When evil overtakes us

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

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

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

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

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

St. Thomas Aquinas,
Pray for us!

The evil that is jealousy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week II, Year II in Ordinary Time, 20 January 2022
1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   Mark 3:7-12
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought: “They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.” And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.

1 Samuel 18:8-9
God our loving Father,
today you present to us the
very familiar feeling of jealousy
we experience in our relationships 
when we feel and fear losing 
something or someone we already have; 
it is an unpleasant feeling that creeps 
into us when we think someone 
is trying to take what is already ours -
like Saul who felt David was trying
to steal the kingship from him.  
But what is most evil with jealousy
is how it makes us so obsessed with 
how we compare ourselves with others,
competing with people close to us
we perceive as rivals when they are not!
Teach us to be at home with our
true selves, with who we really are,
that we are good and adequate in ourselves; 
like Jesus Christ who was 
being pressed by people for his 
teaching prowess and power to heal,
give us the grace to always be ready
to go out to the sea to see our worth
before you our Father who loves us so
much in our very own uniqueness lest
our jealousies lead us to more harmful
evils and sins.  Amen.

Being wise, avoiding sin

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2021
Wisdom 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Luke 17:1-6
Photo by author, Israel, 2017.
Thank you dear Jesus 
for the assurance of your
love and understanding 
as well as the fair warning that
"Things that cause sin will 
inevitably occur.  It would be
better for him if a millstone 
were put around his neck and 
he be thrown into the sea than
for him to cause one of these
little ones to sin" (Luke 17:1-2).
I know, Lord, it is not an excuse
but a fact of life that we shall always
be fighting sins and evil while here
on earth as we strive to follow you;
but I know too well, dear Lord, of the
deep pains and sorrows, the widespread 
anguish every kind of scandal brings
to our family and society, most 
specially to the Mother Church.

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, his power, put to the proof rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin.

Wisdom 1:1-4
Forgive us, merciful Jesus,
strengthen us to live in wisdom,
keeping our hearts free from "perverse 
thoughts" so that your Holy Spirit of
instruction may fill and guide us to 
keep us from becoming a "skandalon"
or a rock that causes one to fall and sin.
Amen.

Claiming God’s grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 October 2021
Romans 5:12, 15, 17-19, 20-21   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 12:35-38
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com
Praise and glory to you,
our loving God and Father
in giving us so much hope today,
inspiring us to be better, to be free
to choose and follow you,
to love and serve you in one another.

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:20-21
Let us live in your Son
Jesus Christ, in the realm of grace
than live in Adam in the realm of sin
and death, enslaved to our passions
and selfish desires.
Let your Holy Spirit work within us,
dear Jesus, to allow us to live in a way
pleasing to God our Father.
Like the psalmist, enable us to proclaim,
"Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will."
Open our eyes to the reality,
O God, of the two kinds of humanity
pervading:  the sinful humanity and the
redeemed humanity in Christ;
how sad that so often, especially
in the news we read and follow,
it is always the humanity in solidarity
with Adam in sin that seems to prevail.
Let us claim your abounding grace,
"girding our loins and lighting our lamps"
to be focused more on our justification
found in your righteousness in Christ.
Amen.

And God said, “Sanaol”!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXVI-B in Ordinary Time, 26 September 2021
Numbers 11:25-29 ><]]]*> James 5:1-6 ><]]]*> Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Photo by author, 2019.

One word I recently learned during my two week quarantine due to colds is the expression “sanaol” – short for “sana all” which is from “sana lahat”. Formed by combining the Filipino expression in making wishes “sana” and the English “all” for everyone, sanaol is said when you hear the blessings received by another person, wishing everyone is also blessed with same good things that range from ordinary things like food and money to girlfriend or boyfriend!

As I prayed over our readings this Sunday, I realized it must have been God who originally expressed “sanaol” on two occasions, first through Moses while in the desert and secondly through Jesus while with the Twelve at Capernaum.


From Twitter.com, 2019.

With God, sky’s the limit in doing good

It is so amazing this Sunday in our two readings how God sees us all as his children, his chosen people so blessed abundantly yet against this background is the human response of exclusivity and entitlement. Of pride and selfishness.

Consider how in the first reading when Joshua asked Moses to stop two men, named Eldad and Medad, from prophesying simply because they were not with him in the tent in meeting God while at the desert.

But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Number 11:29

“Sanaol prophets!” could have been the resounding reply by Moses to Joshua who misunderstood God’s freedom in bestowing his blessings to everyone. So many times not only with God but even with our own family, relatives or friends who have been generous with others that we stop and prevent them from sharing their goods, thinking we are doing a great service in jealously guarding their prerogatives.

Again, here we find like last Sunday our failure to find God in our way and journey in life that even his gifts we try to limit to ourselves.

At the least, it is a simplistic and myopic view on God’s and other’s generosities while at its worst, a selfish attitude within us to constrict God and others in giving away whatever good things they have.

Let us not forget the basic truth on the nature of God’s gifts and grace as ways and means for being of service and for the good of the community. Why limit those blessed to share gifts and blessings? Besides, God or whomever is totally free to give away whatever they have without denying or impoverishing anyone by giving away goods to others.

Photo from inquirer.net, May 2021.

This is the teaching of Jesus to the Twelve who reported to him how they have tried to stop someone from exorcising in his name because he did not belong to their group.

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Mark 9:39-40

“Sanaol good and helpful!” could have been the Lord’s reply to his disciples, reminding them the most obvious truth that with God and everything that is good, there can be no labels and divisions or groupings. We are all one in God our Father who is the source of all good; hence, we must neither monopolize the right to do good nor belittle the good others do even if they are not one of us or do not belong to our fold.

The Lord knows very well his own, we need not worry about such petty things on who’s who or to whom belongs whatever. God knows everything. What matters most is we keep on doing what is truly good so that despite the limitations we have in this life, we continue to strive to create a just and humane society here on earth as envisioned by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium.

Sin: the only limitation

If sky is the limit in doing good with God, Jesus reminds us today that the only limitation and obstacle in our lives is sin. The Lord is very clear with this truth that he had to explain things in details to the the Twelve lest they fall into this big trap.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye that with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”

Mark 9:42-43, 45, 47

“Sanaol understand” that all good gifts can come only from God, that is why we have to respect the freedom and conscience of everyone in the good deeds they do. Whoever keeps the laws of God faithfully are always blessed abundantly. No religious barrier nor label can hold that in check.

When pride and selfishness move into one’s heart, then everything is destroyed and made dirty. Recall how Jesus declared last month that “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mk.7:15). We have to examine our selves closely so as not to destroy the beauty of goodness and ability to do what is good planted in each of us by God.

Photo by author, 22 September 2021.

Here we are challenged by Jesus to closely examine our being his disciples, of how close have we been in knowing him as our Lord and Master.

Is it Jesus whom we are following or our very selves, our own thoughts and ideas of who is Jesus Christ not as he is?

Notice how in our gospel this Sunday we are presented with contrasts, first, of doing good that is without limits and committing sins that delimit us doing what is good, not affiliations and labels.

But the most wonderful contrasts we can find that gives us a clearer picture of life are found in Jesus: his meekness especially the sinful contrite of their sins and his sternness with the self-righteous who highly regarded themselves like the Pharisees and scribes, assuring they would never enter the kingdom of heaven because of such attitude; his open-mind with those doing good outside his circle of disciples and his strict demands of being good that whatsoever you do to the least you have also done to him.

Here we discover there are no compromises with Jesus, no gray areas that he demands everyone to “say yes if you mean yes and no if you mean no” (Mt.5:37) because the more we get closer to him, the more we realize the coherence of his teachings and of his person as the Christ of God.

It is always the same Lord who speaks, who is truth and life himself. Unlike us humans who suddenly change our stand and views on everything when tempted with money and riches. This is the reason why we have this portion of the letter by St. James: we are dared to examine our attitude with regard to riches and material wealth because it clearly reveals our world view in life. A lot often, attachment to earthly goods show our lack of belief in eternal life toward which this temporal life is directed. Jesus himself we cannot follow him if we are slaves to money and riches for you cannot serve both God and mammon.


Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, 2017.

Three Sundays ago at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked us like the Twelve, “who do you say that I am? (Mk.8:29)”. It is a very crucial question demanding from us a personal answer so we can truly enter into a deeper relationship with him and be able to forget ourselves, carry our cross and follow him.

The more we get to know Jesus, the more we can see him clearly, the more we will love him dearly, and the more we become like him eventually, willing to leave everything including wealth and riches of the world for the love of God through others. Amen.

“Sanaol follow Jesus!” Have a blessed week ahead.

Making room for God, finding our home in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year I, 23 July 2021
Exodus 20:1-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:18-23
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from commons.wikimedia.org
It has been raining for a week,
loving God and Father.
Farmers and sowers must be so
delighted to come out in the fields
to sow their seeds while we stay home
trying to keep ourselves dry and warm.
Help us to make room for you, dear Father,
to open up ourselves to the seeds 
of your presence that come to us daily
in your words in the Sacred Scriptures.
Let us be like the fertile soil in the parable
by Jesus "who hears the word and 
understands it, who indeed  bears fruit
and yields a hundred or sixty or 
thirtyfold."  (Matthew 13:23)
Your seed is always good
springing into life wherever it falls
for you alone, O God, is good!
How lovely it is to imagine
that all Ten Commandments sprang up
from just one seed that is YOU, dear Father -
You are the seed we always reject
when You are the seed we all need.
Whenever we choose to commit sin,
we take on other strange gods
and idols besides You that
we worship and follow.
May we open ourselves to You, God
welcoming you like a seed into our little room
so we may find home in You when it blooms.
Amen.

Lent is uncovering our sins

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Fifth Week in Lent, 22 March 2021
Daniel 13:41-62   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   John 8:1-11

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for the gift of life, for this final week of Lent you are giving us to continue uncovering the sins we hide from you, from others and even from ourselves. And worst, the sins of others we bare to cover our own sins.

How wonderful are your words today, Lord, of two women accused of adultery – one falsely, the other guilty – but, the same story of your justice and mercy.

Susana in the first reading was spared from death when her two accusers who were both elders and judges of the people were convicted of perjury following the courage and wisdom of your prophet Daniel.

As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud, “I will have no part in the death of this woman.” All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?” He stood in their midst and continued, “Are you such fools, O children of Israel! To condemn a woman of Israel without examination and without clear evidence? Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”

Daniel 13:45-48

Stir in us, O God the same Holy Spirit that like Daniel we may have the courage to defend and stand for those wrongly accused of any wrongdoing whether in our homes or community or in the courts.

I pray most especially for women who are often at the receiving end of false accusations, of gossips and of hurtful lies. The victims of rape and molestation and sexual harassment cry in the silence of their deep pains and sufferings just because they are women and sadly, because their accusers are men of stature and position. Send us more Daniels, dear God to defend them.

Let us take into our hearts the challenge of your Son Jesus Christ to let the one who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at anyone guilty of sins (Jn.8:7). It is not that we must be silent with the evil persisting around us but so we may be cautious against hasty pronouncements and judgement against those guilty of any sin.

Worst of all is when we accuse sinners of evil they are guilty of doing only to cover our own sins we have been hiding from you and others, even foolishly from ourselves. Give us some decency, at least like those people, “beginning with the elders (Jn.8:9)” who left guilty of sins without casting any stone to the woman caught in adultery.

Have mercy on us, Jesus, when we act like those Pharisees and scribes who look for sinners, accuse them in public in order to look good and find something against you. Amen.

A shamefaced prayer

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Second Week of Lent, 01 March 2021
Daniel 9:4-10     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     Luke 6:36-38
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

On this first day of March in the second week of Lent, we borrow, dear God our Father this wonderful prayer by the Prophet Daniel. It is so sincere, filled with contrition because of admission of sin and guilt:

“Lord, great and awesome God… We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. Justice, O Lord, is on your side. We are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the countries to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you. O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you.”

Daniel 9:4, 5, 7-8

What a beautiful prayer for us especially this Lent, a prayer to be shamefaced which we need at this time when we have lost our sense of sinfulness, when more often we think of our many alibis and arguments in committing sins but never admitting nor owning them.

Detail of the Seventh Station of the Cross at the Parish of St. Ildephonse in Tanay, Rizal with the high priest Caiaphas wearing dark glasses. Photo by author, January 2021.

Forgive us, Lord, for our shamelessness in sins and evil when we should have long been shamefaced like the people of Judah during their Babylonian captivity.

Forgive us, Lord, most especially when instead of being shamefaced with our sins, we even defend and take pride in the evil we have done, filled with arrogance, lacking in any compunction at all.

It is this lack of being shamefaced with our sins that leads us too to being judgmental of others’ misgivings and evil. As a result, many of our relationships fall out because as we refuse to admit our sinfulness, we stop being generous in our love and mercy, kindness and goodwill.

This Lent, give us some sense of shame again, Lord. Mahiya naman kami maski sa aming sarili, Panginoon. Amen.

God’s encompassing love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
40 Shades of Lent, First Sunday, Year B, 21 February 2021
Genesis 9:8-15   +   1Peter 3:18-22   +   Mark 1:12-15
Photo by author, ancient fortress of Masada in Israel, 2017.

Lent may be the most sparse in outward signs and decorations like flowers in all liturgical seasons but it is the most dense in meaning and imageries. Although it is often seen as a drab with its motif of penitential violet and subdued music when both Gloria and Alleluia are omitted, Lent sparkles with profundity and depth leading to joy deep within if we truly dwell into its main message of God’s encompassing love for us.

Take our gospel this First Sunday of Lent this year taken from Mark. It is the shortest compared with Matthew and Luke who both give us details, but, Mark’s brevity is so precise and thought-provoking, too!

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020, Infanta, Quezon.

Life is a daily Lent.

Of all the seasons in our liturgical calendar, Lent is my favorite because for me, it captures best the reality of life that is at the same time so beautiful but in some aspects ugly, nice but painful. There is always that contrasts of light and darkness that indeed, life is Lent, a daily Exodus filled with trials and difficulties that lead to joy and fulfillment in God.

See how Mark shows this so well in his brief narration that begins after the scene of the baptism of Jesus by John at Jordan. Immediately after that, Mark tells us without fanfare, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”

Is it not this is how life really is?!

At once after praying, after celebrating the Mass that is when you get into a debate with your wife or husband, son or daughter or siblings. Sometimes it happens while you are still in the church you get into arguments about parking. Right after you have resolved to be a better person and turn away from sins and its occasions, that is when your friends would come and ask you to join their “gimmicks” or that is when your “ex” would come or text you, entice you to go out again.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2020.

The desert is the image of that place of so many battles in life, where we cried in pain, where we were rejected, where we were hurt. Our life is like the desert, so hot and humid at day, so cold and freezing at night. Worse of all, the desert is our life because that is where we fight Satan who always deceives us with his many temptations that eventually lead us to wrong decisions, hurting not only us but those dearest to us, dividing our families, separating us from one another that in the end, we feel trapped in a terrible mess.

But, it is not that all bad because Jesus joins us in our battles and struggles in this life, in this desert that we find ourselves in a similar situation, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

Yes, life is difficult but it is in those situations we find its meaning and beauty. Though there are so many trials and sufferings, God never leaves our side, sending us angels like family and friends, even strangers who come and stay with us in life, believing in us, helping us, and most of all, loving us — right in the desert.

Photo by author, an oasis in the Dead Sea area of Israel, 2017.

Like an oasis where life springs abundantly, Jesus joins us in our many struggles against Satan by giving us the strength and courage to remain faithful to God, to experience fulfillment and salvation by giving us little pockets of Easter in the midst of our daily lent.

See that “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. Amid the bad news of John’s arrest, Jesus began his ministry and mission of love and mercy for us all, It was in the middle of such disturbing situation that Jesus came boldly proclaiming, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The same is true with us today as we enter the first full year of the pandemic that had altered our way of life so drastically, causing us so much pains in the many losses we have suffered in life and properties, God comes closest to us in Jesus especially in the Mass (https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/23/from-fishermen-to-fishers-of-men/)!

Most of all, as we shall see in this Season of Lent, even in the midst of sins and evil, that is when God comes closest to us to experience him and his saving grace.

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison who had been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah… This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.

1Peter 3:18-21
From Google.

Baptism as the key to Lent.

The key to understanding the Season of Lent is to see it in the light of the Sacrament of Baptism. Originally as a preparation to the mother of all feasts in the Church we call Easter, Lent was the period when candidates (catechumens) for baptism were prepared. That explains why the Easter Vigil we celebrate is too long because it was only during that time when people were baptized especially when the Church came under persecution.

In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean of our sins, we are cleansed and purified to get by in this life in the desert as beloved children of God.

He knows so well our human situation, our living in the wilderness that Jesus had to leave Paradise for a while to be with us here on earth, going through all our human experiences except sin so we may return to the Father’s home in heaven. Remember how we mentioned Lent as a journey back into the Father’s home: Ash Wednesday is the porch and every Sunday is a room we enter until we reach the Father’s inner room on Easter to be one with him in Jesus.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

In the first reading we have heard the story when God made a covenant with Noah and his children after the great flood which prefigured Baptism that cleansed the world of all the sins and evil. God had felt sad in creating the world when people turned away from him living in sins that he decided to destroy everything by sending a great flood. However, he found Noah as the only one along with his family still living uprightly. So, God asked Noah to build an ark where they stayed during the flood along with the different animals representative of every species. In effect, Noah prefigured the new Adam in Christ who came to be the new beginning of the human race, clean and without sin. After the flood, God sealed a covenant with Noah with the rainbow as its sign.

God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”

Genesis 9:12-15

As I was telling you at the start, Lent is so rich in meanings. When you look on the Crucifix and find those arms of Jesus outstretched when he died on Good Friday, that is the new rainbow of his covenant with us we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Remember when you look at Jesus Christ crucified, he is the rainbow promised to Noah by God that he would never destroy all mortal beings again.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

During the first Sunday of the COVID-19 lockdown that fell on the Fourth Sunday of Lent that was also my 55th birthday last year, we decided to carry around my previous parish the Blessed Sacrament so that the people may at least adore God after churches were ordered closed and public Masses suspended.

On the last leg of our route, it began to rain but I told our driver to go ahead with our “libot” until suddenly, as we turned to a long stretch of road in the middle of rice fields, there appeared over the horizon a rainbow! The sight made me cry as I felt God assuring me on my birthday that we can pull through this pandemic, that he is with us and would protect us, keep us safe.

And he kept his promise. Our parish had the lowest incidence of COVID-19 in the town of Santa Maria. From then on every Sunday afternoon, we would borrow the F-150 truck of our neighbor and I would carry the Blessed Sacrament around our parish, blessing the people who knelt at the side of the road. Eventually, it led us to innovations like “walk-thru” and “drive-thru” Holy Communion when I would announce the distribution of Holy Communion after our online Masses in front of our Parish Church and in some designated areas along the highway.

It was the most memorable Lent I ever had in my life when everything felt so real like Jesus in the desert being tempted. Yes, life is like in the desert where the devil and wild beasts attack us.

Have faith, be firm, and take courage in Jesus Christ for we are all covered and protected in his power and might, love and mercy. He is the Father’s best sign of his all-encompassing love for us sinners. Amen.

A blessed week to you!

Photo by author, 2019.

Email me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Opening to God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 12 February 2021
Genesis 3:1-8     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Mark 7:31-37
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, 07 January 2021.

Listening to your words as the day unfolds, dearest Lord, I have realized that not all “opening” is good after all. Sometimes we want to open so many things in ourselves that only lead to opening to sin and evil, instead of opening to truth and peace and justice found only in you.

Teach us, O God our loving Father, to open only to you and completely trust you in your opening to us because it is when we start opening other possibilities like gaining more knowledge, more life, more of ourselves that we actually start closing out from you like in the story of the fall of man.

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked. When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:6-7, 8
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

So many times in life, dear God, we cannot accept other’s openness because we are so closed to ourselves. There are times that instead of going out into the open, we hide from you as if we can conceal what is exposed and open.

Open our eyes to see you in ourselves, to see ourselves in you and in others too.

How funny that in the gospel today, your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, healed a deaf man by opening his ears. And in doing so, he first “took him off by himself away from the crowd” (Mk.7:33), then healed him by looking up to heaven, groaning with the word “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”).

Ultimately, Lord, it is always easy to open our eyes and see or, open our ears and hear without really opening ourselves, opening our hearts that connect all senses into our whole being.

What matters most which we all pray today is to open us, O God, to you completely so that we may see and listen with our hearts inclined to you. Amen.