God, our true treasure in life

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II for the Baccalaureate Mass
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 17 June 2022
2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20     <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   Matthew 6:19-23
Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 30 April 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of Academic Year 2022! The term “earning your degree” is most appropriate for your batch because it was no easy task and feat to go through college these last two years on line and limited face-to-face classes.

Most difficult for you, Batch 2022 who are all so young and should have been out there exploring the world, learning life beyond the classrooms but due to the COVID-19 pandemic have to be kept inside your homes, denied even of lakwatsa? (I doubt…)

You have not only earned a degree nor would receive a diploma next week; remember, Batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University, you have made it in one of the most difficult moments in modern world history!

The past two years were truly difficult as we navigated through uncharted journeys, making the best of whatever we can and we have to finish our studies and yes, keep our sanity. Let us be grateful to our Administrators and professors, and everyone in Our Lady of Fatima University who ensured our online classes continued so you may graduate this June.

These past two years are so precious that surely in the years to come, we would all look back for the many lessons we have learned about life.


God must be preparing you for something big, something so special like the young King Joash of Judah in our first reading.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Our first reading today is very interesting, a bit like Stranger Things for its bizarre plot and most of all, it tells us something good and beautiful about isolation like what we have experienced in COVID-19 pandemic.

Around the year 387 BC, the King of Judah by the name of Ahaziah died at a very young age of 22. His mother Athalia seized power after his death and to ensure she would keep the throne as queen, she ordered the king’s children – her own grandchildren – killed!

Here now are the stranger things: Athalia’s husband, King Jehoram who was the father of Ahaziah, also killed all his brothers and their sons upon succeeding their father to the throne so that no one among them would seize power from him. To top it all, the brothers of Ahaziah were killed by raiding Arabs that have left their royal lineage from King David almost deleted, except for one infant who survived Athalia’s carnage – his youngest son named Joash. He was saved by his auntie, Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba by hiding him for a year in the maids’ quarter with his yaya or baby sitter. After a year, Joash was brought to the temple to hide him there for six years under the care and protection of the high priest Jehoida who happened to be the husband of Jehosheba.

When Joash turned seven years old, his uncle, the high priest Jehoida staged a coup d’etat against his grandmother Queen Athalia by revealing to the people gathered at the temple the evil deeds of Queen Athalia. Furthermore, he revealed to the people how one of the princes had survived, Joash, who was immediately installed as the new and legitimate king of Judah.

Athalia was arrested and killed outside Jerusalem along with the priests of the pagan idol Baal. King Joash lived long to rule over Judah to eventually continue the Davidic lineage of kings to fulfill God’s promise of sending the coming Messiah from the family of King David.


We are not told what was taught or the kind of formation the little prince Joash had while in isolation and hiding in the temple but that surely prepared him for the great task and mission he would have later in life.

From Facebook, April 2020.

Imagine King Joash had to hide for seven years from his own, wicked Lola and, we are just in our second year of the COVID-19 pandemic with many semblances of normalcy beginning to return; I won’t be surprised at all that many of you have already gone to Baguio City or Boracay or any vacation spot these past months.

My message for you, dear Batch 2022 is simple: following the COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation, never forget its beautiful lesson that God is our only surety in life, that God alone is our true treasure who could never be stolen or destroyed.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Matthew 6:19-21

God alone is our true treasure whom we must keep and nurture in life, both in good times and in bad.


We have all experienced these past two years that nothing is permanent in life except God alone. Some of us have lost friends and relatives, even family members not only to COVID but to other sickness.

Many of us got sick with COVID and other diseases and ailments.

We experienced tightening our belts, trying to cut down on many expenses as finances went down while others lost their jobs and livelihood. We cannot even rely on our savings and investments as the pandemic brought them down.

Despite the many viral trends that came out these past two years, we have learned too that popularity does not last. In fact, it wanes too fast until the next trending topics or videos.

There is nobody else we can truly rely on except God and his everlasting love. Remain in him in your prayers and communal celebrations like going to Mass on Sundays. Since last year when I came here at the Our Lady of Fatima University, I have been telling you in our Masses and conferences, most especially during Baccalaureate Mass like this, study hard, work harder, and pray hardest.

Bad times like sickness and death, problems and difficulties are like storms that keep us inside our homes so we can reflect more about ourselves, our lives and our goals. Though the clouds may be dark, it is during the storms in life when we are truly enlightened to see the more important things in life, our true treasures.

Remember, it is always after the rains and the storms when the leaves are greenest.

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

Just like you, Batch 2022, who went through severe tests and storms these past two years. Now, you rejoice for the well-deserved recognition of completing your courses, of graduating.

There will be more storms coming your way, even darker and stronger than what you went through while at Our Lady of Fatima University. We are still in a pandemic and nobody knows until when we shall have all these set-ups in life, in work and in school. However, if we have made it this far especially you, Batch 2022, better days are coming ahead for you.

God has special plans for you like King Joash that is why he kept you at home for two years, why he pushed you to be patient and persevering in your online classes despite the many problems you have had like the perennial slow internet.

As you go out to the world with your diploma, with your knowledge and wisdom as you rise to the top, do not forget God. Handle life with prayer, practice well our two mottos, Veritas et Misericordia, Truth and Mercy. Sometimes, go into isolation or retreat with God to find the truth, to examine how merciful you have been and to listen to God’s voice, to discover his plans for you. And to be focused more in him through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Keep Jesus your light. Even if you are not able to see the entire path, one step is enough because Jesus will never leave you, would always guide you to our true treasure in life, God. Amen.

Congratulations again and God bless you more, OLFU’s Batch 2022!

From Facebook, Our Lady of Fatima University, 15 June 2022.

Grace and blessedness of leaving

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Ascension of the Lord, 01 June 2022
Acts 20:28-38     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 17:11-19
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Obando, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
As we begin the first day of
the end of first half of the year,
your words today, O God, are full 
of wisdom worthy for us to keep 
about the blessedness and grace
of every leaving, of every departure;
how ironic when every leaving is
characterized with sadness because
of separation, your words today, O
Lord speak of lavish joy, of your desire
that our joy may be complete in you.
In the first reading, St. Paul is bidding
goodbye to the Ephesians on his way
to Rome for imprisonment and sure death;
there was so much grief among the 
people and yet, there is the pervading 
atmosphere of blessedness and grace.
First is the grace of the gift of person,
of St. Paul and ultimately, of Jesus Christ.

Dear God, may we be like St. Paul truly a
grace to everyone with his sincerity of
love and service, dedication to your
Son Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation;
teach us to imitate St. Paul of being a
blessing ourselves to others as we make
people experience and feel your love 
and care, your concern and goodwill;
evidently, his concern up to the end is you,
O God and your people whom he warned
on guard against those who would come
after his departure in "perverting the truth", 
reminding them how he loved and 
"admonished them with tears" 
(Acts 20:30-31).
And of course, the greatest blessing
and grace of all who have "left" us
physically is your Son Jesus Christ.
How wonderful that at the Last Supper
before his arrest, he prayed for us
all his disciples he would leave behind.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one… Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

John 17:11, 17-19
Thank you, dear Jesus, for the
gifts of being one like you and the
Father and being consecrated to
the truth - to you yourself!
To be consecrated is to be separated
from the rest in order to be holy for you,
O Lord for the sake of the people;
you alone, Lord Jesus, are the holy one
and thank you in immersing us into you,
making us like you, apart from others in
holiness but united with everyone in
loving service.
Let us not forget this tremendous
blessing and grace you have given
us before returning to the Father,
Lord Jesus.  Keep us one in you with
the Father in loving service of others.
Let us not forget this tremendous
challenge too as part of our mission
that we always leave your marks of 
holiness and truth with everyone 
we serve and meet.  Amen.

Prayer to know when to stay and when to go

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 24 May 2022
Acts 16:22-34     ><))))*> + <*((((><     John 16:5-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.
Lord Jesus Christ,
today I pray for those in a dilemma 
on whether they should stay 
or they should go; on whether 
they have to remain or leave 
as your words today offer us 
with so many leads when 
we must stay and when
we must go.
In the first reading, it is very
interesting why Paul and Silas
who were both in prison in Philippi
decided to remain inside their cell
than leave and go after a strong 
earthquake shook the city:

When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his word and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners has escaped. But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself; we are all here.” He asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.”

Acts 16:27-31
Lord, teach us to be patient to
always wait for you in joyful prayers
like Paul and Silas to prevent us 
from jumping into hasty conclusions
when opportunities come for us to
leave and go; let us remain especially
in trying and difficult situations where
you may have other plans for others
who need our presence in difficult situations
like the jailer of Paul and Silas.
How ironic that it was the jailer who had to
ask Paul and Silas what he must do
to be saved, to be set free when your
two servants were the ones imprisoned! 
On the other hand,
dear Jesus, teach us when to
go and leave in you and for you
like what you told  your disciples
at the Last  Supper:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:7
There are times, Lord, 
that we have to go like you
not for our own sake but for others;
we have experienced many times
when parents, friends and loved ones
have to go and leave us for our own good,
so we may grow and mature;
let us know when we must go, Jesus
when it is you to whom we are going,
when it is not for our own good
but for others.
Help us realize,
Lord Jesus that whether
we stay and remain or 
go and leave, may our
primary consideration and
motivation is our love for you
alone and not our selfish motives;
most of all, either staying or leaving 
is always for the good of others
and never for us as you surely
take care of us.  Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

Jesus in our blessedness, and sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter-C, 01 May 2022
Acts 5:27-32, 40-41 ><]]]]'> Revelation 5:11-14 ><]]]]'> John 21:1-19
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, Israel, 2017.

This is the last Sunday in this Easter Season when we shall hear a story of the Risen Lord appearing to his disciples; starting next Sunday, our gospels will be from his Last Supper discourse that were his final instructions before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

This is the third appearance by Jesus to his disciples that happened at the shore of Lake Tiberias (aka, Galilee) one early morning after Simon Peter and six other disciples went fishing the night before and caught nothing. The story is quite long but very remarkable with how Jesus was recognized in the blessedness of John the beloved and in the sinfulness of Peter.

Such is the beauty and power of Easter, of Jesus breaking all barriers to come to us so we may experience his love and mercy and forgiveness. As we have reflected last week, it is not the number nor length of our Risen Lord’s appearances that matter but its inexpressible intensity demanding our intense response to him which we find today in John and Simon Peter.

Photo by author, November 2018.

“It is the Lord!”

The disciples were still at a loss three weeks after the Lord had risen. Despite his twice appearances to them, they could not yet grasp Easter’s meaning; it would still be a long way to go before they understand everything when the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost as Jesus had promised them.

Trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, the seven disciples led by Simon Peter went fishing one night but caught nothing until Jesus appeared to them unrecognized.

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

John 21:4-7

What a beautiful story reminding us of the need to be always in the state of grace, of being in love first with Jesus to see and recognize him in the bountiful blessings he pours upon us daily!

See how it was the disciple whom Jesus loved who first recognized the Lord upon seeing the plentiful catch of fish with a wonderful interplay of catching many fish and recognizing Jesus.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

For people truly in love with Jesus, everyday is a miracle, a day of his coming, of his loving presence among us.

Being in love with Jesus is having a prayer life in him that makes us attuned with him, becoming automatic with us to find Christ present in the various events happening in our lives, whether they are good or bad as both count as blessings to anyone who truly believes in him.

John must have been so in love with Jesus, remembering so well the first time he met the Lord with his brother James and their partners Peter and brother Andrew after a similar incident when they have caught nothing the previous night and Jesus invited them to “cast their net into the deep.” It must have been a “love at first sight” for him with the Lord that they eventually left everything including their father to follow Jesus as “fishers of men” (Lk.5:1-11, Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time, 06 February 2022).

When we love, our senses and our memories are heightened of our beloved’s words and actions that we can see and feel them around us even after they are gone. When we love, we find newness in life every day with Jesus standing at the shore every dawn waiting for us to wake up and lead us to a bountiful catch of fish daily. Of course, the fish is found only in the sea or lake but for us to catch them, we need to find Jesus first.

That is why it is necessary that we begin and end each day in Jesus praying. When we love someone, we always talk and listen, always communicating in various ways with our beloved.

Problem is when we do not pray, we get preoccupied with what we do not have – of not catching anything – of looking more into the dark or murky waters of life not seeing the light in the horizon, of Jesus at the shore.

Photo by author (2017), the shore of Lake Tiberias where Jesus asked Simon Peter thrice “Do you love me?”

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

After bringing in their haul of “one hundred fifty-three large fish” to the shore for breakfast with Jesus, our story reaches its climax with Jesus asking Peter thrice, using his original name Simon with the question, “Do you love me?”.

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep… And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:17, 19

Peter understood fully well (gets niya, as the young would say) why Jesus asked him thrice with “do you love me?” to signify the three occasions he denied knowing him while being arraigned by the Sanhedrin on the night of Holy Thursday.

This time, there was no denying on Peter’s part that he had truly sinned that night in denying Jesus three times! And he was distressed because he was deeply sorry, telling Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” See the humility and sincerity of Peter in responding to the Lord’s question as he admitted his guilt of denying Jesus; but at the same time, his love and faith in the Lord despite his sinfulness and weaknesses. In telling Jesus “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you”, Peter was declaring his deep conviction that Jesus knows very well all our sins but at the same time knows too as well how much we love him in all of our imperfections.

Sin is not really that bad at all, so to speak, in the sense that even in our sinfulness, Jesus comes to meet us, assuring us of his love, of his mercy and forgiveness.

Photo by author, September 2021.

Just like his first words when nailed on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk.23:34), Jesus comes to us quickly in our moments of sin, inviting us to come back to him. Every time we feel that guilt after committing a sin, when we feel that shame within, that is the moment too when Jesus calls us personally like Simon, not only asking us if we love him but assuring us most of all that he loves us in spite and despite our sins.

Here we find a different interplay: the more Jesus directed Simon unto himself – do you love me?– the more Simon saw his sinfulness but at the same time experienced Christ’s forgiveness and love for him because like John the beloved, he had always loved Jesus from the start despite his many flaws and weaknesses that would later be smoothened by the Lord.

Remain in love with Jesus. This is the grace of this third Sunday in Easter. We cannot follow nor meet Jesus whether in our blessedness or sinfulness unless we love him first of all. Jesus perfectly knows human love is imperfect; only he can love us perfectly. We do not have to pretend to be perfect before him; just be our true selves, sinful yet sorrowful, to surely meet him who never leaves our side.


Dearest Lord Jesus,
open my heart to love you more
so that my eyes may always see you
in life's many blessings and trials 
that come my way daily;
let me love you more so that
I obey God rather than men and women
who keep on demanding so many things
from me, enslaving me with their many
offers that pretend to make me perfect;
when things become difficult,
open my eyes like your Apostles
who found themselves worthy
to suffer dishonor for your sake (Acts 5:29, 31)
who alone is "worthy to receive power 
and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing" (Rev.5:12).
Amen.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

Lent – when “staying” and “going” merge in Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Lent-C, 13 March 2022
Genesisn15:5-2, 17-18 ><}}}*> Philippinas 3:17-4:1 ><}}}*> Luke 9:28-36
Spring blooming of poppies in Galilee near the Nazareth, against the background biblical Mount Tabor, Israel, from iStockphoto.com.

From the desert where Jesus was tempted by the devil last Sunday, Luke now takes us on top of Mount Tabor for the Lord’s Transfiguration.

In the Bible, the mountain is like the desert that signifies a deeper reality and meaning. It is more than a place that shows communion and oneness with God, indicating an inner ascent within us to unite with God especially in this season of Lent.

And like in the temptation of Jesus in the desert last Sunday, it is very interesting how Luke tells us again two important details not mentioned by Mark and Matthew in their versions of the Lord’s Transfiguration:

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Luke 9:28-31

First, only Luke tells us the reason why Jesus went up the mountain which is to pray. Here we find that the transfiguration of Jesus is a prayer event. That is why we need to pray always because prayer transfigures us like Jesus Christ.

Second, as Jesus transfigured while praying, only Luke informs us the topic Moses and Elijah discussed with the Lord which is his coming “exodus” or passion, death, and resurrection on Good Friday. When we pray, the more we accept and embrace the Cross that truly transfigures us into becoming like Jesus Christ.

But the problem is, we always refuse and avoid prayer because it is always difficult to pray. Prayer is a discipline. Despite its being a grace from God to be able to pray which he freely gives to each one of us, it is gift that also requires from us total surrender and consistency.

Prayer does not necessarily change things like stop calamities or sickness; prayer primarily changes the person, enabling us to respond properly to problems, trials and sufferings that come to us; hence, prayer in itself is an exodus, a pasch that leads us to transfiguration.

Usually, when we pray we feel nothing is happening, that it is a “waste” of time, of being “idle” in one place that could have been used to other productive activities like fixing one’s problems. But it is in prayer when we first experience how “staying” and “going” merge to become one in Jesus Christ.

This we find in the only detail that Luke shared with Matthew and Mark when Peter woke up and saw Jesus transfigured, conversing with Moses and Elijah.

As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying.

Luke 9:33
Photo from commons.wikimedia.org, mosaic inside the Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel.

The Transfiguration, a preview of Christ’s glory via his pasch

Very often in life, we want every beautiful and good experience we have to be preserved, wishing they would never end, like Peter asking Jesus if they could just stay on top of the mountain to keep their “cloud nine” experience.

On the other hand, we are quick to beg Jesus to end soonest every pain and suffering, trials and difficulties we are going through in life that if possible, have them erased or deleted from our memories too!

For us, “staying” and “going” are opposites but Jesus is telling us in his transfiguration that these two come together.

In his transfiguration, Jesus is telling us that discipleship is both “staying” and “going” in him. It is only in Christ that we can “keep” the good time of being one with him while we “passover” from life’s many darkness, trials and sufferings by remaining one with him.

After assuring us last Sunday that we can overcome life’s many temptations through him, Jesus tells us today that our transfiguration and glory can only come through the Cross like him. Before Easter comes, there is Good Friday first.

At his transfiguration, Jesus showed us that his divinity belongs with the Cross and cannot be separated because that is his identity as the Suffering Messiah whose glory and pasch are always together. Hence, his transfiguration was the “preview” to his coming glory whereby he remained one in the Father in prayer expressed perfectly in his exodus on Good Friday which Moses and Elijah discussed with him on Mount Tabor.

Recall that his transfiguration occurred after he was recognized by Peter as the Christ while they were at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus also bared for the first time to the Twelve his coming passion, death and resurrection. It was also at that time when Jesus laid to the Twelve the very foundations of discipleship in him which is to forget one’s self, take up one’s cross daily, and follow him.

From Caesarea in Philippi, Jesus and the Twelve made a U-turn to go back to Jerusalem with a stop-over at Mount Tabor for his transfiguration where he reiterated his teachings about himself and his mission. See that during the transfiguration as Peter, James, and John watched in awe, they were frightened when a voice was heard from the cloud that declared “this is my chosen one; listen to him” (v.35).

And what do we hear from Jesus after his transfiguration? His two other predictions of his coming passion, death and resurrection plus his repeated calls to everyone to deny one’s self, to take up one’s cross daily and to come follow him!

It is interesting to note that while the fourth gospel does not have this story of the transfiguration, John rightly refers to the Crucifixion as the “exaltation” of Jesus Christ – his going down, his suffering and dying on the Cross is actually his rising to glory!

The same thing is true to us disciples of Jesus.

Photo from custodia.org, Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel.

Staying and going in Christ, with Christ

The grace of this second Sunday in Lent when we hear every year the story of Christ’s transfiguration is his assurance of his love for us by going through his exodus which is his self-offering on the Cross.

The question is not whether we should stay or go but are we willing to both stay and go in Jesus, with Jesus? Discipleship is remaining in Jesus, going with Jesus up to the Cross!

According to Luke, Peter, James, and John did not tell to anyone what they saw and heard on Mount Tabor. Like Mary, they kept everything in their hearts as they remained with Jesus, going with him in all his journeys especially at the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested, listening to his words and teachings, witnessing and experiencing his many healings and exorcisms including his passion and death from afar except for John.

They never fully understood everything they saw and heard from Jesus until the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day but, their “staying” and “going” with him transfigured them without realizing how the Lord was already transforming them inside.

The same thing happens to us when we “stay” and “remain” in Jesus through prayers and reflections of the Sacred Scriptures, through the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist every Sunday, through the guidance of other faithful disciples like our family and friends who witness Christ to us with their living examples. Akala natin wala namang nangyayari pero mayroon palagi dahil kasama natin ang Panginoon!

As we stay in the glorious presence of Jesus in prayers and penance, the more we go forward in our dying to self and rising to life in our loving service to everyone, in our kindness, in our patience and understanding, and in our mercy and forgiveness. When we offer ourselves wholly to Jesus, he does everything like what God did to the animals offered by Abraham in the first reading. Notice how Abraham on that night fell into a trance as if he could not believe what was happening while in the presence of the Lord. Palagi naman ganoon sa harap ng Diyos – nakakapangilabot, nakakatakot kasi totoong-totoo!

Lent is not just a preparation for Easter but also a journey for us all to purify and renew and rekindle our faith in Christ’s resurrection by remaining in him, ascending with him through mountains of sacrifices, and being tested in the desert of temptations.

These 40 days of Lent involve many stopovers where we are invited to examine our hearts, our inner selves to see who is inside us, of who are we dwelling with, of who we are going with. Let us heed Paul’s call in the second reading to “stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1) because our “citizenship is in heaven and Jesus will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (Phil. 3:20, 21).

Let me end this reflection with a quote I got and memorized as a child waiting in our former family dentist, Dr. Eddie Calalec of Meycauayan, Bulacan:

Time is fast for those who rush;
Time is slow for those who waith;
Time is not for those who Love.

Have a blessed week and please say a prayer for me on Wednesday (March 16) when I go through a surgery. Thank you and God bless you!

When evil overtakes us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 28 January 2022
2 Samuel 11:1-4, 5-10, 13-17   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Mark 4:26-34
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 25 January 2022.
Why do we always try to "imprison"
or keep you in a place, God our Father?
Why, despite our faith and knowledge
of your power and might, we insist on 
trying to entrap you in the hope we can
get away with our evil deeds or sins?
Praying over the first reading for today
on how King David committed his first 
grave sins against you, I could see myself
in him overpowered by evil during those
instances when I thought you were out
or far from my side not to see my sins:

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. David, however, remained in Jerusalem (while the ark of the covenant was lodged in tents while his soldiers fought the Ammonites, cf. v. 11).

2 Samuel 11:1
What happened with David that
after getting Bathsheba pregnant,
he tried to dupe her husband Uriah
by luring him to sleeping with his wife
that when it did not work, he had him
positioned in a battle to die and get away
with his sins?
How sad and so shameful when we,
like David, fall into a series of sins we
thought we could get under control
only to find ourselves imprisoned
in the darkness of evil.
Make us realize, Lord, the enduring
truth of your powerful and silent 
presence even in the darkest night
when nothing seems to happen:

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God: It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.”

Mark 4:26-27
"Grant me, O Lord my God", 
as St. Thomas Aquinas would 
pray to you: 
"a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you."
Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas,
Pray for us!

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.