From the Ear to the Heart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2021
Hebrews 10:11-18     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 4:1-20

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for being deaf, for refusing to listen to you, for not having the ears to hear your calls. Twice you called out on the crowd gathered before you in the gospel today, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow… Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mk. 4:3, 9).

So many times in life, we have forgotten the essential use of our ears which is to hear and listen so we may understand. Most of the time, our ears have been reduced to mere decorations of our head to hold eyeglasses as well as be stuffed with ear plugs or covered with headsets to be deadened by sounds we prefer to hear and listen to.

Make us realize anew that our ears were shaped in such a way to look like our heart when put together so that the more we hear and listen to you and others, the more we love.

So many things begin with our ears.

And so often, from the ears, they go to our hearts to be processed.

From hearing to listening to loving.

It is only with a listening heart that we can truly see you passing by everyday in our lives like the Sower sowing to us the seeds of love, the seeds of the kingdom of heaven.

Moreover, cleanse our hearts, remove so many other things not supposed to be there that distort our perceptions of you and of others.

May we realize too that in our refusal to listen to you, so many people have also stopped listening to us, your disciples, especially when we speak more of our words, more of our thoughts, than of your Word and Holy Will.

As you open our ears and hearts to your Word, dear Jesus, teach us to be patient too like our Father, the Sower, to never give up sowing your seeds of the kingdom of God even if nobody listens to us. Amen.

Van Gogh painting of “The Sower” from wikimediacommons.org.

To live is to love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 13 November 2020
2 John 4-9     >><)))*> |\  >><)))*>  ||  >><)))*>     Luke 17:26-37
Photo by author, ICMAS Theologate Chapel, 05 October 2020.

My prayer to you today, O God our loving Father, is simple: thank you very much for the gift of a new day, thank you very much for the warm sunshine amid overcast skies, thank you very much most of all for the gift of life.

Once again you have made us experience your saving hand and protection the other night from the terrifying winds and rains of typhoon Ulysses; then yesterday, everybody was surprised at how fast the waters have risen following widespread floods.

So many of us are asking – not complaining – why all these things happening this year 2020?

Open our hearts, open our eyes and ears to listen and heed your voice amid these calamities happening among us.

Make us more sensitive to the needs and cries of others by living in love and charity, of witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ your Son instead of entertaining so many “progressive” ideas and thoughts that lead nowhere.

Let us live in love, Lord.

For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments… Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh… Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.

1 John 6,7, 8-9

May these calamities open ourselves to the reality and mystery of Christ’s coming again, of how we must strive to live in love, to see every body not just as a body like vultures but as somebody needing love and attention. Amen.

Postscript-2 to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 October 2020
Statue of St. Paul at the Malolos Cathedral by the famed ecclesiastical artist Willy Layug.

Today we conclude our reflections – or “postscript” – to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians about faith we heard proclaimed in the weekday readings two weeks ago from October 05-14, 2020.

A truly faithful person 
is one who is also free.

We have said that faith is a relationship with God and with others like in marriage and friendship. When our faith with God and with persons is strong with conviction and realistic, then the more we become free because there is no room for doubts that we are not loved.

Brothers and sisters: Scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe. Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.

Galatians 3:22-25

Recall those times we have felt imprisoned and chained by the past with all of our broken and toxic relationships, sickness and handicaps, failures and sins, and other painful memories: that was when we wavered in our faith, when we lacked conviction in our faith.

We have to be convinced that Jesus came to set us free from all forms of slavery that prevent us from growing and maturing in faith and freedom in him. When our faith is strong, then we are able to break the many barriers that imprison us like gender, color, language, social status and even religion.

Nourish our faith to be free to become our true selves!

Photo by author, 2019.

Faith works through love.

It is God’s gift of faith that enables us to do good, to do our works of charity and love. And because we are faithful and free, then we also love!

Incidentally, being faithful and free are always tied up with being able to love because love is a choice, a decision we make, not just feelings or emotions.

Every choice is made out of freewill and here is the most interesting part of being faithful and free and loving: like love, man is able to believe and trust because it is God who first believed and trusted us!

A faithful person is always a loving person because he is free to choose what is good, what is right. And the more faithful we become to God, to your spouse, to your family and friends, the more loving you become like them!

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:6

Without faith, it is difficult for us to love because of the pains that come always in loving.

Without faith, it is impossible to forgive and be merciful, to let go of others’ infidelity and lack of love and concern because these are virtues and values that come only from within, from a loving heart that is also faithful where Jesus Christ dwells and reigns.


A few years ago, GMA-7 launched its talent search called Starstruck inviting young people to… Dream. Believe. Survive.

For us Christians, it is… Dream. Believe. Live.

The moment we believe, then we are able to see, even God hidden among each one of us. Amen.

*All photos by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Quezon, 2020.

Generosity comes from the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXV-A, Ordinary Time, 20 September 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9   >><)))*>   Philippians 1:20-24, 27   >><)))*>   Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by the author on the way to Petra in Jordan, May 2019.

There was something amusing I realized while praying this Sunday’s gospel of how in our time we no longer hear or use the word “generous” anymore — except when the topic is about food like in the expression “generous servings”!

We all love and enjoy “generous servings” of food and drinks whether in restaurants or at home or at parties because it means something more than what we pay for or come for. And that is the essence of generosity: the giving of more than what is required and just. It is love in the real sense like the prayer for generosity by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Dearest Lord:
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not heed the wounds,
To toil and not seek for rest,
To labor and ask not for reward, except
To know that I am doing your will.  Amen. 
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Generosity bonds every community in Christ

Sorry if I have to start our reflection through the stomach because today is our “Pistang Pasasalamat” (Thanksgiving) in the Parish…

Going back to our reflection, my dear reader, recall how in the past two weeks we have heard Jesus teaching us important lessons how our relationships must be based on mutual love through fraternal correction and forgiving of those who have sinned against us.

This Sunday through another parable, Jesus teaches us the importance of generosity as a wonderful expression of love we forget most in our relationships and dealing with others.

Generosity is the glue that keeps our ties stronger and keeps us filled with joy because it is thinking more of the other person than of self. It is love at its finest – charming and elegant as in suave – but so disarming and revealing when overlooked as we shall see in this parable.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for is vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them… You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them i reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'”

Matthew 20:1-15

Notice how Jesus again elicited our feelings to drive home his lesson today about love as basis of our relationships. Last week we totally agreed with the king in punishing the merciless servant whose debt he had forgiven but was unmerciful to a fellow servant and debtor.

This Sunday, with whom did we take sides with? Be honest. Did you side with the workers hired in the morning and worked all day only to receive a pay exactly the same with those who worked only for an hour? Did we also feel treated unfairly like them?

But, why are we reacting the same way as those workers who toiled under the sun? What is our complaint? Are we envious because the owner is generous?

Recall our reflections last month about the parable as a simple story conveying deeper truths about life and our selves. From the French parabolein -along the way – Jesus is inviting us to read anew this parable we have heard so many times in the past so we may enter into a dialogue with him to purify and cleanse us to get its whole picture. And hopefully, become generous too.

Nuns bringing goods to the poor during the height of the Luzon-wide lockdown last summer.

Human justice, Divine kindness

The parable is not about social justice and just wages: it is about the immense love of God for us all. Jesus said it at the start, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” – it is a parable about God and his kingdom.

See the great love of the landowner who went out five times during the day, even at late afternoon so people may have a job to earn some money for the day. We have to keep in mind that the workers were hired because the owner is kind. Period.

The owner is like the good shepherd Jesus described as who would leave the rest of his flock to search for one missing sheep.

How many times have we acted like those early workers, complaining to God when we feel “shortchanged” for our work and efforts, or being better and more good perhaps than others?

It happens so many times when we question him even in the Church and specially in the society and government when we cannot understand how God who is supposed to be just and fair is allowing all injustices and evil to happen like during this time of COVID-19.

The first reading reminds us that to think that way as if we know everything is dangerous because we could be very wrong and mistaken after all. God sees and knows everything that in the end amid all the twists and turns in history and in our personal lives, it is always his will that prevails which proves best for us and mankind. In times like these, we need to have faith in God and trust him more through prayers and reflections.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6, 9
Photo by author, Jaffa in Israel, May 2017.

We keep on saying that one immediate fruit of having a prayer life is the heightening of our sensitivities when we see more of God in others than more of ourselves. The problem with those workers hired earlier in the day that instead of thanking God for his kindness in hiring them, they even wanted more in their pay than what they have agreed upon — so selfish and feeling so entitled like some among us!!!

God as the landowner is teaching us not only to be thankful for the blessings we have received from him but also to rejoice when others aside from us are also blessed. As everyone would say these days, “sana all” are blessed, not only a selected few.

Again we find here a similar situation in the parable of the prodigal son where the father told the elder one that “everything I have is yours” (Lk.15:31) when he refused to come home to celebrate the return of his younger brother, citing how he had obeyed the father all his life without being given a young goat to feast with his friends.

Like that loving father of the prodigal son, God is reminding us this Sunday in this parable to rejoice that others have been blessed, instead of grumbling and complaining, demanding for more than what we have, forgetting everything is out of God’s goodness, never because of our merits.

Looking inside our hearts

My dear friends, this time of the pandemic invites us to be generous by looking deep into our hearts, of seeing God more and others than just our self. At this time when life is so difficult and death is so closest to home with everyone, the best thing we can do is to thank God for his gift of life to us each day and to deepen our faith in him.

Lately I have been praying to God to grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart as we find ourselves in his similar situation of being imprisoned: him for the gospel, us due to COVID-19.

See the faith of St. Paul in God that even in prison with his death approaching each day, he continues to rejoice and experience peace within because he had realized that the success of the gospel is not on human efforts but in Jesus whom we cannot box in our little worlds and beliefs, rites and rituals. In fact, he was so confident that even with his death, the more the gospel would spread.

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, March 2020.

Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death… conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:20, 27

Last Sunday, Jesus taught us to forgive from the heart, that is, to see one another as a brother and sister in God our Father who forgives us without limits for our many sins.

Today, Jesus is asking us to give from the heart – to be generous – not for anything else but because we are brothers and sisters in God our Father who blesses us without limits despite our sinfulness.

Generosity comes from the heart when in that heart is Jesus whom we find dwelling, giving us peace and joy no matter how much suffering we go through because him alone suffices that we are willing to let go of everything.

Share a generous serving of God’s blessings today to someone in need. Amen.

A blessed Sunday and week to you!

Praying and greeting the peace of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 August 2020
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18 >><)))*> || >><)))*> || >><)))*> Matthew 23:27-32
Photo by author, Mirador Hills, Baguio City, January 2018.

Dearest Lord Jesus:

Peace!

Peace was your promise to your Apostles on your last supper on Holy Thursday; thus, Peace was your greeting to them on that Easter evening when you visited them while locked and hiding in fear at the Upper Room.

You have warned us during your last supper that your peace is so different from the peace of the world because it is a peace borne out of love – even of dying for another – a peace that comes from sacrifice and suffering, a peace that comes only from our communion in you like your great Apostle Paul:

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. This greetings is in my own hand, Paul’s. This is the sign in every letter; this is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

In all his letters of which the ones addressed to the Thessalonians were the very first, Paul right away made known his “identification” in all his letters with your peace, Lord.

It was not just a call sign or an I.D. of Paul; it was evidently his prayer and his life as seen in his preaching and experiences marked with many sufferings and sacrifices on his part for his love to you and your people.

How sad in our time, the expression and greetings as well as concept of peace have all degenerated to mere fad, almost like a joke that has become so mechanical among so many people wishing for peace without really praying and working hard for it.

Remind us, O Lord, that peace in the world happens first in our hearts; that the things going on outside us as are all reflections of what is within us. Give us the grace to sincerely pray and work for peace in you that we may always have your peace in our hearts and share it with others.

May we not fall into the same mistakes and sins of the Pharisees and scribes of your time – hypocrisy!

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones ands every kind of filth. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”

Matthew 23:27, 29-32

In this time of pandemic, O Lord, with so many other problems we are all facing in our selves and families, there are so many hyprocrites among us pretending to work for peace. Enlighten them, O Lord. Or better, banish them for they make a mockery of your greatest gift at Easter which is peace. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Praying for a pure heart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 25 August 2020
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, 14-17 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 23:23-26
Photo by author, Betania Retreat House in Tagaytay City, 2017.

How ironic and even sad, Lord Jesus Christ that in this age of too much information around us, when nothing is hidden with everything revealed without any propriety and decency, all the more we live in a world of lies and insincerity.

There is the great disparity between what is deep inside our hearts and what we put up front for all to see.

We have become like the scribes and Pharisees who give too much emphasis on little things, forgetting the more essential ones in life like love and mercy, kindness and goodwill to one another.

We have become so concerned with our outside appearances, forgetting what is in our hearts.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”

Matthew 23:25-26

Teach us, O Lord, to have a pure heart so we may see you!

Remove our blindness to fame and popularity, blindness to what is easy and convenient, blindness to our false beliefs, and blindness to you, Lord Jesus because we are so full of ourselves. Amen.

The temple in our hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest, 31 July 2020
Jeremiah 26:1-9 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father for another week and month about to close before us. And still here we are, alive and safe, making through the many trials and difficulties as we all continue to bear the sufferings of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for sending us your Son our Lord Jesus Christ who have made our hearts your indwelling.

Unfortunately, like his neighbors, so many times we fail or even refuse to recognize his coming to us.

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” And they took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54-55, 57

So many times, many things run in our minds and in our hearts that we always fail to see and recognize you, sweet Jesus.

Teach us through St. Ignatius your faithful servant who gave us your wonderful gift of discerning the spirits.

Teach us to lay bare ourselves before you, to be true to our thoughts and feelings so that we may sift through all of these to find your holy will, Lord.

Teach us to “omit nothing” as you commanded Jeremiah in the first reading from your words so that we may be able to discern properly what you want from us.

Make our hearts your temple, O Lord, dwell inside and reign over us so that we may understand fully the meaning of “positive indifference” taught us by St. Ignatius:

“We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. . . . Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.”

Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius

Let our thoughts and actions always begin and happily end in your greater glory, Lord.

Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

The “heart is false”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 08 July 2020
Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12 <*(((><< >><)))*> Matthew 10:1-7
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, statues of the Twelve Apostles on the facade of the Church of our Lady of Montserrat in Spain, 2019.

How beautiful are your words today, dearest God our Father. You never fail to surprise me with your deep personal involvement with us all that you can capture exactly what is inside us without any doubt at all.

After praising Israel’s great achievements that have brought them material prosperity, you remain impartial and fair in pronouncing your judgement:

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built. The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up. Their heart is false, and now they pay for their guilt. God shall break down their altars and destroy destroy their sacred pillars.

Hosea 10:1-2

Indeed, only you can read our hearts, our inmost beings.

How many times have we been deceived by outward appearances like material prosperity in life, thinking these are the crowing glory of one’s great efforts in balancing prayer and work only to be rejected by God for their hard headedness and pride?

A heart that is false is also a heart that has turned away from you, O God; sometimes, these are not evident right away because a heart can always fake outside what is inside.

A heart that takes pride in its grand designs and visions is a heart that is false. Most of all, a heart that refuses to look into the pains and hurts of others, their shortcomings and sins, is a heart that is false because it denies humanity, its being a human flesh tormented by love amidst pains and sufferings. A heart that is false is a heart that refuses to see other hearts with many hurts because it believes more with its self than with God’s love and mercy.

A heart that is false is a heart that has refused to grow and outgrow its previously held convictions and beliefs, more intent in looking at its own heart than into Christ’s meek and humble heart, eventually betraying Jesus and loved ones.

Incline our hearts into the Father’s loving heart, dear Jesus, and give us a heart that is both true and humble, accepting our many limitations, full of hope in becoming a better person in you like your Apostles who started out like us all with imperfect hearts. Amen.

Photo by author, Davao City, 2018.

Prayer to become small

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 19 June 2020
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 ><)))*> 1 John 4:7-16 <*(((>< Matthew 11:25-30
Photo from Google.

O most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like yours — make me small and little in standing, hidden and unknown among many, simple and humble in a world now measured in influence, popularity, and following.

On this Solemnity of your Most Sacred Heart, I thank you dear Jesus in choosing to be small and little, always hidden in the simplest things of life like soft voices of kindness and mercy, reason and wisdom, gratitude and love.

You have shown us that to be truly loving like you, we have to be small and little like children.

Most of all, free to be ourselves as beloved children of the Father!

Free from inhibitions and guilt to truly express the love and joy within.

Help us, Jesus, to cast all our worries to you, to take your yoke that is easy, burden that is light.

It is so difficult to love when we are burdened by many concerns and considerations, when we cannot be our true selves that we lack spontaneity, of being natural and easy.

In the same manner, it becomes hard for us too to love or even please someone who sees him or her self bigger than reality, when they see themselves as “big shots” and “heavyweights” who have to be pleased and “followed” or affirmed.

May we always keep in mind the words of Moses so applicable also to us today:

“It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.”

Deuteronomy 7:7

O Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, you have given us your heart that bleeds due to the thorns of our sins, yet aglow with the fire of your immense love and mercy.

May we come to you, today and always to find rest, to learn from your gentle and humble ways so needed in our heartless world. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Wanted: Prayer from the heart!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Thursday, Week 1, Year 2, 16 January 2020

1 Samuel 4:1-11 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 1:40-45

Altar of the Church of All Nations beside the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem where Jesus prayed before his arrest on Holy Thursday. Photo by author May 2019.

Lord Jesus Christ, our Master and Divine Teacher, please teach us how to pray like you. Teach us how to truly pray that is pleasing to the Father not in the social media as many of us seem to be doing these days amid the eruptions of Taal Volcano recently.

May we be reminded of the experience of the Israelites in the first reading that despite the presence of God’s Ark of the Covenant in their battle with the Philistines, they were defeated.

Worst, the Ark of the Covenant was captured and among those dead were Eli’s sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1Sm.4:10-11)!

Remind us that it is the Holy Spirit within us who prays and calls out to you, O God, because we do not really know how to pray. Dispose ourselves unto your will, O God, like that who came and knelt to beg before Jesus, saying,

“If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand, touched the leper, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Mark 1:40-42

Dear God, may we heed the calls of Pope Francis in Laudato Si that each of us seriously change our own ways of living, to have a shift in our lifestyles that respects nature as part of your creation, part of our lives.

We have long disrespected you and nature, O God.

Cleanse our hearts, strengthen us in facing Taal’s fury and heed her voice hereafter to take care of her. Amen.