This commandment was perfected in Jesus Christ when he rose again on Easter, the day after sabbath which is our Sunday celebration.

It is true that sabbath day is Saturday but when Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, the early Christians who were all Jews shifted their day of worship to Sunday. Such shift was very remarkable, proving beyond doubt the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus for the Jewish followers of Christ to abandon their Saturday worship.

In Jesus Christ, we find sabbath not just a stop in work and everything but a return to God who is our life. Such is the centrality of God in our lives that sabbath is the day of the Lord because it is the only day without any other day at par with – walang katapat kasi walang katapat ang Diyos! See there are seven days in a week, an odd number because there is one day without any “partner day” like for example Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday-Thursday, Friday-Saturday.

Photo by author, parish altar one morning in November 2019.

Sabbath which is Sunday for us Christians is solely for the Lord!

The four disciples of Jesus must have known earlier of the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law; they must have been worried but they went along with Jesus to the synagogue to pray and worship God first, casting aside all their worries for they were with the Lord.

It was after coming from the synagogue, when Mark tells us how “they immediately told him about her” that they witnessed and experienced an outpouring of grace in their home and family.

That imagery of Jesus grasping the hand and raising her up is so rich in meaning that tells us how God helps those who help themselves.

Imagine how even if we do not pray daily nor celebrate Mass weekly yet God never fails to bless us every day. How much more if we come and meet him every Sunday!

Here we find how every true worship of God with the community extends to our families when we bring home Jesus if we are with him so we can immediately tell him our concerns in life. Jesus comes daily to us, always wanting to hold our hands and raise us up to be well and better than before like Simon’s mother-in-law but, are we willing to meet him especially in the Holy Eucharist?

In the first reading, we find Job crying to God, lamenting his many sufferings and the sad condition of life in general, something like what Qoheleth had written. It is not a cry of revolt by Job but more of a complaint coming from the heart of a faithful servant caught between despair and hope who finds life’s nothingness without God. Despite his losing all his children and workers in a day along with his properties not to mention his getting sick, Job never turned away from God and kept on calling to him in the silence of his heart from daytime to evening until the Lord heard him and blessed him fourfold.

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door… Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon those who were with him pursued him… He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Mark 1:32-33, 35-36, 38-39

Remaining in the Lord even in darkness…

Photo by author of seminarians meditating in silence after their evening prayers, November 2020.

It was still Saturday but sabbath day had already ended at 5PM (having started at 5PM of Friday) that people have started to come to Jesus to seek his healing from their sickness and possessions by evil spirits.

Darkness did not stop Jesus from serving the people despite the difficulties of seeing them, of being so tired and hungry at night, even sleepy. Likewise, darkness did not prevent Jesus communing with the Father by rising before dawn to go to a deserted place to pray alone. What a very beautiful image of Jesus as our Good Shepherd lovingly serving the sick and the poor and as our Eternal Priest making time to pray, ensuring prayer as center not only of his ministry but of his life.

According to recent studies, Filipinos rank as the highest users in the world of social media for the sixth straight year in a row, spending an average of more than four hours and 15 minutes daily (https://www.rappler.com/technology/internet-culture/hootsuite-we-are-social-2021-philippines-top-social-media-internet-usage)

That is 28 hours a week, meaning we lose one whole day or 24 hours weekly just for Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms! Not included are the hours spent watching television. How about time with God and with our loved ones?

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera during our Christ the King procession, November 2020.

Please allow me now to be a little personal as this is also my last full week in this first parish I have served for nine years and seven months.

If there is one thing I have learned so well from here is the value and importance of less.

Since my ordination in 1998 until 2010, I have always been celebrating Masses in major parishes like the Malolos Cathedral, the Santissima Trinidad in Malolos (a pilgrimage parish), and the Parish and National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela. Every Mass, every sacrament there was really big time with large congregations coming.

Totally the opposite here in my first parish assignment under the beloved disciple of Jesus, St. John Evangelist. Small church building without a garage nor a patio in one small baranggay with about 12000 souls to care for.

Our Patron Saint, San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista of Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

My predecessors saw this as too small that they did not have daily Masses. But I felt in my prayers that is the only thing Jesus wanted me to do here: make him present in the daily Masses and other sacraments.

We started with just five people attending our daily Masses while Sundays were half-filled. Before COVID-19, we have increased attendees to our daily Masses to about 20 people and our Sunday celebrations have become almost seating capacity.

At first I felt sad and disappointed but the people here kept on telling me it is a miracle already that “so many people” were coming for the Masses. Slowly, I have come to accept our situation that that’s the way it is. And that is where I felt God blessing us so abundantly with our less!

Modesty aside, in the past nine years we have sent more children to receiving the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation (without any fees but with free snacks) since 1998 when this started as a quasi parish. We have almost baptized every adult person who have not yet received the sacrament too.

COVID-19 stopped everything, affecting our collections so bad but we just kept on serving and proclaiming Jesus with our daily Masses seen online, motorcade of the Blessed Sacrament every week, distribution of the Holy Communion every Sunday to those who attended our online Mass including through our innovative “drive-thru” Communion.

01 November 2020.

We never beg the people for donations but they all poured in, enabling us to continue helping the poor like helping them bury their dead, even renovate our church with the finest liturgical vessels and things!

One thing has become clear with me: always begin in God, keep him as our center in everything and all else follows.

Remember those days when you were centered in Christ; despite the problems and trials, we were never forsaken by the Lord. Even if we have lost some of our life’s battles, we have still emerged victorious because we have become stronger and fulfilled inside.

We all come and go, especially us priests but, our mission as disciples of Christ remains the same everywhere which is to make Jesus present, make God known to everyone like in the gospel today. This we can only accomplish when we remain one in him, totally free for him and free from other attachments to be free for all.

Like St. Paul, may we all strive especially us your priests to be “all things to all men” -omnia omnibus (1Cor.9:22) by being free to lovingly serve others especially the weak and the poor in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our parish, November 2019.

Prayer to enter God’s rest

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Week-I, Year -I in Ordinary Time, 15 January 2021
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11  >><)))*> >><)))*> + <*(((><< <*(((><<  Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee in Israel, 2017.

Let us be on guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed… Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:1, 11

Thank you, dear God this Friday with Your words reminding us of “entering Your rest”, Your Sabbath!

But what is Your “rest”, God our Father?

More than a particular day of the week, it is first of all Your very presence like in paradise that our first parents have lost due to their pride and disobedience to You.

May we heed and learn from the reflections of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews of how Your chosen people, the Israelites, disobeyed you, dear God, while in the wilderness that prevented them from entering Your rest in the Promised Land of Israel, spending 40 years wandering in the desert.

Sadly, all these continue to happen in our own time when we are supposed to be disciples of Your Son Jesus Christ.

Help us O God to resist the temptations and strive hard to see you, feel you, and experience you.

Help us to be like those men carrying the paralytic who sought ways and means to see Jesus Christ, our only true hope and inspiration and consolation in times like these. It is in Jesus Christ’s coming that we are able to enter Your rest freely and truly, dear God, to experience Your love and mercy, kindness and compassion we have all taken for granted.

But, more than a place and a day, Your rest, O Lord, is heaven, Your very presence, that very moment when Jesus healed and forgave the sins of the paralytic, astounding everyone, glorifying You, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mk.2:12).

Let us “rest” in You, dear God by returning to You, of being renewed in You with Your whole creation in Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset somewhere in Pampanga, 13 January 2021.

We are all brothers and sisters in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Week-I, Year-I in Ordinary Time, 12 January 2021
Hebrews 2:5-12   +   >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<   +   Mark 1:21-28

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father in giving us your Son Jesus Christ. Not just as Savior but as a brother by suffering and dying for us.

What a great mystery You have revealed to us when Jesus could have just come and simply be our brother through a declaration from You when He was baptized at Jordan; but, He chose to obediently go through Passion and Death.

So often, we take this so ordinarily without realizing its deeper meaning that Your glory and our salvation should be brought about by Jesus becoming one of us but that He should go through so much pain and suffering on the cross, not to mention the indescribable humiliation He went through.

You know so well, O God, how we see sufferings as punishment but in Jesus Christ you have shown and taught us that in fact it is a source of Your abounding grace.

In “subjecting” all things to him, he left nothing not “subject to him.” Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor” because he suffered death, he who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.

Hebrews 2:8-10

How sad that like in Capernaum during His time, we are amazed, wondering, asking: “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him” (Mk.1:27).

Help us, O God, to embrace this beautiful mystery and reality of Jesus Christ’s coming that through His obedience to You even in suffering and death, He is able to help us, consecrating us to You because we are His brothers and sisters in suffering and death. Amen.