Advent is being small and simple

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-C, 05 December 2021
Baruch 5:1-9 ><}}}*> Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 ><}}}*> Luke 3:1-6
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

From “beginning with the end” last Sunday at the start of Advent, we now move into its second week when we are reminded by the readings and gospel that “everything begins small and simple” in God and with God’s kingdom.

So often in life, God’s beauty and majesty are revealed in small, little beginnings that are hidden and obscured, things and persons we take for granted without knowing it is in them and through them that God silently continues his works of wonder among us.

Such is the reality of Christ’s coming – then and now and in the end of time – as presented by Luke who began his account this Second Sunday of Advent with the introduction of John the Baptist.

“St. John the Baptist Preaching In the Wilderness” by Anton Raphael Mengs from en.wikipedia.org.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

Luke 3:1-2

Feel the solemnity of Luke’s report, so formal, evoking a sense of power and might, an air of superiority with all the trappings of those in the corridors of power in government and religion.

Then abruptly, he wrote tersely, “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert”. Boom! So simple yet elegantly emphatic.

Notice Luke’s artistry presenting a list of who’s who living in palaces and Temple with all the comfort and luxury available at that time when in a sudden shift, without losing the building up of the drama that led to the climax that is John “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'” (Lk.3:3-4).

In introducing to us the person of John the Baptist which started in the very first chapter of his gospel, Luke is actually telling us how John was already the presence of Christ, that aside from being his precursor, he had Jesus in himself already! For Luke, John foreshadowed Christ’s work of salvation reaching its summit at Easter even while orienting us to Christmas.

The nearness of God

Every year, the second and third Sundays of Advent narrate the preaching and baptism by John the Baptist at Jordan to remind us how Jesus comes to us whenever, wherever the word of God is heard, accepted, and proclaimed that result into repentance and forgiveness of sins.

See how Luke shows us the overlapping of salvation history with our secular history, a clear indication of the presence and nearness of God with us in Christ’s coming. Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, and Lysania with the high priests Caiaphas and Ananias were true persons who have lived in a particular time and specific places when John and Jesus lived too.

Here we find so true that God works silently and subtly in Jesus in our own personal lives and in the whole world for indeed, he is the God of history.

Photo by author, Chapel at the Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 28 November 2021.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are assured of God’s nearness with us in Christ, especially when there are those darkness and obscurity, hiddenness and being unknown. These little and simple things in life are occasions where God reveals himself to us! Take them to heart.

Sometimes in life it is good to be down and even unknown, away from the limelight specially in this age of social media where everything even coffee breaks and new purchases or grades and medals of children are made known to everyone with much noise like blaring trumpets.

This boom in social media is so tiring and even disgusting with nothing hidden anymore, nothing is personal, and worst, nothing sacred any more! God and faith and sacraments have become commodities, persons are cheapened and used for personal advantages that even personal messages or PM’s have become “public happenings”. No more respect and dignity to others and most of all, unknown to those so immersed in the social media, they are the ones in the losing end, losing their very selves as they lose touch and grounding with reality.

Contrast it with John the Baptist in the desert with his balanced life between solitude and community and most of all, his rootedness in God and with realities of life that he can speak about the need for repentance to renew one’s self.

The gift of Advent

It can happen that when we are so filled with our selves, when we are so spread out feeling famous, “viral” and “trending” that we are also most empty and nothing like those powerful men mentioned by Luke, from the Roman emperor to the high priests; hence, the need to be hidden and unknown, little and small once in a while to allow enough room for changes and growth, and most especially to have a room within us for Jesus to work in us.

This is the gift of Advent Season: a time for us to be like John, to withdraw from the busy and toxic world so we may be alone and at home again with one’s true self, with loved ones, and with God in Jesus, through Jesus.

In the first reading we heard the end of a poem by Baruch where God consoles his people personified by Jerusalem, giving them hope of redemption someday from their Babylonian conquerors. It was the lowest point in the Jewish history when Jerusalem and their Temple were destroyed with the entire nation exiled to Babylon as slaves. No country, no Temple, so down and so small yet, God tells them:

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor; you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Baruch 5:1-4

See the beautiful image of God taking possession of his people exiled and enslaved, changing their lot into something so wonderful filled with splendor!

The same thing happens with us when we are down and lost for that is when God doubles his efforts in finding us, redeeming us, uplifting us. It had happened before in the coming of his Son Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago which continues to happen now and would surely happen again in its fullness at his Parousia.

Nothing happens in life and in the world without God knowing even the minutest, single details we do not notice at all. Let us imitate the confidence of Paul this Season of Advent:

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6, 8
Photo by author, Advent 2020.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are told that even if we do not see Jesus like in the gospel of Luke when it is still concerned with the preaching of John the Baptist, he is already with us in those small and little sacrifices we do out of love for him.

Like John, Advent invites us to withdraw to the wilderness, to the desert to be hidden from the limelight to give God a space to come to us, to be present in us.

Like John, Advent invites us to empty ourselves of our pride and sins, to repent and be washed clean by God’s loving mercy and forgiveness to be filled with his humility, justice and love.

Like John, Advent wants us to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: to be the voice of reason and faith in this noisy world of lies and superficialities; to make straight the path so bended with many excuses and alibis that have moved the lines of morality and propriety; to fill the valleys with sense and meaning; and, to make low every mountain and hill of human pride and arrogance that have left us more empty and lost than before.

Let us all be a John the Baptist, not only a precursor but also a presence of Jesus.

A blessed second week of Advent to everyone!

The things we wish vs. things we pray to Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIX-B in Ordinary Time, 17 October 2021
Isaiah 53:10-11 ><}}}*> Hebrews 4:14-16 ><}}}*> Mark 10:35-45
Photo by author, 10 October 2021, Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Five minutes before our Mass last Sunday afternoon at the Holy Cross Parish in Paco, Obando, two rainbows appeared in the sky, freezing me for a while to cherish the moment as I felt God smiling at me, promising me a better week ahead.

It was only after a brief pause savoring the moment when I had the chance to take a shot of the lovely sight before getting inside the church at exactly 530 PM for the Mass. The following Monday, I had the photo posted on “my day” with everybody asking what was my wish upon seeing the double rainbows

When I told them I did not make any wish at all, they said it was “sayang” (what a waste!), that if I had made a wish, it could have been granted or fulfilled.

But, looking back, I did not make any wish at all because at that very moment I felt I had Jesus in my heart, that God had me on his palms, assuring me of his loving presence.

Why make any wish at all when you already have God? Besides, I felt too old for those wishing upon a rainbow or a falling star thing!


My dear friends and relatives, this Sunday, Jesus asks his disciples, brothers James and John “What do you wish me to do for you?” (Mk.10:36); next Sunday, the Lord will ask a blind man “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk.10:51).

It is very interesting to note that Jesus outrightly explained to James and John he could not fulfill their wishes while next Sunday, he would restore the sight of the blind man named Bartimaeus who pleaded to him as he passed Jericho. It seems that there is more than meets the eye between a wish and a prayer!

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.”

Mark 10:35-38
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos when a rainbow appeared as we went around around my former parish assignment bringing the Blessed Sacrament to bless then people on the first Sunday of our quarantine lockdown, 22 March 2020.

Wishes are only granted in fairy tales…

Jesus is now nearing Jerusalem where he would suffer and die but on the third day rise again. He had just repeated for the third and last time to his disciples of his coming pasch but, sadly, they still could not comprehend it fully.

The other Sunday, they could not answer Jesus when he asked them what were they arguing about while along the way to Capernaum because they were discussing among themselves who among them was the greatest.

They could not understand how their Lord and Master, the Messiah of Israel will have to suffer and die; it was beyond their grasp. Nonetheless, amid their lack of understanding and fears of its true meaning, they still followed Jesus, believing he would eventually triumph as a King.

And that is what the brothers James and John were thinking, the two closest to the Lord along with Peter who was earlier rebuked by Jesus at Caesarea Philippi for going against his pasch: they thought of Jesus as a “political leader”, a “game changer” who could surely change their lot for the best, assuring them and their future generations with the good life.

When Jesus asked the brothers James and John, he knew the two were just “fancying” on something not so true. That is what a “wish” is all about: something so fancy, almost untrue like coming from fairy tales that could come true with so slim a probability like hitting a jackpot in lottery or meeting a superstar. We make wishes to fairies often represented by celebrities who try to bring some joy to children suffering from cancer. Or, politicians who for a day would give some voters with huge amounts of money without any conviction at all to fulfill their promises.

As we say in Filipino, “suntok sa buwan” that literally means “punching the moon”.

But again like last Sunday when Jesus looked with love to the man asking him how to gain eternal life, Jesus respected the brothers James and John by entertaining their “wish”, asking them questions until he flatly told them “to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mk.10:40).

When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant: whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2016.

Prayer changes the person, not the situation.

Recall how Jesus assured his disciples and us last Sunday of great rewards awaiting those who have left everything to follow him; but, along these come persecutions because following Jesus means standing for what is true and good that invite enemies and detractors.

There will always be persecutions coming in our life – even if we do not follow Jesus along the way because that is a fact of life. Jesus came not to remove but join us, accompany us, be one with us in our sufferings and trials.

Today, Jesus opens our eyes to the realities, beauty and nobility of discipleship that is unfortunately becoming rare even among us in the clergy. True discipleship in Christ is first of all sharing in his passion and death in order to have a part in his glorious resurrection.

Once again, we feel the Lord’s recurring teaching these past weeks of us entrusting everything to the Father’s hands like children filled with confidence on God’s promises. This is the meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading that spoke of the “Suffering Servant of God” who “through his suffering shall justify (save) many” (Is.53:11).

See the gentle humility of Jesus in explaining things to his disciples. There was no hint at all of anger nor exasperation but pure love and understanding, patience and perseverance hoping someday the Twelve would realize in the most personal manner his kind of kingship, the true meaning of being the Messiah.

Photo by author, Garden of Gethsemane, the Holy Land, 2017.

Here Jesus exemplifies so well in his very self the kind of relationships his followers must have based on love and respect, serving the weakest and lowliest, so unlike the way of the world that is based on relations of power and dominance. This we continue to experience when we pray fervently especially before the Blessed Sacrament and most of all when we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist which is the summit of our Christian life.

In the Holy Mass, Jesus the Son of God leads us to the Father in signs perceptible to human senses, exactly what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of in the second reading, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Heb.4:16).

So, instead of wishing upon rainbows or shooting stars, better pray!

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for understanding 
our lack of understanding 
and appreciation to your coming
to us daily in the many sufferings and 
pains we go through in life;  help us
to be more realistic, to stop all 
wishful thinking of living happily
ever after and instead become
more loving and kind, finding you 
with everyone we meet.  
Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

The “Little Way” to God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church, 01 October 2021
Baruch 1:15-22   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by author, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father in heaven
who opens so many ways for us 
to be with you, to experience heaven
while here on earth; Tuesday you showed us
the path of martyrdom of St. Lorenzo Ruiz 
and companions; today, we celebrate
your Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus
who taught us her "Little Way" to you 
with her writings, prayers and short life.
But we all know that whether 
it is the "big" way of martyrs or the "little way" 
of St. Therese, it is always one and the same path 
of Jesus Christ our Lord who is "the way and 
the truth and the life" (Jn.14:6) that we implore
you dear Father through him your Son
that we may be gifted with docility and trust
in you like that of a child.
Most of all, may our obedience and trust 
in you dear God be rooted in that love for you
which you have sowed ever since in our heart
and soul if we could only be humble enough like
St. Therese to admit:

“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus
O merciful God our Father,
in this age of social media where
everyone is vying for exposures
and shots to prominence,
make us realize that life is not a show
to perform but a gift to cultivate and
nurture in our relationships with you
through others; give us the sense of
sinfulness to be ashamed of our arrogance
and pride before like Baruch and St. Therese:

During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed, “Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem… We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us… but each one of us went off after the devices of our own wicked hearts, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”

Baruch 1:15, 18, 22
May this pandemic period
be a purifying process for us, O God,
that in the midst of sufferings and
hardships like St. Therese we rediscover
and realize your loving presence
in Christ Jesus.  Amen.
Photo by author, 01 October 2019.

Our rootedness in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 07 September 2021
Colossians 2:6-15   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Luke 6:12-19
Photo by author at Jaffa, Israel, May 2017.

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12
Dear God our Father,
what did you two talk about that night
when Jesus prayed to you?
I have always wondered why Jesus
your Son, the Second Person of the
Holy Trinity is portrayed so often 
by St. Luke at prayer.
For a long time,
I have always wondered at
what did Jesus pray to you,
what did he ask you, Father, 
while here on earth?
For one, it is so lovely to think
how the Son of God was also praying
like us to drive home the importance
of prayer.  But, last night, God our Father,
I realized it is not really a question of what 
Jesus prayed for but why did he pray at all.

Brothers and sisters: As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one is captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:6-8
So often, Father, we pray to you
like kids whenever we need something,
always asking for this and that,
begging for more,
pleading to have our ways
that are often whims and wishes.
Teach us to mature in our prayers,
teach us to pray like Jesus your Son
who prayed while here on earth
as an expression of his oneness
and communion in you;
teach us to pray that we may
be rooted in you,
firmly grounded in you
through Christ,
never to be swayed by
novel thoughts and ideas
or beliefs that make us leave
your side especially when crises come.
Amen.

When people malign us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 03 August 2021
Numbers 12:1-13   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 14:22-36
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes, September 2018.
Dearest God our Father,
you are just, always demanding 
us to be fair and just like you,
to never malign and bear false
witness against one another
especially those serving you.
We pray, loving Father
for those among us buffeted
with nasty talks, malicious
stories and gossips especially 
fake news that besmirch one's name
just to make them or their masters look good.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses
on the pretext of the marriage he had
contracted with Cushite woman.
Now, Moses himself was by far
 the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the Lord said to Moses and 
Aaron and Miriam, "Come out,
you three, to the meeting tent."
Then the Lord came down
in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.
When both came forward, he said,
"Now listen to the words of the Lord:
Why, then, did you not fear to speak
against my servant Moses?"
So angry was the Lord against them
that when he departed, and the cloud
withdrew from the tent, there was
Miriam, a snow-white leper!
(Numbers 12:1, 3-6, 8-9)
Please, Lord, keep us
 and those being maligned
 to be meek like Moses,
 remaining kind to those
who speak ill about us, especially those
supposed to be closest or dear to us.
Jesus said, "Come."
Peter got out of the boat
and began to walk on the water
toward Jesus.  But when he saw
how strong the wind was
he became frightened; and,
beginning to sink, he cried out,
"Lord, save me!"
(Matthew 14:29-30)
Give us, O God, the courage
and strength to withstand the fierce
winds of criticisms and lies hurled
by our detractors, unlike Peter
let us never doubt the love and mercy
and protection of your Son Jesus we follow.  
Amen.

The blaming game

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2021
Numbers 11:4-15  <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 14:13-21
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.
On this first working day
of August 2021, I pray to
you our loving Father
to watch over the many 
others today who feel
the same way as Moses
in the wilderness
being blamed by family
members and relatives,
by friends and others
for all their troubles
and mess in life.
When Moses heard the people,
family after family, crying at the
entrance of their tents, he was grieved.
"Why do you treat your servant
so badly?"  Moses asked the Lord.
"Why are you so displeased with me
that you burden me with all this people?
Was it I who conceived all this people?
Or was it I who gave them birth,
that you tell me to carry them 
at my bosom, like a foster father
carrying an infant, to the land you have 
promised under oath to their fathers?
I cannot carry all this people by myself, 
for they are too heavy for me."
(Number 11:10, 11-12, 14) 
It is so frustrating, Lord
every time there is a hardship or 
difficulty being encountered along the way
to every goal and aspiration, we have to resort
to the blaming game with the accusing finger 
pointing on somebody else except one's self
for all the woes and miseries, 
the chorus lines of wishful thinkings
and litanies of things missed most
that suddenly the higher ideals are
all forgotten for the sake of little comforts
regardless of dignity and freedom recovered.
Teach us, dear Father
to be persevering like your Son:
When Jesus heard of the death
of John the Baptist, withdrew in a boat
to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him
on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw
the vast crowd, his heart was moved with
pity for them, and he cured their sick.
He said to his disciples,
"There is no need for them to go away;
give them the food yourselves."
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments
left over - twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
(Matthew 14:13-14, 16, 20-21)
Like Jesus our Lord,
open our eyes to see more, not less
of what we have despite the many
burdens we also carry.
Open our hearts to have more room
for those with more difficulties
and hardships going through in life.
Stretch our hands wider to embrace
those burdened and about to give up
on their dreams and aspirations in life.
When we feel so weighed down by
all the blame of everybody else,
may we see more the light of life in Christ
than the darkness of death and surrender
like Moses at the wilderness.

Jesus in our siblings

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Siblings and Friends of the Lord, 29 July 2021
Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 11:19-27
An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.
What a tremendous grace from you,
dearest God our Father through
Pope Francis that we now celebrate
the Memorial not only of St. Martha 
but also of her brother St. Lazarus and 
sister St. Mary who were all dear friends 
of Jesus Christ he frequently visited in 
their home at Bethany.  
Finally, a beautiful imagery not only
of friendship in the Lord but most of all,
the oft-neglected and taken for granted
relationships of brothers and sisters.
In this time of the pandemic
you know how, O dear God,
we have finally come together 
as families free from all excuses 
of work and studies, of being far and away; 
but sadly, many have ignored and missed
the opportunities to bond together
and mend many gaps long festering
among siblings; instead of fighting and 
rivalries, may brothers and sisters
in every family emulate the love and 
respect among Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary. 

“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org
We pray for all siblings to gather anew
as one family in prayers before you, Lord, 
like Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary;
help them create a space for your Son 
Jesus Christ who is the surest bond among us
despite our many differences; like the children of 
Israel in the wilderness, may all siblings be
animated and moved by your presence, God our Father:
"Whenever the cloud rose from the dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward." (Exodus 40:36-37)
Most of all, give us the grace
to be the presence of Jesus Christ
when our siblings are sick and burdened 
with all kinds of sufferings and miseries 
like Martha and Mary present to each other
awaiting Christ’s coming after Lazarus had died:
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."  Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.  Do you believe this?" (John 11:21, 25-26)
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Hills, Baguio City, 2018.
Yes, dearest Lord Jesus,
I believe you are the resurrection and life;
whoever believes in you not only lives
but most of all becomes your very presence
especially among those going through
various forms of darkness in this life;
give me the grace to bring your light
and your life, your joys and your hopes
to those heavily burdened
 so they may believe like St. Martha
that "if you, Lord, had been here,
my brother would have not died."
Like St. Martha, and most likely
her siblings, too, St. Lazarus
 and St. Mary who may not have
  understood fully your words and teachings,
keep me open to your coming,
to your visits, sweet Jesus;
make my heart like theirs
filled with warmth and hospitality
to let you stay and reign in me;
most of all, like the three holy siblings
let me share with others the gift of kindness,
of being a kin to everyone in you, with you.  Amen.

To stretch or not to stretch our hands

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 20 July 2021
Exodus 14:21-15:1   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Matthew 12:46-50
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.
For the second straight day,
you have amazed me, dear loving God
and Father when your words
speak of previous topics I have prayed
and heard from you: yesterday was about
getting lost that continued our Sunday reflection;
today is the same scene last Friday
on the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
when your Son Jesus Christ stretched his hand
to point at his disciples as his family:
And stretching out his hand
toward his disciples, he said,
"Here are my mother and brothers.
For whoever does the will of my
heavenly Father is my brother,
and sister, and mother."
(Matthew 12:49-50)
Today I wonder, if you would allow
me to be funny and a little naughty
or even dare to ask you like Abraham 
before you burned Sodom and Gomorrah:
What if Moses did not obey you
and refused to stretch out his hand
over the Red Sea?
Would you still part it so the children of Israel
would be able to cross to safety?
Would you still save them, God?
Would you still part the sea
to let the people go?
Please forgive me, Lord
for my silly questions
that sincerely came to me
as I prayed over your words today,
convincing me more than ever 
that even if Moses did not stretch out his hand
 over the sea, dear God,
you would have still saved them
because whether we obey you or not,
you would still love us,
reaching out to us in loving mercy,
even giving us your Son Jesus Christ.
That is your nature, O God:
you are love, you are the perfect Being
always existing, always reaching out;
despite the evil in the world
despite our choosing sin instead of you,
you continue to love us,
forgiving us,
blessing us
because you will forever be
our Father. 
Take away our pride,
fill us with the humility of Christ
who stretched out his hands on the Cross
to restore our relationships
with you and one another, 
forever reminding us
 we are yours,
always loved and cared for
since the beginning
for we are all interconnected
in you our God, our Creator.  Amen.
.
Photo from en.wikipedia.org

Engaging the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the XIVth Week, Year I in Ordinary Time, 06 July 2021
Genesis 32:23-33   > + <   Matthew 9:32-38
Photo by author, Agony at the Garden of Gethsemane, the Holy Land, 2019.
Your words, O Lord
of Jacob wrestling with you
or, your angel (?) 
reminds me of Jesus Christ's
own agony in the garden.
And for me, it is one of sweetest
scenes in the whole bible,
the finest example of an animated
and engaging relationship
with you, dear God our Father.
Jacob was left there alone.
Then some man wrestled 
with him until the break of dawn.
When the man saw that 
he could not prevail over him,
he struck Jacob's hip at its socket,
so that the hip socket was wrenched
as they wrestled.  Then the man said,
"You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob,
but as Israel, because you have contended
with divine and human beings
and have prevailed."
(Genesis 32:25-26, 29)
Loving Father,
forgive us when we "box" you
as being stern and stiff like the police
waiting for our slightest mistakes
and violations; surprise us, dear God
with your intimacy, closely engaging
wrestling and contending with you
to bring out the best in us
 and still see your very best plans
that cleanse and purify us of our intentions.
Grant us the grace of intimacy
that is most surprising
when we have to wrestle
with you like Jacob and be "Israel"
so that your might and your truth
will always prevail
unlike the Pharisees who were afraid
to get closer to Christ and be purified
that they vilified and later crucified
to hide in their weaknesses and sins.
Grant us courage and strength
dear God in engaging with you
realizing our limits 
humbly surrendering to your will
like Jacob at Peniel;
let us be not like those Pharisees
who refused to contend 
by insisting their contempt for Jesus
thinking they can prevail on him
only to reveal their evil within.
Amen.

Jesus amid our storms in life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 20 June 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ><}}}'> Mark 4:35-41
Photo from vaticannews.va.

More than a year ago in March, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Message before an empty St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the gospel we heard today when COVID-19 began to wreck havoc upon us, claiming about 3.85 million deaths worldwide as per latest data show.

We are still in the same darkness, in the same storm but much have already changed since the pandemic first struck us last year. Jesus had calmed the seas and the storms with some relief offered by vaccines. Our journey continues as we cross this sea of the pandemic to safer shores.

Like the Pope’s Message last year, we must continue to call and trust in the Lord but at the same time, realize the deeper spiritual meaning of this pandemic, of the need to have a more intimate relationship with God through Jesus.

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Mark 4:35-37

Life is a constant crossing of the sea in darkness with Jesus.


See that in our journey in life, 
it is when evening comes, 
when there is darkness 
that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea.
When there are problems and crisis in life, 
that is when Jesus calls us 
to get to the other side of life's situation.
On his side.  

I love that imagery painted to us by St. Mark in our gospel today, from a casual preaching last week out in the open field with the warm sun shining, Jesus invited his disciples when it was getting dark to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee.

Life is a journey that when evening approaches, our instinct is to find a safe place to spend the night. But, today St. Mark shows us a more appropriate imagery of life as a journey which is like crossing the sea.

See that in our journey in life, it is when evening comes, when there is darkness that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea. When there are problems and crisis in life, that is when Jesus calls us to get to the other side of life’s situation. On his side.

And what a beautiful expression we have in “to cross to the other side”! There is always the cross to carry in this life that is like the sea, the uncertainty from our usual sureties like family and friends, jobs, and the status quo because Jesus wants us to have him alone as our surety in life.

A few years ago a Malaysian Air plane perished at sea; despite all the modern technologies, it has not been found yet. It is a reminder to us all of how vast is our world with so much mysteries impossible for humans to master or even fully understand.

Yet, our gospel and first reading assure us that though the world is awesome with great wonders and occurrences, its Creator – GOD – is more awesome for he alone has complete control over nature, especially the sea which is the most difficult of all!

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

Job 38:1, 8, 10-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, off the coast of Catanduanes, 2017.

Our awesome world, more awesome God.

St. Mark’s description of the situation inside the boat with Jesus asleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea is very surprising that seems to be exaggerated like in the movies for dramatic effects not to entertain us but to remind us of that basic reality found in his entire gospel account that Christ came to usher in a new world where never again shall sin and death prevail over us.

Recall the other scenes he would later show Jesus exercising total control over the sea like when he walked on water amid a storm (Mk.6:45ff) and ordered a legion of demons to enter a herd of swine that drowned into the sea (Mk.5:13).

As the Son of God, Jesus has total sovereignty over the sea that symbolized the realm of evil, exorcising it to free us from its clutches when he finally died on the cross.

In the first reading, we heard the fictional story of Job being assured by God who got everything under control, even the mighty sea, putting a limit by stilling its proud waves.

In our gospel, we see the reality of God in Jesus Christ calming the storm at sea.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Mark 4:38-40
Photo by author, crossing the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, May 2019.

Notice Jesus was sleeping soundly, not disturbed at all neither by the storm with its giant waves that tossed their boat nor the commotion and yelling of his disciples. He was so composed and serene.

The same scene we shall see again when St. Mark tells us how on the night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed and arrested to be tried by members of the Sanhedrin. It was all dark with Christ so composed and relaxed answering the questions of his enemies while outside was Peter so afraid, denying the Lord thrice while the rest of the apostles went hiding out of fear for their lives.

What a beautiful imagery of our Lord and of us!

Here is Jesus so composed and serene as always while us on panic mode, so terrified, even reproaching God – “do you not care that we are perishing?” – when our lives are threatened as if God does not care at all.

When we look back to last year, it was very frightening like that situation the disciples were into: nobody knew exactly the nature of COVID-19, without any known cure and method of treatment, people were dying daily, and life was at a standstill due to the lockdown.

But, with faith in God, we have moved on. Some weddings finally pushed through, students went back to school while others dared to venture into new businesses and other endeavors, crossing the sea so to speak amid the darkness. Those who got married last year now have their first born while students who enrolled last year have graduated and we who risked to move on are now better off than before.

Had we waited for the pandemic to end before deciding to enroll back in school or find a job or get married, we would surely be into great losses for there is still the pandemic that will most likely remain until 2022 or beyond.

As we have reflected last week, Jesus continues to work in silence in us, with us and for us, making us grow like the tiny seed. He never abandons us especially in times of great trials. This we have proven when we dared to venture in life during this pandemic.

Let us entrust to him our very lives for he alone has total sovereignty in this world and in this life for he himself is life – more powerful than any storm who has the whole world, especially the seas, in his hand.

A life centered in Jesus


We cannot wait for things to get better, 
for the pandemic to end, 
for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially.  
It is right in the middle of a storm 
when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, 
to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us.

After Jesus had pacified the storm and the sea, St. Mark briefly ended our gospel story by telling us how the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”(Mk.4:41).

More than the stories of the Lord’s teachings and miracles, St. Mark wants us to make a stand for Jesus, to center our lives in him as we journey in this life, whether in the ordinariness of parables, the safety of the open field and high mountains, or the dangers and perils of the sea at night, with or without storms.

Remember Nightbirde last week who said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” We cannot wait for things to get better, for the pandemic to end, for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially. It is right in the middle of a storm when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us… So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 17

Now more than ever in our modern history that the whole world needs a lot of healing and reconciliation. But unlike the proposals of experts, it is not merely a reconciliation of peoples with one another. We do not need a “new normal” which is a misnomer because a norm does not change. What is true and good and fair would always be true and good and fair at all times.

That is what we need, to bring back the true normal in life which is a reconciliation of every person with God so that we may see our world in a more wholistic sense that we become more just and humane.

There can be no true reconciliation among peoples unless there is first of all our reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ so that we become in him a new creation, new persons filled with his love and mercy, justice and kindness. Of course, there will still be many storms as we cross the many seas of our lives but they will be less frightening if we have Christ on board, even if he is soundly asleep. Amen.

Have a bright and sunny week ahead!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.