Love, love, love….

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2021
1 John 4:7-10     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Mark 6:34-44
Photo by author, 12 December 2020.

Dearest God our Father:

Today my heart has only two things to say:

First is, “Thank you for being love, for loving me!”

Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical Deus caritas est which was taken from this letter of the beloved disciple, that, what makes Christianity so unique of all other faith is the statement, God is love.

Indeed, in all the stories told about you in the Bible, in all our experiences in life, there is only one thing you have shown and given us from the very beginning that shall continue in eternity — LOVE.

The very coming of your Son Jesus Christ is all because of LOVE. Christmas is a story of love. Epiphany is also love.

It is all love, love, love… dear God! Please open our hearts, our senses to experience this love of yours you continue to pour upon us. Touch our hearts, open our minds, let us stop denying this truth that we are loved by You.

And so, my second prayer to you today is this: as a sign of thanksgiving, let me to share your love. Let me love like Jesus your Son, thinking more of others than myself – so unlike his apostles who wanted to send home the crowd hungry, worried at where to find food for them:

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

Mark 6:35-36

Just for me to start thinking and feeling and acting like you when you saw the crowd like sheep without a shepherd (Mk.6:34, 37), worried for their spiritual and material hunger that you taught them so many things and then fed them with food is a good lesson to start loving like you.

O dear Jesus, fill me with your warmth and enthusiasm whenever I would look at you on the Cross so I may pass on the love you have given me to others. Amen.

Photo by author, 12 December 2020.

Surely, there will be Christmas 2020….

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 November 2020
Photo by author, Christmas decors at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.
Surely, there will be Christmas this year
despite the pandemic
but there will be less traffic, 
less madness in malls and streets
and more praying and silence
in our homes and parishes.
There will be less dinging
of cash registers
and maybe more singing
from the hearts
as we begin to see more 
of Jesus in the other 
person despite 
the face mask.
Surely, there will be Christmas in this time of corona
as there will be more presence
of persons and loved ones
than presents and gifts recycled
or bought without any thoughts;
there will be more crèche
and boughs of greens
so we do not have to be mean
if we do not receive anything.
For so long
we have been receiving gifts
when it is not us celebrating
birthday but the Lord
who only asks for our open hearts.
Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, QC, 2019.
Surely, there will still be Christmas amid COVID-19
when we shall finally be hearing
music celebrating Christ's coming
not cheesy songs masquerading as carols 
wishing for every maiden's Prince Charming;
there may be less cheese and ham and wine
for our Christmas dinner
with memories and dreams overflowing
as we gather filled with faith, hope and love;
it does not matter if there are no blinking lights
or even Christmas trees with all the trimmings
or boxes of gifts below or socks hanging
for as long as the glow of Christ's light
and warmth bursting in everyone's hello!
Surely, there will always be Christmas
no matter how favorable or
unfavorable each year
because Christmas
is more than a date to
keep and remember
but an event, a Person
to cherish and welcome,
to follow and imitate,
to care and let grow
within us, among us
the God who became human
 like us so we can be divine 
like Him.
Surely there will always be Christmas every year
but after 2020, may our Christmas be for real:
less hugging and kissing 
but more loving and caring;
less laughing and merrymaking 
but more of rejoicing and comforting;
less having and buying
more giving and sharing;
more sacrificing
more striving
for justice and peace;
less clapping, less "liking", less "trending"
more praying, more kneeling
to Jesus our Savior and everything!  AMEN.
Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

“Where Is the Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas (2003)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 September 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

The most severe test of our being Christian lies in our being able to love one another specially when it is so difficult to love them, when the one we love like a brother or a sister or a friend sins (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/05/presence-and-love-of-christ/).

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you… If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector… Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:15-16, 19-20

In our Sunday gospel today, Jesus is asking us to have love as basis of our relationships, whether at home or in the community, in the church or in the society. When there is love, there is Jesus, there is order, there is peace and harmony. Even when there is imperfection and sin, when love prevails, life and its struggles become bearable, even fulfilling. But when there is no love, there is always disorder and chaos and life becomes more difficult.

And that is why we go back to Black Eyed Peas’ 2003 hit “Where Is The Love?” for our Sunday music today which is very timely and relevant in this time of the pandemic.

People killin’ people dyin’
Children hurtin’, I hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preachin’?
Would you turn the other cheek again?
Mama, mama, mama, tell us what the hell is goin’ on
Can’t we all just get along?
Father, father, father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me
Questioning
(Where’s the love)

Of course, we all know our kababayan apl.de.ap is part of this group and one of the composers of this smash hit that was also the largest selling record of 2003, earning a nomination to the Grammy the following year for Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung collaboration. From their third album Elephunk, “Where Is the Love?” gave Black Eyed Peas its first commercial success that also put them onto the mainstream music scene. Not mentioned at its single release was the back-up vocals rendered by Justin Timberlake who showed support to the group even though he was from another record label.

Very interesting is the last stanza which I just realized while reflecting on the song relating it to the gospel this Sunday: our problem is not really the corona virus but a disease within us when we refuse to accept and share that love freely given us by God.

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders
As I’m gettin’ older y’all people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinemas
What happened to the love and the values of humanity?
(Where’s the love)
What happened to the love and the fairness and equality?
(Where’s the love)
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
(Where’s the love)
Lack of understanding leading us away from unity
(Where’s the love)

Some people have been asking me this early how would Christmas 2020 be?

We need not read the news for we can feel and readily see around us the bleak prospects of this coming Christmas — financially and materially speaking. But I am filled with hope that Christmas 2020 amid the pandemic will most likely be one, if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have because when we have less of the material things, that is also when we have more of the spiritual things in life, more of love, more of kindness, more of the person next to me, and most of all, more of Jesus. All we have to do is honestly answer the question, “where is the love?”

Have a blessed Sunday everyone!

Music video by Black Eyed Peas performing Where Is The Love?. (C) 2003 Interscope Geffen (A&M) Records A Division of UMG Recordings Inc.

Sharing the light of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Memorial of St. Teresa of Calcutta, 05 September 2020
1 Corinthians 4:6-15 /// Luke 6:1-5
Photo by author, 25 August 2020.

By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26 August 1910-05 September 1997)

One of the great joys I have come to treasure lately, O Lord, is the grace to have lived in these interesting part of history among some of the great modern saints of our time like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta whose Memorial we celebrate today.

I practically grew up during her time when she was called a “living saint”, a very small woman in stature clad in her usual white and blue-striped habit, always wearing a smile, radiating with your light, sweet Jesus Christ.

Yet, deep in her fragile-looking body was a rock-solid faith in you, Lord, that enabled her to accomplish so much to alleviate the sufferings of so many people!

She knew so well our time marked with material affluence amid spiritual and moral bankruptcies that she went to serve the “poorest of the poor” not only in India but in the entire world. She was a soul filled with your light, Lord, burning with love for you with the sole desire to be your love and compassion to the poor.

Thank you, dear Jesus for being present with us through saints like St. Mother Teresa.

Like her, I pray that I may remain faithful to you than be successful by becoming your light to the world plunged in darkness of sin.

Like St. Paul before her, use me, Jesus, to heal the world of its wounds and divisions by remaining faithful and true to your words that you are the “Son of Man, the lord of the sabbath.”

Like St. Mother Teresa, may I share you Jesus, only Jesus, and always Jesus. Amen.

A statue of St. Mother Teresa in their Mother House in Calcutta, India. From devdiscourse.com.

Of wages and gifts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorials of St. John Eudes & St. Ezechiel Moreno, Priests, 19 August 2020
Ezekiel 34:1-11 >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, February 2020.

As we go through more difficulties and sufferings during this time of pandemic, your words today dear God speak so well of what we need most – a true shepherd who will care for the lost and injured sheep.

Yes, you have fulfilled, O God, your promise a long time ago to Ezekiel that you yourself will come by sending us your Son Jesus Christ to look after and tend your sheep after the shepherds of Israel have miserably failed in their duties and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there are still so many shepherds today in government even in Church who continue to pasture themselves!

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who has been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; I swear I am coming against these shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:2-4, 8, 10

Teach us, O Lord, through the examples of two great shepherds of souls whose feast we celebrate today: St. John Eudes who was one of the early pioneers in propagating devotion to your most Sacred Heart and St. Ezechiel Moreno who served for 15 years in the Philippines and later in South America where innumerable cancer cures were attributed to him.

St. John Eudes and St. Ezechiel Moreno showed in their lives of faithful and loving apostolate for the poor that shepherding is always a gift, never to be counted or equated nor even be seen in terms of wages and pay like in the gospel.

Remind us sweet Jesus in the midst of this pandemic when we are called to be good shepherds like you, may we always see your call and mission to us as gifts freely given not as tasks or work to be compensated by material things because you believe in us.

May we always go the extra mile in answering your call, O Lord, which is in itself a tremendous gift we must cherish for we are not even worthy at all to receive. Amen.

From Google.

Understanding the parables is giving up everything for Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 26 July 2020
1 Kings 3:5,7-12 >><}}}*> Romans 8:28-30 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:44-52
Photo by author, 2020.

The other Sunday during our Mass, I saw a man wearing a black t-shirt with these signs:

– = +

Of course, it means “Less is more” because a minus (-) is equal (=) to an addition or a plus (+)!

That is also the meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ wherein it is in giving that we receive, in dying that we live, in losing that we gain more of everything because the cross is a plus sign.

This Sunday, that is essentially the lesson Jesus is telling us on this final installment of his parables wherein we have to lose everything in order to have him, the kingdom of God.

See how the three parables present us with one situation: to get the treasure in a field, its finder has to bury it again, sell all he has to buy the field where he had found the treasure; a trader searching for fine pearls sells everything he has to acquire a pearl of great price he had found; and lastly, not all fish caught in a net thrown in the sea are good to be sold with bad ones that must be thrown.

These parables are reminding us today of the need to exercise our freedom properly by making wise choices in life. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but the ability to choose always what is good.

In every situation in life, we always have to make a choice; it is never true that we have no choice left to make. Choosing not to make a choice is actually choosing what is wrong, what is bad, and what is not good for us and for others.

We are always made by the choices we make in life. And that is why the parables are teaching us to choose wisely like King Solomon in the first reading.

Photo by author, February 2020.

Choosing wisely

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this — not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right — I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

1 Kings 3:5,7,9, 11-12

Here we go back again to that basic reality of a parable which is a simple story of every day life filled with profound meanings. It is something we take for granted because it is so ordinary like the seed forgetting its great potentials in the future.

Many times in life we get distracted like today when we have a plethora of products and services available that we cannot focus on what is really essential and important. Our decisions are clouded even erratic because we are so distracted with the wide array of choices to make, from food to eat to clothes to wear, movies or series to watch on Netflix or cable TV as well as music to listen from thousands of titles in our playlists.

And in our distraction, many times we miss our priorities in life, especially God and our loved ones.

Then, we end up sad and miserable, way too far from what God had envisioned for us since the beginning which is to live in joy in him.

For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30

St. Paul is reminding and assuring us in these short passages we heard from his letter today that God called us to be saved and glorified in Jesus Christ not by chance but by purpose. He willed it, he wanted it so because he loves us so much, assuring us all of future glory in him in eternity.

The key to experiencing that joy from God is to always abide in him like King Solomon of choosing what is good, letting go of everything that will separate us from him like sin and evil. For God’s plan and grace to operate and materialize, we need to cooperate with him like being a good soil that produces fruitful wheat.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Our Christian life of joy

Like the Twelve inside the house listening to Jesus explained and narrated more parables, the Lord is also asking us today the same question:

“Do you understand all these things?”

Matthew 13:51

To “understand all these things” is not about human intelligence like being smart or brilliant but of holy wisdom or spiritual intelligence characterized by humility and simplicity before God and others.

To “understand all these things” and be like “every scribe… or the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt.13:52) is to be one in Jesus Christ, a person learned in the ways of God, who knows how to prioritize things, always making things relevant in the present even if it is an old lesson.

To be truly joyful in life is to just have Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus.

It is easier said than done but we must try even little by little, slowly by learning more to give of our very selves to others.

It is difficult to imitate the main characters in the parables today – the finder of treasure, the pearl merchant, and the fisherman – when we always think of having more than having what is most valuable and important.

Have we noticed during this pandemic that whenever we would count or take tabs of everything we share, we feel sad and even grouchy because we feel we have lost a lot? And if we get too much in return, we cannot rejoice because we somehow feel guilty?

True joy comes when we are able to be generous, of giving without counting the costs, without thinking of what would be left for me because my only concern is what else can I give the other persons so that my joy can be complete when I see them like me – happy, contented, and peaceful with a simple smile or delighted by a hot bowl of soup or a hearty breakfast.

And that’s that greatest parable of Jesus of all that we need to understand and embrace: the less we have of created things, the more we have of the Creator, of himself who is the kingdom of God.

Then, that is heaven.

A blessed Sunday to everyone!

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos at Infanta, Quezon, July 2020.

“Possession Obsession” by Hall and Oates (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 28 June 2020
Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

One reason I have this blog on trying to link secular music with the Sunday gospel is the firm belief that God continues to speak to us through modern means of communications like music and films. Sometimes I feel that if Jesus were with us today, he might be instructing us priests to “feed my geeks” than “feed my sheep”.…..

For this Sunday we have the dynamic duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates — my most favorite group standing side by side with the late Walker Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.

Released in 1984 from their “Big Bam Boom” album, Possession Obsession is one of a kind in their long list of superb music with John Oates taking the front seat in this song unlike in their previous hits where it would always be Daryl taking the lead.

I have listened maybe a hundred times to Possession Obsession but it was only yesterday after preparing my Sunday homily that I have tried to internalize its lyrics, including the music video directed by Bob Giraldi who did Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.

The song perfectly echoes the Sunday teaching today of Jesus Christ who said that

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39

Possession Obsession echoes Christ’s teaching this Sunday on life’s paradox wherein the more we give, the more we actually receive, that life is not about possession and having but about love, of giving and of sharing with others.

You know there's something you need
Right here and now
To fill the space inside of yourself
Money love or power
When you want to have the number one first run anyone
You're crazy 'til you own them

You ought to know better than that
The more that you buy the less you get back
It's a case of possession obsession
Gimme Gimme

The compulsion to count the percentage of time
Spent between two lovers
Can turn an hour into a crime
And all the good times suffer
Though you know it's only jealousy
You can't help but be
Haunted by your passion

Don't you know it's a matter of fact
The more that you take the less you give back
Just a taste of possession obsession
Brings a case of possession obsession
Gimme Gimme

Watch closely too this music video set inside a cab with John Oates as driver, taking different passengers in all the different forms of “love” understood these days, far from the truth witnessed to us by Jesus Christ.

In fact, it is one of the first music video to present two men holding hands as lovers at the back of John’s cab with one of the men looking like the late David Bowie (?).

At the last sequence of the music video is a beautiful presentation of giving and loving when Hall and Oates were in their usual attires in a cafe, competing in “possessing” the sugar dispenser. Hall prevailed and right before putting sugar into his coffee, he changed his mind and slid the sugar dispenser to Oates at the other end of the bar table.

Nice song, nice music, nice video.

For reflections on this Sunday’s gospel, check my homily https://lordmychef.com/2020/06/27/let-christ-possess-us/

Have a beautiful and blessed Sunday.

From YouTube.com

Let Christ possess us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIIIth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 28 June 2020
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16 >><)))*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 >><)))*> Matthew 10:37-42
Photo by author, Dome of the Chapel of Nativity at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Jesus continues his lessons to us his disciples being sent to look for the “lost sheep of Israel”, to be not afraid for he is with us in this journey and mission. But, it is not enough that we have Jesus on our side and be present among us: we have to allow Jesus to take possession of us completely!

From having no fear because Jesus is here, Christ now deepens his presence by inviting us to be possessed by him, to be in communion with him.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:37-39
Photo by author, processional Cross at the altar, 2019.

The Mystery of the Cross

Discipleship in Jesus Christ is more than a total allegiance to him who is neither a demanding nor exacting Lord and Master for he does not arbitrarily impose himself upon us.

Nothing like that of subservience but something more lofty because it is wrapped in a mystery — a mystery of love freely given and shared to us by God even if we do not deserve it all. Remember the mystery of the Blessed Trinity four Sundays ago (June 07)?

Ever since, God has never imposed himself upon us, that we should love him back in return for he does not really need our love. He gave us the gift of freedom so that we may love him freely for he never imposes on us.

And here lies the beauty of discipleship, of this relationship we have with God that is based solely on love expressed to us in the most personal manner by giving us his Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the Cross but rose again on Easter. This we were reminded by the Solemnities of the Body and Blood of Jesus and of his Sacred Heart last June 14 and 19 respectively.

Now you see my dear readers the clearer picture of our liturgical celebrations expressing our concrete experiences of being loved by God in Jesus Christ most especially during times of trials and sufferings like in this COVID-19 pandemic.

It is Christ who made the initiative to be one with us in our pains and sufferings; God did not remove our crosses in life but made them holy in his Son Jesus Christ so that every time we go through life’s many difficulties, we share in the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

That is why, we are invited to take and carry our cross every day for it is through the Cross we are saved. It is not enough to simply believe in the person of Jesus but we need to accept and embrace his Cross because it is through which he had won our salvation by dying on it and rising again.

This is easier said than done. It is so difficult to love Jesus more than our loved ones like family and friends. And it is most difficult to love the Lord more than our selves, when we have to let go of our plans and agenda.

Letting go and letting God in itself is already crucifying — but that is when this mystery of Christ’s love and of his Cross deepens further when we lose ourselves in him!

Celebrating Mass without te congregation during the ECQ, March-April 2020.

Possessed by Christ

To be possessed by Jesus is to receive God and his gift of salvation through the mystery of Christ and his Cross. Like our Christian life, proclaiming the gospel carries with it the sign of the Cross of Christ.

We are not asked to reenact or reproduce his Crucifixion nor is Jesus asking us to be suicidal or go against our natural aspirations and dreams.

To be possessed by Jesus means we continue to take care of ourselves without neglecting the needs of others.

To be possessed by Jesus means being generous to others in the same manner Jesus has always been generous to us.

To be possessed by Jesus means to realize that every act of self-giving is really an act of receiving!

Photo by author, Malagos Park, Davao City, 2018.

That is the paradox of the Cross, of discipleship in Christ: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt.10:40).

And that is also where the mystery of Christ’s love deepens because whatever we give is not really ours but Christ’s.

Every time we give love, it is the love of Jesus.

When we are kind and generous with others, it is the kindness and generosity of Jesus we give and share.

When we are patient and understanding to others, it is still the patience and understanding of Jesus in us.

Even if we give and share material things like money, food, clothing… whatever good we share and give are all from Jesus not from us.

And the more we give, the more we receive!

Have you noticed especially during this pandemic how the generous among us are now more blessed?

Wonder no more because you have allowed yourself to be possessed by Jesus Christ!

This is what the woman at Shumen had realized after welcoming the Prophet Elisha into her home in our first reading. She even gave him a room to stay every time he comes for his mission while the Lord provided all her needs, even rewarded her with a son as promised by Elisha.

When we allow Jesus to take over us, when we enter into communion in him and with him in his very life, we become more free to love, we strengthen our relationships with others, we wander less and worry less in life; most of all, we feel lightened in our burdens with the presence of Jesus giving us fullness of life in him.

This is the grace I hope we have seen from this quarantine period, especially those two months of lockdown when were freed from our usual grind and busyness with more time to be silent and still, to pray and reflect on our relationships with God and with others. It was a difficult and very trying period that had given in return a lot of opportunities to others.

Photo by author, Marcos Highway, 2019.

Dead to sin, alive to God

Brothers and sisters: We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:9-11

It has been four months since houses of worship were ordered closed to help stop the spread of the corona virus. Somehow, the lockdown had made us realize the importance of receiving the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist.

But, sacraments are not everything for we have the bigger roles of putting into practice its reality of being the saving presence of Jesus Christ.

Now that lowly life is beginning to go back to its usual grind especially the traffic, soon we might forget again the more important things in life like God and our relationships in our family and friends that it is hoped we have rediscovered during the quarantine period.

That is why I strongly feel the government must now allow Churches to open so the people may experience again God in the sacraments and in our rites and rituals lest they get busy again with so many things only to miss finding anew the meaning of our lives found in silence and stillness before the Cross of Christ.

It is my hope that in this quarantine period, may we find through the Cross of Jesus that when we learn to submit and surrender to him, that is when we truly become free; and, when we lose and give away our lives to him, that is when we gain fullness of life in him. Amen.

A blessed week and a more abundant July to everyone!

Jesus our living bread, life of the world

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Cycle A, 14 June 2020
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 )))+((( 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 )))+((( John 6:51-58
An icon of the Holy Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. Photo from wikipedia.

Above is the beautiful 15th century icon of the Blessed Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. It was based on the Genesis story of God (chapter 18) visiting Abraham at Mamre like angels sharing a meal while in deep conversations, indicating their relationships.

The icon masterfully portrays God as a Trinity of Persons relating with one another in love symbolized by the Eucharistic meal they share.

Most interesting like in most icons is how in this painting the viewer gets involved with the dialogue of the Trinity, thus, becoming the fourth person in the icon present with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit like Abraham at Mamre!

I am presenting this icon to you my dear readers and followers to show you the amazing flow of our liturgy these two Sundays as we resumed Ordinary Time on the Monday after Pentecost last month: From the highest truth in our teachings of One God in Three Persons last Sunday, today we have this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to remind us and experience anew that this God we worship and adore is present among us, relating with us in the most personal manner.

Change in name, change of emphasis

Originally known as Corpus Christi or Body of Christ, today’s solemnity was renamed following Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy to give more emphasis on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that the Preface used before the Consecration is that of Holy Thursday.

Holy Hour in our Parish, Sacred Heart Novena 2020

In the old tradition, focus was more on the Blessed Sacrament – of Jesus Christ reserved in the tabernacle and presented to the faithful for adoration as the Body of Christ, that is, Corpus Christi.

However, when Vatican II changed its name into the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ”, there was something deeper than the change of name.

The new name challenges us to see the deeper reality of the Holy Eucharist: more than spending time praying before the Blessed Sacrament – though it is good – we are demanded as followers of Jesus Christ to be present like him with others.

Without disregarding the importance of the Blessed Sacrament that have seen a renewed interest among people in this time of corona while churches are closed, Vatican II’s shift in emphasis dares to challenge us disciples of Christ to emulate him in allowing ourselves to be broken for others, to be poured out, offered and shared especially in this time of crisis.

It is in our being broken like the Body of Christ, and poured out like his Blood do we really live the paschal mystery.

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

John 6:51-53
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus is the living bread, the life of the world

Our gospel today is not from the Last Supper as we might expect; instead, it is taken from the “Bread of Life discourse” found only in St. John’s gospel which took place after Jesus had fed more than 5000 people in the wilderness from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.

It was a very decisive moment in the ministry of Jesus as far as St. John was concerned; in fact, he refused to call the feeding of 5000 as a “miracle” but as a “sign” that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah.

Here, we have Jesus speaking clearly, no matter how difficult it may be for his listeners and even for us.

And we wonder, why he spoke that way?

Even today in the Holy Mass, considering the mixed crowd we have in every celebration, the priest is obliged to speak clearly and distinctly the words of Christ at the Last Supper similar to his bread of life discourse, “Take this, all of you and eat it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

Jesus always speaks the truth, he always tells us what is true and he never misleads us.

Unlike us when we say something and mean another thing. We always have to speak in ways that has to be deciphered because we really do not mean what we say. Or we are afraid of saying something else because we prefer to please people than stand by what is true.

But not the Lord! From that day until now, Jesus says the same thing and means always the same, that he is always with us, in us, and among us.

And he has proven then and now, time and time again most especially in our personal lives, that indeed Jesus was sent down from heaven as the “living bread” because he is the “life of the world”.

More than the bread from heaven called manna sent by God to the Israelites during their journey in the wilderness into the Promised Land (first reading), Jesus is the bread who sustains us in our new “exodus” and journey into the Father’s house, into fulfillment.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News of the plight of stranded people opting to wait at an underpass nearest the airport in their desire to get home

Life an Exodus with Jesus leading us

This pandemic and life under quarantine is an exodus in itself calling us to go back to God, to rely solely in him for he alone can save us. That is why he gave us his only Son, Jesus Christ who in turn gave himself totally, Body and Blood to sustain us in this journey or exodus.

Every exodus is always painful but filled with grace because God is most present with us.

That is why we join Masses on television or the internet while others dare to go to churches for the actual celebration of Mass to receive Holy Communion.

We are convinced that Jesus is sustaining us, nourishing us, raising us, helping us, inspiring us in this time of crisis.

And that is why the more we need to pray and even celebrate the Mass because the more we need Jesus Christ as food and drink in this difficult journey.

We can all feel the stress and pressures of the difficulties and uncertainties of this time. Making things worst than the financial and physical sufferings we all go through are the psychological burdens we silently bear that unfortunately others do not seem to think of or even realize.

Mang Dodong who was held for 30 days for not having a quarantine pass while buying fish in Navotas. Photo from GMA News TV.

How sad when others think only of themselves of getting tired, of being hurt, of being misunderstood that they do not care at all with the feelings and well being of those around them like our callous politicians and officials in government and the police.

Sometimes, watching the news can be so depressing when we see all the troubles and sufferings our brothers and sisters have to go through like those stranded in Metro Manila, those separated from their loved ones, those subjected to discrimination because of the COVID-19, those living alone, those who have lost family members and friends, those who have lost many opportunities in life.

But at the same time, the more we are challenged by these sufferings of our people to be like Jesus, to be the living bread, to share with them Jesus who is our very life.

Let us heed the call of St. Paul in the second reading to be one with our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in their brokenness, in their sufferings by being present to them in love and kindness, in being more understanding.

We are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, his very presence in this world that continues to disregard him, that until now tries to live without him.

May we not fall into that temptation and sin that is largely the reason behind this pandemic: modern man has forgotten that no matter what is our situation in life, we remain poor before God who alone can fulfill our deepest desires and longings.

Despite the many difficulties we face especially with the continued closure of houses of worship, let us continue to work and find creative means in sharing Jesus Christ with others, in coming to him and receiving him in the Holy Communion.

Only Jesus can help us through this pandemic.

In fact, he was the first to die on the Cross by giving us his Body and Blood so that we may live and share his gift of life with others.

A blessed week ahead of you!

Photo by our parish choir member Gelo Nicolas Carpio, our Church at sunset last Sunday.

When a small act of kindness is like a pinch of salt

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week X, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 June 2020
1 Kings 17:7-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 5:13-16
“Tiangge” in Carigara, Leyte; photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

When this pandemic struck us and kept us home for two months, Lord, you never failed to bless us with food on our tables. It does not really matter whatever was served but the most important thing is how we have shared meals with family and friends, even with strangers.

And what makes food so glorious and wonderful, Lord, is not merely the food itself, be it meat or poultry, vegetables or fish but the things we take for granted like the people who prepared and gathered together, and not to forget, ingredients that bring out the flavor like the lowly salt.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

Matthew 5:13

Like the food we prepare and share, we are good in ourselves because of you, Lord.

But our real goodness comes out when we become kind and generous with others, even a single smile or a pat on a shoulder of someone else can always make a world of difference. Indeed, a small deed is better than the best intention.

Like that widow at Zarephath of Sidon who was so kind and generous enough first to give your prophet Elijah some water and later with a bit of bread.

And you rewarded her kindness with overflowing goodness:

She was able to eat for a year, and Elijah and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:15-16

Teach us, O Lord, to be generous like St. Ignatius of Loyola and make life here on earth more flavorful with just a pinch of salt.

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous, 
teach me to serve you as you deserve. 
To give and not to count the cost, 
to fight and not to heed the wounds, 
to toil and not to seek for rest, 
to labor and not to seek reward, 
except that of knowing that I do your most holy will. 
Amen.
Photo by author, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Monastery, Guiguinto, Bulacan, 2019.