Christ our King & our overcoming of sin

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle C, 20 November 2022
2 Samuel 5:1-3 ><000'> Colossians 1:12-20 ><000'> Luke 23:35-43
Painting of Christ’s Crucifixion by Tintoretto in 1565 portraying Jesus so “kingly”; interesting too were the people dressed as Venetians of his time as reminder that the evils that crucified Jesus continue in our own time. Photo from wikiart.org.

We now come to the final Sunday of our liturgical calendar called the Solemnity of Christ the King with a scene from his crucifixion on Good Friday. All these Sundays since June “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51), Luke had been showing us that Christ’s crucifixion and glory are one just like John in his gospel account.

But the most beautiful part of our gospel on this solemn celebration is the fact that inasmuch as Jesus had clearly showed in all eternity his kingship while dying on the Cross, it is also right on the cross of sufferings as we strive to resist temptations of turning away from God that we proclaim Christ’s kingship. Please bear with me, my friends in reflecting Luke’s artistic presentation of Christ’s crucifixion as the expression of his kingship.

Notice how Jesus was “sneered, jeered, and reviled” at the cross, reminding us of the devil’s three temptations in the wilderness after his baptism at Jordan by John. After failing to tempt Jesus at the wilderness, Luke said the devil “departed from him for a time” (Lk.4:13), returning at his crucifixion as the most opportune time to test him.

In the wilderness, the temptations by the devil to Jesus applied very well with us too but, here on the cross, it was totally different. The devil himself was nowhere to be found because he was in the person of the rulers, the soldiers, and the thief! And that is how evil and sin have become so “powerful” in a pernicious manner among us when many times we are the devil in fact.

Here, we are reminded to be aware always of that opportune time when the devil attacks us when we see or face many sufferings in life by reflecting the last three temptations of Jesus on the Cross.

Photo by author, 2017, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC.

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God” (Lk.23:35).

Just like at the wilderness when the devil tempted Jesus with what he can do as the Son of God by changing stone into bread, at the Cross it was the same temptation hurled on him by the rulers of Israel, the priests and the scribes.

How sad that amid the many sufferings in the world today we contemptuously mock others like the poor for not working so hard to liberate themselves from poverty and hunger. There is the tendency among us blessed with better living conditions to look down at others without considering how they never have the same opportunities in life like us in having good education or a caring family or worse, not having the right connections.

The tragic part of this “sneering” by the rulers on Jesus is when we look at others as if they are not humans and persons like us who play gods knowing everything even who should live and who should die like in the systematic approach by state rulers to come up with what St. John Paul II called as “culture of death” in solving poverty and crime with abortions and capital punishments.

Let us examine our attitudes at the way we look at those going through sufferings and pains like sickness, poverty and other social ills we do not go through. Let us stop the mockeries of blaming them for their plight because many times like Jesus Christ, they were betrayed by loved ones like us, by the society, or even by the institutions meant to uplift them.

Photo by author, 2017.

Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews” (Lk.23:36-38).

Sneering and jeering are both contemptuous mocking or insulting of others; they are both employed by those in vantage positions of power and control like the rulers of Israel. Going “higher” than the priests, the Roman soldiers sneered Jesus by rudely mocking him in loud voice. Sneering is a superfluous display of might, of superiority, of power. It is a kind of vanity that is why in the wilderness, the devil tempted Jesus to have all the kingdoms in the world for him to be famous and popular in exchange of worshipping him.

Sneering is something so prevalent these days in our use of the social media where we practically scream and insist on everyone to notice and recognize us, that we have “arrived” in having the latest and most expensive clothes, food, gadgets and everything. There is so much wild attitude among us like the soldiers at the cross when we use social media in too much talks, even of spewing foul languages and invectives as well as lies. Fake news and lies spread so fast and are sadly taken as true to the detriment of its victims because we have been so gullible for gossips and rumors too.

But the worst part of our imitation of the soldiers jeering at Jesus is when many of us are afflicted with this perversion called exhibitionism – from those salacious posts in TikTok to those “food porns” and too much display of everything about ourselves and of our loved ones. When do we get tired of all these selfies that have become so sickening that we do not realize of how we make known to everyone of our emptiness and lack of the more essential things like love and self-respect? Like the soldiers, the more we promote ourselves, the more we affirm the obvious that Jesus indeed is the King we needed most.

Photo by author, 2017.

Now one of the criminal hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Lk.23:39).

Reviling is also kind of of mocking others like sneering and jeering; however, to revile is the lowest kind because it is to insult somebody you are with in a same situation. To revile is the lack of recognition of one’s faults and sins that he would rather insult others like this thief traditionally identified as Hestas. In reviling Jesus while also hanging on the cross, Hestas went down deeper his lowest point as a convicted criminal when he had the gall to insult Jesus!

And that is the most unkind evil of all when we become so numb, so dense and stupid to even mock others we are with us in a similar situation. It happens daily when even we are in deep shit, we still see ourselves cleaner and better than others! Just read or watch the news about our politicians.

In the wilderness, the final temptation of the devil to Jesus was to jump from the top of the temple because his angels would not let him fall and even touch ground; here at the cross, Hestas saw himself no different from Jesus, feeling so entitled to be liberated. Many times, this is the problem why evil continues among us: when people from below are promoted to higher positions, they forget their roots that they also forget to fix the problems of inequalities and injustices down below where they came from. The key is to always remember. Like Dimas, the good thief.

Photo by author, 2017.

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:40-4).

See how Luke inserted here the fourth verb “to rebuke” to break the series of sneering, jeering, and reviling of Jesus. Like Dimas, we have to strive in breaking the cycle and series of evil especially in this time.

To rebuke means to express sharp disapproval. Imagine Dimas contradicting Hestas and even the rulers and soldiers as well by defending Jesus Christ while hanging there on the cross.

How sad when we remain silent, when we just walk away from people sneering, jeering and reviling Jesus in those who suffer in life because we are afraid to make a stand for what is true and good, what is right and just. How ironic that another thief hanging on the cross was the only one who made a stand for Jesus on that Good Friday along with the Mary and the beloved disciple below.

Every time we make a stand for life and dignity of every person, when we stand for what is true, right and just, that is when we imitate the tribes of Israel in the first reading coming to David to pledge their loyalty and allegiance to him as their king.

When we submit ourselves to Jesus Christ as our only King to be obeyed and followed, that is when our celebration today becomes a daily reality.

That is when we also earn heaven right on the Cross of our sufferings like Dimas when we “remember” Jesus.

Normally in the whole Bible, it is God who remembers. People always forget. When we sin, we forget consciously and unconsciously God and all the good things he had done to us. We forget others too.

There on the Cross, see the reversals of roles Luke has presented so beautifully, from the devil replaced by the rulers, the soldiers and the other thief; and now Dimas sort of assuming God’s role who remembered everything and everyone, especially Jesus our Savior. Dimas remembered what St. Paul expressed to the Colossians that Jesus is Lord in whom, with whom and through whom everything was created and renewed because he is the Christ!

From Google.

The word “remember” literally means to make member or part again, that is, “re” + “member”.

When we remember somebody, we make that person present with us again.

In asking Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Dimas was assured that right now as he remembered everything including his sins, he already becomes a member, a part of his kingdom.

May we not forget and always remember Jesus and others always to experience Paradise even when we are on the cross. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Prayer to be good

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 07 November 2022
Titus 1:1-9   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. Be on your guard!

Luke 17:1, 3
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ for this great Monday!
Thank you for reminding us how sin
will inevitably occur in this life,
in this imperfect world.
Bless us, dear Jesus,
to be always on guard;
guide us and keep us strong
with clear mind and conscience
to never allow ourselves to 
cause others to sin;
Like St. Paul reminding Titus today,
help us to be blameless before you
and others, "not arrogant, 
not irritable, not a drunkard, 
not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain"
(Titus 1:7).
Help us, dear Jesus,
to be on guard by being good always
like being "hospitable, a lover of goodness,
temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled,
holding fast" (Titus 1:8) 
to your Gospel message of
love and mercy, 
kindness and justice.
Amen.

Our forgiving God & our lost sense of sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 11 September 2022
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 ><}}}}*> 1 Timothy 1:12-17 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:1-10
Photo by author, 2018.

Last Wednesday morning during breakfast, we heard on television news the interview of the undersecretary of agriculture blaming our farmers for the recent oversupply of garlic in Batanes and cabbage in Benguet, saying “they plant crops but they don’t think about the market for their harvests.”

We have been so used to such comments by many heartless government officials ever since; and, they also happen everywhere like in our schools where teachers blame students, at homes with parents blaming children and siblings blaming one another and of course, not to be left out is our church where priests always blame people for whatever problems and mishaps that happen in the parish.

No wonder, we feel more comfortable with God depicted in the Old Testament like in our first reading today when God was so angry and instructed to immediately get down from the mountain to punish the people who have created a golden calf to worship.

We find it so difficult to fully and truly accept despite Christ’s words and assurances that God our Father finds joy in forgiving as depicted today in our gospel. So often, we are like the Pharisees and scribes who could not understand why we have to share in the joy of God when a sinner repents.

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. So to them he addressed this parable.

Luke 15:1-3
Photo by author, 2018.

Jesus reminded us these past two Sundays of the demands of discipleship, of the need for us to conform to his very person and not just with morality and even religiosity. Discipleship is being like Jesus, always having him as our top priority in life.

This progression of Christ’s teaching on discipleship reaches its peak as we move into the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel account considered as the “heart” of the Gospel in presenting to us three parables showing God full of mercy and forgiveness for sinners. Actually, it does not merely present God as forgiving but in fact as the One who finds joy in forgiving, who is inviting us to share in his joy of forgiving repentant sinners.

There are three parables in Luke chapter 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son known as prodigal son. We have opted to consider the shorter form of the gospel which skips the third parable which we have already reflected in the recent Season of Lent.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Quezon, July 2022.

The first two parables deal with things that are lost, a lamb and a coin; both deal with only one person like “one of you” and “a woman”. On surface, the two parables seem very ordinary but Jesus – and Luke – have a very captivating manner of narrating them, similarly ending each parable with great sense of rejoicing after finding the lost sheep and lost coin.

Simply put, Jesus is appealing to our common experience of how one lost item would surely claim our attention, no matter how small or even insignificant it may be compared with the rest of what we have.

How do you feel when after losing something you were so worried and disturbed searching for it then someone tells you, “para yun lang?”

We feel so mad, like being rubbed with salt on our wounds because such comment “para yun lang?” betrays their lack of concern and love for us, of not knowing at all or at least recognizing how much that missing thing means to us!

How much more with persons like family and friends who have gone wayward in life like the prodigal son and suddenly coming back to us, saying sorry, trying to pick up the broken pieces of our lives to be whole again as friends and family? Would we not also rejoice when they come home, when we finally find them again?

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

In narrating the two parables in such manner so common with us, Jesus now affirms the incomparable value of every repentant sinner. Moreover, Jesus is showing us in these parables the more deeper ties we have with each other that we must rejoice when a sinner is converted. Hence, the demand too on the part of the sinner, of everyone, to recognize our sinfulness first.

Notice how Luke began this new chapter by telling us how “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them he addressed this parable.”

Look at the attitudes of the Pharisees and scribes that are not just snobbish but recriminating against the tax collectors and sinners; for them, those kind of people were hopeless, improbable to change that no one should be socializing with them like Jesus.

But, what really got to their nerves that they were complaining why Jesus was sharing meals with them was the fact that tax collectors and sinners were not turning to the Law but to Jesus himself, following him, and even preferring him more than everything! They felt left out when in fact they were the first to separate themselves from everyone.

That’s what they could not accept, that they were no longer relevant.

And the main stumbling block to that was their lost their sense of sinfulness as they have believed so much with themselves as if they were like God, so pure and so clean. Due to their lost sense of sinfulness, they have been totally detached from God and from others as well because they were playing gods, setting them apart from everyone even from God himself because they believed they were sinless. In that sense, they felt God had nothing to do with them because they were sufficient in themselves.


There is nothing God cannot forgive.  
This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  
Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, 
it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy
 for he has long been searching 
and waiting for us to return to him.

Photo by author, 2019.

This is the problem we have in this modern time, when we have all kinds of excuses and alibis, reasons and arguments in doing just everything, losing our sense of sin that unconsciously, we feel like God, in fact always playing God when we presume to know everything that we would neither rejoice when people change for the better nor sympathize with those suffering and in misery. Like the Pharisees and scribes and those heartless people in power and authority in government and schools, at home and in the church, they have no time to even see and review why and what have caused people to sin.

In the first reading, Moses is teaching us the attitude of a true disciple, of one who intercedes for the people by confessing the tender mercy and fidelity of God to his promises and to his people; Moses did not bargain with God to relent in punishing the people. Notice his language, his manner of praying to God, appealing to him as “Lord” filled with faith in God’s boundless mercy and forgiveness. We all know how in a twist of humor, it was Moses who was so furious later when he saw the people worshipping the golden calf that he threw on them the two tablets of stone of God’s Ten Commandments.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us through Timothy of God’s boundless love expressed in his mercy and forgiveness to us all sinners. We can never experience this unless we first realize and admit and own our sinfulness like St. Paul who may be considered the worst of sinners for having persecuted the early Christians. There are so many other saints who followed after him with so dark and sinful pasts but became great men and women of faith because they first admitted their sins and sinfulness. As the saying goes, there is no saint without a sinful past and there is no sinner who is denied of a saintly future.

There is nothing God cannot forgive. This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy for he has long been searching and waiting for us to return to him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Mount Sinai at the Monastery of St. Catherine, Egypt, 2019.

That sin called “adultery”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 04 April 2022
Daniel 13:41-62   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 8:12-20
Photo by author, 2019.
For the second straight day,
we hear the story of adultery:
yesterday the woman was guilty,
today the woman is accused wrongly
but in both instances, your justice
and kindness prevailed, O God our Father!
But what is really with adultery 
that it is a favorite sin and topic in
your Sacred Scriptures, dear Lord?
More than its nature of infidelity, 
adultery also speaks deeply of our 
broken relationships with women:
like those two old men accusing Susana
wrongly of having a tryst with another man,
so often we have forgotten, even refused
to recognize adultery involves another man,
not just the woman.
Open our eyes, Father, especially the
"chauvinist pigs" and misogynists among us;
may the light of Jesus Christ your Son
enlighten the darkness within us and
enable us to see "where we came from" 
and "where we are going" so that we 
stop accusing and judging each other
of sins we ourselves are guilty too.

“You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.”

John 8:15-18
How funny, dear God,
that the root of this word
adultery means to pollute
or defile when in fact, that is
also the root of our sinfulness
when we defile others because
we have defiled our very selves
first when we turn away from you
as our origin and destination.
Amen.

The joy of meeting God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-C, 03 April 2022
Isaiah 43:16-21 ><}}}*> Philippians 3:8-14 ><}}}*> John 8:1-11
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 20 February 2022.

From the joy of coming home to the Father last Sunday in the parable of the merciful father, we now celebrate the joy of meeting God in Jesus Christ in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

We are now into the final week of Lent, getting closer to the innermost room of the Father’s house but this time with John as our guide as we skip Luke’s gospel. The shift is hardly noticeable as the story of the woman caught in adultery seamlessly jibe with Luke’s parable last Sunday. The Pharisees and scribes are again present but this time more bold in their opposition to Jesus.

From pinterest.com.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

John 8:3-6

Only John records this story of the woman caught in adultery but one can clearly recognize its similar tone and perspective with the parable last Sunday that only Luke had, the parable of the merciful father, more known as parable of the prodigal son. Both stories tell us the gospel of God’s mercy proclaimed in words and in deeds by our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what makes this story of the woman caught in adultery a stand out is its simplicity amidst the profound texts by John often identified as the beloved disciple. He was able to compact in few words and simple gestures the many realities in life we forget and take for granted.

As I prayed over this scene, one word persisted in my reflections: kindness.

Photo by author, 2018, Davao City.
The kindness of God.

The word “kind” is from kin or kindred as in family or tribe. When we say a person is kind, we mean that person treats us as one of his family, of his same kind, that he deals with us like we are not “others” or iba as we say in Filipino (hindi ka naman iba).

How sad that at the start of this pandemic in 2020, that was when all news and stories spread of how we have become so unkind with each other especially the poor, the sick and the old, children and women treated unkindly like Mang Dodong of Caloocan.

How sad that in our country, it has become a sin, an error or a failure to be poor and disadvantaged that even the poor and disadvantaged look down at each other, too! There is always that feeling among us that we are different, that we are not of the same kind that it has become so difficult to find kindness among everybody. We have forgotten we are all human, imperfect and sinful but also beloved children of God.

This is what the Sunday gospel is telling us: the woman caught in adultery is not the only sinner in this scene. John described her as “caught in adultery”, not merely an “adulteress” to show that she was in fact caught into adultery. It is a serious sin but there’s more to be caught in that act than meets the eyes. Here, there is no mention about the woman’s “lover”.

Like in our gospel last Sunday, we have the Pharisees and scribes present again, forgetting their very roles in the story itself. Recall that Jesus told the parable of the merciful father for them last Sunday to remind them that they were both the prodigal son and elder son. And that included us today, of course. Today, they are back and we wonder what were the evidence they have against that woman. Where were they while the woman was committing the sin of adultery? Were they peeping toms? Or worst, have they had some trysts with her too in the past?

Both the woman caught in adultery and her accusers, the Pharisees and the scribes stand for us all – we are sinners. We have all sinned and how dare are we to act like the Pharisees and scribes pretending to be different from others, to be so clean and pure when deep inside us are also rotten with sins that could even be worst than the people we accuse.

This is the reason why Jesus bent twice to show everyone how God had chosen to go down to us, to be like us in everything except sin so we can see again everyone as our kin, our same kind as children of the Father.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

John 8:7-9
Photo by news.ag.org, Jesus writing on the sand in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
Bending to washing of feet to dying on Cross.

In bending down twice, Jesus showed everyone – the accused and the accusers – the kindness of God, his being our kin, his being one of us even if he is Divine. To bend down is to go down, like Jesus coming down from heaven, being born as a child to show us that the path back to God is in being human which is underscored by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus Christ at the start of his Gospel which is proclaimed every December 17 and December 24 Christmas Eve.

Here in this scene we are reminded by his bending as an imagery of the mystery of Incarnation just like his coming down to Jordan River at his baptism by John.

This bending of Jesus will happen again on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of his apostles where he gave his commandment to love (hence, it is called as Maundy Thursday, from Latin mandatum for commandment). It will reach its highest point when he bent lowest on Good Friday by offering himself on the Cross for us all out of his immense love and mercy. And kindness.

That is the greatest expression of God’s love and mercy, in his kindness, in his becoming one of us in Jesus Christ who took upon himself our sins so we may be clean again and be able to rise and stand with dignity and honor as beloved children of the Father.

This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the first reading that God is doing something new for us.

Jesus is not telling us to stop fighting sin and evil, to cease from pursuing criminals and people who have committed crimes and grave sins against us and others. The fight goes on but should always be tempered with being humane.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The beautiful story of how Jesus resolved the case against the woman caught committing adultery assures us of the endless mercies of God to us sinners, not a passport to sin. See how Jesus recognized the sinfulness of the woman when he told her, go and sin no more – the most humane reprimand perhaps in history.

It is only in our being kind like Jesus that we become truly human and humane.

According to John, the first to leave the site after Jesus challenged them to cast the first stone were the elders that may stand for having wisdom, not necessarily being aged. The first to leave the site were the wise, those who must have realized their own sinfulness and saw how gravely wrong they were in being so harsh with the woman.

Many times in life, it is difficult to be kind in this unkind world because we have stopped seeing our commonality, our shared humanity, our links with one another, our relationships. We have become so competitive that we always want to be distinct from everyone to the point that we have ceased becoming humans, playing gods most of the time.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 2019.

The grace of this final week of Lent is the kindness of God that remains with everyone, even with the most harsh among us, the most sinful. Jesus is inviting us to bend down with him, see him even down below when we are in sins. He is not condemning us nor hurting us with words nor actions. Ever the most humble and gentle of all, our most kind Lord Jesus is telling us today to take up his yoke and learn from him, always kind with everyone.

And that begins with our very selves. Many times, we cannot be kind with others because in the first place we are so unkind with our very selves. We cannot see our true selves that we compete within ourselves, that we should be somebody else.

What a wonderful gift to be our true selves again and still loved by God.

Let us heed Paul’s call in the second reading: “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead. I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Have a blessed week ahead, be kind to yourself first of all. Amen.

Lent is radical

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Lent, 14 March 2022
Daniel 9:4-10   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Luke 6:36-38
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.
Praise and glory to you, 
O God Our Father,  
despite our sinfulness 
you continue to bless us!

In this season of Lent
teach us the true meaning 
of penance by getting into 
the root of our sinfulness, 
of being radical, shamefaced
in fact like Daniel by wholeheartedly
admitting our wickedness in
rebelling and departing from your side, Lord:

“Lord, great and awesome God, you who keep your merciful covenant toward those who love you and observe your commandments! We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. We have not obeyed your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name ton our kings, our princes, our fathers, and all the people of the land. Justice, O Lord, is on your side; we are shamefaced ever to this day like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you.

Daniel 9:4-7, 8
Indeed, we are shamefaced, 
O Lord, even to this day 
for our many sins against you 
when we neglected you 
in our brothers and sisters in need, 
unmindful of their great sufferings 
not only for their physical needs 
but most especially for their emotional 
and spiritual needs; we are shamefaced,
 O Lord in thinking the good times 
would never end, when we lived in excesses, 
bloating our egos as if we were gods.
Help us to return to you, 
O God through Jesus Christ
your Son by turning our hearts 
back to you, by going into the very
roots of our sins so that when we
have understood our sins, we may
no longer fall into its traps as we
get closer to you, becoming holy
and merciful like you.  
Amen.

Lent: a return to our first love

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Lent-C, 06 March 2022
Deuteronomy 26:4-10 ><}}}*> Romans 10:8-13 ><}}}*> Luke 4:1-13
Photo by author, view of Israel from Mount Nebo in Jordan, May 2019.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI used to say that the imagery of the desert during the season of Lent is an invitation for us to remember, to revisit and to return to our very “first love” of all – God.

Yes! God is our first love for he is the first to love us, always calling us to come to him to have more of his love. Pope Benedict wrote in his first encyclical in 2005, Deus Caritas Est, that “Love can be commanded (by God) because it has first been given by him”, and that “love grows through love”.

And that is why every first Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the desert as he invites us to go back to our first love, God our Father, teaching us and giving us the grace to overcome temptations that have brought us apart from God and everyone.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.

Luke 4:1-2
Photo by author, view of Israel from Mount Nebo in Jordan, May 2019.

Let your love flow.

Of the three evangelists who recorded the temptation of Jesus in the desert by the devil, only Luke gives us a more detailed and sober version that you could feel Christ’s docility to the Holy Spirit; Matthew and Mark were both abrupt, as if Jesus was hurriedly led by the Spirit into the desert after his baptism at Jordan.

Luke’s version gives us a sense of peace and tranquility in Jesus who obeyed the Holy Spirit spontaneously which he would always do throughout his ministry; this his disciples would imitate as we shall see in Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles.

This short introduction by Luke to the temptation of the Lord in the desert teaches us the first step in every Lent and ultimately in life: our docility to the Holy Spirit like Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Mount Nebo, Jordan, May 2019.

And there lies the problem with us as we refuse to love God, when we refuse to mature in love as we keep on looking even inventing our own loves that in the end leaves us empty and alienated.

In this age of too much gadgets and instants plus emphasis on freedom and independence, we have forgotten to be docile and submissive in the good sense as we keep on asserting our very selves, always trying to be in command of everything.

Experience tells us that the key to truly experiencing love – to love and be loved – is to let yourself be led by your beloved, by a loved one. To simply let your love flow.

The three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and alms-giving rest on our willingness to submit ourselves to God, to trust him and rely only in him.

To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with love that we first search God to love him and have more of his love to share with others.

The three “faces” of power that ruin love

Too often, we resist God by subduing our inner call to love, preferring to control everything and everyone. We prefer power than love, thinking wrongly that we can force or impose love on others.

Remember the movie “Bruce Almighty” about 20 years ago?

The turning point of the movie happened when Jennifer Aniston left her boyfriend Jim Carrey who could not submit himself and follow his heart to propose to her; Jim could not understand why can’t just God played by Morgan Freeman impose love on his girlfriend Jennifer to save him all the efforts and time in proving his love and proposing to her. Freeman as God simply told Bruce he cannot force love because that’s the way it is, so free that is why love is so wonderful!

Love and power cannot go together. Love is ruined when power and control come in any relationship. Adam and Eve desired the powers of God that led them into sin and be banished from Paradise.

This we see in the three temptations of Jesus Christ by the devil which is centered on power; notice how Jesus resisted temptation by choosing the path of love of God which is the path of powerlessness.

Photo from commons.wikipedia.org, Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live by bread alone.”

Luke 4:3-4

The first temptation of power is the ability to do everything. Every suitor is guilty of this when he tries to do everything just to win the heart of the woman of his dreams which often ends sadly, even miserably or tragic.

Too often, we feel and believe that it is love when we try to do everything just for the beloved.

No! We are not God. We cannot do everything. Love is not about doing but being.

Jesus could have turned that stone into bread but he did not do it because it is not the proof of his being the Son of God. His docility to the Father, his fidelity to his words and will expressed by his self-sacrifice at the Cross proved that he is indeed the Christ.

At the same time, his love for people is not in doing everything, especially in giving us the quick-fixes to our many problems and sufferings. In the wilderness, Jesus fed more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish after he had found the people ready to love, ready to accept him and one anther.

The problem with power to do everything is we cease from becoming a person who “feels” and experiences pain and hunger, sadness and failures that eventually make us stronger and deeper in love and convictions. When we keep on doing everything believing in our powers, then we get burned in the process, becoming resentful and bitter later after skipping the normal courses of life.

We are loved not by what we can do nor achieve but what we could become – a nicer, kinder, forgiving and understanding and loving person.


Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

Luke 4: 5-8

The second temptation of power is to dominate others. If you cannot do everything, subjugate others who can do things for you. Entice them with everything and whatever you have; buy their souls like our politicians who shamelessly forget history and values of freedom and democracy for the sake of winning an office.

Photo by author, 2019.

Love begets love. Jesus had no need to be popular, to be viral and liked by everyone. He loves us so much and the love he offers us is a love that is willing to die in one’s self, a love that goes for the Cross because that is true love. Never convenient nor comforting. Love is always difficult because it is a decision we keep and stand for every day.

This is the gist of the first reading when Moses reminded the people to always remember and review their history to be aware of how God had never left them, loving them despite their sinfulness. Remembering keeps our love alive because it always reminds us of the persons behind every events in our lives, keeping us united to the person in love even up to the present moment. Recall those time you have “lover’s quarrel” or LQ: what is usually the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it not your love story, of how you met and dreamt together, of how you love each other?

Love is about persons, not about things like wealth and fame. The Beatles said it so well in the 60’s, All You Need is Love.


Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and : With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Luke 4:9-12

The third temptation of power is to manipulate, even God, the all-powerful. This is the most insidious temptation that hides its sinister plans in a lot of “loving” and “caring” facades of fakeries.

It is the worst of the three as it enters one’s psyche, the highest degree of brainwashing. See how the devil had chosen the site of the temple, citing the scriptures in tempting the Lord.

The devil does the same with us, especially those toxic people who would try to massage our egos, trying to win us over unto them only to manipulate us and when worst comes to worst, play victims to us.

Love is never manipulative; the more you love, the more you become free to be your true self, your better self. Love is always a desire to become like the one you love, a movement to becoming like the beloved, not imposing one’s self to another. Love is always an invitation to journey, to be a companion, to come and follow without hidden agendas and plans.

Love is self-emptying, of giving, of baring one’s self to another to share life, never to take advantage or pull-off a big gain or profit from another. That is why St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that God is never far from us for his word is “near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Rom.10:8).

The grace of this First Sunday of Lent is Jesus taking the first step by coming to us out of his great love for us so that we can begin the journey back to the Father, our first love, helping us overcome the many temptations not to love. May we follow his path of powerlessness, of docility to the Holy Spirit to truly experience God’s abounding love for us. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

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.