The world is passing away

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 07 September 2022
1 Corinthians 7:25-31   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 6:20-26
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, 12 August 2022.
Thank you, 
God our loving Father,
for this brand-new day;
in a few days, the week will
be over again as we move 
closer to another week,
to another month,
and on to another year!
There is no denying that the world
indeed is passing away as St. Paul
reminds us today in the first reading:

I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it. For the world in its present form is passing away.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Like what the psalmist
says today, let me listen to you,
dear God, let me see and bend 
my ear to experience and realize
that far more better than this life is
heaven awaiting us where we shall
enjoy your presence eternally!
Let us be on guard against that
great temptation that there is still time,
that we have plenty of time to spare,
not realizing that it is not really time that
passes by but us who are passing by
when we live in lavish wealth and luxury,
when we eat and drink without satiety,
when we laugh unmindful of the miseries 
around us, and when we relish and enjoy
the accolades and praises of others.

Grant us the grace and courage 
to choose you always in Jesus Christ 
who had come to us as poor and hungry, 
weeping and hated by everyone,
insulted and denounced for standing for 
what is true and good.
Lord, let us see in every
beginning the end of our lives
in you. Amen.

When courts “court” troubles

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 06 September 2022
1 Corinthians 6:1-11    ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 6:12-19
Photo by Greg on Pexels.com
Dearest Lord Jesus,
you have always told us
in many occasions in your
teachings that we try to settle
our cases with one another
instead of waiting for the courts to
decide on them that we might 
end up in jail (Mt. 5:25);
Paul reiterates this wise teaching
to the Corinthians and to us today.
Open our minds and our hearts,
Lord, to the many implications of
our search for justice in our court
and judicial system that often leave
us with too much bitterness and
hurts not only when justice is not 
rightly served but the painful process
it entails, draining us of energies as
well as of goodwill for one another.
In this age of social media 
when even legal tussles in the 
courtrooms are televised for all
to see and make fun of, 
the more it becomes clear 
why we must avoid it at as much
as possible because Paul was 
absolutely right that as brothers 
and sisters in Christ, we must not 
resort to the courts of law at all!

I say this to shame you. Can it be that there is not one among you wise enough to be able to settle a case between brothers? But rather brother goes to court against brother, and that before unbelievers? Now indeed then it is, in any case, a failure on your part that you have lawsuits against one another. Instead, you inflict injustice and cheat, and this to brothers.

1 Corinthians 6:5-7, 8
Lord Jesus Christ,
teach us to live harmoniously
with each other despite our many 
differences; teach us to always
find our similarities as beloved
and forgiven children of the Father;
teach us to always be one in the
Father like you; may we find the
great honor and value of being 
called by you to be your apostle,
to be specially close to you and 
to each other; most of all, let us
reach out to you like the sick who
find hope and healing only in you
in their afflictions and troubles,
not in man-made remedies that
often hurt us in the process.
Dear Jesus,
we pray in the most special
way today for those awaiting
court decisions in their cases,
especially those who have been
waiting for so long, for the
disadvantaged like the poor
and innocent.  Amen.

Spirituality & religiosity

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twenty-second Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 31 August 2022
1 Corinthians 3:1-9     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 4:38-44
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father for this
last day of August; in a few
hours at midnight we shall
move into the -ber months with
September first;
but most of all, praise and glory
to you, dear God, for the gift of
your Spirit in us that we often
fail to recognize and nurture
as your most wondrous gift to us.
Too often, we mistake our being 
religious with being spiritual when
we measure our relationship with
you in terms of what we do for you
which is religiosity, forgetting that what
matters most is our response to 
the things you have done for us,
inviting us into a communion,
a relationship which is what spirituality
is all about;
like the people of Corinth in the time
of St. Paul, what we see more are your
ministers and practices, forgetting all
about you, our Lord and God!

What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-worker; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9
Dearest Jesus Christ,
you have come to bring us closer
to God our Father; you became
like us in everything except sin,
experiencing even death so that we
may rise in you into new life, new
relationships with God and others;
let us realize like the apostles who 
interceded for your healing of 
Simon's mother-in-law that there alone
is one God above us all with whom is all
our being as origin and end; help us
realize too that like you, we have to 
move to other places, to go and see
others to experience and know God
our Father, for he alone matters most
in this life.  Amen.

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Of skin and saints and layers of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2022
Revelation 21:9-14   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 1:45-51
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.
Everywhere we find
layers of everything:
layers of clothing,
layers of skin,
layers of meaning;
thank you, dear God
our Father in inviting me
today as we celebrate
the feast of St. Bartholomew
to examine the different
"layers" of my faith and
knowledge of you in
Jesus Christ.
First is the layer of my
self-knowledge:  how true
am I with myself?  How free
am I in being myself, in
expressing freely my thoughts
and feelings?

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”

John 1:45-47
Dear Jesus,
grant me that kind of
sincerity and honesty
of Nathanael/St. Bartholomew:  
you were not disgusted with his words 
for they were very true;
most of all, you even praised
him for being a true Israelite
without any guile!
What a revelation of the true
layer of St. Bartholomew
bared for everyone to see
unlike us in many occasions when
we hide our identity in many layers
often not true, so unreal of who
we are; teach us to come and see
you in your deepest layer, Jesus,
so we may be at home too with
who we really are.

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

John 1:48-49
Grant me also the grace,
Lord  Jesus like Nathanael/
St. Bartholomew to perceive deeply
your true identity as "Son of God"
and "king of Israel"; two different layers
of your person that can only be perceived
by a deep faith, to see you who you really are,
the Son of God, and also the fulfillment
of our aspirations here in this life,
in this world as our Christ the King!
How interesting,
O God that St. Bartholomew
died a martyr after being skinned
alive and crucified upside down
like St. Peter; it must have
been his most glorious achievement
that after being skinned alive,
his persecutors must have seen
and realized too his faith was not that
skin-deep after all, that layers upon layers
of skin, they have found only you, Jesus
deeply ingrained in his very person.
Amen.
St. Bartholomew depicted by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel holding in one hand a large knife said to have been used in skinning him alive with his own skin held by his other hand. Photo from Pinterest.

Love is the Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. John Eudes & St. Ezechiel Moreno, Priests, 19 August 2022
Ezekiel 37:1-14   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 22:34-40
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier in Taal, Batangas, 15 February 2014.
Your Prophet Ezechiel's vision
was perfect and continues even to
these days, God our loving Father:
many times we feel like bones left in
the graveyard, all dried up, and lifeless
because of our sinfulness.

Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord. I have promised, and I will do it, says the Lord.

Ezekiel 37:12-14
Thank you, dear God,
in sending us your Son Jesus
who breathed on us your promised
Spirit who brought us back to life;
thank you, dear God, 
in giving us saints like Ezekiel Moreno
and John Eudes who both shared us
your Son Jesus Christ in their lives of
service and holiness;
thank you, dear God,
most of all for the gift of love,
the life-giving Spirit of everyone,
your very being that is why there is
life.
How sad, O God, 
that in this world that has
become so affluent, so advanced
in technologies, many people remain
lifeless like dry bones buried in their
casket of self-pity, self-centeredness,
impenitence, selfishness, and self-
righteousness refusing to experience 
your love and the love of others that
they cannot love too.
Indeed, love is your only commandment
because love is the very principle of life
that whoever refuses to love dies
and whoever loves, lives.
Amen.

Intimacy and our priestly celibacy

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 18 August 2022
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

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.”

Matthew 15:21-23
Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, May 2017.

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."

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

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.

Matthew 15:25-28

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.

Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, Israel, May 2017.

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.

Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 04 August 2022.

“Where is my new heart, Lord?”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 18 August 2022
Ezekiel 36:23-28   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Makati skyline at dusk from Antipolo, 13 August 2022.
Your words today, O God
are so reassuring,
so comforting and consoling:
"I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place
a new spirit within you, taking from your
bodies your stony hearts and giving you
natural hearts" (Ezekiel 36:25-26).
As I dwell on your words,
including the psalms taken from
my favorite chapter 51 called
"miserere nobis" (have mercy on me),
your Holy Spirit prompted me,
even insisted me to ask, "where is my
new heart, Lord?"
Many of us wonder, Lord, where is my 
new heart of flesh, the new spirit
within me you have promised?
Why do I not feel your clean water
cleansing me of my impurities?
Why do I still feel tired, sometimes
uninspired, even lost and alienated,
losing hope, getting cynical,
feeling so low?
Has the Lord taken back our new hearts
and new spirit within he had promised?
Of course not!
God has given us with new hearts,
new spirit within by cleansing us with
clean water to remove our impurities
in the Passion, Death and Resurrection
of Jesus Christ, his Son and our Savior.
In baptism, we have been cleansed
and we are continually cleansed of our
impurities in the sacraments we celebrate
like the Holy Eucharist.
And there lies the problem
when we do not feel our new hearts,
new spirit:  when we refuse to join your
celebrations, O Lord, like in your parable.
Not only that:  teach us too to rise to
your celebrations, dearest Lord;
let us change our inner selves in more
prayers and introspection and confession
of sins so that we may be transformed to 
better persons as Christians; clothe us with 
more commitment to our baptismal promises,
to live out in our lives and relationships 
what we claim as we believe in.

And so, where is our new hearts,
O Lord?  

It is right here in our very present moment 
whenever we accept your invitation, your call
to turn away from sins, from selfishness, and 
vested interests!
It is right here in our present moment when
we allow our new personhood in Christ 
lead us to pray more, listen more, forgive
more, serve more, and witness his gospel
more.  Amen.

Prayer of an (h)ungry sheep

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2022
Ezekiel 34:1-11   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 20:1-16
Photo from https://aleteia.org/2019/05/12/three-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus-portrays-him-as-the-good-shepherd/.
God our loving Father,
what happened in Israel
during Ezekiel's time is happening
again, of "shepherds pasturing
themselves" (Ezekiel 34:2)!
Send us shepherds, dear Father, 
who have vision, who seek Jesus our 
Good Shepherd and not just listen to one's self
or with what our "cordon sanitaires" say and
whisper to our ears no matter how pleasing
or assuring these may be (should we not be
more at home with being bothered than
pleased, Lord?);give us shepherds who would 
come out of their comfort zones like
that landowner ensuring everyone is doing
something; send us shepherds with courage
to smash existing structures of dominance
and cliques within your Church, drive away
the gnostics among us who know only what
is good for one's self to let in a breath 
of fresh air to enliven your flock.
Thank you in calling us
to shepherd your flock in
different capacities as priests,
parents, elder brothers and sisters,
superiors, teachers, leaders and 
managers; but, shepherding is more
than "strengthening the weak,
healing the sick,
binding up the injured,
bringing back the strayed
and seeking the lost" (cf. Ez. 34:4-5):
all these efforts are meant 
to enable every sheep "to work" -
that is, do something good,
something that would awaken
each one's worth and giftedness
as your beloved one like the master
of the vineyard in today's gospel:

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn… at nine o-clock… at noon… at three o’clock… and at about five o’clock to hire laborers for his vineyard.”

Matthew 20:1, 3, 5, 6
O dear Jesus,
forgive us your shepherds,
especially us your priests,
who have refused to go out
literally and figuratively speaking,
to look on your flock, to find every
sheep and give each one a chance to
"work" for you, to do something good
like serve others and harness their talents
you have given;
Oh, please forgive us your shepherds
when we feel so entitled knowing everything
and being capable of everything that we have
refused to stop "working" for you, when we
have refused to leave our "work" and made it
into an office than a ministry, replacing service
with power, simplicity with material comfort,
and yes though very sad, we have made your 
vocation a privilege as we bask in our
positions and ranks, refusing to give others
the chance to work because we have ceased
shepherding, choosing to be herding or worst,
lording over others.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019, Malolos Cathedral.

The problem with our greetings

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2022
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, view of sunrise from Our Lady of Fatima University in Antipolo City, 14 August 2022.

It is very rare to find in the Bible a story of two women together, conversing, blessing each other. And that rarity happens in our gospel scene today of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

What kind of greeting did Mary say that when Elizabeth heard her, the child in her womb leaped in joy, filling her with the Holy Spirit to call Mary blessed? This could have not been any ordinary greeting to elicit such a response from Elizabeth, for her to be filled by the Holy Spirit!

Luke does not tell us how Mary greeted Elizabeth who was six months pregnant at that time with John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus who was also in the womb of Mary at that time. Most likely, she must have said something too close or similar with Gabriel’s greeting to her during the Annunciation, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you” (Lk.1:28).


As we await of that future glory, 
part of the basis for our assumption
 into heaven like Mary someday depends 
 in the way we greet others because 
that is an indication of our generosity 
and selflessness to a great extent.

Perhaps some of you are wondering why the Church is using this story of the Visitation on this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One reason is of course, there is no written account of the Assumption of Mary into heaven.

However, the Visitation story which includes Mary’s Canticle of the Magnificat that she sang as a response to Elizabeth’s praises reflects the meaning of the Assumption: it is a celebration of the great things that God has done for Mary and for us including which he would also do in the future like our “assumption” into heaven like we profess every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed, “the resurrection of body and life everlasting.”

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Mary became the first human to experience fully the salvation by her Son Jesus Christ, from her Immaculate Conception which speaks of our lost glory from the beginning, and unto her Assumption which promises us of the future glory we shall have in heaven.

As we await of that future glory, part of the basis for our assumption into heaven like Mary someday depends in the way we greet others because that is an indication of our generosity and selflessness to a great extent.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-42, 45

To greet is to recognize God working in us, among us.  
It is thinking more of the other person and God than one's self.

Have you noticed these past several years of a silly and inane trend especially in many churches of commentators greeting the congregation with “Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat” or “Good morning to us all”?

What kind of a greeting is that?

To greet somebody is to share something with others. In the Visitation, Mary shared Jesus Christ who was in her womb to Elizabeth that even John in her womb felt him, leaping for joy.

To greet means to extend goodwill to someone, to desire blessings and good things to others.

That was the reason Mary went to visit Elizabeth; she was thinking more of her cousin who was old and barren yet pregnant for six months by the grace of God. Mary visited Elizabeth to affirm the goodness and kindness of God, to recognize that God’s plans for Elizabeth and her baby in her womb have direct correlations with God’s plans for her and her baby in the womb, Jesus.

To greet is to recognize God working in us, among us. It is thinking more of the other person and God than one’s self.

Now, how did it happen that we Filipinos have retrogressed especially in our religious gatherings as well as civic activities when those holding the mic would always say, “Magandang gabi sa ating lahat… Pagpalain tayong lahat ng Diyos” (Good evening to us all or May we all be blessed)?

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Holy Land, May 2017.

Keep in mind the greeter is sharing what he/she has like a “good morning” or a “blessed day”. Then why is it there are so many among us especially commentators who include their very selves when greeting the congregation, saying “good morning to us all” and other inanities?

To greet others where the greeter includes self in the greeting is like giving a sandwich or coffee to everyone yet takes a bite first or sips too! It is very much the same as replying “me too” when someone tells you “I love you”.

If you include yourself in a greeting, it is not a greeting at all but an insult, a clear sign of callous ego and selfishness to the highest degree that one cannot wait for others to be greeted back.

See the humility and wisdom of Mary: after she had greeted Elizabeth who praised her in return by calling her “blessed” – the first to call her as one – Mary praised God. Not Elizabeth.

When we greet anybody with good morning or good evening or whatever, we do not include ourselves in the greeting because the very fact we are greeting others means we have a lot of good and blessings in us. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we feel so blessed by God that we share Jesus freely to others. Like Mary, we believe and trust that God will never forsake us, will never forget us.

If we can’t even greet somebody so well and so freely, how can we be truly Christian like Mary?

Photo by author in Nazareth, Israel, May 2019.

The Solemnity of the Assumption reminds us today of that great and powerful greeting by Mary to her cousin Elizabeth that led to an encounter and revelation to happen between two women, one old and barren to bear a child with the other too young and unmarried virgin yet both bore children in their wombs by the grace of God.

And it was not just an encounter between the two mothers-to-be but also between their two infants still in their wombs!

In their greetings, God’s mighty deeds became evident, truly present and felt through their mutual exchange of believing, of saying “yes” to Jesus.

The blessedness of this celebration today is found in God’s mighty deeds now resounding in the eternal greeting Mary gives her Son Jesus in heaven.

Photo by author, sunset with the Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

Do we hear Mary’s greetings in our own greetings to one another?

Do our greetings elicit responses from others?

Do our greetings lead others to leap for joy?

Or, do our greetings annoy them because we do not greet them at all, we refuse to share Jesus because we have become too conceited?

How can we be assumed into heaven body and soul if we are so filled with our very selves, when we can’t even freely and truly give away greetings to others?

Then, it must be a case of too much presumptions, of assuming everything for us. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead everyone!