Holiness is being true

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Wednesday, 13 April 2022
Isaiah 50:4-9   +   Matthew 26:14-25
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 31 March 2022.

It’s Holy Wednesday, also known as Spy Wednesday, the night Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus Christ to the chief priests in exchange of 30 pieces of silver (Mt.26:14-15). Tonight is the night of traitors, of betrayers, of those not true to us!

This is the reason why in most parishes after the Mass tonight, there is the ritual of tenebrae or gradual turning off of lights and extinguishing of candles in the church to show how momentarily darkness and evil prevailed in the world when Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Photo from saopedroesaopaolo.com.br.

To betray literally means to hand over a loved one to pain and sufferings like when a husband is unfaithful to his wife, when we spill the secrets of our friends, when we answer back our parents or refuse to obey them, when children waste their money on their vices and other non-essential things instead of studying their lessons while their mother or father is toiling day and night abroad as an OFW.

Betrayal is so painful and most unkind because we exchange or “sell” our loved ones like commodities for someone or something less in value; imagine the pain a betrayer inflicts on the someone who gave everything, with all the love and care only to be “traded” for lesser value? It is said that during the time of Jesus, a slave can be bought for 30 pieces of silver; how foolish Judas must have been in exchanging Jesus who loved and cared for him for a slave! And that is what we are too when we betray God and our loved ones – fools to replace someone so precious for anything else!

Betrayal is rebelling against a loving God, a beloved one, turning our back from them who are most true to us. And that is the short of it: betrayal is not being true.

Holiness is being true; holiness and truth always go together.

The word true is from the Anglo-Saxon treowe or tree. For them, truth is like a tree that evokes a sense of firmness, of being rooted in the ground. When our words and actions are not firm, shaky and always changing, flimsy or “pabago-bago” as we say in Filipino, then it must not be true. It must be a lie and not true at all because it is always changing or shifting.


Photo by author, St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2019.

Truth is always firm, does not change and remains true forever. It may be concealed or covered by lies for sometime but sooner or later, truth will always come out. It cannot be deleted. That is why the Greeks referred to truth as aletheia or phusis, the blooming of a flower that cannot be hidden and would always manifest or show. Jesus himself assured us that “nothing that is hidden will not be revealed; nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Lk.8:17).

Closely linked with the word true is trust which also came from treowe: the Anglo-Saxons saw in the tree not only firmness but also rootedness or connectedness. The firmer the tree, the deeper are its roots. And that is what a true person is – always trustworthy, someone who can be trusted, someone who values relationships or ties and links. Traitors betray their loved ones because they do not value their relationships; a true person is always trustworthy because he values his relationships. A true and trustworthy person is one who would always listen to God and others, not insisting on his own plans and agenda like the Suffering Servant of God.

The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear, and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.

Isaiah 50:4-6
Photo from Pinterest.

Remember the scene of the scourging at the pillar in the film The Passion of the Christ (2004)? Biblical experts say that gory scene was very true as it was the most painful aspect of the Lord’s passion next to the crucifixion; every time the knuckles would hit the body of Jesus, a piece of his flesh is torn off. Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged in the belief that people might pity him when seen so tortured and bruised, perhaps agree to let him go freely.

But it did not happen as the people shouted more for his crucifixion.

And that is what happens when we betray our loved ones, including Jesus: the more we become indecisive in life like Pilate, the more we also betray them because we could not stand for what is true. That is also when we hurt them more and ourselves in the process too.

So often, traitors are not aware of their betrayals, believing in their wrongful and misplaced convictions, forgetting the people who love them most. Many times, we absolutize the truth, forgetting that only God is absolute. Most of all, that truth is a Person, Jesus Christ who said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.16:6). Being true, being holy is always directed to a person, not just a conviction.

So be careful by being true always with one’s self, with others and with God.

What makes you forget the truth and be untrue to others?


Lord Jesus Christ,
teach me to be true and holy
not only to you but most especially
to the people you give me,
those who love me truly and dearly;
make me like a tree,
firm and reliable, 
dependable and trustworthy,
most of all, deeply rooted in you
through then people I love and care and serve.
Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, January 2022.

“When It Was Done” by Hugo Montenegro (1970)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 April 2022
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2015.

All roads lead to churches today as we begin the holiest week of the year with the celebration of the Palm Sunday in the Lord’s Passion today reaching its highest point on Saturday evening with the Easter Vigil that leads to Easter Sunday, the mother of all feasts in the Catholic world.

Our celebration today is actually a combination of two practices in the earliest times of the Church that were only merged in 1963 during the reform of the liturgy at Vatican II: the procession and blessing of palms was the practice in Jerusalem as early as the 4th century while a hundred years later, the Pope in Rome ushered in the Holy Week with the proclamation of the passion narrative of Jesus Christ.

Hence, the long title of our celebration, Palm Sunday in the Lord’s Passion; however, it is not something we look back in the past but one that we make present in the here and now as we look forward in that future when we shall all be together celebrating eternal life in God’s presence in heaven.

That is the challenge of this Holy Week: how we can follow Jesus in his Passion and Death in order to be one with him in all eternity. Like the people in Jerusalem when he entered the city more than 2000 years ago, would we side with those who followed and believed him or be with those who mocked and jeered him? (https://lordmychef.com/2022/04/09/the-cross-our-door-to-heaven/)

That is the problem of the main character in the song When It Was Done which is a list of wishful thinkings of a man to a woman already in a relationship with another man. It seems the man was too slow or came late to do everything in order to win over the woman he loves and all he could do at the moment now is to wish of having her perhaps in the afterlife in the future.

If I could bind your mind to mine
In time I'd keep you from that world of his
If I could change the strangeness in your kind
Then I'd know where your soul is

Then I'd know what song I'd have to sing
To touch that chord within you
And I would weave such wonders
That when I was done I'd win you

If I could stand with the stars on either hand
And say, "This ain't the answer"
If I had been where you're goin'
But then I'll never be no dancer

And if I was I'd know what step to take
And laugh at what had freed me
And smash the great wall down, girl
When it was done you'd need me

If I could face the fait that waits to cast me
In the scramble
And sit across the velvet boards from God
Then I'd gamble

Then I'd know what chance I'd have to take
And before somebody sold you
I'd bet my soul against the stars
When it was done I'd hold you
When it was done I'd hold you

Composed in 1969 by Jimmy Webb and originally recorded that same year by Walter Wanderly Set, it became popular in 1970 after Hugo Montenegro released his version. Montenegro was a former US Navy musician who pioneered research and recordings in electronic music. His biggest break came in 1966 when he covered Ennio Moricone’s theme for the Clint Eastwood starrer The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that paved his way into a long career in creating music for movies and television series.

When It Was Done is one of the 200 songs covered by Montenegro he had waxed with his cool arrangements using modern electronic instruments and technologies of his time that gave his music a different feel, like in this piece that is very soothing with a sense of sublimity.

It is a very lovely and feel good music that reminds us too to do every effort in the present moment to express our love for others like Jesus Christ who until the end never ceased from doing good for everyone. It is in being like Jesus that we can truly sing Monetenegro’s When It Was Done more convincingly and truly. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From Youtube.

Lent is keeping our ties in God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 07 April 2022
Genesis 17:3-9   <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   John 8:51-59
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, Israel, 2017.
God our Father, 
on this blessed Thursday
as we come nearer to the closing
of Lent, we rejoice in that beautiful
truth about you proclaimed in our
responsorial psalm today, "The Lord 
remembers his covenant forever."
How lovely it is to recall that story
of how you called Abraham, not only 
in making a promise with him 
to be the father of all nations but 
in entering a covenant with him to
be our God forever with us your 
people; in doing so, you changed his
name from Abram to Abraham 
to show us that every relationship
is built in calling with names not with
shaking of hands nor with other signs
and gestures we are used to.
So many times we forget how 
all our relationships are based and 
rooted in you our Father because 
without you, all our ties as family
and friends will never last, will never
have meaning for we are all fragile 
and weak, very erratic and so
moody unlike you, always faithful
and true.
Remove the blindness that prevents us
from finding you in every person we meet
like the Pharisees debating with Jesus 
at the temple area, refusing to believe him
that "before Abraham came to be, I AM" 
(Jn.8:58); enable us to grow and mature
amidst the many tensions and frictions 
we experience in our relationships with 
you and others for it is in pains and
sufferings our love and fidelity are
purified and harnessed, just like when 
"Jesus hid and went out of the temple
area" (Jn.8:59) when his enemies tried
to stone him as they could not accept
him and his words.  Amen.  

That sin called “adultery”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 04 April 2022
Daniel 13:41-62   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 8:12-20
Photo by author, 2019.
For the second straight day,
we hear the story of adultery:
yesterday the woman was guilty,
today the woman is accused wrongly
but in both instances, your justice
and kindness prevailed, O God our Father!
But what is really with adultery 
that it is a favorite sin and topic in
your Sacred Scriptures, dear Lord?
More than its nature of infidelity, 
adultery also speaks deeply of our 
broken relationships with women:
like those two old men accusing Susana
wrongly of having a tryst with another man,
so often we have forgotten, even refused
to recognize adultery involves another man,
not just the woman.
Open our eyes, Father, especially the
"chauvinist pigs" and misogynists among us;
may the light of Jesus Christ your Son
enlighten the darkness within us and
enable us to see "where we came from" 
and "where we are going" so that we 
stop accusing and judging each other
of sins we ourselves are guilty too.

“You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.”

John 8:15-18
How funny, dear God,
that the root of this word
adultery means to pollute
or defile when in fact, that is
also the root of our sinfulness
when we defile others because
we have defiled our very selves
first when we turn away from you
as our origin and destination.
Amen.

“I Don’t Know How to Love Him” by Yvonne Elliman (1970)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 03 April 2022
Photo by author, Lent 2019.

It’s the final Sunday of our 40-day journey this Lenten season. As we get closer to Holy Week, it is presupposed that by this time, we have also gone closer to God our Father in Christ Jesus.

Last Sunday we have heard the parable of the merciful father more known as the parable of the prodigal son, the beautiful story of coming home to God; this Sunday, we encounter the Father in Jesus Christ in this beautiful story by John of the woman caught in adultery.

And there’s no other song more appropriate that comes to our mind and memory than that moving scene in the 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar where Mary Magdalene played by Ms. Yvonne Elliman sang “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, referring to Jesus who had forgiven her after being caught committing adultery by the Pharisees and scribes. Of course, that was based on the long held belief that the woman caught committing adultery was Magdalene although latest biblical scholarships have unanimously debunked it as totally false.

Nonetheless, the song composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice is hailed as the high point of the rock opera that until now critics acclaim Ms. Elliman for a very superb performance, combining “power and purity of tone” (Simpson, Paul, 2003. The Rough Guide to Cult Pop. London: The Penguin Group. p. 141ISBN 978-1843532293).

I don't know how to love him
What to do, how to move him
I've been changed, yes really changed
In these past few days
When I've seen myself
I seem like someone else

I don't know how to take this
I don't see why he moves me
He's a man, he's just a man
And I've had so many men before
In very many ways
He's just one more

The woman caught in adultery remains one of the beautiful scenes in the fourth gospel that is so simple yet set in the most profound language and imageries by John that Weber and Rice have apparently emulated with the lovely music and lyrics of this song. Very interesting are the lines by Ms. Elliman claiming “I’ve been changed, yes really changed// In these past few days// When I’ve seen myself I seem like someone else//.”

Here we not only experience God’s love and mercy but most of all the kindness of Jesus, his bending twice to show the sinful woman as well as her equally sinful accusers that despite their sins, God chose to go down to our level in order to raise us up to regain our lost dignity as children of God (https://lordmychef.com/2022/04/02/the-joy-of-meeting-god/).

More than a stroke of genius, it was likewise a divine inspiration that Weber and Rice have written these moving words about Jesus, “He’s a man, he’s just a man// And I’ve had so many men before// In very many ways// He’s just one more//” that invite us to imitate the kindness of God with one another, especially for those who have sinned.

The gospel scene and the song assure us of God’s boundless mercy to everyone who have sinned and willing to reform, “to go and sin no more”. It is not a passport to sins but a call to change our sinful ways to holiness, to being like God, loving and kind to everyone.

And that begins with our being kind first of all to ourselves. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

The joy of meeting God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-C, 03 April 2022
Isaiah 43:16-21 ><}}}*> Philippians 3:8-14 ><}}}*> John 8:1-11
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 20 February 2022.

From the joy of coming home to the Father last Sunday in the parable of the merciful father, we now celebrate the joy of meeting God in Jesus Christ in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

We are now into the final week of Lent, getting closer to the innermost room of the Father’s house but this time with John as our guide as we skip Luke’s gospel. The shift is hardly noticeable as the story of the woman caught in adultery seamlessly jibe with Luke’s parable last Sunday. The Pharisees and scribes are again present but this time more bold in their opposition to Jesus.

From pinterest.com.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

John 8:3-6

Only John records this story of the woman caught in adultery but one can clearly recognize its similar tone and perspective with the parable last Sunday that only Luke had, the parable of the merciful father, more known as parable of the prodigal son. Both stories tell us the gospel of God’s mercy proclaimed in words and in deeds by our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what makes this story of the woman caught in adultery a stand out is its simplicity amidst the profound texts by John often identified as the beloved disciple. He was able to compact in few words and simple gestures the many realities in life we forget and take for granted.

As I prayed over this scene, one word persisted in my reflections: kindness.

Photo by author, 2018, Davao City.
The kindness of God.

The word “kind” is from kin or kindred as in family or tribe. When we say a person is kind, we mean that person treats us as one of his family, of his same kind, that he deals with us like we are not “others” or iba as we say in Filipino (hindi ka naman iba).

How sad that at the start of this pandemic in 2020, that was when all news and stories spread of how we have become so unkind with each other especially the poor, the sick and the old, children and women treated unkindly like Mang Dodong of Caloocan.

How sad that in our country, it has become a sin, an error or a failure to be poor and disadvantaged that even the poor and disadvantaged look down at each other, too! There is always that feeling among us that we are different, that we are not of the same kind that it has become so difficult to find kindness among everybody. We have forgotten we are all human, imperfect and sinful but also beloved children of God.

This is what the Sunday gospel is telling us: the woman caught in adultery is not the only sinner in this scene. John described her as “caught in adultery”, not merely an “adulteress” to show that she was in fact caught into adultery. It is a serious sin but there’s more to be caught in that act than meets the eyes. Here, there is no mention about the woman’s “lover”.

Like in our gospel last Sunday, we have the Pharisees and scribes present again, forgetting their very roles in the story itself. Recall that Jesus told the parable of the merciful father for them last Sunday to remind them that they were both the prodigal son and elder son. And that included us today, of course. Today, they are back and we wonder what were the evidence they have against that woman. Where were they while the woman was committing the sin of adultery? Were they peeping toms? Or worst, have they had some trysts with her too in the past?

Both the woman caught in adultery and her accusers, the Pharisees and the scribes stand for us all – we are sinners. We have all sinned and how dare are we to act like the Pharisees and scribes pretending to be different from others, to be so clean and pure when deep inside us are also rotten with sins that could even be worst than the people we accuse.

This is the reason why Jesus bent twice to show everyone how God had chosen to go down to us, to be like us in everything except sin so we can see again everyone as our kin, our same kind as children of the Father.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

John 8:7-9
Photo by news.ag.org, Jesus writing on the sand in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
Bending to washing of feet to dying on Cross.

In bending down twice, Jesus showed everyone – the accused and the accusers – the kindness of God, his being our kin, his being one of us even if he is Divine. To bend down is to go down, like Jesus coming down from heaven, being born as a child to show us that the path back to God is in being human which is underscored by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus Christ at the start of his Gospel which is proclaimed every December 17 and December 24 Christmas Eve.

Here in this scene we are reminded by his bending as an imagery of the mystery of Incarnation just like his coming down to Jordan River at his baptism by John.

This bending of Jesus will happen again on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of his apostles where he gave his commandment to love (hence, it is called as Maundy Thursday, from Latin mandatum for commandment). It will reach its highest point when he bent lowest on Good Friday by offering himself on the Cross for us all out of his immense love and mercy. And kindness.

That is the greatest expression of God’s love and mercy, in his kindness, in his becoming one of us in Jesus Christ who took upon himself our sins so we may be clean again and be able to rise and stand with dignity and honor as beloved children of the Father.

This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the first reading that God is doing something new for us.

Jesus is not telling us to stop fighting sin and evil, to cease from pursuing criminals and people who have committed crimes and grave sins against us and others. The fight goes on but should always be tempered with being humane.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The beautiful story of how Jesus resolved the case against the woman caught committing adultery assures us of the endless mercies of God to us sinners, not a passport to sin. See how Jesus recognized the sinfulness of the woman when he told her, go and sin no more – the most humane reprimand perhaps in history.

It is only in our being kind like Jesus that we become truly human and humane.

According to John, the first to leave the site after Jesus challenged them to cast the first stone were the elders that may stand for having wisdom, not necessarily being aged. The first to leave the site were the wise, those who must have realized their own sinfulness and saw how gravely wrong they were in being so harsh with the woman.

Many times in life, it is difficult to be kind in this unkind world because we have stopped seeing our commonality, our shared humanity, our links with one another, our relationships. We have become so competitive that we always want to be distinct from everyone to the point that we have ceased becoming humans, playing gods most of the time.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 2019.

The grace of this final week of Lent is the kindness of God that remains with everyone, even with the most harsh among us, the most sinful. Jesus is inviting us to bend down with him, see him even down below when we are in sins. He is not condemning us nor hurting us with words nor actions. Ever the most humble and gentle of all, our most kind Lord Jesus is telling us today to take up his yoke and learn from him, always kind with everyone.

And that begins with our very selves. Many times, we cannot be kind with others because in the first place we are so unkind with our very selves. We cannot see our true selves that we compete within ourselves, that we should be somebody else.

What a wonderful gift to be our true selves again and still loved by God.

Let us heed Paul’s call in the second reading: “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead. I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Have a blessed week ahead, be kind to yourself first of all. Amen.

Standing up for Jesus, with Jesus

Homily at the Baccalaureate Mass by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Chaplain, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 01 April 2022
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22   <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Photos by ANGELA WEISS/AFP | Robyn Beck/AFP from aleteia.org, 28 March 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of 2022 – our first batch to finally have a face-to-face graduation after two years in the COVID-19 pandemic!

Graduation is a high moment in life, specially at this time of the pandemic. You are a rare one among the rest. And so, like Mr. Denzel Washington, let me remind you my dear graduates and your families too that …

"At your highest moment, be careful, 
that's when the devil comes for you."
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Very true, my dear graduates.

What is very striking (no pun intended) is that it came from a celebrity star in Hollywood which is the bastion of everything worldly, and contrary to anything spiritual. So nice indeed of Mr. Washington who is not only a very fine actor but also a deeply spiritual person.

Imitate him.

After your graduation, there will still be more high moments coming into your life, so be very, very careful because the devil will never stop tempting you in order to destroy your life and crush your dreams

In your four or more years of studies and stay here at Our Lady of Fatima University, you must have felt in various ways the temptations and misleadings by the devil, dividing your mind, blinding your sight, telling you with so many seemingly valid reasons why you should just stop and go home, that nothing good will happen in this frustrating online classes.

Like in our first reading today, you must have felt many times telling yourself what the author of the Book of Wisdom experienced:

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

Wisdom 2:1, 13, 17, 20
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2019.

Praise God and congratulate yourselves for a job well done, dear graduates. You have passed the tests of your professors and teachers, and most especially overcome the temptations of the devil to destroy your beautiful plans of “rising to the top”, of becoming a doctor or a nurse or a medtech or a teacher or a seafarer.

Today we thank God in this Holy Mass that you have remained faithful to him, standing by his side in Jesus Christ at the Cross of sufferings and trials. Two things I wish to share with you, batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University to avoid the devil from destroying you.

First is to always stand and witness the truth of God who loves us so much even if we believe more in ourselves, in our science and technology. How unfortunate that despite the world’s sophistications and advancements in the sciences, we still have wars going on, we still have abuses in words and in deed happening right in front of us like that slapping incident at the Oscars. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech at the beginning of the American involvement at the Vietnam War in the 1960’s that “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Always stand for what is true which is our motto, Veritas.

Truth is not just an object but also a subject, a person when Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6). This we find when we examine the origin of the word “true” which came from the Anglo-Saxon “treowe” for “tree” that connotes something firm. And that is what is always true, firm and unchanging, never flimsy like lies and falsehoods. Like the tree, truth cannot be shaken nor moved for it will always be the same.

It is very interesting that from the Anglo-Saxon word “treowe” for tree came also its related word “trust” because where there is truth, there is always trust which connotes relationship. That is why the concept of “family tree” came also from the Anglo-Saxons who saw their family like a tree – a firm tree have deep roots with many connections or links. Wherever there is truth, there is also trust and relationships that lead to community borne out of commonality and sameness. Very close to this concept is the Latin genus from which came generation and gender that both refer to being of one or the same kind. Like trust related to true, the word related with gender and generation is generosity which is the act of giving that comes from knowledge of belonging and intimacy.

Hence, a truthful person is always a generous one, someone who can be trusted because he/she is always one with others. Never forget your beloved alma mater, Our Lady of Fatima University, your mentors and professors, your classmates and friends with whom you all shared the truth, whom you have trusted and shared common passion and brought you to graduation day.

At your highest moment in life, be careful, stand for what is true, think of others, be generous with them and most of all, stand for God by standing with Jesus at the foot of his Cross.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

Second, to keep you away from the devil in your high moments in life after your graduation, do not forget the other motto of our dearest alma mater, misericordia, mercy and compassion. From two Latin words, miseor and cor that literally mean to move the heart, mercy is more than a feeling but something that leads also into a concrete action. As I have told you in some of my talks, the Jews have that concepts of mercy of the heart and mercy of the hand that must always go together. It is not enough to feel the pain of another person but that feeling moves you to do something to ease that person’s pain.

One problem in our world today is how people have absolutized truth, always insisting on what they believe as true even in many occasions what they believe is not true at all. Nonetheless, let us remember that only God is absolute. We have realized and experienced in the past that truth can be so painful. To witness the truth of God is to be merciful and compassionate by enabling others to be liberated from their painful realities in life – not to bury and cement them in their sad predicament.

Being merciful, being compassionate in this time is to move away from the way of the world that is based on fame and power, always competing with somebody else for more likes and followers. To be merciful like God is to find the enormous giftedness we have that must be shared with those who have less in life, with those who suffer most, with those who cry in pain in silence.

This coming Sunday we shall the story of the woman caught in adultery, at how Jesus liberated the sinful woman from her miserable state in life made worst by the public shaming her, wanting to condemn her in public. See the beautiful image of Jesus bending down, not looking at the woman, letting her experience God’s mercy, offering her a chance to become better.

In today’s gospel, Jesus dared to speak the truth of God despite threats to his life because that mission was very clear to him.

As you embark on a new phase in life with more high moments as well as more challenges, more pains and hurts, never give the devil a chance to destroy you and your lives. Stay close to Jesus Christ. Stand with Jesus at the foot of his Cross, especially when everybody feels to be standing more on their own pedestals of fame and glory founded on shaky grounds. The path to higher moments in life with Jesus and in Jesus is to join him in his Cross, of going down in love and humility.

During these pandemic years, God has remained true and merciful with you, with everyone, with us, staying with us and never leaving us in our lowest moments. Let us do the same with many others losing hope and meaning in life in this time of the pandemic by sharing God’s truth and mercy so that others may experience some joy in life. Amen.

From Our Lady of Fatima University/FB.

Lent is restoring our relationships

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent, 22 March 2022
Daniel 3:25, 34-43   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 18:21-35
Image from wallpaperuse.com.
Like your servant Azariah,
I praise and thank you today,
dear God our loving Father,
for delivering us always from many
dangers and trials, enabling us 
to make it through many fires -
still whole, still sane, still blessed.
Yes, like Azariah and his fellow Jews
exiled in Babylon at that time, we have
turned away from you with our many
sins and transgressions:

But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.

Daniel 3:39-42
It is not enough, O God, 
that we be sorry for our sins;
like in the parable and the very
example of your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord, penance and contrition are 
meant to fix and restore our many
broken relationships with you and with
one another, especially those dearest
to us, those closest to us we have hurt or
have hurt us with words and/or deeds.
Like you dear Father,
may we realize that forgiveness is
more than deletion of sins but
most of all, about reconciliation, 
of being one again as brothers and
sisters in Christ.  Amen.

Repenting, remaining in God present in us, with us in Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Lent-C, 20 March 2022
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 ><}}}*> Luke 13:1-9
Photo by author, July 2020 in Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

As I have told you at the start of this 40-day journey, Lent is like a coming home to God with Ash Wednesday until Saturday after as the porch and each Sunday a door leading us into the inner rooms closer to God.

At each door these past two Sundays, we were opened to God’s majesty and wonder, love and mercy in Jesus Christ who had come to help us triumph over many temptations in life, to be transformed and transfigured in him.

With Luke as our guide this year, he had opened to us each Sunday a very unique door to experience God’s majesty and mystery, his love and mercy offered in Jesus Christ.

This becomes most pronounced this Third and Fourth Sundays when we find his gospel stories as exclusively his alone: Christ’s call to repentance following the news of Pilate’s massacre of 18 Galileans during a temple worship and the parable of the Merciful Father more known as parable of the Prodigal Son.

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

Luke 13:1-5
Photo by author, parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Our “blaming game”

At first hearing, our gospel today sounds like a news broadcast of brutalities and mishaps, trials and sufferings happening almost daily around the world. So many times, they happen closest to us personally or within our own circles of family and friends.

Only Luke has this account of teaching by Jesus; nowhere would you find in the gospels any account of Pilate ordering this massacre of Galileans but the Jewish historian Josephus had recorded many instances of the Roman governor’s ruthless reign.

And here we find the artistry of Luke in inserting this scene in his gospel the Church has chosen as part of our Lenten itinerary. So often in life, we keep on blaming somebody else except our very selves for every negative things happening to us and around us, even considering it as “divine chastisements” or karma to those people we consider as evil.

It is true that evil begets evil, but the seeming dominion of sin and evil in the world is so wide for us to attribute blame only to certain persons as if others, including ourselves, had no part in it. It always takes two to tango!

Worst case of this “blaming game” of ours is to even link our sufferings and trials with God.

Nothing bad can ever come from God like disasters and catastrophes, sickness and turmoils because God is love. God offers only life, never death nor destruction for he does only what is good. It is very wrong to think at all that God has something to do with any of these problems happening in the world like the pandemic or in our personal lives.

Photo by author, Sinai Mountain Range in Egypt, May 2019.

This is the gist of the Lord’s response to the people bringing him the bad news of the 18 Galileans ordered massacred by Pilate, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means!”. God does not punish at all! Bad things happen because of sins and that is what we always have to look inside us, how have we contributed to the evil happening.

And to make it clearer that God has nothing to do whatsoever with all these bad things happening to us, Jesus added, “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!”.

However, Jesus is not telling us to be resigned to the absurdities of the world and of humankind. We can all do something to greatly prevent and reduce all these misfortunes and sufferings around us and that is the way of repentance, of conversion – the very calls of the prophets in the Old Testament and by John the Baptist.

Now, Jesus our Savior, the Son of God, is voicing out this call of repentance with urgency and new authority not only because it is the only way back to God but precisely due to his very nature of being loving and patient, merciful and forgiving.

The kind of God we have, the only one there is

The grace of this third Sunday of Lent is the revelation of the kind of God we have, the only one there is: a very loving and patient, merciful and forgiving God who is also perfectly present among us in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, site of the burning bush in Sinai now inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

In the first reading, we are told of that unforgettable scene of Moses at the burning bush where God revealed himself as “I AM WHO AM” – the One who is always present with us in the past, in the future, and most especially in every here and now, the present moment.

When we think of God, what comes to our mind, what do we say about him?

God told Moses “Thus you say to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:15) to remind them that this God has always been present with his people.

With Abraham, God first made the promise of being the father of all nations (last Sunday’s first reading), to Isaac he revealed himself in the stairway to heaven, and to Jacob that he would bring them to Egypt and liberate them after. Now in Moses, everything is coming into fulfillment of this great nation to be set free by God, a prefiguration Christ and his saving mission.

Throughout history, God never left his people, working great marvels in the past to deliver them from slavery, a passing over and exodus, assuring us of his presence and salvation in the future by remaining at our side.

History is cyclic, everything seems to be happening again but with an upward trajectory towards God; in every repetition of history, the question is where are we standing with God, are we still the same the first time we encountered him, descending to vice and sins or have we grown in virtues and holiness?

Salvation history and secular history continue to unfold for both are one in God; hence, we must not waste every moment to return to God, to repent and be converted. Beware of Paul’s warning, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:12)! Remember those Galileans massacred by Pilate or those 18 people at Siloam crushed to death by tower that had fallen – anything can happen with us, so be ready. Never leave God who is always with us, assuring us with salvation in Jesus.

Beginning this Sunday, continuing to next week with the parable of the prodigal son and finally on the fifth Sunday of Lent when we skip Luke’s gospel to borrow from John for the story of the woman caught in adultery, we are being immersed into the deeper mystery of this God we call Father made known to us by Jesus Christ through his own passion, death and resurrection.

The more we enter God’s mystery every Sunday of Lent, the more his “height, breath and depth” (Eph. 3:18) appear to us, making us realize he is real, very true like another person we can feel and hear, always with us, patiently waiting for us to bear fruit like the owner of the fig tree in the parable.

How have you experienced God’s presence this past week?

What else do we need to be convinced of his love and mercy that we still refuse to repent and be converted in Jesus Christ?

The time is now, not yesterday or tomorrow for God is I AM WHO AM, one who is in the present. Amen. Have a blessed week.

Thank you for the prayers; I am home trying to recuperate from my surgery.

Photo by author, inside St. Catherine Monastery with Mt. Sinai at the background in Egypt, May 2019.

Lent is for setting things right

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent, 15 March 2022
Isaiah 1:10, 16-20   <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 23:1-12
Photo by author, Parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken!

Isaiah 1:18-20
Let us heed your call,
dear Lord, let us set things
right this season of Lent;
let us be sorry for our sins, 
be humble for who we really are
before you and one another.
Teach us through your Son
Jesus Christ to be true to ourselves,
practicing what we preach
and doing things for you and not
for others admiration; let us realize 
that authority is not for power but
for empowering and enabling others;
most of all, let us realize that 
authority is service, never a way of control
or domination or a claim to special
perks and privileges.
Let us set things right, Lord,
by breaking this cycle of trying
to be someone else, of being
somebody to be admired and 
looked up to when what is most 
essential is for us to see one 
another as brothers and sisters
in one God as our Father.  Amen.