Seeing with the heart of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 24 June 2022
Ezekiel 34;11-16 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:5-11 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:3-7
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate and Spirituality Center, Novaliches, Quezon City, 2017.

The three solemnities we have been celebrating these past three weeks in the resumption of Ordinary Time after the great Season of Easter – the Blessed Trinity, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and now the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus are meant to invite us to share in the mysteries of life and love of God himself.

Two Sundays ago we learned in the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that God is not just a Being but most of all a Person relating within himself and with us humans despite our weaknesses and limitations, even sinfulness. And there lies the greatness of God who chose to share his life with us and love us even if we worth nothing at all by sending us his Son Jesus Christ who gave us himself, Body and Blood to be shared so that we too may be like him to give ourselves to others.

Today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates the love of God revealed by Christ who died so that we may have life in him.

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.

Luke 15:3-5
From todayscatholic.org.

The Sacred Heart captures the beautiful imagery of the good shepherd who leaves the “ninety-nine sheep in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it” (Lk.15:4) because he first of all sees with his heart, not with his mind.

It is the image of Jesus Christ’s loving sacrifice for us all by dying on the Cross, offering us forgiveness of sins and redemption as Paul explained in the second reading that we have become beloved children of God, forgiven sinners for each one of us is of great worth in the eyes of God that are actually his very heart.

That is how God sees us. Always with his heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus that even a single soul, a single sheep getting lost has to be searched and saved because every one is of great worth and value!

Anyone who had searched for a missing loved one or ever a pet had experienced the more difficult and more dangerous situation of searching than actually being lost. When we search for a missing beloved like that shepherd in the parable, it is as if the whole world is on our shoulders with our heart beating so wild while racing in our thoughts are all the dangers and worst scenarios that may happen. There are times that the one searching for the missing person or sheep or any pet is the one put at more risks than the missing person or animal.

But, when the beloved is found or like in the parable of Jesus, instead of punishing the errant sheep, the good shepherd tenderly carries it on his shoulders to bring it home full of joy. That is all because of the love, tenderness, and joy flowing from the Sacred Heart that we celebrate today.

When we see with our hearts, that is when we begin to see the goodness and beauty of everyone that our intellect cannot accomplish. Many times when we use our minds, we see people and the world as so dark and so evil. But, if we have hearts that can see, we are surprised that there are more goodness, more beauty in this world than what we hear and see in the news and social media.

Like God who knows everything about us – our sins, our past, even our thoughts – but he chooses to see with his heart because he is love himself who loves us truly.

Life and love are the most common yet most profound and deep mysteries we have as persons. And the more we dwell into its beauty and majesty, the more we are absorbed into the mystery of God, a mystery we are able to grasp little by little of how God fills us with his life and love (https://lordmychef.com/2022/06/11/the-holy-trinity-our-life-and-love/).

See how these feelings and experience of being alive, of being loved and so in love are difficult to explain and even understand but so very true that we dwell in them and even keep them to relish and enjoy often in our hearts. Let the love of Christ which is the fire that purifies and cleanses our hearts unify our intellect, will and emotion to enables us to see our oneness in ourselves before God; as we see more of our goodness, then we begin to see our oneness with others or those around us that our love is translated concretely into our loving service to others like what Ezekiel had prophesied and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The heart is the wholeness of the person not just concerned with feelings but translating these emotions into actions. Like that prophecy by Ezekiel fulfilled in Christ, God did not merely feel nor long to be one with his people but he did make it happen in Jesus who came to search and rescue us, heal and care for us so that we may be whole again and eventually find fullness of life in him by dying on the Cross.

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16
Photo by author, 2017.

In this age of “practical atheism” when we live as if there is no God according to St. John Paul II under a “dictatorship of relativism” put forth by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI when there are no more absolute values and morality, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart invites us to allow ourselves to be wrapped in the many mysteries of life and love to see again the wonder and joy of our humanness found in God.

Contrary to what most people believe or perceive, God is not controlling nor competing with us in life. In fact, in Jesus Christ, God is living with us, guiding us and leading us to fullness of life that the world has always tried but failed to give us with its many lures of power, wealth and fame now so intense with the new technologies available that have left us more empty and more lost than ever.

COVID-19 had taught us that it is not the mind but the heart that matters most in life, that we need more of love than reasons and logic, more of giving than receiving, and most of all, more of courage that comes from the heart to go out to the middle of the street to walk with Jesus in loving service and self-giving to his flock than by merely standing idle as bystanders.

Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like thine! Amen.

Living on the inside

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week V, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 February 2022
1 Kings 10:1-10   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Mark 7:14-23
Photo by author, 2018.
Praise and glory to You, 
God our Father in heaven
that you see more what is inside 
than what is outside, 
what is essential 
than what is accidental. 
Purify and cleanse my heart,
Lord, so I may also see beyond 
what is external, what is on the surface
and everything that is superficial;
give me the drive to probe 
deeper into the heart to see
the many wonders of every person 
instead of criticizing and judging everyone
like the Queen of Sheba who travelled far 
to verify for herself King Solomon’s wisdom.
Bless me with courage
to face and change things 
not pleasing within me like 
“evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, 
murder, adultery, greed, malice, 
deceit, licentiousness, envy, 
blasphemy, arrogance, folly” (Mark7:21).
It is only with a clean heart, 
dear God through Jesus your Son
when we are truly good and wise 
because it is YOU, not us, 
who must be seen and eventually 
be praised by those who can see 
the inner reality like the Queen of Sheba 
who told King Solomon, 
“Blessed be the Lord, your God, 
whom it has pleased to place you 
on the throne of Israel… 
to carry out judgment and justice” 
(1Kings10:9). 
Moreover, it is only those
who live inside your heart, 
Lord, like the psalmist today
who can murmur with ones lips 
your wisdom and majesty.  Amen.

How do we look at each other?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week II, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 January 2022
1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 3:1-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Your words today, O Lord, 
invite me to examine and reflect
sincerely how do I look at others, 
what do I think, what do I search
on others I meet or encounter?

With his shield bearer marching before him, the Philistine advanced closer and closer to David. When he had sized David up, and seen that he was youthful, and ruddy, and handsome in appearance, he held David in contempt.

1 Samuel 17:41-42
Forgive us, dear God our Father
when so often we "size" up everyone
we meet, when we always try competing
with everyone, examining their outward
appearances to compare them with our
very selves, with our competencies and 
abilities, or records and backgrounds.

Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.

Mark 3:1-2
But the most unkindest look we make
at others is when we condition ourselves
at finding faults and sins and slightest malice
against others for whatever they do;  what
a shame when our hearts and minds "see"
evil when what our eyes truly "see" is all good.
How difficult it must be for you, merciful Jesus,
to experience it happening even among us who 
claim to be your disciples and followers, that until
now you are "filled with anger and grieving 
for our hardness of heart" (Mk.3:5).
Cleanse our minds and our hearts to find your
image and likeness in everyone we meet,
purify our biases with others so we start
to mean what we keep on hearing
and saying to one another, 
"may the Lord be with you".
Amen.

Advent is for seeing God clearly

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, 13 December 2021
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Matthew 21:23-27
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, June 2021, Binuangan, Obando, Bulacan.
Dearest God our Father:
with the days fast-approaching
to Christmas, we pray you open
our eyes to see you more clearly
so that we can love you dearly
and follow you more closely each day.
As celebrate the memorial of St. Lucy,
your Virgin Martyr who chose to see
the glory of heaven than sin, open our
eyes to see you more in others and in 
many occasions in our lives.
Clear our eyes and vision of pride
and evil like Balaam who first came
to curse the Israelites but in your 
divine power, he instead blessed 
your people upon seeing the coming of
Jesus Christ!

Then Balaam gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eye is true, the utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured and with eyes unveiled. I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: a star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall arise from Israel.

Numbers 24:15-17
Forgive us, Lord, despite your coming
we remain and insist in being stubborn
like the chief priests in your time who 
refused to see the hand of God in your
mission nor in John's preaching; let us be
open and willing to find you coming, 
to hear your speaking through unexpected
channels and occasions.  Amen. 

Surprise us, Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 05 July 2021
Genesis 28:10-22   ><)))'>+><)))'>+><)))'>   Matthew 9:18-26
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Quezon Province, 2020.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, 
he exclaimed, 
"Truly, the Lord is in this spot, 
although I did not know it!"  
In solemn wonder he cried out:  
"How awesome is this shrine!  
This is nothing else but an abode of God, 
and that is the gateway to heaven!"
(Genesis 28:16-17) 
Surprise us, O Lord, today
like Jacob after his dream.
Gift us with the sense of
wonder and awe,
open ourselves to realize
and experience your presence;
teach our hearts and minds
to be observant and sensitive
of your coming in Jesus Christ
who is filled with life and joy
from whom flows healing
and fullness of life.
We pray, dear God
for the gift of faith
so we may be surprised again
with the usual things in life
like the tassel of the cloak of Jesus;
help us imitate that
hemorrhaging woman
so convinced of
Christ's extraordinary powers
present in the most ordinary
happening daily if we believe
then we can see clearly your majesty!
Amen.

Lent is “seeing” Jesus

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-B, 21 March 2021
Jeremiah 31:31-34  +  Hebrews 5:7-9  +  John 12:20-33
Photo by author, details of the Seventh Station of the Cross at the St. Ildephonse Parish Church in Tanay, Rizal, January 2021.

In the beautiful church of the town of Tanay in Rizal is found a most unique Seventh Station of the Cross where one of those depicted when Jesus fell for the second time is a man with dark glasses looking afar. Local residents say the man with sunglasses is Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus who led the Sanhedrin at his trial leading to his crucifixion.

Nobody can explain exactly why the artist portrayed that man wore sunglasses that was popular among people of stature and position in the country when the carving was made in 1785. Also interesting aside from the man in shades are the soldiers with him shown with Malay features of brown color and wide eyes opened, all looking somewhere except for one looking at the Lord while clutching his garment as he fell looking heavenwards.

I remembered this piece of work of art inside the Tanay Parish Church declared by the National Museum as “National Cultural Treasure” because our gospel today speaks about a request by some pagans to see Jesus. Seeing has many meanings, always leading to believing. And sometimes, it is in believing we are able to see most of all!

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then andfrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

John 12:20-25

Seeing to believe

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Infanta, Quezon 2020.

As we have been mentioning three Sundays ago, the fourth gospel uses poetic expressions and symbolisms to convey deeper truths and realities about Jesus and our very selves, our having or lacking faith in God. Like the act of seeing by those Greeks who requested Philip “to see Jesus”.

If they simply wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, they could have easily seen the Lord who was always at the temple area at that time. Jesus had always been available to everyone like last Sunday when Nicodemus went to see him at night.

But, John often used the verb to see in many senses that also mean to believe like in his appearance a week after Easter to his disciples along with doubting Thomas: Jesus said to him “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn.20:29).

Most mysterious for me in John’s use of the verb to see is in the call of the Lord’s first disciples led by Andrew: He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went where he was staying and saw where he was staying… Andrew followed Jesus. He first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn.1:39-41).

What did Andrew see that he later told his brother Simon that they have found the Messiah?

Of course, John’s most notable use of the verb to see is from that scene at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday when the perfect model of the believer is the “other disciple” whom Jesus loved “went in, and he saw and believed” (Jn.20:8).

Very clear in the mind of John that the request of those Greeks to see Jesus was one of faith, of meeting and speaking with Jesus to be enlightened more like Nicodemus last Sunday. Here we find our important role of being another Philip and Andrew, leading other people to see Jesus.

Those Greeks described as “God-fearing” were pagans attracted to the teachings of Judaism and came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover Feast. They already have faith in God that must have been awakened further when they heard the teachings of Jesus; hence, their request to see Jesus.

It happens so often that when by the grace of God people are illuminated with faith even in the most personal manner, they still need Philips and Andrews who would enable them “to see” Jesus to grow and be deepened in faith. There will always be a need for an apostle who could lead others to “see” Jesus because faith happens within a community, within the Church and through others’ mediation.

And here lies the bigger challenge for us disciples for us to make Jesus “seen” in our lives and in our community.

Believing to see.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just as a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

John 12:23-26, 32-33

In a sudden twist, John tells us nothing if those “God-fearing” pagans saw Jesus at all because the Lord immediately went on a discourse after being told by Andrew and Philip of the request, briefly interrupted by God’s voice speaking from heaven that everybody heard in the temple area.

Speaking in the parable of the grain of wheat dying first in order to produce much fruit, Jesus tells us how we can lead others to truly see him in us and through us by having the same determination and perseverance to follow him, stay with him, and be like him by dying to ones self for others. For the grain of wheat to die and spring forth to new life, it has to be detached. And so are we.

Notice Jesus repeating that sign of his being lifted up on the cross he mentioned last Sunday to Nicodemus. John mentions it again in this part of his gospel adding an explanation at the end because for him, the Crucifixion is Christ’s greatest sign and revelation of his glory, opening a path for us back to God in his Cross, through his Cross.

In teaching us about the parable of the grain of wheat dying and linking it with his being “lifted up”, Jesus now tells us and every “God-fearing” person that we can only “see” him in the scandal of the Cross.

Did those God-fearing Greeks remained in Jerusalem and saw Jesus on the Cross?

We do not know but we are sure that anyone who requests to see Jesus always sees him if we believe first in his crucifixion which is when everyone is drawn to him as he had said. We must first believe Christ died so we may see him risen to life.

It was on Christ’s dying on the cross when God established a “new covenant” among us as prophesied by Jeremiah in our first reading today, giving us all an access to him in Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus which we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, 2020.

Grappling with death to see life

We have never seen the crucifixion of Jesus except in its portrayals in the many movies we used to watch in Holy Week; but, its realities are etched and impressed in our hearts through the many trials and difficulties we have gone through in life that we believe Jesus truly died. And because of that, we have also seen him alive!

Such is the reality of seeing Jesus that every time we describe something so difficult, so trying, we equate it with death like when we say “we felt like dying” taking the exam. And the good news is when we overcome the tests that we use again the word or concept of death to describe something so good as it leads us to glory like when we say a pizza or a steak or a cake to die for.

Such is the paradox and scandal of the Cross of Jesus: we can never see him risen in glory if we avoid and refuse seeing his Passion and Death right in our own selves, in our painful experiences.

Going back to that unique Seventh Station of the Cross at the Tanay Parish Church, I realized how the unbelievers and others among us could not see Jesus as the Christ because they have refused to believe in him first especially when they are down with all kinds of problems and trials, looking somewhere else instead of seeing Jesus fallen in front of them.

Let us believe in Jesus so we may see him in this final week of Lent as we prepare for Palm Sunday next. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, January 2021.

Sight and Vision

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
27 December 2020, Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Patron of our Parish
1 John 1:1-14 >><)))*> John 20:2-8
Our Parish Patron, the beloved disciple of the Lord, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist (Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Sept. 2018).

Today we celebrate in our Parish the feast of our Patron Saint, John the Apostle and Evangelist also known as “the beloved disciple of the Lord”. Although it is a Sunday in the Christmas octave when the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated by the universal Church, parishes and dioceses with the beloved disciple as patron as exempted. Perhaps, it is St. John’s gift to me before I move to my new assignment in February next year that I celebrate his feast for the last time this Sunday.

I tell my parishioners to love St. John; that is their first task as parishioners, to love and support their Patron Saint. Moreover, I have always stressed to them how St. John the Apostle is so special, and not an ordinary saint or Apostle. Next to his being the beloved disciple of Jesus, he is the only Apostle to have not died a martyr but grew old to witness the growth of the Church; he was the one who took care of the Blessed Virgin Mary as per instruction by the Lord Himself before He died on the Cross on Good Friday; and though there are only a few parishes dedicated to him, mostly are Cathedrals like the one at Dagupan-Lingayen in Pangasinan, at Naga City in Camarines Sur, and of course, the Cathedral of Rome, the St. John Lateran, the Mother of all churches in the world.

He is often symbolized by the eagle for his sharp and incisive way of looking at things and events in the life of teachings of Jesus that he is the only one able to tell us about the wedding feast at Cana, the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus as well as the more detailed account of the teachings after the feeding of five thousand people.

The great American writer Helen Keller, a blind woman, said it so well, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

I wish to reflect on that vision of St. John, on what had he seen in our Lord Jesus that hopefully we may always try to look into in our own lives.

Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

Seeing Jesus, a real man among us

I used to say in my wedding homilies that women should always look for men who not only has sights but also vision. We all have sights but not everyone has a vision, the ability to see and look beyond what is on the surface, on what can only be seen but also perceived further.

St. John the Evangelist had a great vision of who Jesus Christ is. No wonder towards the end of his life while a prisoner at the island of Patmos off Greece, the Lord offered him a vision of heaven which he had recorded to us in the most difficult book of the Bible, the Revelation; his other four writings, the Gospel and three letters are also difficult to understand due to the different layers of meaning that only the beloved disciple was able to perceive.

Such is the kind of the vision of St. John said to be like the eagle, believed to be the only creature that can stare directly into light without getting blinded — very sharp and keen, as we say in Filipino, “matang-lawin” or eagle sight.

Being the only Apostle of the Lord to have grown old and spared from dying a martyr like the rest, St. John witnessed the first errors or heresies of early Christians concerning the humanity of Jesus Christ. They could not accept the Son of God took on a genuinely human body so that in a mistaken zeal for spirituality, they condemned everything material as evil, claiming the humanity of Jesus was just an appearance. As a result, these heretics like the gnostics taught that to be fully united with God meant to withdraw as much as possible from everything material.

St. John wrote his letters primarily to address this wrongful and erroneous views (which would persist for 400 years, still echoing in our present time), insisting that Jesus Christ is true God, and true man. We have heard him declare that on Christmas day when his prologue was proclaimed when he claimed “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us” – that Jesus Christ fully entered into our humanity and material condition by blessing and making it holy!

Today St. John insists on this contact with the real, bodily Jesus, repeating the words “seen” and “visible” about five times in four verses, emphasizing contact with a real, bodily Christ.

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible…

1 John 1:1-2

Here we find what St. John tells us also after the Resurrection in his gospel account how Jesus invited the doubting Thomas to touch and feel him, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your your hand and put it into my side, and do be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn.20:27).

It is this physical, truly human, touchable Jesus that the Church proclaims every Christmas. Yet, how tragic that through the ages, we in the Church had always had that tendency to withdraw from the material that perhaps had led to so many problems with the human body and sexuality so that we have all these sex scams happening even long before.

Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is for us to be at home with our humanity like Jesus our Lord because everything God had made is good. Mention SEX, even in seminaries or Catholic schools, you hear for sure that rising crescendo of whispers and impish laughters.

Everything that God made is good. That is why Jesus became human to show us it is good to be a human being, it is the path back to God, into heaven. If we cannot accept Jesus as truly human, how can we truly love God whom we do not see? Hence, we find this beautiful flow of reason and reflection of St. John in his first letter:

No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought o perfection in us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

1 John 4:12, 16, 19-20
Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, Christmas 2020.

In short, to love God and to love others, we must first love our very selves, accept our “human-ness” like Jesus, a real man in everything except sin. The more we accept each other, the more we “see” God among us as a community, as a Church, the Body of Christ.

The Church, the Body of Christ

This vision of the Church as the body of Christ by St. John came from the empty tomb of Jesus at Easter, when the Lord was paradoxically not in sight!

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

John 20:6-8

What did our Patron Saint “see” that he believed, not like Simon Peter who was the leader of the Apostles?

Photo by author, August 2020.

This is the best example of St. John’s vision, of seeing beyond the physical, of seeing the significance of the folded cloth that covered the Lord’s face that has its basis in the story of Moses who had to put on a veil whenever he would converse with God face to face (cf. Exodus 34) due to the immense brightness of God, of His overwhelming presence. This the Israelites have seen every time after Moses had spoken with God, his face shone so brightly.

With the cloth that covered the head of Jesus folded and separated from the burial cloths, it meant that Jesus had met the Father, the veil to cover His face was no longer needed.

At that instance, everything became clearer for St. John – from the cleansing of the temple to His conversations with that Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well – convincing him that Jesus had risen to new life, to new level of existence. Years later, we find Jesus appearing to Saul on his way to Damascus, asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?(Acts 9:1-5)” to indicate that whatsoever you do anyone, you do unto Jesus (Matt. 25:40).

In His glorified body, we are now able to look at God also in the new body of Jesus, the Church. It is in this aspect that we have to learn so much from the beloved disciple, St. John. Our lack of any sense of community like the collective effort in stopping the spread of COVID-19 shows of the great need for us to have wider and sharper vision of Jesus among us especially in the Church. May we strive to love more Jesus to find Him in our humanity. Amen.

Photo by author, Malolos Cathedral, September 2020.

Postscript-2 to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 October 2020
Statue of St. Paul at the Malolos Cathedral by the famed ecclesiastical artist Willy Layug.

Today we conclude our reflections – or “postscript” – to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians about faith we heard proclaimed in the weekday readings two weeks ago from October 05-14, 2020.

A truly faithful person 
is one who is also free.

We have said that faith is a relationship with God and with others like in marriage and friendship. When our faith with God and with persons is strong with conviction and realistic, then the more we become free because there is no room for doubts that we are not loved.

Brothers and sisters: Scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe. Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.

Galatians 3:22-25

Recall those times we have felt imprisoned and chained by the past with all of our broken and toxic relationships, sickness and handicaps, failures and sins, and other painful memories: that was when we wavered in our faith, when we lacked conviction in our faith.

We have to be convinced that Jesus came to set us free from all forms of slavery that prevent us from growing and maturing in faith and freedom in him. When our faith is strong, then we are able to break the many barriers that imprison us like gender, color, language, social status and even religion.

Nourish our faith to be free to become our true selves!

Photo by author, 2019.

Faith works through love.

It is God’s gift of faith that enables us to do good, to do our works of charity and love. And because we are faithful and free, then we also love!

Incidentally, being faithful and free are always tied up with being able to love because love is a choice, a decision we make, not just feelings or emotions.

Every choice is made out of freewill and here is the most interesting part of being faithful and free and loving: like love, man is able to believe and trust because it is God who first believed and trusted us!

A faithful person is always a loving person because he is free to choose what is good, what is right. And the more faithful we become to God, to your spouse, to your family and friends, the more loving you become like them!

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:6

Without faith, it is difficult for us to love because of the pains that come always in loving.

Without faith, it is impossible to forgive and be merciful, to let go of others’ infidelity and lack of love and concern because these are virtues and values that come only from within, from a loving heart that is also faithful where Jesus Christ dwells and reigns.


A few years ago, GMA-7 launched its talent search called Starstruck inviting young people to… Dream. Believe. Survive.

For us Christians, it is… Dream. Believe. Live.

The moment we believe, then we are able to see, even God hidden among each one of us. Amen.

*All photos by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Quezon, 2020.

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!

Journeying into God in parables

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVI, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2020
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 >><}}}*> Romans 8:26-27 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:24-43

Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us today to join him into a different kind of journey that would take us deep into God’s mystery in our very selves through the parables he has started to tell us last Sunday.

Recall, dear readers, that parables constitute the heart of the Lord’s preaching.

We have defined these as simple stories with deep realities that must be cracked open through prayers and reflections to get its meaning. From the French para bolein that literally means “along the path”, a parable is likewise a bridge that leads us into something unknown to us before.

In itself, a parable is a journey calling us to walk through it into our inner selves to discover the many inner beauties that lie within us but we take for granted. Ultimately, as we discover these giftedness within us, we then uncover God dwelling within us.

This is the reason why Jesus would always tell his audience after narrating his parables that “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt.13:43) to insist on them to go deeper inside themselves for their meaning.

And that is when we are transformed, when our lives are changed into true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Greatness in littleness

First thing we notice in the three parables of Jesus today is his insistence on the coming of the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God through him as the mysterious seed.

This kingdom of heaven is used interchangeably with “kingdom of God” that Jesus would always speak of in his entire ministry until his crucifixion is not according to our understanding of a kingdom: it is not about a territorial domain or the exercise of power over subjects using force.

St. John Paul the Second expressed it beautifully by declaring the person of Jesus Christ himself is the kingdom of God. No wonder, Christ would always liken himself and the kingdom of God with the seed being sown.

It is always good. It is for everyone as the sower scatters the seeds everywhere. And it is always small like Jesus who was born like any infant so fragile and even poor like most of us. He is like the seed we take for granted from which comes forth all kinds of plants like trees, big and small.

Flowers of a mustard plant from which seeds are taken. Photo by author, Israel, 2017.

Or most specially, like those seeds that turn into crops of wheat and shrubs like the mustard with leaves and branches where birds may dwell that describe the first two parables today.

Jesus then added a third parable of the yeast mixed into flour that leavened the dough into a bread.

Like him our Lord, we his disciples are also like the small seeds packed with great possibilities in God.

In all these three parables today, there is that element of smallness, of littleness that remind us how everything that is great always starts small.

When we come to think of this, we realize how we embarked on this great mission of making Jesus Christ known: it started like a small spark within us, perhaps from a single word we have heard or read, a simple inspiration by God through the most ordinary persons and situation.

Not only in things regarding our spiritual lives but even our personal lives when we recall those humble beginnings of our family and of our business.

Like a little seed or yeast, they just grew!

Now we are surprised, even amazed, how we have changed, how we have grown. Of how we are now reaping the fruits of our labors and sacrifices.

Most of all, how we have known and experienced Jesus Christ who fulfills our lives.

Weeds among the wheat

But not all days are bright and sunny. There are dark clouds that hover above us bringing storms and heavy rains that lead into floodings. A lot often in life, the darkest nights turn out to be the longest nights too.

And this is the meaning of Christ’s main parable for today.

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seeds in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slave of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Matthew 13:24-30
Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

During my prayer periods this past week, I have been filled with anger and disappointments at how things are going on in our country and even in my personal life. It pains me so much why at this time of the pandemic when we have to go through all these bad things.

Last Friday morning before our daily Mass, we discovered the glasses shattered in our windows near the office door and at the side door of the church. There were scratches outside indicating attempts to unlock the doors inside and steal from the church.

After the Mass, I grew more angry as we inspected the damages, thinking so negatively harsh against whoever tried to burglarize us.

By night time during prayers, I remembered Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables where Valjean was caught by the police stealing silver from the good bishop who had welcomed him into his rectory with food and accommodations. Instead of pinning him down for his crime, the bishop told the police he had given Valjean the silver found in his bag, even chastising him he had left behind the other silver candlesticks he had asked to take!

The wheatfield owner in our parable and the good bishop of Les Miserables are both the merciful God mentioned by the author of the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today:

But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

Wisdom 12:18-19

Think of our parents and elders, our mentors or those we look up to for their wisdom gifted with wonderful insights in life called perspicacity which means “a penetrating discernment… a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight.”

Being perspicacious or having perspicacity like the wheatfield owner or the good bishop of Les Miserable means having a deeper wisdom that one can keenly see and understand things beyond ordinary perception following a long process of silent reflections in life.

Many times, our sights can be limited that we do not see the other repercussions and even ramifications of our decisions on certain situations. There are times we think only of finding solutions, of winning the battle but not the war.

Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

It is also along this line that Jesus added the third parable: the yeast is mixed with the flour to leaven the dough.

We are like the yeast who have to mix with others, including the evil ones to become bread that will feed the world.

We are the wheat, the mustard seed, the yeast thrown into the world to make a difference in Christ! We are not the ones who will change the world but Jesus Christ, the mysterious seed, the yeast in the dough who grows and effects the changes in us and among us.

Parables as inner journey in Christ Jesus

With Jesus living and nurturing within us, that is when we become fruitful like the wheat and mustard plant or leavened bread that we are able to feed more people who would eventually become bearers his in the future. That is how the kingdom of heaven comes into this world, when God is seen and felt by everyone through us

This we achieve in prayers as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading. It is not just reciting our basic prayers as Christians including the novenas we love to collect and follow through. The kind of prayer that St. Paul speaks here is a prayer guided by God’s Holy Spirit who perfectly knows God’s will.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos of kids she’s teaching on the values of health, education and nature at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon.

Brothers and sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

Romans 8:26

In this time of too much weeds among the wheat, of so many evil and sins prevailing over us, we can feel frustrated at times that make it so difficult for us to pray.

Sometimes, the evil and sins, or the plain sufferings we go through in our own family, in our community or at work and in school can be so overwhelming that we feel our prayers are useless, that God is not listening at all to us.

Then we stop praying, we stop journeying within even with weeds among the wheat. How can the flour be leavened if the yeast is not mixed with the dough to become bread or cake.

Remain in the Lord!

Pulling out the weeds will not solve the problem; worst, it may endanger us all too in the process that we become like our enemies in the end. Never lose hope in God who knows very well of the presence and source of weeds. Sometimes, these pains and sufferings from evils we go through from others may actually lead us to our being fruitful!

Evil and sins are a parable in themselves that can teach us so well in life if we handle them with prayers.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, Infanta, Quezon, May 2020.

Praying in the Holy Spirit is when we spend time with Jesus to reflect and crack open his words that come to us in the Sacred Scriptures and ordinary events in daily life through long hours of silent meditation and contemplation.

The more we dive into God’s mysteries in the parables he sends us in daily living, the more we see the beauty and wonder of life because our horizons are widened and get clearer.

Praying into our parables in life is like looking into a telescope or binoculars that enable us to see something distant within reach.

Like God himself.

And salvation as well as fulfillment in Christ.

Amen.

A blessed new week ahead of you!