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.

The problem with beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-2 for the Soul 
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Advent Week III, 17 December 2020
Genesis 49:2, 8-10     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 1:1-17
Photo by author of sun beginning to shine over the mountain ranges Sinai Desert in Egypt, May 2019.

Yesterday we started our reflection with an old Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear? by Bing Crosby; today, it is Andy Williams turn to serenade us with the opening lines to the theme of the 1970 film Love Story:

Where do I begin 
To tell the story of how great a love can be 
The sweet love story that is older than the sea 
The simple truth about the love she brings to me 
Where do I start

No. I did not see that movie now a classic but I was old enough to remember its theme that became popular even for some more years during the 70’s that made Andy Williams so well-known when we were in elementary school. His song came to my mind as I grappled – which usually happened – on how to begin this reflection.

Where do I begin or how shall I begin? is one of our most common question in almost anything we start doing or telling because beginning any undertaking is always difficult. Experts have tackled it like Stephen Covey telling us to “begin with the end in sight” while Simon Sinek insists we always “start with why”.

Every beginning – like a homily or a speech, a business venture, or even an exercise program – means so much as it gives us a gist of where it is leading to, of what is going to happen.

The evangelists also wrestled with the same issue and they all have their own style in starting their gospel account but nothing beats Matthew in his most unique manner by beginning with a series of names in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. According to the late American biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown, he was willing to bet that if anyone is asked to tell the story of Jesus to a non-believer, no one will ever imitate Matthew by starting with Abraham begetting Isaac, Isaac is the father of…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…

Matthew 1:1-3
Photo by author of an oasis in the Dead Sea region of Israel, May 2017.

God the Prime Mover, the Beginning of everything

Today we shift our focus in our Advent preparations to the first coming of Jesus Christ when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Strictly speaking, the Church’s official countdown to Christmas begins only today when all our weekday readings from December 17-24 are focused on how the birth of Jesus happened.

And what a way to start this series with the gospel by Matthew that begins with “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”! The Greek is more literal in stating it as “The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

That makes Matthew’s gospel so unique by starting it with names that all sound so weird to us today.
So, what’s with the names? Of course, a name is everything!

Companies and organizations pay huge amounts of money for their trademarks and logos like Coca-Cola, IBM, and Apple. Some corporate or product names have in fact entered our vocabulary like Xerox for copiers, Colgate for toothpaste and Frigidaire for refrigerators.

Every name carries a story, a meaning, a mission, even a destiny. How sad that we Filipinos rarely take this seriously especially in giving names to children that often becomes a joke or a disaster, or both. But to foreigners especially the Jewish people, a name is more than an identification but also one’s mission.

When we examine each name in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, we discover it is just like our own family trees with some men and women not really that exceptional, even a shame and an embarrassment to the family. Behind each name we have heard is an imperfect person -except for Joseph and Mary – with so many sins and mistakes.

And that is the good news of today: God does not call the qualified but qualifies His call.

Everything begins with God – our lives and coming into being. In all eternity, God perfectly knows everything that will happen to us and yet He chose to believe in us, despite our imperfections and being prone to sin that He sent us to this world with a mission to make His Son our Lord Jesus come into the world through us, just like his ancestors.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.

From the imperfect “house of King David” to Jesus Christ’s eternal kingdom

Let us take the first name mentioned by Matthew in starting his gospel, David who makes this genealogy so interesting. In fact, it was on him the whole genealogy is structured by Matthew. And we all know how imperfect was David, of how he had sinned when he took Bathsheba the wife of army officer Uriah whom he ordered placed in a position that got him killed in a battle.

But that is how God works – so unlike us! God is a God of surprises who works so unpredictably unlike us humans. Imagine after all the sex scandals with Bathsheba, God still promised an eternal kingdom coming from the house of David, that of Jesus Christ: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sam.7:16, first reading on Sunday and morning of Thursday).

At the end of his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew added this interesting note:

Thus the total number of of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:17

Matthew is up to something here! Why build around the history of Israel and genealogy of Jesus Christ around a person who had gravely sinned against God and others?

Most likely. Remember how Matthew experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness when Jesus came to call him while at his tax collection booth and he immediately stood and left everything behind to follow the Lord. Matthew knew well that God is not like humans who box people and label them like things.

Caravaggio’s famous painting of the call of Matthew by Jesus from wikicommons.org.

In assembling to us three sets of fourteen generations that traced the coming of Jesus Christ from Abraham structured around David, Matthew shows us how God worked through this sinful man a series of new “beginnings” in life, both in grace and in sin. See the genealogy rising from Abraham to David, then its decline and descent from Solomon to the Babylonian Exile, and then rising again to the advent of Jesus.

Now try to imagine how great and loving is our God and Father who chose to believe in David, a person just like us with many imperfections and prone to sins! See His power and holiness in setting any sinful situation for new beginnings of grace and blessings.


Sometimes,
God uses our occasions of sins
as new beginnings 
of His grace and blessings.

One thing I have realized in life is that our most unforgettable moments happen either when we are nearest, or farthest away from God.

This is very amazing. Consider when are we closest to God? Most often that is when we were high and good, feeling blessed and loved, when healthy and successful that were ironically the times we rarely thought of God. We only remember those moments as our closest with God after being away in fact from Him!

And when are we farthest from God? Quickly we say when we were deep in sin, when lost, or when unloved and misunderstood.

Between these two moments, it is most often when we are farthest from God that is always most unforgettable, the ones we remember always, the ones that have left the deepest cut in us because those times in turn have become occasions for us to begin anew in God!

Like David. Or Matthew known before as Levi the tax collector.

Photo by author of the Lake of Galilee shortly after sunrise, May 2019.

That is how God sometimes would make it for us to begin anew in Him! See how at the first set of fourteen generations from Abraham to David, we find the whole history of Israel so close with God punctuated by Egypt and Exodus when their sins “turned” into their favor. In the second set of fourteen generations from Solomon to the Babylonian exile, the Israelites sank into their lowest point in history when led by their kings they turned away from God, worshipping idols. But, God did not abandon them as we see in the third set of fourteen generations when things got better as the Israelites returned to God and to their Promised Land reaching its high point in Jesus Christ’s birth.

God is the beginning of everything and even if we try to “end” with our many sins what He had began, He always finds ways to begin anew even when we are so far away from Him.

This is also the meaning of the Jacob’s choice for Judah over his other sons in being the tribe to continue his family line leading to the fulfillment of the Davidic lineage in Jesus Christ. It was from Judah came the name of their religion “Judaism” even if Judah was not the best and holiest of Jacob’s sons. Joseph the Dreamer must have been the wisest choice as more suitable to have been blessed by their father or by God himself but, that is not the way of God.

By starting his gospel with the line “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”, Matthew shows us God’s total power and goodness as source and beginning of all good things who also has the last and final say in everything.

In the genealogy of Jesus, we are reminded that every day is a new beginning in God, right in our darkness and sin, in our sickness and pandemic. David like Judah may have sinned so great before God but His mercy and love proved greater than their sins that they were able to rise again to become better and holier in His grace.

That’s one great beginning we can start right here, right now in our Simbang Gabi! A blessed Thursday to you! Amen.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, our Parish at night, 29 November 2020.

From “cage” of sin to heavenly wedding

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 November 2020
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9     >>>  +   <<<     Luke 21:20-28

Praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ for your words today that offer us with clear images about true freedom that leads to fullness of life. So often, many among us are greatly misled by the belief that true freedom is breaking free from sufferings and God and morals, of having absolute freedom to do everything.

That has always been one of the fundamental tenets of pagans of ancient Rome you have banished for being a “cage”, an imprisonment!

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a haunt for demons. She is a cage for every unclean spirit, a cage for every unclean bird, a cage for every unclean and disgusting beast.”

Revelation 18:2, 21

True freedom is choosing what is true and good, trying to bear all pains and sufferings that purify us into better persons, that free us from impurities to enter into your heavenly banquet of eternal life.

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:9

Life continues to bear down upon us these days, Lord, especially the poor who are left with almost nothing in this life; worst, with nothing else but their dignity as persons, there are times they are being forced to give it up for a price.

Give us the grace of perseverance, to withstand all pressures by holding on to you, clinging to your merciful love that amid all the trials and sufferings going on, we may “stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand” (Lk.21:28).

Let us not be ashamed of being faithful to you, Jesus, for you alone can lead us to true freedom as a person. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King celebrations in the parish, 22 November 2020.

Prayer for inner strength

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIII, Year II, 07 September 2020
1 Corinthians 5:1-8    ///     Luke 6:6-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, 2019.

Forgive us, loving and merciful Father, for the many times we have chosen to be silent in the face of ongoing evil around us, when we unknowingly conspire in silence against you, against life, against justice.

Both our readings today speak about this deafening silence among us in many situations when we are so afraid to speak for what is good and true.

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”

Luke 6:6-9

Worst than our silence in standing for life and dignity of persons is our “unwitting support” for evil and sin so as not to disturb our family and community.

Brothers and sisters: It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans — a man living with is father’s wife. And you are inflated with pride. Should you not rather have been sorrowful? The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2

How true is the saying that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing” (attributed to both Edmund Burke and John F. Kennedy).

Photo by author, Jaffa, Israel, May 2017.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus.

Strengthen us inside, make our will and our hearts strong to stand for your Gospel specially when friends and families are the ones doing what is wrong and sinful.

Strengthen our firm resolve to be consistent in living our new life in you, Jesus, that is free from what others would say about us and free to be our true selves freed from sin, free to love and be faithful to you and for others.

Enlighten our minds and our hearts with your Holy Spirit on the actions we must take and words we must say to win them back to you.

Most of all, purify our intentions that we do this out of love for you and our beloved going astray. Amen.

Praying for holiness in the world

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr, 14 August 2020
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 19:3-12
From companionsofstanthony.org

“The most resplendent manifestation of God’s glory is the salvation of souls, whom Christ redeemed by shedding his blood. To work for the salvation and sanctification of as many souls as possible, therefore, is the preeminent purpose of the apostolic life.”

From the Letters of Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Office of Readings

Praise and thanksgiving to you our loving Father for a holy saint in our modern time, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe whose memorial we celebrate today. His offering of his life in place of another prisoner at Auschwitz in 1941 was a fitting cap for his life of dedication in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in words and in deeds.

Though there are no more gas chambers unlike during the time of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the killing of so many people in various forms and methods continue to this day — right on our streets, in abortion clinics, in prisons, even in our homes and in social media where we spread toxins of lies that mislead and destroy many lives.

Inspire us like St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe to work for the sanctification of the world by sharing more of your love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness to everyone especially the weak and vulnerable to abuses and worldly influences.

Like this modern saint who lived during the harshest conditions of World War II, may we strive to make you present in the world where despite the ease and comforts of modern life, many of us are still lost and alone, feeling angry, empty, and confused.

Through our lives, may we fill the world with your presence and holiness by reminding people to return to your original plan of harmony and unity in your love as Jesus told the Pharisees in the gospel today:

Jesus said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Matthew 19:8

Most of all, to make the world holy anew, grant us courage to stand for what is true and good, to remain standing at the side of your Son’s Cross for indeed, as St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe had taught us in one of his writings, “The deadliest poison of our time is indifference.” Amen.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

When we are the weeds among the wheat….

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2020
Jeremiah 14:17-22 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:36-43

God our merciful Father, today we pray for our countrymen blinded by the many evils happening in our land today. For those who continue to defend the cycle of murders and killings to weed us out of criminals and addicts, for those who defend the blasphemies uttered against you and jokes against everyone, for those who continue to deny something is terribly wrong among our leaders.

We pray for them all, Lord. Open their eyes and their ears to the many sufferings around us: the cries of mothers losing a child, the pains of fathers losing their jobs, the frustrations of young people in finding a job, and the alienation of a nation lost in a circus where clowns are running the government.

Like your Prophet Jeremiah whom you have asked to tell your people in Judah and Israel how their sins have caused all their miseries and sufferings, enlighten us more to wake up our nation to the truth we have turned away from you.

Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. If I walk into the field, look! Those slain by the sword; if I enter the city, look! Those consumed by hunger. Why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you. Is it not you alone, O Lord, our God, to whom we look?

Jeremiah 14:17-18, 19-20, 22

Show us the way, the path back to you, O Lord.

We have become the weeds among the wheat, trying to ruin everything.

We have become callous and numb with our sins, too, that others cannot believe our calls for conversion and renewal.

Renew us, O Lord, so we may listen more to your words that will guide us to recovery and conversion. Amen.

Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao City, August 2018.

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!