Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 October 2022
It was a Monday morning when rains started falling as I was about to complete my first round of walks when I saw an old lady with a cane tripped on the inclined pavement. I ran to help her but in her frantic efforts to rise, she had dragged down her caregiver too.
Upon reaching the old lady, I asked her to keep herself down and take deep breaths while I checked her for possible injuries. Thank God there was none except a broken cane and perhaps a bruised amor propio as tears were rolling from her eyes while telling me, “nakakahiya naman sa inyo, Father.” I told her not to worry as I invited her to have a seat near our gate but, she seemed so embarrassed and left.
When I resumed my walking in the rains, the scene kept flashing in my mind and had me musing…
When we fall,
when we are down,
just be still
to feel the earth beneath
then roll your eyes to see
the skies above everything
When we fall,
when we are down,
do not rush to rise up
do not be ashamed
there is no trick.
When we fall,
when we are down,
it is better to cry
to shed some tears
surely there are pains
and aches deep within
we have not yet seen.
When we fall,
when we are down,
people standing on ground
would always offer a hand
to help us stand
shake off dirt from us
even clean our hands.
When we fall,
when we are down,
everyone will understand that
no one, nothing remains up
all must go down;
it is time for us to be calm
Jesus is coming, our Good Samaritan.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 August 2022
I recently attended a children’s party when the youngest daughter of a friend, Mimi, turned seven years old. And I was so glad that I came because of the great fun I had at the magic show, clapping my hands and cheering along with all the kids and their parents.
It was so “aliw” as we say in Filipino.
Not just entertaining.
There was total sense of wonder in me, of pure joy seeing doves and flowers suddenly coming out of the magician’s clenched fists or folded handkerchief even if I knew it was just a trick or a sleigh of hand.
The most beautiful part of the party, of the joy and comfort was the chance for me to be like a child again as Jesus had repeatedly told us in the gospel that “unless you become like little children, you shall never inherit the kingdom of heaven.”
Imagine the great joy and comfort of believing again at what one sees and hears.
Of suspending reason and logic.
Of just enjoying the moment, of not thinking so much.
Of being like a child again at the circus or fair – “perya” as we call it in the province.
Most of all, of being caught in the magic of wonder and surprise, eagerly awaiting what’s next or how did it happen as you scratch your head while looking at the person next to you with those eyes so bewildered as you laugh out loud because you both know it was just a trick yet so true, so real.
It was so comforting because I had lost senses of time, of reason and of reality that often lead us to many anxieties of things to do and accomplish. Like Mimi the birthday celebrator, I felt I have grown and matured after regaining life, of enjoying life, of believing again in the many mysteries of this life that we can never explain nor even understand at all except to accept simply as it is like children.
To be like a child means to owe one’s existence to another, of being open to every possibility in life, of trusting that there is someone greater than us or anyone we call God who can talk to us through others who may even be different from us like the magician in his tuxedo and magic wand. That is why magic shows are not only entertaining but also comforting or nakakaaliw in Filipino. The word comfort is from the two Latin words cum fortis that literally mean “to strengthen”.
This is the reason why I think children “grow so fast” – they are always surprised because they are open that they are emboldened to try everything, trusting they can do it, that somebody is watching over them, that they are in good hands. Try observing an infant asleep in a crib when suddenly would kick his/her feet or move hands. My mom used to tell me that when babies are surprised – nagugulat – that means they were growing.
See how the Blessed Virgin Mary had grown and matured after being told by the angel that she would be the Mother of the Messiah to be sent by God. She was probably 15 or 16 at that time but had kept that child-like attitude of openness, of being surprised which her Son would be teaching later. Mary must have been so wrapped in awe and wonder upon hearing the angel’s annunciation to her.
But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
Try to feel the resulting joy and fear of Mary in hearing the good news of the birth of the Messiah through her!
Right there, we could feel her faith in God at work, listening intently as the angel explained everything to her.
In the Old Testament, we find Jacob the younger son of Isaac having that same attitude of being like a child, of being open to God coming in every possibility. Remember when he fled to escape the murderous plot of his elder brother Esau after he had duped their father in bestowing his blessing to him?
On his way toward Haran, Jacob stopped at a certain shrine at sundown and took one of the stones there to place under his head as he slept for the night. It was then when he dreamt of “stairway to heaven” where angels were going up and down before God who spoke to assure him of his protection.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!” In solemn wonder he cried out: “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!”
Every time we are surprised by something or someone, it brings out the child in us, our wonderful sense of wonder, of believing, of trusting, of being open. Ultimately, of living again, of forging on in life amid all the darkness and uncertainties around us because we have that firm faith in a loving and merciful God who is also a Father to us.
See how this call for us to be childlike, of being surprised has become difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.
In this age of the social media all around us, nothing is hidden anymore. Everything is bared open even to the skin and bones we enjoy so much like in Tiktok as if we are a planet of sex-starved, foul-mouthed, filthy rich and wanna-be’s flaunting everything and anything that can be shown by the camera.
Unfortunately, the world of “macho” men and glamorous women we love to relish with delight in the secular and even religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone, leaving us more empty, more lost, and more alienated with one another and with our very selves.
Many times in life when we feel tired and burned out, we go somewhere for some “me time”, of recharging. But, after some time, we feel lethargic again that we go out of town to find one’s self until we find nowhere else to go for retreats because the problem is actually within us.
Be like a child. Stop insisting of being an adult who knows what he/she is doing.
Set aside everything, especially your own agendas in life and open yourself to God and others to allow yourself to be surprised again, to regain that spark of rediscovering simple things without much thinking and reasoning, of just believing and be comforted that everything in this life is taken cared of by God. Like that magician in a children’s party.
May your week be filled with more surprises to gladden your heart and your spirit! God bless!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 18 August 2022
Intimacy with God and with others is a journey that is often long and difficult, painstaking but so wonderful. It is a process with highs and lows but something that could come out as a precious gift we must keep and nurture.
Mr. Webster defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship” or simply, “closeness”.
But being close does not necessarily mean intimacy. True closeness in intimacy means finding and sharing a “sacred space” with someone that is built on mutual trust and sincerity where we bare our true selves to offer it to the other person. It is in this sacred space where intimacy grows as we become “engaging” with the other person, even with God, like in bantering.
There is one beautiful incident in the gospel I always love relating with the topic of intimacy, the story of the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter.
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
Here we find the first difficulty with intimacy which happens often in the most unexpected situations like Jesus going to a foreign territory where we are not most comfortable or most at home, where we are so uncertain with everything and everyone.
Is it not that is when we grow intimate with others and with God, when we were in the most desolate situations, when we were weakest when suddenly somebody came to strengthen us in our journey?
It was not a simple walk in the park though because it was as if like adding salt to our injuries when at our lowest point in our lives we were asked to even go lower, bare our vulnerabilities further until we were stripped naked of our pretensions and defenses, standing naked and true.
"That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one's self with the other person. It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you."
Notice how Jesus tested the Canaanite woman to see how engaging she could be in their conversation, of how willing was she to get closer to him and be intimate to gain his healing.
But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
I like this part; it was more of the woman bantering with Jesus than bargaining. Try situating yourself there as if the woman was already feeling close with Jesus, engaging him in their conversation when he used the colloquial expression “dog” used by Jews at that time to refer to Gentiles or pagans. Of course, there was no any racial or malicious intent on the part of Jesus in using that common expression of his time; in some translations, he used the word “puppies”.
And that is where intimacy kicked in: when the Canaanite woman told him how dogs – or puppies – eat just the scraps from the master’s table. Here is a woman baring everything to Jesus, taking off all her defenses totally accepting the realities of life, of them outside the own circle of Jesus who was a Jew but still believing in him and in herself that she is worthy of attention, of healing for her daughter.
That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one’s self with the other person. It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you. This is very true for those who had undergone surgery when you were there on the narrow operating table, naked and everything, just praying and hoping everything would go well, without any complications later. That is why I admired doctors more than ever because after a surgery and you visit them for follow up consultations, it is as if he had not seen the worst in you, still friendly and casual. Most of all, trying so hard to keep you well and healthy!
"Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey."
To be intimate with Jesus is like continuing the journey with him in foreign territories like when a man and a woman get married not knowing what’s really in store for them or a young man getting ordained as priest or a lady taking religious vows without realizing the real weight of Christ’s cross to carry. Many times in life, we just forge on in life with our family and friends, and with God most especially, engaging him in conversations even debates to show him how convinced we are in ourselves, in our cause, in our prayers. We grow intimate only with someone who is willing to accept us.
Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey – you always have a companion, somebody you break bread with which is the literal meaning of “companion” from the Latin terms cum panis.
The most beautiful part of this journey in intimacy, whether with God or with another person is that as we become one in being intimate with the other, the more we become free, not constricted nor limited because the more we love, the more we trust each other that even when we are not together physically, we can still be intimate — because intimacy is actually a spiritual reality, a gift only God can give for those willing to take the difficult journey.
That is why, we priests remain celibate: our celibacy is the clearest sign of our intimacy not only with Jesus our Eternal Priest but also with you, our flock, the people of God which is the Church.
When parishioners give their pastors a good chance to pray and recreate to nurture their intimacy with Jesus, the more priests value their celibacy, the more they are true and faithful in serving the people, the Body of Christ, the Church.
Anyone who finds true intimacy finds true love who is God alone. That is the essence of our celibacy as priests. And that is why, priests and religious, as well as married couples and singles joyful in their state of life too who have found intimacy would never venture to look for other “loves” because they have already found God, our true intimacy. It would be madness to any priest to break his vow of celibacy or, even to married couples to go on extra-marital affairs when you already have God. Amen.
May you find and experience intimacy in your life journey.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 August 2022
Two amusing anecdotes happened with me recently that reminded me of this four-letter word rarely used these days that is so powerful yet very endearing and lovely, and so touching too. It is the word dear we often use in writing letters, at least for my fellow 57 year-olds and above.
Let’s begin with the more recent incident that happened yesterday when I went walking again after a one week break due to toxic schedules. I felt funny walking yesterday while stretching my arms and moving my head with everyone asking me what have happened that I was absent for so long. When I returned to the parish for a break, I met our Rector Fr. Elmer and told him to write me an “excuse letter” that says, “Dear Everyone: Please excuse Fr. Nick for not being able to walk last week due to pastoral reasons” which I would show whoever would ask me again of my long absence.
That was how I remembered – while still walking – something so stupid when I was in grade 3 after I had asked my dad to write me an excuse letter to my teacher after being absent due to a fever. Despite my failing memory at times, I vividly remembered yesterday that scene of how my dad took his yellow pad and removed the blue cap of his Bic Orange FINE BILLE CARBURE ball pen to write my excuse letter in just a minute which he asked me to read aloud.
That’s when problem arose: I protested to my dad why he wrote the word “Dear” in addressing my teacher!
Hindi ko malaman kung anong katangahan o kalokohan pumasok isip ko nung umagang iyon at hindi ko ma-take sinulatan ng daddy ko yung Grade 3 adviser namin ng “Dear Ms. Legaspi”? Kasi, akala ko noon yung “dear” ay para lang sa asawa at kasintahan. Akala ko nanliligaw daddy ko kay ma’am… Gara ano?
My dad, who has always been so cool, simply took off his glasses, grinned at me, impishly smiled and explained that “dear” was the standard salutation in letters. But I was adamantly holding on to my conviction that “dear” had romantic undertones that should not be used in writing excuse letters as I remained seated on our sofa, not touching my excuse letter and making face until my mom came to explain things to me, assuring me that it was ok with her for my dad to write my teacher with “Dear”.
Yes, I am both corny and weird but as I matured – getting more corny and more weird than ever – I have come to keep that love affair with the word “dear” so alive and well with me. I use it to address not only friends and relatives, colleagues and acquaintances, but most especially God in my daily prayer blogs as I have learned that it expresses a special kinship, a special relationship that is so honorable and dignified.
Maybe it is no coincidence that dear is also a synonym for expensive, a direct opposite of cheap. It is very interesting that in Filipino, the words dear and expensive are translated as “mahal”, the opposite of cheap or “mura”. Mahal is love. From mahal comes mahalaga, equivalent to English as valuable and important. Things that are dear and expensive are always valuable.
The same is true when you address anyone with the salutation “Dear” – he or she is loved and valued with respect and honor.
Maybe, one reason we have lost the art of letter writing is not just due to computers and text messages but because we no longer value persons that much unlike before. There is something so special, so touching inside when one receives a letter or a card or even a postcard that makes you feel so good inside because you were thought of, remembered and cared for.
Gladden the heart of someone today by writing him/her with a short note saying hi or anything by starting with the word “Dear”. Try it. It feels good too to the letter writer.
Now, the very first incident that reminded me of the word “dear” happened the other Monday afternoon when I was called to our hospital for an Anointing of the Sick by the family of a patient who was transferred from the ICU to a regular room. Actually, I have visited the patient that Sunday before at the ICU, anointed him with Holy Oil and even gave communion to his family.
When I arrived at the hospital room and saw again the wife seated on a wheelchair, crying like when I saw her at the ICU a day earlier, I realized it was not really the patient who needed me but his wife who could not accept the hard truth her husband was dying. So, I asked the other family members to leave the room as I counseled the wife to let go of her husband, to speak to him and tell him how much she loved him, not to worry about her, and most of all, to forgive him and say sorry as well for her sins to him.
The patient was 80 years old, so thin and pale, dependent on life-support system while the wife was 78 years-old who could barely walk except for very short distances. After a while of crying, the wife told me she was ready to speak to her husband to tell him those words we have rehearsed: “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “I am sorry” and “I now give you to Jesus, go and don’t worry about me.”
While assisting her to the bedside of her husband, I asked her how they called each other and, before answering me, she bowed her head, wiped her nose, and softly said, “dear”.
“Ah, dear po pala tawagan ninyo” as I led her closer to him.
Please forgive me… when I heard the woman told me how they called each other as “dear”, I felt the mischievous child in me giggling, so tickled with joy as I heard the woman almost whispering to her husband, “Dear… I love you”, “Dear…I forgive you for your sins against me”, “Dear… I give you back to God. I’m ok now.” What a kilig moment!
I felt like in a movie with two elderly couples together, the husband at the threshold of eternity with his loving wife calling him perhaps for the last time as “dear”. What a precious moment indeed when the patient responded by opening his eyes, making me wonder how he would say the word “dear” to his wife too!
The following day, the patient died peacefully. Most likely, after hearing again that lovely and assuring word, “Dear” by his wife. How I felt so dearly loved and blessed by God in answering his call to counsel the wife and return to anoint the man with Holy Oil for his final journey back home.
Thank you, my dear friends for bearing with me! Have a blessed, dearly loved week!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 July 2022
Today is supposed to be a day for grandparents being the Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anna, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary – therefore, the lolo and lola of Jesus Christ. When my father Wilfredo was still alive, he would always tell as that if he had been a girl, he would have surely been named Anna because in 1932, it was only St. Anne who was celebrated with a feast in the Church.
Now you know, today is my dad’s 90th birthday but now that he is in heaven, I am sure they are no longer celebrating any birthdays at all for they are in eternity, forever happy and joyful, no more sufferings and pain.
It is us who are left behind who celebrate their birthdays here because despite the 22 years that have passed since his sudden death, the pain and emptiness have remained. That is the saddest and most difficult part in the death of a loved one: I cannot say we just get used to “it” because though he is absent, deep in my heart I could feel him present in me and with me.
Maybe that is what they call as healing – when we learn to live, find meaning in life, and most of all “mature in life” as we age hoping someday we would finally meet in eternity when we shall all be totally complete again, literally and figuratively speaking.
Lately as I age, I notice a marked change in me in remembering my dad when I see myself more in him and likewise see him more with me. Somehow, every day I have slowly realized that old age indeed is the final stage of human maturity with all of God’s bountiful blessings while it subtly reminds us of our own twilight too.
Maybe that is the reason why we mellow and become more spiritual as we get older. Our departed loved ones, especially with those we are closest with, continue to teach and guide us just like when we were kids. And stupid.
The more I look at my face every morning and see those wrinkles and lines topped with white hair, I get more convinced I look like my dad.
Anak nga ako ng tatay ko! – whatever that means.
Perhaps, like in the experience of St. Mary Magdalene, we learn to relate with our departed loved ones on a higher level, no longer physical but something spiritual and more personal.
Basta! It is difficult to explain but we move on with life, still limping and complete without them on our side yet we feel more intensely them with us at the “other side” looking at us, laughing or smiling at us, sometimes irritated or covering their face because of shame, but always loving us, believing in us.
And that is why for me, especially as a priest trying my very best to live my celibacy as faithfully as my dad had been as a husband to my mom, he has always been my inspiration in everything. In fact, he is always the one I think as my audience every time I write these blogs. Every Sunday, I imagine him one of those seated on the pew celebrating with me in our Mass, imagining how he would be bored or delighted with my homilies. And I am very sure of him, whether he liked or not my blogs and homilies, he would never tell me and just keep it to himself but would surely call his brother Arturo or sister Neneng or nieces Toots and Joji how he liked my stories and preaching.
A few years ago when I started blogging by relating a secular music with the Sunday gospel, I learned that David Gates of The Bread actually had his departed father – not his girlfriend at that time as inspiration in composing “Make It With You” in 1970.
During an interview at the peak of their success, Gates was asked of one more thing he would wish in life as they were so famous. He told the interviewer that he wished his dad were alive to experience his joys in having a successful career. And that was when he explained it was actually his father he was referring to in every line of their greatest song that was repackaged as a love song addressing it to a girl.
Hey, have you ever tried Really reaching out for the other side? I may be climbing on rainbows But baby, here goes
Dreams, they’re for those who sleep Life is for us to keep And if you’re wondering what this song is leading to I want to make it with you I really think that we could make it, girl
Like Gates, that is one thing I have always wished for since my dad passed away 22 years ago: how I wished he had heard me for 16 years having regular programs at Radio Veritas to which he had always been glued to since the time of the late Fr. Ben Carreon; how I wished he could have visited me in my own parish when I finally became a parish priest; and now, how I wish he could see our beautiful University where I am the chaplain.
It is a grace to get old most especially when you have old folks to look up to, those who have gone ahead of us to eternity as we now approach its threshold too.
Life can be short or long Love can be right or wrong And if I chose the one I’d like to help me through I’d like to make it with you I really think that we could make it, girl.
By the way, my dad died on my mom’s birthday on June 17, 2000. I always say that’s a proof of how much my dad loved my mom so much, his birth into eternal life was my mom’s birthday. But, that is easier said than done because the reality is it was doubly hard for us losing our dad on my mom’s birthday. Especially for Mommy who had never been happy in life. And that fact makes his death more painful and even difficult for us.
My father loved my mother so much. Since childhood until I became a priest, he never ate without my mother with him at the table. He does her coffee and did all the cooking at home. Every Sunday was a feast with his pochero, chili con carne, mechado. Bulalo was our simplest fare that is why we all have gout too!
On the first two years since his death, I would ask him whenever I would visit his grave why did he die on mom’s birthday? Why that date when there are 364 other days?
After two years, I felt his answer: me and my mom had some LQ at that time and I did not go home for a month but I would still visit his grave when I felt him telling me, “Nick, I died on your mom’s birthday so you would also love her as I have loved her.”
And that is what I have always tried to fulfill until now. Like what the late Luther Vandross expressed in his 2003 hit “Dance With My Father”.
Sometimes I’d listen outside her door And I’d hear how my mother cried for him I pray for her even more than me I pray for her even more than me
I know I’m praying for much too much But could you send back the only man she loved? I know you don’t do it usually But dear Lord she’s dying to dance with my father again Every night I fall asleep and this is all I ever dream
My father never asked me to become a priest but it was him who unconsciously planted the seeds of my vocation when I would always see him praying before our altar before leaving for work and upon arriving home in the evening. It was from him I have learned and realized what true love is and most of all, that indeed, God is love. He loved us so much and even though it has been 22 years since he died, I can still feel his love.
How I wish his grandchildren have all met him too.
Thank you in taking time to bear with me, in listening me bare my heart out.
God bless to all the grandparents! And moms and dads too!
*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.
Like many of you, the people I elected lost last May 9. Fact is, I felt the same sense of loss and sadness and disappointment – but not depression nor anxiety – many of you feel today as early as 2016 when not even one opposition made it into the Senate.
It was in the 2016 elections when I realized that our people would continue to be less discerning in electing their leaders, of how it would get worst before getting any better, not even in my lifetime. The following morning after Duterte was elected president in 2016, our kasambahay came to me during breakfast to apologize, saying, “sorry po Father… binoto ko po si Bung (Bong Revilla) kasi baka wala pong bumoto sa kanya.”
You see, I have been trying to educate Manang to be more discerning in choosing candidates since the start of the 2016 elections campaign period but no amount of explanations seemed to have convinced her. Hence, I just told her, “kakaawa mo sa kanya, hayun, naging topnother si Bong Revilla, ngayon kawawa ang bayan natin.” The same thing happened last week that we now have Robin Padilla as Senator of the Republic too.
However, I am still filled with hopes in our future. We are not a hopeless case of going to the dogs if we start learning the lessons of these 2022 elections that were similar with 2016’s if we priests return to our original mission of teaching and sharing Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus. Enough with our political partisanship, of endorsements and campaigns for candidates no matter how worthy they may be.
This may sound very simple, even simplistic. As a priest, I feel and fear we have forgotten Jesus in these recent elections. Even a week after, many have not stopped in their “fight”, making all those unChristian comments in social media that prove we have indeed lost Christ lately.
“Oh, men of little faith!” is how Jesus would probably exclaim at some of us priests and bishops in this post-elections period.
Instead of educating the people, some priests and bishops went too far into campaigning even at the pulpit for particular candidates that led to disillusionment than enlightenment. And now, we are into this mess – the second elections in a row since 2016 – when the people resoundingly rejected not only the clergy’s candidates but also the Church we represent as an institution. What is tragic is how we priests still do not get it, even that simple lesson in history that every time priests endorse candidates, they turn out to be kiss of death!
It is so disappointing how most of the priests and bishops were so quiet, not silent, in 2020 when the quarantine period was prolonged more than twice or thrice that kept our churches closed, denying the people much needed spiritual guidance and nourishment during the pandemic. Sadly when the campaign period for the elections started last year, many priests were suddenly out, vocal and filled with courage in joining rallies even on Saturdays and Sundays when they should be celebrating the Mass in their parishes, when they should be praying and reflecting on the gospel to nourish souls but were instead baffling the faithful if their pastors were leading them to heaven or hell.
The double standard cannot be denied: when Leny declared her candidacy last October, some priests and parishes posted on social media pictures of Gaudete and Laudete Sunday’s pink motifs but, when Red Wednesday came in November to honor those persecuted in the Church, the same priests and parishes issued clarifications that the liturgical red motif was not in any way political.
Of course, it has always been non-political until they started it! Unfortunately, the bad taste of insincerity was all over and no one felt ashamed at all. Which brings us to the many sanctimonious “sermons” – not homilies (they are different) – that followed during Lent, filled with self-righteousness and holier-than-thou attitudes as if there are no thieves and liars among us.
The question being asked by the faithful – where is God? – following the results of the recent elections is an indictment of the priests who have abandoned Jesus and so believed in themselves and their candidates, denying Christ the chance to do that much-needed miracle we were all hoping for since the start of the campaign period.
A former student now based in Canada recently narrated how he and his wife told their eight year-old daughter the need to stand and defend the truth. I was impressed and touched that I congratulated him as I recalled those first 12 years of my priesthood teaching them in our diocesan school in Malolos City. I mentioned to him how it pained me that some of our graduates have joined the “dark forces” in politics with one notoriously grandstanding during the proceedings revoking the franchise of ABS-CBN.
We can only do as much but the most important thing is to remain focused in Jesus, in words and in deeds despite our weaknesses and unworthiness. When people experience and get to know Jesus, everything good follows. We called it in my former school assignment “Sanctitas in Sapientia” or “Holiness in Wisdom” – the more we get to know Jesus, the more we grow in wisdom and holiness becoming like him so that we also follow him and love him through others.
That is the challenge to us this post-election period: let us double time, spend our energies in bringing back the people, especially the young inside the churches not to the streets to learn more about Jesus in the Sacraments. Most of all, to reach out to those in the margins, the majority we love to bash in putting into office the same “unworthy” candidates as leaders of the nation.
A few days after the elections, we had the first Confession and first Holy Communion of our Grade III and IV students at the Basic Education Department of Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City. It was then when I got more convinced how in the past 24 years that priesthood is bringing Jesus to the people first through the meaningful celebrations of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist where his words are proclaimed and cracked open to let Jesus touch the hearts of everyone.
Both in the parish and in the school, I have seen that Jesus is the One transforming people, the One who changes people, not us priests nor anyone. We are merely his instruments.
In the beautiful story of the feeding of 5000, we are told that when Jesus saw a large crowd 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 (Jn.6:5-6).
Jesus knows very well what he is going to do in every situation, especially elections. Our job is to listen to Jesus, to make Jesus present to everyone, to share Jesus.
Later after the feeding of 5000 in the wilderness, Jesus gave his bread of life discourse to the people who have followed him to Capernaum but they could not take his words that eventually, they left him along with the other followers of Christ. Only the Twelve remained with him whom he asked, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn.6:67-68).
Do we have the same faith and focus of Simon Peter in Jesus? Why worry after we have lost these elections?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that all our affairs in this life and in this world must always be seen beyond its social and economic, even medical and political implications but always in the light of Christ and his Cross. This reality is perfectly captured by the Inquirer photographer last August 2021 when the chapel of the QC General Hospital was converted into a COVID ward during a surge. The photo speaks loudly and clearly of the one reality we always forget, especially us priests.
Again, my views may be simple, even simplistic, compared to the learned but so many times, that is how God works too. Thank you for taking time to read. Join me in praying:
Lord Jesus Christ, so many times we leave you behind, following ourselves and others instead of you alone who is "the way and the truth and the life"(Jn.14:6).Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, 105th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2022
Acts 13:26-33 ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< John 14:1-6
Our gospel this 13th of May is so timely for us in the Philippines when Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his arrest at the Last Supper, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn.14:1).
It is the same message of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she first appeared to the three little children at Cova de Iria in Fatima, Portugal exactly 105 years ago today.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”
In the past 200 years, notice how the two most significant apparitions by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France (1858) and at Fatima in Portugal (1917) were both calls for us to renew our faith in God through Jesus Christ, something we keep on forgetting and even disregarding in these modern times.
When the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, the First World War was still raging with the former Soviet Union spreading its venomous doctrines of atheism and communism. Today, though the USSR has long been gone and dismantled, its ideology still lives on in Russia which had recently invaded its neighbor Ukraine.
And here in our country, the mood since Monday evening when unofficial results of the elections started to come has been like a Good Friday with so many going through some forms of emotional stress and distress.
It is very sad and disheartening when people started saying of moving to other countries abroad, casting doubts on the elections results with all the insults and other moral aspersions against the winners and their supporters.
Where is our faith in God, in Jesus Christ?
When Mary appeared in Fatima in 1917, the world was in a great transition like our time with ever increasing discoveries and inventions in the field of science and technology with the new ideas and thoughts being put forth that were so materialistic, disregarding God, spirituality and morality.
Today we are reminded anew of the ever-relevant calls of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima to go back to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in this time characterized by so much modernities in life brought about by new technologies that also spawn more materialistic thoughts that are often relativistic.
How ironic that as we love to hate modern media, we ourselves have relied on them too these past months. We have relied more on numbers than with God, falling into the trappings of social media of all glitz and glamour that were empty and worst, not the reality at all! We have been warned long ago to never rely on what we see in media that are most often human constructs. There is only one reality in this life, in this world: Jesus Christ.
Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The recent events in the country speak so loud and clear of how we have forgotten Jesus Christ. We have believed so much in ourselves, especially some of us in the clergy who have crossed the lines or, moved the lines, so to speak, forgetting the most essential, the only one Real, the person of Jesus Christ and his universal message of love and salvation to everyone.
In all our efforts and endeavors in this world, especially in those advocacies and causes we passionately work for, may we not forget that ultimately, it is all about persons and not ideals. The ideals we work and stand for are good because of the persons we fight for and ultimately, because of its very roots, the Person of Jesus who called us to do his work or mission in liberating the people, especially the poor.
Jesus had told us that the way, the truth, and the life on this earth is himself, a Person. Our ways can disappear and become totally obsolete but Jesus is always relevant and accessible, most of all, infallible as we have reflected last Sunday in his being the Good Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is why he is the way as well as the truth and the life for everything hangs together in himself.
This is the basic truth that the Blessed Mother expressed at Fatima that she insisted to the three children of the need for us to enter into an intimate relationship in Jesus Christ her Son through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.
Going back to Jesus as Mama Mary had taught us is going back to prayers and the sacraments. Of course, they are not everything but what can we live on if we are empty of Jesus? The recent exchanges of insults are proofs enough of whether we have Jesus or not.
Life is filled with so many mysteries, with more questions than answers. We have had all these questions long before of actors/actresses getting elected to local posts and to both houses of Congress but until now we have refused to accept the answers that majority of voters are not like us – proof how we especially in the Church have always been detached from the rest of the people. Instead of spending too much time with politics and with social media, we must go out and reach out to those people at the margins, the poorest of the poor we find only in our countless documents but never inside the church.
When Jesus and later his Mother Mary told us the simple answer to our question verbalized by Thomas, that Jesus himself is the way and the truth and the life, we are reassured that there is no other secret path or road to fulfillment in this world and into heaven where he is preparing a room for us to dwell after this life. But for now, we have to focus on Jesus more because as he later stressed to Philip in our gospel today, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9) – which is a call to witnessing the gospel more than ever!
In the first reading, Paul reminds us of the wrong choices made by his countrymen and fellow Jews in crucifying Jesus Christ who rose again from the dead. His Resurrection is proof of how God continues to work for us in our favor despite and in spite of setbacks and even crushing defeats.
Never lose hope in God. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Like in 1917 when Mother Mary first appeared in Fatima, life was so difficult and truly uncertain with so many kinds of wars at all fronts like today. On this feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Mother Mary is assuring us of better days ahead despite trials and difficulties if we choose and remain in her Son Jesus Christ.
May the Blessed Mother of the Rosary, our Lady of Fatima, pray for us always. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 24 January 2022
I have always taken homesickness lightly, dismissing it as a simple feeling we all go through once in a while when we leave home for various reasons. Maybe that is due to my entering the seminary in high school, aged 13-16, when I left my family for three years.
Everything changed when I went on vacation to the US in 2003. For the first time in my life, I felt so homesick after extending my two-month vacation to almost five months! That was when I realized the painful truth of homesickness: it is not really that you wanted to come home but more of longing for your loved ones from home, wishing they are with you having a great time at Times Square or enjoying the views from Washington’s Monument or devouring those giant oysters at New Orleans.
Homesickness is not really missing home as a place but home as family, as persons. One writer had said it so well that “homesickness is not really about the places but the faces we miss”!
It is having that feeling while in the midst of all those sights and sounds and tastes, you wish your loved ones are with you too, doubling the fun and adventures you are having. It is wanting to go home and take everybody out to your vacation or location.
But, lately I found out there is something else deeper with the faces and company we miss when we feel homesick; it is also the time and moments lost and gone in the past you try to bring back into the present. Not just of other persons but your very self – including all your dreams and pursuits or desires that got sidelined for so many reasons, valid or not. It is not really about having regrets in life but somehow, homesickness is a feeling best described by our Filipino word panghihinayang. Or, sayang.
It is a case of wasted presence, of taking persons and things for granted.
Thanks to the COVID pandemic. Aside from the virus, we are all afflicted with homesickness, of missing our loved ones whom we cannot visit or stay with due to the corona virus. And, whether we had mild or severe symptoms, homesickness was strongest – and strangest – when we were in isolation or quarantine due to infection.
Basta, all we strongly felt was to see our family and friends because we love them.
Homesickness depends – for better or for worst – on the kind of presence we have spent with our loved ones.
If we have always been intense – and truthful – in our relationships with family and friends, homesickness becomes a soothing balm that relaxes us after a very tiring day or week specially when in isolation or quarantine. You know that kind of feeling within of assured contentment that you love and you are loved by other persons you do not see often or not even communicate with frequently. That is because when you were together, the presence you have spent with each other was so intense and pure that it had created an invisible bond between or among you that you do not seem apart from each other at all.
There is that wonderful feeling of remembering, of suddenly experiencing the warmth and loving face of your beloved. It happens briefly like a blink of an eye that seemed eternal. That’s because of the love you have.
Problem happens when our occasions of being present with one another is superficial or shallow, when we were physically present with another but emotionally and spiritually detached. That is when the hairline difference between homesickness and regrets occurs. We become homesick, trying to go back not only in place but in time to meet the persons including our old self now all gone. Our former rector, Fr. Memeng Salonga used to tell us in high school seminary that it is not really time that is passing by but you who are passing by. One cannot bring back time that had passed, specially the chances and opportunities it had for you if you do not use it wisely.
That’s the painful truth with homesickness when you miss so much how you have missed and let go of the time and moments you have to be truly present with someone and with your very self. And we say sayang.
Recently I was exchanging text messages with a former student. We last met five years ago and both promised to meet again to work on a project and just simply have another great time together over some bottles of beer.
It never happened because we were both busy. Last Friday, he told me how he had COVID last year, the Delta surge. None of his connections could even get him into the ER of any hospital in the city. It was an eye-opener for him, indeed a second life as he survived COVID with a lot of faith and prayers. And love of family.
As I told him of my plans of slowing down in life and retiring early, he texted, “The way I see it po, it can also be wanting to really live. And not function like a machine.” (See why I love talking to him?)
Exactly! Sad, but true.
That has always been the challenge of life, of authentic living – when we become truly free to live and love and be faithful to God expressed in our kindness and service to one another. Of living in the present, in the here and now, in the “today” of Jesus Christ.
Homesickness does not need to be a sickness if we are always “present”.
Then all we have are memories, persons and events we remember and make present again as part of the here and now.
We hope the experts are proven right that the Omicron could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. And if ever they are wrong, still, may we all be present, be a gift to everyone, and be home in every today God gives us.
The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 January 2022
It is my fifth day in home quarantine after contracting COVID-19 with mild symptoms of colds and coughs last Saturday. From the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone for your love and concern, prayers and gifts like food and fruits you have been sending.
But, no thanks at all to those who told me that God simply wanted me to have much needed rest that is why I got sick.
And to those planning to tell me or anyone else afflicted with Omicron, please STOP!
With another week to spend in home quarantine, I feel compelled asking everyone to PLEASE DO NOT EVER SAY GOD WANTS US SICK SO THAT WE CAN HAVE OUR MUCH-NEEDED REST.
It is not true.
It is not uplifting because it is simply stupid and insane. Nothing bad can ever come from God, like sickness or accidents or disasters. Or pandemic. Always remember 1 John 4:16,“God is love”.
However, God continues to work in silence even in the midst of our troubles, doing his very best that even the worst scenarios in our lives would still turn out well and good in the end to proclaim his love and mercy for us.
A few years ago I concelebrated in the funeral Mass for the two brothers of a priest shot multiple times by a neighbor with an Armalite right at the gate of their home. How I wanted to walk out from the Mass to tore my garments when the homilist said with his matching “drama” of tears and breaking voice that it was the will of God: “Ipagpasa-Diyos natin ang lahat… kalooban niya ang pangyayaring ito ngunit siya ang nakaaalam ng higit na mabuti”!
So kawawa our God…. and most kawawa are we!
How can a priest claim God willed the brutal slaying of those two brothers?
When Ondoy flooded vast areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces in 2009, “acts of God” became the most notorious phrase to simply describe a disaster never imagined.
It is neither spirituality nor even Christianity when God is always made the reason and – scapegoat – for anything that happens to our lives. May the Good Lord have mercy on us!
Now with another surge in COVID due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the “spiritualists” and “pseudo-theologians” among us are busy spinning those blasphemous threads of God simply wanting the sick to have much needed rest and “me-time” too.
God could have just sent us with tickets to Boracay or El Nido or anywhere to go on vacation to rest, instead of sending us the COVID pandemic!
When we are sick, that is when we have a dis-ease. We are not at ease, there is dis-order in our body functions. And we remedy that with medications and a lot of rest which is part of recovery and healing.
But we do not need to be sick in order to rest.
In fact, we need to always rest so that we do not get sick.
That is the lesson of this pandemic. What we can do is to continue praying and help those who are sick instead of “theologizing” or “spiritualizing” them with such insane ideas.
In the Old Testament, God gave the third commandment to “Keep holy the sabbath day” (Ex.20:8 and Dt. 5:12), instructing us for all time to always rest – in God.
Here we find the beauty of our Filipino language: to rest is “magpahinga” from the root “hinga/hininga” or breathe/breath. Literally speaking, to rest in Filipino which is “magpa-hinga” is to be “breathed on by God”.
In the story of creation, we find how the “Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (Ge. 2:7).
In our Filipino Bible, it is translated as “hiningahan”. This beautiful scene was repeated by Jesus on the evening of Easter when he came to visit his disciples at the Upper Room in Jerusalem, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (Jn.20:22).
In its simplest sense, to rest essentially means to reconnect with God, to be breathed on by God to be one with him again who is our source and final end.
To rest – magpahinga – is to be filled with God anew. A rested person is always a renewed creation!
This is one of the many important lessons this pandemic has taught us, of the need for us to go back to God and be one with him again in Jesus Christ through one another along with Mother Nature. This we do by taking a rest, a pause and conscious stop from the daily grinds of life so we can see clearly again ourselves and one another in God and in his creation.
This COVID came because we have not only abused Earth but also our very selves. This pandemic is definitely not from God but he is using it to remind us of his loving presence. And most especially of his healing that can truly last and end this pandemic if go back to him.
Experts say the Omicron variant is the beginning of the end of COVID.
But, just before it finally ends, may this also be the start of our renewed relationships with God and with our very selves as we rediscover the essence and meaning of rest.
So, take a rest and stop saying God makes us fall sick in order to rest; God created rest so we do not get sick.
Have a restful moment with the Lord and your loved ones to be well and healthy!
The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 January 2022
It is said that “life is a journey” but I have found through the years that as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. It is always easy to plot our life destination but upon reaching them, what do we do next?
If life is a journey that is more on destination, all we will be doing in life is keep on thinking of new places to visit and new goals to achieve until we ran out of destinations and we have nowhere else to go!
That is why life is more of a direction.
It does not mean we stop making plans or setting goals to reach; we just learn to be more open with the directions life is leading us into.
So often it can happen that while pursuing a goal or reaching a destination, we find many things and meet persons along the way who make us change directions in life for something better we never knew existed before.
Sometimes we discover while at the middle of a journey the many directions we have been seeing or noticing earlier that suddenly later make sense, opening new routes for us to take to something more fulfilling or clearer and better.
As we become open for directions in life, the more we become free to be our true selves, free to pursue what is best than be fixated and even held hostage by a previous goal or destination we have set before which we find no longer viable.
It is like using those travel apps Waze and Google Maps that give us the pertinent information like traffic conditions that help us choose the best routes to reach a specific destination.
However, as we travel, we find the apps taking us to longer routes or may even be misleading us because the data available are obsolete or the internet signal is unreliable. And so, we disregard the apps and try to find our way to our destination through directions provided by actual people and signages we check on the streets. Recall how the apps would continue to “speak” and even insist us to turn left or right as it is bent on reaching the destination. Travel apps are concerned merely with the place to reach, totally “unaware” of the person traveling.
That’s the problem with journeying more on destination when we forget persons that we miss the fun and adventures along the way.
When we journey more on directions, we are more concerned with persons and people that we experience fun and adventures, learning new things about peoples we meet or travel with as well as places we pass through on the way to our destination.
Sometimes, we have to scrap everything as the new directions lead us to more interesting places to visit.
In that way, we grow and mature as persons because we have become more free to be ourselves, more free to follow our inner voices within our hearts that lead us to far and exciting new places. In the process, we also discover our true friends and companions in life!
Ultimately, when we are free to follow directions than simply reach destinations, the more we also discover God – the most wonderful journey in life because ultimately he is our only destination and end.
God as a direction demands us a deepening of our faith, hope and love in him whose “invisible hands” guide us to persons and places and situations that seem to be unrelated at first but as we journey, we discover their many linkages, like tiny pieces of a mosaic creating a wonderful picture bigger than us.
God as a direction leads us to more freedom to discover life itself. That is the beauty of every new year: those twelve months of the calendar have no specific destinations but give us directions to follow by being sensitive to where God is leading us. It is totally senseless and useless to consult fortune-tellers for their fearless forecasts of what is going to happen for that will only make you “unfree” to seek and follow new directions in life. Besides, only God knows what will happen and that is why we follow his directions.
Above all, remember that the discovery of God is not the end of a journey but the beginning of a new one in him, with him, and through him. The journey never stops in Christ Jesus to God our Father in heaven. So, have life and be free to follow new directions from God this new year!
Keep traveling in Christ this 2022. Who knows, we might meet once or twice along the way. Amen.