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
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.”
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 Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin, 08 February 2022
1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30 ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< Mark 7:1-13
God our loving Father,
I praise and glorify you for
your might and majesty!
Like your servant King Solomon,
I wonder in great awe at how
you choose to dwell in our hearts,
in our homes, in our churches
when you cannot be contained
in your vast universe!
You are so kind and merciful
that when you sent us your Son,
our Lord Jesus Christ, he chose to
be even smaller just to be closest to
us as close as our breath; it is a marvel
of faith at how he can be truly present
with us in the words proclaimed and
prayed everywhere, most specially in
those tiny tabernacles and little hosts
we receive at Holy Communion.
Solomon said, “Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built! Listen to the petitions of your servant and of your people Israel that they offer in this place. Listen from your heavenly dwelling and grant pardon.”
1 Kings 8:27, 30
Like my prayer yesterday,
let me be intense in seeking you,
in finding you, and having you,
Lord; while at the same time,
teach me to learn to limit my
imaginations and thoughts that
eventually limit your presence
like the Pharisees and some scribes
who have questioned you, Jesus,
"Why do your disciples not follow
the tradition of the elders but instead
eat a meal with unclean hands?"
Gift us with the same grace of
courage and perseverance amid
severe hardships and sufferings in
life like St. Josephine Bakhita who
still found you and experience your
loving mercy and justice in the terrible
ordeals she had gone through since
childhood after being sold as a slave
St. Josephine Bakhita had shown us
in her life and example that you, O God,
cannot be limited to any particular
place nor time, nor people nor anything;
you are more than this world and our
experiences, more than our thoughts
and ideas for you are totally free
to fulfill your grand designs for each one
of us to find joy and peace, fulfillment and
meaning in this life despite and in spite
of whatever circumstances we are into.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday III-C in Ordinary Time, 23 January 2022
Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
I am still in quarantine after testing positive for COVID last Monday. One good thing I have realized these past days is how precious every moment of life as I counted each day, checking on my vital signs three times daily until I will have completed soon the required seven days.
Sometimes, we only realize the existential meaning and gravity of every “today” when we go through a difficult phase in life like getting COVID or like the Israelites finally getting home from exile, suddenly hearing the word of God proclaimed after many years of silence:
Then Ezra the priest-scribe said to all the people “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep,” for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”
There are also times in our lives when suddenly we become so open to God’s words, so focused on Jesus to experience his presence like that sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth:
Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the yes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Thanks to COVID that now I have felt how difficult it is to be separated from everyone, considering the mild symptoms I had as a fully vaxxed with booster too. It must have been so traumatizing for those who caught the virus during the early surges of 2020 and 2021 without the benefits of the vaccines and other modern medicines. Many of them who survived COVID or have lost loved ones until now feel the pains and hurts of those experiences. Indeed, it is after a difficult situation when we truly realize the value of every present moment we have with our loved ones, when everyone becomes so real and precious, when every present is truly a gift.
Today our readings invite us to slow down, to saunter – so to speak – as we journey in Jesus with Luke as our guide who at his prologue to his gospel tells us how he had “investigated everything accurately anew” regarding the “certainty of teachings of Jesus handed down” to us since the beginning (cf. Lk.1:3-4). Like with our loved ones we miss so much these days of quarantine and surge, Jesus reminds us to always listen to make everyone and him present in us.
Our conscious coming into the Father’s house
Last Sunday at the Feast of the Sto. Niño we reflected how we exercise our child-like traits before God whenever we go into “the Father’s house” like the 12-year old Jesus who was found at the Temple. Our going into the Father’s house to pray and receive the Sacraments expresses our rootedness and oneness with God through Jesus Christ.
This Sunday in our gospel, we find Jesus going again into his Father’s house to “proclaim and claim” the word of God as his very presence among us.
Imagine his movements in “slo-mo” when “He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Lk.4:16-18).
It must have been a moving moment for everyone. So mesmerizing for here was a man so present, so strongly felt with something in him freely walking up to proclaim the word of God. And what an experience for everyone that after “Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).
That “today” would be repeated by Jesus with the same intensity on Good Friday shortly before he died when he promised to Dimas “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:43).
But, do we make that conscious approach in coming into the Father’s house to celebrate the Sacraments particularly the Sunday Eucharist where the first part itself is devoted to the liturgy of the Word?
In non-verbal communications, we have that communication of spaces called “proxemics”, of how places are designed and positioned to convey something special and profound. Houses of worship of every faith are built on this important aspect of proxemics as every space conveys something about God and his people.
One example of proxemics is the patio of the church with its tall cross at the middle to remind the faithful they are about to enter the Father’s house, of their need to dispose themselves both inside and outside by being silent and being dressed properly.
Sadly, many churches in the country has no patio at all or its patio had become a parking area and worst, a basketball court. What is most tragic is how all these dispositions of coming into the Sunday Mass are disregarded by many people, led by church volunteers who talk endlessly with one another while some priests dress and look sloppily. This is one of the positive aspects of the Tridentine or Latin Mass where the atmosphere of solemnity fills the church and the people as well – and that is why many of the faithful are asking for it! A good example of what St. Paul tells us about the unity in diversity within the Church in the Holy Spirit.
How can we experience the “today” of Jesus being present in us and among us when we do not have such kind of attitude and disposition to listen to him which begins outside the church? If we cannot do it in the proxemics or spatial level, how can we even do it right inside our hearts, whether we are laypeople or the clergy?
Listening to Christ today
One of my favorite writings by the great St. John Paul II is Ecclesia de Eucharistia published in 2003. He tells us something so beautiful about the “universal and cosmic character” of the Eucharist which for me captures the essence of the “today” mentioned by Jesus in the gospel:
Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8).
Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8
This is very true but we rarely experience it happening because we have refused to immerse ourselves in the very words of God. So few among our people read and pray the scriptures while many of us priests rarely speak the Lord’s words as we prefer to tell what we have seen or heard in media or from some famous theologians or thinkers.
Whatever our vocation and place in the Church and the assembly, each of us must immerse one’s self in the word of God first because it is his very presence too. In the story of creation, we learned how everything came into being simply with the words spoken by God.
This Sunday we have heard how Jesus “read” on a sabbath at a synagogue in Nazareth, of how in his proclamation of that part of the Book of Isaiah the very words were fulfilled in their hearing.
It happens daily in the celebration of the Mass everywhere in the world whenever we – lay and clergy alike – imitate Jesus, asking us first of all to come with strong desire to be one with the Father, whether in his house of worship or in our room when we pray the scriptures.
Let us enter God with Jesus and in Jesus in the Sacred Books to find him there so we can listen to him how and what he reads, not what we want to hear and say.
We can only touch the hearts of the people and make them hear God speaking again in his words offered us daily in the Mass if we first learn and listen to what Jesus reads and tells us. It is only then when we hear the Word who became flesh that we are able to respond, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVII-B in Ordinary Time, 25 July 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44 ><]]]]*> Ephesians 4:1-6 ><]]]]*> John 6:1-15
Beginning today until August 22, 2021, our Sunday gospel will be from the sixth chapter of John who continues last week’s scene of the great crowd following Jesus and his disciples to a deserted place in order to rest after returning from their first mission.
We were told by Mark how Jesus was “moved with pity” upon seeing the people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” that he taught them with so many things (Mk.6:34); after teaching them, Jesus fed them – about 5000 men excluding children and women – from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish with a lot of leftovers gathered that filled 12 wicker baskets!
It is a very beautiful story found in all four gospel accounts but it is only in John’s gospel where we are presented with a more complete and detailed story of the event followed by Jesus Christ’s “bread of life discourse” at Capernaum. Let us focus at the conversations among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew before the miracle where they used the demonstrative pronouns “where” and “there” that indicate deeper meanings.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
When all directions point to Jesus – but we miss!
While praying over today’s gospel, one song kept playing in my mind, the Beatles’ 1966 classic love song by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere. It is a very lovely music, so unique in many aspects that it is also McCartney’s most favorite as a member of the Fab Four.
What struck me with this Beatles hit are the demonstrative pronouns here, there and everywhere used not to point at directions but to a person, the girlfriend of McCartney at that time he so loved who would also be his Here, There and Everywhere!
To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there
There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there
The same is so true with Jesus today asking Philip “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Jesus was not asking for a store in that deserted place to buy and get food for the people. John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip because “he himself knew what he was going to do”. He wanted Philip to look deeper, to see beyond places and things even if his answer was correct, that “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”
When odds are against us, when things are beyond us and humanly impossible, where do we go to?
Of course, we go to God!
Where else do we go when we are in deep or great troubles?
We go to prayers, we go to church, we go to the prayer room or Adoration Chapel, or wherever there is peace and silence where we can be with God.
When this pandemic started, where did we go during lockdown? To God with our online Masses at home, daily praying of the Rosary with the whole family. But when the quarantines were eased, we suddenly forgot God, regarding every where as merely a place, a location.
Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!
We now come to that second demonstrative pronoun in the same scene before the miraculous feeding of five thousand said by Simon Peter’s brother Andrew who told Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
How unfair that the boy who actually had Jesus working on his miraculous feeding of the crowd with those five barley loaves and two fish he had given was merely referred by Andrew as there or here!
See how Andrew did not bother to ask the boy’s name because during that time, any male kid had no any significance at all except by the time they reached 13 years of age for the bar mitzvah, when boys begin to read the Torah. In fact, John noted in this narrative how the children and women were not even counted to show their grave error at that time of giving importance only to men.
How sad the same thing continues to our own time when we are taken for granted as a person, reduced to mere statistics, to mere numbers, to there and here!
Despite our insistence on the use of inclusive terms for all, it seems that the more we have actually degraded the human person into objects as we personified objects. Listen to commercials and newscasts to realize what I mean: food is described as “masarap siya” while typhoon is referred to as “siya ay lalabas ng Philippine Area of Responsibility” while persons are made into objects like handsome men called “yummy” or “delicious”. No wonder, people have become like food, good only when young and fresh but when old, discarded like trash! Sometimes, people are labelled like ice cream as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” when rich and famous while ordinary folks are called “dirty ice cream”.
There is always a person to be respected and recognized in every here and there!
Let us heed St. Paul in the second reading telling us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received as beloved children of God “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:1-3).
How sad that we cannot even look at one another as a brother and a sister, even in our own family circles because we are so focused on the bread, that is, the money and wealth we could get for ourselves. And that is the great irony in this scene: the boy was willing to let go of his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish yet Andrew did not notice at all the face, the personhood of the boy so kind to share what he had, thinking more of others than himself!
What a tragedy in our time, in our own family and circle of friends, at work and in school, even in our parish community when some people would give more value to things than persons, who would rather maintain or keep their honor and dignity at the expense of others.
When the “where” and “there” of Jesus meet on the Cross
This story of the multiplication of bread occupies an exceptional place in all four gospels. However, it was only John who added a long discourse preached by Jesus at Capernaum after this event to reveal its full meaning.
For John, the multiplication of bread is more than a miracle but a sign, a revelation of supernatural power above the ordinary pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who is the bread from heaven who had come down to nourish us in this journey of life to eternity like during the time of Moses in the wilderness. Or like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread to satisfy the hunger of not just 100 people but over 5000 with leftovers of 12 wicker baskets.
We are reminded of other instances in the Old Testament like the Jewish feast of Passover as backgrounds of this sign by Jesus in the deserted place as a prelude to the sign of the Holy Eucharist he instituted on Holy Thursday that we celebrate daily especially on Sundays as one body, one family. This in turn will reach its highest point on Good Friday as the ultimate sign Jesus Christ’s loving presence when his being the “where” and “there” of God would be revealed in the final sign of the Crucifixion that many would still miss to recognize.
That is why in the next four weeks, we shall hear John narrating to us the discourse by Jesus to explain the full meaning of this multiplication of bread in that deserted place.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him 0ff to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Let us “capture” Jesus in the Holy Communion of the Mass later when the priest holds high the Body of Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
Here in the Mass, it is very clear this is where Jesus is, where we get the real food to eat. Tell it to everyone, point unto Jesus, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world like John the Baptist. Most of all, it is in the the Holy Mass where Jesus is present here, there, and everywhere – in his words proclaimed, Body and Blood shared, and with everyone celebrating!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Cycle A, 14 June 2020
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 )))+((( 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 )))+((( John 6:51-58
Above is the beautiful 15th century icon of the Blessed Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. It was based on the Genesis story of God (chapter 18) visiting Abraham at Mamre like angels sharing a meal while in deep conversations, indicating their relationships.
The icon masterfully portrays God as a Trinity of Persons relating with one another in love symbolized by the Eucharistic meal they share.
Most interesting like in most icons is how in this painting the viewer gets involved with the dialogue of the Trinity, thus, becoming the fourth person in the icon present with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit like Abraham at Mamre!
I am presenting this icon to you my dear readers and followers to show you the amazing flow of our liturgy these two Sundays as we resumed Ordinary Time on the Monday after Pentecost last month: From the highest truth in our teachings of One God in Three Persons last Sunday, today we have this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to remind us and experience anew that this God we worship and adore is present among us, relating with us in the most personal manner.
Change in name, change of emphasis
Originally known as Corpus Christi or Body of Christ, today’s solemnity was renamed following Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy to give more emphasis on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that the Preface used before the Consecration is that of Holy Thursday.
In the old tradition, focus was more on the Blessed Sacrament – of Jesus Christ reserved in the tabernacle and presented to the faithful for adoration as the Body of Christ, that is, Corpus Christi.
However, when Vatican II changed its name into the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ”, there was something deeper than the change of name.
The new name challenges us to see the deeper reality of the Holy Eucharist: more than spending time praying before the Blessed Sacrament – though it is good – we are demanded as followers of Jesus Christ to be present like him with others.
Without disregarding the importance of the Blessed Sacrament that have seen a renewed interest among people in this time of corona while churches are closed, Vatican II’s shift in emphasis dares to challenge us disciples of Christ to emulate him in allowing ourselves to be broken for others, to be poured out, offered and shared especially in this time of crisis.
It is in our being broken like the Body of Christ, and poured out like his Blood do we really live the paschal mystery.
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
Jesus is the living bread, the life of the world
Our gospel today is not from the Last Supper as we might expect; instead, it is taken from the “Bread of Life discourse” found only in St. John’s gospel which took place after Jesus had fed more than 5000 people in the wilderness from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.
It was a very decisive moment in the ministry of Jesus as far as St. John was concerned; in fact, he refused to call the feeding of 5000 as a “miracle” but as a “sign” that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah.
Here, we have Jesus speaking clearly, no matter how difficult it may be for his listeners and even for us.
And we wonder, why he spoke that way?
Even today in the Holy Mass, considering the mixed crowd we have in every celebration, the priest is obliged to speak clearly and distinctly the words of Christ at the Last Supper similar to his bread of life discourse, “Take this, all of you and eat it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”
Jesus always speaks the truth, he always tells us what is true and he never misleads us.
Unlike us when we say something and mean another thing. We always have to speak in ways that has to be deciphered because we really do not mean what we say. Or we are afraid of saying something else because we prefer to please people than stand by what is true.
But not the Lord! From that day until now, Jesus says the same thing and means always the same, that he is always with us, in us, and among us.
And he has proven then and now, time and time again most especially in our personal lives, that indeed Jesus was sent down from heaven as the “living bread” because he is the “life of the world”.
More than the bread from heaven called manna sent by God to the Israelites during their journey in the wilderness into the Promised Land (first reading), Jesus is the bread who sustains us in our new “exodus” and journey into the Father’s house, into fulfillment.
Life an Exodus with Jesus leading us
This pandemic and life under quarantine is an exodus in itself calling us to go back to God, to rely solely in him for he alone can save us. That is why he gave us his only Son, Jesus Christ who in turn gave himself totally, Body and Blood to sustain us in this journey or exodus.
Every exodus is always painful but filled with grace because God is most present with us.
That is why we join Masses on television or the internet while others dare to go to churches for the actual celebration of Mass to receive Holy Communion.
We are convinced that Jesus is sustaining us, nourishing us, raising us, helping us, inspiring us in this time of crisis.
And that is why the more we need to pray and even celebrate the Mass because the more we need Jesus Christ as food and drink in this difficult journey.
We can all feel the stress and pressures of the difficulties and uncertainties of this time. Making things worst than the financial and physical sufferings we all go through are the psychological burdens we silently bear that unfortunately others do not seem to think of or even realize.
How sad when others think only of themselves of getting tired, of being hurt, of being misunderstood that they do not care at all with the feelings and well being of those around them like our callous politicians and officials in government and the police.
Sometimes, watching the news can be so depressing when we see all the troubles and sufferings our brothers and sisters have to go through like those stranded in Metro Manila, those separated from their loved ones, those subjected to discrimination because of the COVID-19, those living alone, those who have lost family members and friends, those who have lost many opportunities in life.
But at the same time, the more we are challenged by these sufferings of our people to be like Jesus, to be the living bread, to share with them Jesus who is our very life.
Let us heed the call of St. Paul in the second reading to be one with our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in their brokenness, in their sufferings by being present to them in love and kindness, in being more understanding.
We are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, his very presence in this world that continues to disregard him, that until now tries to live without him.
May we not fall into that temptation and sin that is largely the reason behind this pandemic: modern man has forgotten that no matter what is our situation in life, we remain poor before God who alone can fulfill our deepest desires and longings.
Despite the many difficulties we face especially with the continued closure of houses of worship, let us continue to work and find creative means in sharing Jesus Christ with others, in coming to him and receiving him in the Holy Communion.
Only Jesus can help us through this pandemic.
In fact, he was the first to die on the Cross by giving us his Body and Blood so that we may live and share his gift of life with others.