Images of COVID-19, Images of Hope, Part 3

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 12 April 202

We had a blessed happy Easter last year in 2020 despite the pandemic following the support of our parishioners to our activities since the start of the lockdown like the motorized processions of Palm Sunday and Good Friday as well as the online Masses.

Though we have to start our Easter Vigil while the sun was still up following the protocol rules, it was clearly an image of hope for us all especially when I carried the Paschal Candle into our church for the celebrations: Jesus the Light of world, illuminating us in the darkness of the pandemic.

It was the simplest Easter Vigil in my entire 22 years in the priesthood but most meaningful.

Very early the following Sunday before dawn in lieu of the traditional salubong, we went around our parish with the beautiful image of the Risen Lord generously lent to us since 2011 by Mrs. Baby Halili in hopes that the people would at least feel again the presence of Jesus Christ.

It was still dark but some people were already awake awaiting the passing of our libot before celebrating our Mass.

The lighted cross atop our parish church at the background during our libot of the Risen Lord at Easter 2020 during lockdown.

Most of the people, though, missed the libot of the Risen Lord that dawn that we did it again in the afternoon with the usual sights of people waiting on the streets for the blessing.


It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year, 
an image of hope, and most of all, 
an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic, 
answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark. 

At the last leg of our libot of the Risen Lord with still an hour before the curfew, a soldier in fatigue uniform at a gas station saw us and left his motorbike, walking towards us with both hands up in the air.

I thought we were being told to stop. And worst, being arrested!

Immediately, I prayed to Jesus to not let it happen, that we were just less than 500 meters from the parish and soon it would be over.

I acted disregarding the soldier as in “dead malice” (patay malisya) by blessing him with Holy Water until we heard him closer, asking for blessings indeed!

It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year, an image of hope, and most of all, an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic, answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.

More unforgettable images of COVID-19, images of hope and images of Christ during the extensions of the lockdown last year unfolded before us after Easter. That was when I began to feel the emotional drag of the pandemic and lockdown as I lived alone in our parish rectory that was a mere oversized room at the second floor of the church.

It was the second extension of the lockdown when I felt during prayers that Jesus seemed to be getting “tired” with our “libot” of his Blessed Sacrament.

Most of all, I realized that if I felt dried and zapped despite my regimented lifestyle of prayers, studies, exercises and recreation during the pandemic right inside our parish church, how much more were my parishioners?

I just felt they must be worst affected than me!

It was very clear for me that prayers and online Masses cannot suffice for them as their spiritual nourishment.

That was when I decided to go out and bring Holy Communion to my parishioners after our Sunday morning Mass: I would announce in our online Masses the route we shall take so that people would wait for me on the main roads while observing the necessary health protocols.

We called it “walk-in Holy Communion” because after each stop of our tricycle, I would walk giving Communion to everyone waiting to receive finally and not just see, Jesus Christ, Body and Blood!

Eventually, when churches were opened and people were allowed to celebrate public Masses, we continued bringing the Holy Communion to our farthest and depressed areas every Saturday afternoon after our online Masses.

On the third Sunday of our “walk-through” Holy Communion, a family on board their van arrived just before we left the parish, asking if they could receive the Holy Communion after attending our online Mass. They wanted to get inside the church for the Communion when suddenly, a spark of inspiration came upon me — I told them to remain in their van as I gave them Communion through the windows!

And thus started our “drive-thru” Holy Communion for families and individuals who attended our online Sunday Mass and then proceeded to our parish where I would wait for them at the gate of our church from 8-830AM to give their Holy Communion.

Rain or shine, I would just put on my hat with my reliable volunteer Kuya Oliver driving his tricycle or assisting in the traffic flow of cars, vans, tricycles and even bicycles, we gave Holy Communion during those difficult months of the first year of pandemic and quarantine.

Sometimes, like the couple above, some people would chase us along the way, asking to receive the Holy Communion as they assured us that they have attended our online Mass earlier.

I was so glad other parishes did the same for our people so hungry and thirsty for Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.

Did I ever get afraid?

Of course! Even terrified. But it was pure grace from the Lord we were able to do all those things in his glorious name.

Those images of COVID-19 have truly become images of hope and images of Christ that helped me forge on with my life and ministry through these difficult times in our history. They are forever imprinted in my heart and memory along with the people who made me experienced God.

Like the “beloved disciple” John – the patron saint of my former parish where these took place – who was with Peter in the boat gone fishing at Lake Tiberias before the ascension of Jesus, every time I remember those images of last year or see similar ones, I silently exclaim like him “It is the Lord!” (John 22:7).


Come April 13, 2021, I will log my 365-day streak at http://www.lordmychef.com publishing prayers, reflections, homilies, poems, and essays since Easter Monday last year when I thought of helping the spiritual nourishment of people unable to come to celebrate the Mass.

When I was assigned to my new assignment as chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center last February 15, I felt the same thing in my prayers: help in enriching the spiritual lives of the flock Jesus entrusted to me at this time of the pandemic by learning all these new technologies like Zoom and webinars as well as Facebook live and this daily blog. From still pictures as images of hope and of Christ, we now have moving images of hope and of Jesus Christ!

But, with or without modern technology, and even after this pandemic, the challenge of Easter remains that we continue to proclaim the joy and saving presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ among peoples, “in season and out of season” like St. Paul (2Timothy 4:2).

That is something we all have to work for even now, being images of hope and of Christ to the world. Amen.

From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”

Looking at Easter, seeing Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday within the Octave of Easter, 07 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 3:1-10  <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Luke 24:13-35
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias in Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.
When the crippled man saw Peter and John 
about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, 
and said, "Look at us."  He paid attention to them, 
expecting to receive something from them.  
Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, 
but what I do have I give you:  
in the name of 
Jesus Christ the Nazorean, 
rise and walk."  
Then Peter took him by the right hand 
and raised him up, and immediately 
his feet and ankles grew strong.  
(Acts 3:3-7)

Praise and glory to you, our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, in sharing with us your victory and glory over sin and death, sickness and powerlessness. In joining us in our humanity in all of its aspects except sin, you have made us share in your divinity at Easter.

Like Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate that afternoon, fill us with your presence and power, love and mercy to uplift and empower our brothers and sisters afflicted with sickness and other burdens that drag them down, unable to rise again to experience life anew.

Give us the courage to tell people to look at us and find you like that crippled man you have healed through Peter and John.

Moreover, let us look at your face, look for what will unite us than divide us, look at your light than at the world’s darkness and shadows so we may look for Easter especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remove the pessimism and cynicism growing among us in this worsening pandemic.

Ignite the flames of faith, hope and love within us so our eyes may be opened to see you again walking with us in this journey.

Cleanse us of our biases and prejudices, as well as of our expectations and other personal beliefs so we may see you most especially when we are treading the wrong path to our Emmaus of sunset and defeat.

That very day, the first day of the week, 
two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village 
seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, 
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them 
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  
(Luke 24:13-16)

O dear Jesus, may we look at Easter on the face of everyone you send us and at every situation we find ourselves into so we may lead and guide others to you.

May we see and recognize you most of all in the darkness enveloping us this time of crisis so that eventually, we may come together in the breaking of bread and sharing of our very selves to others blinded by the calamities that have fallen upon us. Amen.

“Road to Emmaus I” painting by Daniel Bonnel, 2011 from mwerickson.com.

Telling the Easter story

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday within the Octave of Easter, 05 April 2021
Acts 2:14-, 22-33   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 28:8-15

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father for this great gift of Easter, of your Son Jesus Christ’s rising from the dead. In this time of lockdown following the deadly surge in COVID infections, it has become so difficult for many of us to celebrate Easter with deaths and sickness surrounding us, literally coming to our homes.

Send us your Holy Spirit to fill us with fire of courage and wisdom like with St. Peter in proclaiming the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ who has risen from the dead. Make us see the many interconnections in our lives of your words, of history, of everything that make us experience your reality and your goodness in Christ’s coming.

May we be immersed in your words so we may not only see its ties with our own lives but also with everybody else. May we have the sight to penetrate deeply to read the signs of the time in this pandemic so we may look at everything in your light.

In this time of emergency when so many lives are a stake not only of those getting sick but equally important of those battling the pandemic head on like our medical front liners, we pray for our government officials who until now remain detached from the crisis and most especially with the people they must serve. They are like the chief priests and elders that morning twisting the story of Easter to suit their pride and ego.

Like Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who went away quickly from the empty tomb, fill us with your reverential fear and joy to announce the good news of Easter for it is when we proclaim that Jesus is risen and alive, that is when we truly meet and encounter him.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary 
went away quickly from the tomb, 
fearful yet overjoyed, 
and ran to announce this to his disciples.  
And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them.  
They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage.  
Then Jesus said to them, 
"Do not be afraid.  
Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, 
and there they will see me." 
(Matthew 28:8-10)

O dearest Lord, let us go back to our Galilee, to our daily life of routine, of work and study, of ordinary folks and family where we first met you. Let us cherish them again and reflect their meanings, why they happened and where were you then when they happened. Amen.

From Facebook: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”

Breaking into New Realities

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection, 04 April 2021
Acts 10:34, 37-43  +  1Corinthians 5:6-8  +  John 20:1-9
Photo by author, Paschal Candles outside the Lord’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 2017.
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, 
inasmuch as you are an unleavened.  
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with old yeast, 
the yeast of malice and wickedness, 
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  
(1 Corinthians 5:7-8) 

A blessed, happy Easter to everyone in this most unholy time of the COVID-19 pandemic! I know, many of us are at a loss at how can we truly celebrate and experience Easter of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead when those among us are dying or have actually died in this recent deadly surge of corona virus infections.

Unlike Christmas which we could easily identify with the signs and symbols of birth and babies plus the cool climate of December, Easter has always been a problematique especially among us Filipinos now in the heat of the dry season. Making matter worse this year is the pandemic and its ECQ.

Christmas is always delightful. We are always drawn and attracted to the idea and reality that God became a child, making so many things great for us humans.

But, unlike Easter which is so different in the sense that here, God did not enter a familiar stage and state in our human life and existence. On the contrary – which is also its biggest plus factor and enigma – God broke through all human limitations to enter a new realm, a vast expanse of unknown realities that are beyond the most dreaded thing of all which is death!

That is why Easter to much extent is difficult to celebrate because it is hard to comprehend and explain or grasp with our limited reasons and yet, at the same time, it is so real, so true as something we have experienced deep within us!

More than those egg hunts and bunnies now gone – hopefully forever – due to the pandemic, Easter 2021 calls us for a deep, inner renewal of our selves. As we have been saying since Palm Sunday, this may be the holiest Holy Week of our lives in the most unholy time in history as it gives us many opportunities to pray and reflect this great mystery of Jesus risen from the dead.

If we truly wish to find the Risen Lord in our lives in this unholiest time of the pandemic with deaths and sufferings surrounding us, we need to go inside our selves as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, to commit ourselves anew to Christ in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist where we share his Body under the sign of bread.

Recall how last Thursday we were reminded how Jesus perfected and fulfilled the Jewish Passover with his very Body given to us on Good Friday. This Easter after having risen from the dead, Jesus our Bread of Life calls us to discard the old bread that is corrupted and spoiled; Christ has given us himself as our new yeast, new leaven penetrating the dough to make rise in us a fresh and wonderful bread even in the midst of this pandemic!

We have to discard the old leaven – our old selves and way of life in sin – to break new realities in Jesus and through Jesus. Easter is a passing over, a pasch when like Jesus Christ, we dare to cross and pass over life’s challenges and risks to achieve not only we are wishing for but sometimes, we have never even imagined – like the Lord’s rising from the dead!

“The Three Marys” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, from womeninthebible.net.
On the first day of the week, 
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, 
while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  
So she ran and went to Simon Peter 
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, 
and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, 
and we don't know where they put him." 
(John 20:1-2)

A few days before Ash Wednesday in February, we moved into our new assignments just in time for the start of the Lenten Season or 40-day preparation for this great feast of Easter. I have been assigned as chaplain to Our Lady of Fatima University and the Fatima University and Medical Center in Valenzuela plus its five other branches at Quezon City, Antipolo City, San Fernando City, Cabanatuan City and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

I have been conducting my ministry basically “on-line” like Masses and talks and recollections.

And lately, praying over our sick and dying patients especially this past week with the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Due to the situation at the hospital and in compliance with the health protocols, we have devised a plan where the nurse on duty would text me for those requesting prayers for the sick with details of the patient and telephone number of the guardian. I would then call the guardian to ask him/her to bring the phone near the patient’s ear so I can pray aloud, and most of all, give the much needed absolution and commendation of the dying. Each nurse station is provided with a bottle of Holy Water for the guardian to sprinkle the patient at my signal.

After that, I pray over the guardian and bless him/her.

So far, for the past month since we have been doing this, nobody had called me what have happened to their patients, if they survived or not. I have stopped following up on them because usually, when I asked the guardian how was their patient, they would always tell me “buhay pa po siya” (he/she still alive), as if I were waiting for their death.

However, there were times some of the guardians have called me back to express their gratitude, telling me how they were relieved knowing their loved ones have been prayed for by a priest.

Last Holy Thursday at the height of so many COVID cases, I prayed over two patients successively.

That was very amazing and inspiring for me. They were “little moments of Easter” as people experienced deaths so close to home these days, even in the most surreal way, still believing, still hoping. We too have felt it one way or the other with requests for help and prayers by relatives and friends with patients sick with COVID and with other ailments lately when we felt so helpless, with nothing else to do and contribute except pray and worry.

That is the grace of Easter so abounding in this pandemic. Let us hope that with ongoing inner renewal among us of hoping against hope that love after all conquers death. Always and certainly as we have seen lately.

Like Mary, there are times we see nothing at all and say things we hardly think or process.

We feel at a loss, almost about to give up yet a tiny sparkle of faith and hope keeps us running to others for help whom we think could do something, maybe used by God to change or remedy our “lost” cause or situation.

That is where the grace of Easter is found every day: something very true and real within us keeps us believing in life and meaning, in God through Jesus Christ when all is gone and even lost.

Why still go to the tomb at all like Mary? If Jesus were already dead, what is the use of going to anoint him with oil and perfumes? Was Mary feeling something even so little, so tiny like hope against hope that Jesus could still be alive?

It was beyond her that she was terrified and ran to Peter upon seeing the empty tomb! She had felt that what was deep inside her was true after all, that there is a greater life beyond this that exists – exactly like what we believed – that there is Resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ because he himself we can feel deep inside us!

Like Peter on that Pentecost Sunday, we may not go on a discourse explaining what had happened because we have not witnessed the Resurrection like him but we speak out, we believe because we experienced life bursting forth amidst deaths and losses. Like Peter, we have witnessed so many other things, little moments of Easter that showed us signs of God’s abiding presence and love.

Like the light of the new day piercing through the darkness, there is the Risen Jesus touching us, assuring us, loving us and telling us that Easter is not an ending in itself for it continues now and shall continue until the end when Christ comes again to definitively put an end to death when we live eternally with him in the Father in heaven. Amen.

Blessed happy easter!

Photo by author, Mirador Center of Spirituality, Baguio City, January 2019.

The gift of tears

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 September 2020
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera of our parish church, August 2020.

Lately I have been watching old movies that I wonder why I still cry even if I have seen them more than twice before at the cinema and cable TV. It seems that my being born with “mababa ang luha” (easy to cry) is getting more “mababa” as I get old.

Tears are a gift from God, the most beautiful prayer we can ever express courtesy of the Holy Spirit because when we run out of words for our pains and sadness or when we are overjoyed, he makes us cry to heal and comfort us or complete our joys, assuring us of his loving presence.

That is the reason why we call “home” in Tagalog as “tahanan”: home is where we “stop crying”, that is, “tahan na” because that is where we find all the support we need in times of crisis. Indeed, home is where the heart is.

True to its function, tears cleanse us physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have read two decades ago that researchers at a university in the US have found the chemical composition of our tears differ if we cry because of pain and sadness or due to joy and laughter.

Is it not wonderful and amazing how we take for granted crying and tears without realizing its chemical process within that can transform our very selves?

Photo from Reuters.com, July 2020.
Tears and crying mark our life's coming to full circle.

When I was five years old, I saw the picture of a newborn baby crying in the Book Section of the Reader’s Digest. I asked my mom why the baby was crying. In her usual motherly way of explaining things, she told me that if the baby cries upon birth, it means he/she is alive; if the baby does not cry, he/she is dead.

Kapag umiyak, buhay; walang iyak, patay.

My young mind easily absorbed her words that would remain to be one of the most profound lessons I had ever learned about life at a very young age. As I grew up watching TV and movies, I would always sigh with relief whenever I heard the sounds “uha-uha” because the story would surely be nice and not tragic.

Imagine the great inverse that happens with crying and tears to signal the coming to the outside world of life of another human, of how we have to cry to be alive from then on until we die when it becomes our family and friends’ turn to cry and shed tears for us when we are gone.

But there is something more deeper than this great inverse on crying in life and death I had learned only in 2013 through my best friend Gil, a classmate in our minor seminary.

It was late February of that year on the 40th day of the death of his youngest sister Claire when he was diagnosed with cancer. We could not believe the news because Gil was the most health conscious in our “band of brothers” from high school who never smoked, rarely ate meat, and was active in sports like golf and badminton. Unlike most of us, he was never overweight, looked so healthy in our mid-40’s.

Imagine the hurt within him that every time we would visit him, he would cry not really in pain but more on the why of getting cancer. We tried visiting him as often as we can to cheer him up and lift his spirits specially after his surgery when his chemotherapy sessions began.

By September on that same year, we all had to rush and visit him at Makati Med one Sunday afternoon when informed by his Ate Lily that doctors have given up on him. His cancer cells were “ferocious” and nothing could be done anymore except to wait for the inevitable.

That was when I noticed the greater inverse about crying when Gil had finally accepted his condition and life direction, that was when he was most joyous and peaceful too while we were the ones so sad and worried, crying. How our roles were reversed with Gil now telling us to stop crying – tahan na – which we used to tell him months earlier! (Gil died peacefully the following Sunday, 22 September 2013.)

“Mater Dolorosa” as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

I noticed it happening so many times with some friends and parishioners I have come to love in my ministry, those I have pastorally cared for some time after being diagnosed with serious conditions like cancer.

Yes, I have cried despite holding my tears for them while administering the Holy Viaticum and Anointing of Oil. The patients in turn would just glance at me, so dignified and calm like Mary our Lady of Sorrows as if trying to comfort me with their sweet thank you.

As I prayed on those experiences, I realized how life comes to full circle through our crying and tears.

I believe that patients cry when they start undergoing treatment of their sickness due to fears and uncertainty of what would happen next to them; later as they come to terms with their condition, they stop crying because they already knew where they were going, of what was coming next.

We who would be left behind cry and begin to shed tears at thoughts of their dying because admittedly, we are actually the ones more uncertain of where we are going to or how our lives would go through when our loved ones are gone.

That is the greatest pain we feel in the death of a beloved when we grapple with the realities of the many uncertainties of life without them.

And that is why we need to love as much as we can our family and friends while still alive. This quarantine period of the pandemic are grace-filled moments to shower them with our love and presence we have taken for granted for so long as we pursued many things in our lives.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Infanta, Quezon, April 2020.
Tears and crying lead us to heaven.

Death and sickness, like life, become a blessing if we are filled with gratitude not regrets because we have truly loved. When a beloved is gone and we begin to cry, the tears wash away our pains of losing them, cleansing us within to leave us with all the beautiful memories and love we have shared. Then, every remembering becomes truly a re-membering, making a lost loved one a member of the present again.

When we cry, tears polish the love we have shared with everybody until later when our time comes, our visions are also cleared of what is going to happen next, of where we are going. Crying becomes wonderful and truly a grace after all not only in sharing and being one with the grief and pain of another in the present but sooner or later, in having a glimpse of the life after.

In the Gospel of John (11:1-44), we find the story of the raising of Lazarus whom Jesus loved so much that he wept – not just cried – at his death. Jesus raised him up back to life, his final miracle – or “seventh sign” according to John – to show he is the Christ before his own Resurrection at Easter after his “final hour” of Crucifixion on Good Friday.

From then on, Christ sanctified crying and tears to enable us to see beyond pains and hurts, even death especially if you have truly loved.

Sometimes in life, it is always good to let those tears flow, like love even if it is painful, to have a good cry and real cleansing inside. A blessed day to you!

Beauty in our mortality

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49     || + ||     Luke 8:4-15
“The Sower” painting by Van Gogh, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Dearest Lord Jesus,

Today I wish to repeat my prayer to you yesterday: Please grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart in explaining and leading others to faith in you, most especially in believing the resurrection of the dead.

While we all profess faith in the resurrection of the dead, most of us are still puzzled like the Corinthians who could not accept it.

Here I have found St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart at its best when he wrote us the most wonderful and loveliest explanation of death and dying that lead to transformation and new life.

Brothers and sisters: Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44

In this time of the pandemic when death has become so “ordinary” and most of all, “so closest to home”, I pray for the many people now facing death in their hospital beds, in their homes comforted by the loving presence of family, as well as for those left alone to themselves due to so many reasons only you can understand. And forgive.

Bless those with advanced stages of cancer, those awaiting transplants, for those in their terminal stages. Give them the grace of hope, to continue to love even if things are getting worst than better.

Ease their pains, Jesus, and make them feel your loving presence with them on the cross.

Most of all, transform them like the seeds after having died and sown in good soil, grew and produced fruit a hundredfold. Amen.

Our lives in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:12-20   ///   Luke 8:1-3
Photo by author, “private Mass” during lockdown, March 2020.

Another week is about to close, loving Father. Praise and thanksgiving to you for the grace of making it through, of passing over doubts to certainty, darkness to light, sickness to health, and death to new life in Jesus Christ your Son.

What a pity indeed if there is no resurrection of the dead nor resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.

1 Corinthians 15:12-14

In this time of so much divisions fueled by dictatorship of relativism without any absolute truth nor good, many among us have stopped believing not only in resurrection of the dead but even in you, O God. Many have created themselves as their own god or have turned to other gods and idols. Sadly, many even have the guts to blaspheme you and dare challenge you and your precepts.

We are sorry, Lord , at how many of us have gone astray from you, relying more on science and technology and modern thoughts, leading lives empty of meaning, without directions. Aimless and worst, homeless.

Show us, Lord, the path we have to take to lead people back to you.

Give us the clarity of mind, purity of heart and intentions of St. Paul in leading our lives in Christ Jesus.

Enable us to embrace the new life in Christ like those women who followed Jesus in his ministry, “providing for them out of their resources” (Lk.8:3).

May our lives glow with your loving presence Jesus to lead others back to you. Amen.

To be known and still be loved

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2020
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> John 20:1-2, 11-18
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Today as I prayed on the feast of your beloved Saint Mary Magdalene, my sights were focused on your beautiful exchange of names on that Easter morning at your tomb.

It is so lovely and so deep, and very personal for all of us whom you love so much despite our many sins like St. Mary Magdalene.

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

John 20:14-16

You called her by her name, “Mary” and she called you by your title “Rabbouni” – what a beautiful scene of two people loving each other so deeply, so truly! You – humbly and lovingly accepting the sinner, and she – submitting herself to you as disciple.

You have expelled seven demons from her, you have known her so well even her darkest secrets and sins, and despite all these knowledge, Lord Jesus, the more you have loved her that you called her by the sweetest word she could ever hear in her life, “Mary”.

The same with us, sweet Jesus: every day you call us by our names, each one of us as a person, an individual, a somebody not just a someone. You love us so much in spite and despite of everything. We are not just a number or a statistic to you but a person with whom you relate personally.

From Google.

Help us to realize this specially when darkness surrounds us, when self-doubts and mistrust abound in us without realizing your deep trust in us, in our ability to rise again in you and follow you.

Teach me to trust you more and love you more like St. Mary Magdalene, to give and offer my self to you totally as yours, calling you “Rabbouni” or Teacher and Master.

Let me give up whatever I still keep to myself, whatever I refuse to surrender so that I may enjoy the intimacy you offer me as a friend, a beloved, and a family in the Father.

What a joy indeed to be like St. Mary Magdalene, fully known and fully loved by you, dear Jesus.

May I learn to know and love others too like you so I may proclaim you to them. Amen.

Conversing with God in time of COVID-19

40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week-V, Year-A, 29 March 2020

Ezekiel 37:12-14 +++ Romans 8:8-11 +++ John 11:1-45

Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos last March 22, 2020 during our procession of Blessed Sacrament in the Parish when a rainbow appeared at the horizon.

Once again as we near the closing of our Lenten journey, Jesus does another “sign” or miracle — his last and grandest in anticipation of his coming Passion, Death, and Resurrection: the raising from death of his friend Lazarus.

What is so beautiful in this story is how the evangelist involves us his readers and hearers into a conversation with Jesus unlike last Sunday at the healing of a man born blind where the characters conversed only among themselves.

The raising of Lazarus to life is more engaging because it is deeply personal and intimate as it involves friends dearest to Jesus — exactly like each one of us! And that is why it is also very timely as we go through the ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19.

When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

John 11:4

My dear family and friends, Jesus assures us today of the Father’s love and healing, that he would save us from the deadly corona virus. Come and let us converse with him with the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

After my “private Mass” (Missa sine populo) during the Solemnity of the Annunciation, 25 March 2020.

Presence of Jesus

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

John 11:21-22

Twice do we hear this line in this very long story of the raising of Lazarus when Mary repeated it upon meeting Jesus later at the entrance of their town of Bethany.

And like Martha and Mary, we always say it to Jesus too as if he ever leaves us alone!

“Lord, if you had been here…”

Jesus is always with us.

We are the ones who always leave Jesus behind.

We always have so many other things to do, so many other people to meet that we have no time to truly pray and most of all, celebrate the Sunday Mass every week.

It is my hope that following the suspension of the “public Masses” due to lockdown, people now realize the value of the Holy Eucharist which is the “summit” of our Christian life where we are nourished by the words of God and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ.

Photo from Forbes.com via Facebook, 2019.

Long before we were told to observe “social distancing” in this time of pandemic, we have long been distant from one another and from God.

How ironic that these modern means of communications were invented to bring us closer but have actually brought us farther apart! Most often, we are close enough with someone miles across the seas but too distant and cold to persons physically near us, even seated beside us.

Let us spend more time with our family and most especially with God in prayer during this enhanced quarantine period to be the presence of Christ with one another. Let us remember Fr. Patrick Peyton’s expression, “The family that prays together, stays together; a world at prayer is a world at peace”.

Remember: the most wonderful and enriching relationships we can have are those rooted in Jesus Christ who is always present in us.

Jesus is perturbed and deeply troubled

While praying over this long gospel, this photo by Raffy Lerma kept on flashing in my mind, showing me how Jesus must have reacted upon seeing Mary weeping over the death of her brother Lazarus.

He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept.

John 11:33-35

Like our gospel today, Lerma’s photo of a mother crying over her son lost to “tokhang” at the height of this administration’s war against drug in July 2016 is very conversant, so moving like the Pieta by Michaelangelo in Rome. In fact, the government doubted the veracity of the photo, claiming through its trolls it was merely “staged” or “drawing” as we say in journalism. The photo is authentic because the event truly happened. And continued to happen before this lockdown.

What I like most with this photo is the composure of the mother. You can feel she was deeply sad and troubled, weeping without the hysterical theatrics or palahaw in Tagalog that we see in many instances like funerals.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

Multiply that to the highest degree and we get the image of Jesus “perturbed and deeply troubled, weeping” at the death of his friend Lazarus.

There is the gentle yet firm mastery by Jesus of the situation, of the loss and tragedy.

No hysterics nor theatrics. Pure and all-encompassing presence.

It would be the same mastery and composure Jesus would exhibit at his coming Passion and Death, reaching its highest point on Easter.

Here we find Jesus Christ truly human, truly Divine. Yes, he was perturbed and deeply troubled; he cried and wept not because of weakness but rather more of strength, of being true and determined in overcoming not only his coming Passion but most of all, our own setbacks and losses.

Have faith, my dear reader. Jesus is surely “perturbed and deeply troubled, weeping” again with us in this time of the corona pandemic. Step back and let him be himself in being one with us; then, wait and see what he is going to do next for us.

Photo from theguardian.com, 19 March 2020 reporting how a “generation has died” in Bergamo, Italy struggling with 1959 deaths from corona virus that has overwhelmed the nation’s funeral sector.

Jesus joins us in death so we can rise to life in him

Today is not a beautiful day to die, especially for victims of COVID-19. No wakes. No Masses. Just simple blessings after cremation. If ever possible.

The scenes from Italy are deeply disturbing that has become the new epicenter of corona pandemic. According to a report last Monday, the obituary page of a local newspaper had increased tenfold in a week, listing up to 150 deaths daily! More disturbing is the fact that “death and mourning happen in isolation”.

Our readings this Sunday speak a lot about death symbolized by graves.

But not on a morbid sense like a defeat or a loss; rather, as a victory, a raising to new life!

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

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Ezekiel proclaimed these words of the Lord to the Israelites during their Babylonian Exile when they lost everything and everyone, including God as they thought have forsaken them for their sinfulness. This prophecy is finally fulfilled in Christ’s coming and victory over death on Easter.

In calling back Lazarus to life, Jesus shows us in this scene his tremendous power over death and defeat, agony and pain, sin and evil. It is a prefiguration to a grander scale of his own Resurrection on Easter after the Good Friday.

And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

John 11:43-44
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News. Used with permission. Seen here from atop the GMA Network Center in QC is Mt. Samat in Bataan with the Memorial Cross visible, across the Manila Bay, taken on 26 March 2020.

Do you believe this?

Jesus is calling us to have faith in him, to believe in him especially in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. And like his question to Martha which he repeated twice, the Lord is asking us the same question today:

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 11:25-26

Do you believe in him, Jesus the Christ?

Good things have also been happening lately in this two-week old lockdown.

Families are again getting together, staying together. Finally we now have more time than ever to converse once again as husband and wife, children and parents, brothers and sisters.

Some people have rediscovered God and are back to praying again, to believing again.

Even Mother Nature is said to have taken a big break during this lockdown, giving us spectacular views never seen before due to cleaner air, less pollution and congestion in the cities.

These are all conversations going on – thanks to COVID-19!

Let us join the conversations with our loved ones, with nature, with our self, and with God.

Below is one of my favorite photos this week taken by GMA-7 reporter Mr. Raffy Tima. Again, another photo conversing with us, like Jesus in the story of the raising to life of Lazarus.

See the Memorial Cross on Mt. Samat in Bataan?

The raising of Lazarus is the “sign” or miracle as the other evangelists would say, that prefigures the definitive victory of Jesus on the cross.

Like the sisters of Lazarus, believe in Jesus who is awakening us today amid the threats or crosses of corona virus to bear all these sufferings, to passover like him to the life that bodily death cannot touch “through his Spirit dwelling in us” (Rom. 8:11). Amen.

That “Eureka!” moment of life – and death

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul

Homily at the Funeral of Archimedes Lazaro (ICS ’97), 18 February 2020

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< Luke 7:11-17

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Soon afterward Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.”

Luke 7:11-16

Today, we are like at the city of Nain. Traffic is so heavy outside as many of us – family and friends, former classmates, colleagues at work from all over and neighbors – gather to pray and pay our last respects for Archie.

Celebrating a funeral Mass for a young person is always difficult for me. Like Jesus, I feel so sad for their parents. Normally, it is the children who bury their parents. It must be so painful for parents burying a son or a daughter. That is why in our gospel, Jesus was “moved with pity” with the widow of Nain.

But today, amid the pains and sorrows with the sudden death of Archie last week at a very young age, we actually celebrate life in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author of the hills of Galilee from the Walls of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Jesus comes to visit us always

Like in that scene at Nain, we remember and celebrate the life of Archie who had come to visit us even for a short time.

I love that part of the gospel where the people at Nain exclaimed at how “God has visited his people” when Jesus raised the dead young man.

Jesus continues to visit us everyday through one another like Archie.

Despite his many sins and imperfections, Archie made us experience Jesus Christ’s love and friendship, warmth and kindness, especially to his two sons, family, and friends.

Surely, Jesus must have visited Archie, too, during those dark moments of his life.

And the good news is, Archie visited Jesus so often especially these last two years when he started to pick up the pieces of his life.

Last time I saw Archie was last November when he came to celebrate Mass in our Parish. And I have heard how he had sought spiritual guidance from Fr. Carl, driving that far to Paco every month as he renewed his relationship with Christ, trying to follow anew the Lord he had served since elementary as a sacristan and later as a seminarian in our high school seminary.

It is Jesus who first finds us always

Photo by author at Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, Baguio, 04 February 2020.

We all know Archie’s tocayo is one of ancient Greece’s great scientist and inventor, Archimedes.

It is said that he discovered the principle of buoyancy – the “Archimedes’ principle” – while taking a bath.

When Archimedes sat onto his bathtub, he observed that “when a body is submerged in a fluid, it experiences an apparent loss in weight that is equal to the weight of fluid displaced by the immersed body.”

Archimedes was so ecstatic with his accidental discovery that he jumped naked from his bathtub out to the streets, shouting “eureka!” or “I have found” the solution to a problem he was trying to solve at that time.

Archimedes had not only enriched the field of mathematics and sciences with his discoveries but also the English language with the word “eureka” or “eureka moment”: when somebody discovers something very significant in business and economics, the sciences especially medicine, and practically in every field and subject.

Most especially in life.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, Baguio, 04 February 2020.

Archie had the same eureka moment in life: he had found Jesus Christ again that he went back to Mass and Confessions.

He had found meaning in life again after losing hope and directions.

Most of all, Archie had found love again.

Like his namesake of ancient Greece, Archie is now exclaiming “eureka” ecstatically into heaven – naked – with nothing but the love and mercy of Jesus Christ who first found him and brought him back to life a few years ago.

Today as we bring the remains of Archie into his final resting place, we thank God who never stops looking for us, finding us so that we can find him again and finally rest in him.

Today it is Jesus who is most ecstatic of all because he is the first to have found Archie and that is why, he had called him back to him, never to get lost again.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. In the time of their visitation they shall shine.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-3, 7

Amen.