The Black Nazarene in COVID-19

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Saturday, Feast of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo, 09 January 2021
1 John 5:14-21     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     John 3:22-30
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, 09 January 2020.

For the first time in so many years, there will be no Traslacion today of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo due to the COVID-19 pandemic but devotees are still celebrating its feast via online Masses and by visiting other churches with revered images of Nuestro Padre Señor Jesus de Nazareno first brought in the country by Augustinian Recollects in the early 1600’s.

Like in our celebrations last year of Lent and Easter and recently of Christmas, COVID-19 pandemic has given us much needed time to reflect, meditate, and review our faith in general that has been shaped for better and, for worst, by our many rites and rituals that have turned us blind to its deeper realities of finding Jesus among the poor and suffering.

It is a great marvel for our eyes to see this unique and intense expression of faith of great crowds gathering every year to fulfill their panata or vow to the Black Nazarene. People from all walks of life, children, men and women, young and old flock to Quiapo on this day as part of their panata for a prayer and wish granted them by the Señor Nazareno.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, 09 January 2020.

Beloved: We have this confidence in him that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, we know that what we have asked him for is ours. Children, be on your guard against idols.

1 John 5:14-15, 21

So often people wonder do we really have to go through all these because of a prayer granted like healing or having a child or getting a job or passing a board exam?

The beloved disciple reminds us today during this time of the pandemic that somehow we have to restore some sense of order especially in the Traslacion.

There is no doubt about the faith of everyone — but it is not everything. Faith is directed to God, a Person, not to a ritual or rite nor to an image. In this time of COVID-19, Jesus reiterates to us His love for us, of how like yesterday in the gospel He always wishes the best for us.

Let it be clear we are not passing judgment on the devotees of the Black Nazarene and of other popular devotions anywhere else in the world. In the letter of St. John we heard today, we find that we do not need to go through so much hardships like some people would do in their panata because prayer is not primarily for having things but for deepening relationship with God. We pray because we relate, we want to be one with God. Asking for things or blessings is secondary. Prayers and sacrifices do not necessarily change situations in one’s life; prayers and sacrifices change the person. In fact, when we pray for something, deep within us we already knew if it is meant for us or not; that is why, I always tell people to “claim” from Jesus whatever he/she may be praying for because if it is for you, the Lord will surely give it to you.

It will almost be a year since we have this pandemic but until now, see in most churches how people continue to disregard our health protocols not to touch and kiss images. In less than a month, we shall start the Season of Lent when images are covered so we go deeper into the person of God and not merely to His images and other visuals that unfortunately for some have become their gods. And that is why despite our deep religiosity, we cannot experience real change in our society because we are still individualistic than communal. Values are misplaced or even disregarded when we think more of the favors to be had than the relationships to be kept, the person to be respected and life to be valued. No wonder, so many Catholics ironically and sadly support corrupt politicians and leaders who lie and disregard life despite their being “prayerful”.

From Google.

John said: “He (Jesus) must increase, I must decrease.”

John 3:30

Señor Nazareno reminds us how in this life we imitate John the Baptist remaining humble before Jesus, entrusting everything to Him. Most especially, working hard to ensure that Jesus and His gospel of salvation is made known to everyone.

See how in our gospel today when the disciples of John the Baptist reported to him Christ’s ministries in Judea, seeking clarifications on how to deal with the situation as more and more people were coming to Jesus. The scene reveals to us the deep spirituality of John, telling his disciples how Jesus must increase and he must decrease which is essentially Christ’s teaching on discipleship, that who ever wants to follow Him must first deny himself and take up his cross with Him.

That is the central message of the Black Nazarene: of how we are also willing to forget our very selves, take up our cross and follow Jesus in the path of self-sacrifice. It is finding Jesus among the poor and suffering that made the Quiapo devotion so appealing to every generation, but — we also wonder why our nation remains poor with so many sufferings! There must be something wrong.

This is something that only the pandemic can offer us: to search our souls, sincerely asking our selves if we still find Jesus in the center of all these devotions. How sad that every year, we hear reports of how some devotees getting unruly, insisting on what they believe, on what they want, including the route of the Traslacion.

Amid all these celebrations, do we hear John’s declaration “Jesus must increase and I must decrease”?

That is spirituality which is more about relationship with God than just fulfillment and celebration of rites and rituals that we call religiosity.

The Black Nazarene statue sits at the stage of the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on January 8, 2013, one day before its feast day when it will be paraded around the streets of Manila to the greeting of thousands of devotees. (Photo by LJ Pasion)

Usually, when you ask anyone for the meaning of “Jesus Nazareno”, easily they would say it refers to the Lord’s origins, the town of Nazareth where He grew up after returning from Egypt to escape Herod’s murderous plot against all infants when He was born.

It is true but on deeper reflection, we have to remember that Nazareth is the only place in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament. Besides, Jesus Christ is actually from Bethlehem, the town of David and Joseph His father where He was born in fulfillment of the prophecies.

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the words Nazoraios and Nazarenos used to designate Jesus in the gospels came from the Hebrew root “nezer” for root. Remember in the Simbang Gabi the prophecy by Isaiah that “There shall comne forth a shoot (nezer) from the stump of Jesse” (Is.11:1)?

Pope Benedict explains that Matthew must have detected in the name Nazareth a prophetic reference to the “shoot” as a sign of fulfillment of God’s promise to draw new life from the dead stump of Jesse:

If we add that in the inscription above the Cross, Jesus is called ho Nazoraios (cf. Jn.19:19), then the title acquires its full resonance: what is at first sight refers simply to his origin, actually points to his essence: he is the “shoot,” he is the one completely consecrated to God, from his mother’s womb to the day of his death.

Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (pp.117-118)

What a beautiful reminder to us all today in this time of COVID-19 in celebration of the feast of the Black Nazarene, reminding us that in this time when everything seems to be “dead” like a “stump” of the tree, God is working something marvelous, something great among us through His Son Jesus Christ.

Jesus is coming, Jesus has come and remains with us despite this pandemic.

But, are we willing to die to ourselves to see Him, to experience Him, and most of all, share Him?

Viva Nuestro Padre Señor Jesus de Nazareno!

Test all spirits

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday after Epiphay, 04 January 2021
1 John 3:22-4:6     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee from the side of Capernaum in Israel, 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father on this first day of resumption of work and school. Many of us are so eager to go back to work and studies, hoping to make a good start for new year 2021. And your words today are so helpful to us all.

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God.

1 John 4:1-3

In this age with an overload of information and influences from media, so many of us are led astray Lord because we have always forgotten to test all spirits that compete for our attention.

Give us the wisdom, Lord, as well as the perseverance and discipline to test all spirits, to discern them in silence and prayers that we may not be misled by false teachings and false hopes.

Open our eyes and our hearts in order to find you coming to us even in the most simplest occasions in our lives or in the most difficult situations we are into. Like the magi, may we have that keen sense of interest in observing things from the most usual to the unusual ones.

And let us start this discernment of spirits by first cleansing ourselves of our sins and impurities as we heed your call to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.4:17).

As we continue to retell and relive the story of Christmas, may we be like the town of Capernaum ready to welcome Christ’s coming with his light to dispel all darkness caused by our sins, frustrations and disappointments, pains and hurts especially from the past year so we may move forward through personal conversion in our Lord. Amen.

Advent is simply being good

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week-III, 15 December 2020
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Matthew 21:28-32
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his youngest son, 21 November 2019.

Dearest God our Father: Lately our social media giants were having problems, one by one, had gone down for several hours with glitches that could not be accessed. And everybody is complaining that in less than a week, Messenger, GMail, and YouTube have landed on headlines in the world.

What is happening?

A new religion? A new god everybody is following?

Almost everyone is crazy risking one’s life for the sake of remaining in the web because even children declare, “wifi is life”!

It may be funny but thought-provoking at how we would always want our internet, apps and gadgets perfectly working, doing good all the time.

If we could just be like our internet, apps, and gadgets, Lord, to be simply good as persons, everything would flow smoothly especially our relationships with everybody happy and nobody complaining.

But we are more than internet, apps and gadgets, Lord!

This Season of Advent, teach us to be simply good, to stop all debates and complicated discussions on so many things in life like those people in Jerusalem both during the time of Zephaniah and Jesus Christ.

“Purify our lips” (Zeph.3:9), Lord, that we may “walk our talk” like the first son in the parable: though he said no to his father’s request, he changed his mind and obeyed him (Mt. 21:28-29).

Let us be good brothers and sisters, good neighbors, good classmates, good colleagues, good Christians who reflect more of your presence than what we know or whatever is in our minds that we always insist.

Let us be kind and caring, never judging others, always respecting one another, and trying to find what is good than what is wrong. Amen.

When less is truly more

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 05 November 2020
Philippians 3:3-8   >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>   Luke 15:1-10
From Google.

So many times I wonder, O God, why do you have to let us go on first with our lives, see and experience and have everything in the world before we realize that less is always more, that in losing that we truly gain?

Thank you for being so kind and generous with us! You are truly a Father who allows us to discover life by ourselves without forgetting to teach and remind us all the important things like faith, hope, and love.

There are times our values are misplaced but you take time before intervening like with the experiences of St. Paul and the other saints. You “let us” get lost only to seek and find us later so we learn your lessons first hand.

But whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Philippians 3:7-8

Yes, dearest God: less is always more when all we have is you in Jesus Christ who had come to fulfill our lives, our longings and our emptiness.

Teach us to appreciate the value and importance of little things, of the small ones we take for granted because in life, they are the ones who complete, who make everything a whole again.

Most of all, one is always too many to lose because each of us is so unique, so special and “irreplaceable”.

May we keep that in mind to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd always seeking and caring for the lost and the sick. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2018.

Let God work in us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop, 04 November 2020
Philippians 2:12-18     >><)))*>  >><)))*>  ><)))*>     Luke 14:25-33
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, sunrise at our Parish during COVID-19 lockdown, May 2020.

Thank you dear God our Father for the timely reminders by St. Paul to us during these last two months of 2020, the most difficult year for us in 50 years. But it is not all that bad, Lord, specially at how it had redirected many of us back to you.

For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world.

Philippians 2:13-15

For so long, we have been driving our lives on our own, unmindful of your teachings and ways, O Lord.

We have come to trust and rely more Google for information than knowledge, Waze for directions and destinations than journey, Facebook and Twitter for lifestyle and trends than life itself.

We always grumble or question you and your presence and your voice if ever our social media activities are disrupted.

Oh God…! Just as when we thought we have life with all the technologies and amenities of modern life, the more we have become empty, lost and divided as a people.

Let us go back to you, God, through Jesus Christ.

Help us see anew in this COVID-19 pandemic that without you at the center of our lives and endeavors, nothing good can truly happen with us despite modern technologies.

Like the man building a tower or the king waging a war in the parable of Jesus today, may we humbly accept the truth that after everything is considered in all our plans, it will always be lacking in depth and meaning without God in every consideration because you always know what is really best for us.

Like St. Charles Borromeo who had lived at a time when the Church had lost more than half of Europe to Protestants, he championed the calls to return to God and to go back to the basics like reforming our clergy and reinforcing catechism.

Through the prayers and inspiration by St. Charles Borromeo, may we let God working in us anew for us to have a better new year, better lives. Amen.

How I found my vocation in life through a simple prayer for faith

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 27 October 2020
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, March 2020.

Whenever people ask me about the story how I became a priest, I always begin by telling them that I am more of a “delayed vocation” than a “late vocation” because after graduating from high school seminary in 1982, I was refused admission to the major seminary to pursue the priesthood.

It was the first serious blow I have had in my life as I felt so deeply hurt because I thought God wanted me to become a priest only to be rejected. It was then I realized his saying “many are called but few are chosen” could be so bad as I had to leave the seminary.

Feeling rejected, I decided to go to the University of Sto. Tomas to pursue my “first love” – journalism to totally forget the priesthood specially when I got into the staff of the Varsitarian (1984-86). It was at the Varsitarian where I learned everything about newspaper journalism that on my senior year in college, I opted to have my training at GMA-7 News to try broadcast journalism.

And I was so amazed at how TV and radio can quickly report the news as it happened, specially whenever I would hear those alarms ringing from the telex machines of United Press International (UPI) and Philippine News Agency (PNA). (By the way, the first thing I learned in broadcast news was changing the newsprints for those telex machines.)

After graduation in college, I got hired as news writer for GMA radios DZBB-AM and 97.1 DWLS-FM. Two years later, I was assigned to cover the police beat at the graveyard shift for our television newscasts.

With former co-staffers and fellow alumni of UST’s The Varsitarian during our 2017 homecoming.

One morning before “going to bed”, I read a copy of the Columbia, the magazine of Knights of Columbus my father had insisted me joining while in college. At the last page was a vocation campaign written by a Carmelite priest who claimed something like “faith is a very important gift of God we must keep because if we lose it, we could also get lost in life”.

I cannot remember the priest’s explanations but those words got stuck in me that very morning when I just felt praying again after a very long time of being a nominal Catholic in college and GMA-7. The words simply flowed from my lips to become my only prayer in the next four years:


"Lord,
let me grow in faith 
in you."

Everything happened so fast for me at GMA-7 with all the breaks and opportunities given me which I never asked nor even dreamed of. I have never wanted to be “on camera” and have always preferred working behind the scenes (even now as a priest).

As I look back and count my blessings, I always consider it as a grace, a gift from God when Ms. Jessica Soho recommended me to take her place covering the military/defense beat when she was promoted to hosting her own morning show and doing special reports that have established her now as the best in the field.

Despite the recognition that came along with a career in broadcast news, deep inside me I started feeling empty as early as 1988. Most strange of all, I felt God calling me back to the priesthood that I vehemently dismissed, knowing personally how sinful and evil I have been!

When the emptiness and priestly call persisted, I slowly returned to our parish thinking that maybe, I was just missing my old ways of going to Mass and singing with the choir. But, the more I thirsted and yearned for God!

It was so funny and even ridiculous for me at that time seeing myself praying more often, choosing to be alone inside the church like when we were in the minor seminary. I even did not know if I were praying at all except that I felt complete in silence until one day, I found myself begging God:


"Lord, 
let me know
my vocation 
in life."

I thought of leaving broadcast journalism in 1989 to teach English language to Vietnamese refugees in Morong, Bataan after reading its ads in the Manila Bulletin. It seemed to me that was what I was searching for, something I can enjoy with a deeper purpose and meaning like serving others.

For several weeks I would read the ads in the newspaper until my interest died down as I got into a lot of action doing police stories in the dead of the night. It was also the time when I got so busy covering the 1989 December coup attempt and the destructive Luzon earthquake of July 1990.

Though I felt good reporting the news from the fields, one thing I noticed every time I went home was how I still felt empty inside when alone. Life had no meaning that I tried seeking it in bottles of beer, then in shots of brandy and whiskey until I thought I have found it in glasses of Tanqueray gin tonic. Mr. Marlboro in blue seal bought along Timog Ave. became my constant companion too.

Finally I sought spiritual direction from some priests I have known in the seminary like our former rector Fr. Memeng Salonga and our Sunday Mass presider in our barrio chapel, Fr. Boie Agustin. They have greatly helped me in discerning my vocation that I decided to take the entrance exams to the seminary in February 1991.

With my former colleagues at GMA-7 News as we rest on the steps near the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem during our Holy Land pilgrimage in 2017; from top is Ms. Marissa Flores, SVP of GMA-News with her nurse, Ms. Jessica Soho of “State of the Nation” and KMJS, and Ms. Kelly Vergel de Dios, the former VP for Personnel of GMA News.

It was the last exam date for the coming academic year and frankly, I was still hesitant to give my vocation a second try because I felt unworthy of the call and most of all, afraid of failing again like in high school seminary.

For a while I felt a strong basis for my doubts with my vocation: just when I was about to take the entrance exam, our boss, Ms. Tina Monzon-Palma asked me to cancel my day off that Saturday to search for the lone survivor of the 1911 Taal eruption in Talisay town when that “small but terrible” volcano showed signs of activity.

In my mind, God must be using Ms. Palma to inform me I got it all wrong, that he wasn’t calling me at all to the priesthood that is why I was given a job that Saturday, the last exam date to the seminary.

Of course I was so glad missing the entrance exam with a valid reason that I immediately went back to “happy hours” after coverages until late March when I had a severe attack of gout one weekend. It was so painful that I could not go to work the following Monday and Tuesday.

While in total bed rest for my gout, I felt my vocation coming back again, more persistent than before that I had the stupid idea of asking God for one last sign that would clearly convince me he wanted me to become a priest.

And God heard my prayer!

By Thursday I was back to work covering the newly-assigned AFP Chief Gen. Lisandro Abadia inspecting the troops in Abra and Kalinga. Everything went well until we flew to Laoag City for the final leg of Gen. Abadia’s troop inspection when one of our plane’s tires blew on landing!

Boom! Everything was so fast as I remembered the loud explosion of the tire on my side of the plane, followed by thick smoke seen from my window and tilting of plane as I ducked my head down on my lap, repeatedly praying in silence, over and over again, “Yes, Lord! Magpapari na po ako!”

It was the big news that evening: a tire of the plane with the new AFP Chief blew upon landing at Laoag City airport.

And the bigger news among newsmen was me —- everybody was teasing I was the next Jessica Soho who used to figure out in accidents while covering soldiers and military officials.

More teasings and laughters welcomed us when we got back to Manila but all throughout our trip until I got home that night, I felt deep inside like the prophet Jonas so relieved and convinced of God’s call after being spitted out from the belly of a giant whale like that PAF’s Fokker plane. From that day also, I have never dared to ask God for signs anymore.


Faith is a relationship with God;
we pray with faith not to obtain favors 
but to grow deeper 
in love and unity
in Him. 
 

It was not very easy for me when I finally returned to the seminary in 1991 until our ordination to the priesthood in 1998. There were more trials and hardships, more tests that required from me more prayers, more faith…. to which I got in return from God more love, more mercy, more calls.

From that simple prayer to grow in faith, God has blessed me more abundantly not materially but spiritually and emotionally, of being fulfilled in him. Since becoming a priest in 1998, I have stopped asking God for any specific things in prayers. All I ask him is to give me with more firm faith, fervent hope and unceasing charity and love so that in every here and now, I may say yes to his calls.

My first months in the seminary in 1991.

In his book reflecting his 50 years of being a priest published in 1999, St. John Paul II described the priesthood as both a gift and a mystery. Indeed, every vocation from God – priesthood, religious life, married life, and single-blessedness – is always a gift and a mystery, something so personal and so deep between me and God, or you and God.

This I realized more when public Masses were suspended during the lockdown in March. It was in that being alone and sad when I existentially experienced the Mass as truly a union, an intimacy of the priest with the Eternal Priest, Jesus Christ. With or without the people.


Let me close this with another prayer I have made during our annual retreat in the seminary in 1994 facilitated by a Cenacle sister. It is one of my core prayers next to that about growing in faith:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you have given me with so much
and I have given you with so little;
teach me to give more of myself,
and most of all, 
more of your love,
more of your kindness,
more of your mercy and forgiveness
and most of all,
more of YOU to others.
Amen.

Enjoy and grow in your faith journey in the Lord until you find your vocation in life in him!

Photo by author, 22 September 2020.

A “postscript” to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 October 2020
St. Paul’s Basilica in Rome from en.wikipedia.org.

It is really funny these days at how things we grew up with have changed so differently like the postscript we used with initials “P.S.” at the end of letters as an afterthought we sent relatives and friends about 40 years ago.

Today, a postscript is more of a trademark and an application in computers but for my generation, it is from the Latin “post scriptum” that means “written after”.

Consider this piece, my dear Reader, as a postscript or PS to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians we heard proclaimed during weekdays from October 5-14, 2020 where he explained and reflected about faith in Jesus Christ whom he loved so much.


Faith is having a relationship with God, 
not to obtain things from him.

We always hear people say “have faith” in everything we pray for. Always believe that God will hear us, God will grant us what we need and ask for.

But what happens when we do not get what we are praying for like when a loved one is not healed or recovers from a sickness and eventually dies? Or, flunk an important exam or maybe fail to close a major deal in business? Does it mean we lack faith? Or, is that the main purpose of having faith in God, to obtain things and favors from him?

See how St. Paul called the Galatians “stupid” for being misled by false teachings on the gospel of Jesus Christ: some preachers had come to Galatia at that time telling them of the need to be circumcised like the Jews who converted to Christianity in order to be saved. He wrote the Galatians primarily to rectify those errors they have seemed to believed, where he introduced the doctrine of “justification (salvation) by faith in Christ”, not by rituals and other practices men do. It is not to dismiss our traditions but to stress the primary role of faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins to save us.

O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, are now ending with the flesh?

Galatians 3:1-3

Sometimes like the Galatians, we end up with the flesh, believing more in things we do like rituals and other things than truly believing Jesus because we use faith to obtain things from God.

No! We believe because we relate: every relationship like marriage always presupposes faith in the other person. Even Jesus in teaching us how to pray, he taught us the “Our Father” which is an expression of a relationship.

Wedding of my former student, Micah and Lery Magsaysay, February 2020.

Being faithful means being realistic.

Jesus himself assured us that faith can move mountains and do other great things for us if we truly believe. This is perhaps the reason we always equate faith in asking for so many things from God.

Not at all. We also have to be realistic with things we ask from God. He is not a magician who has to please and entertain us with his miracles and powers. When we were in high school seminary, the late Fr. Nick Cruz, SJ gave us a recollection and told us we cannot simply ask anything from God like a rose blooming from your toothpaste to prove he calls you to the priesthood!

Being realistic in our faith by praying first of all to have Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus!

When Jesus told us to seek and you shall find, to ask and it shall be given to you, and to know and the door shall be opened to you (Lk.11:9-10), he was not telling us to ask for money and gadgets. If we are going to be realistic in our faith, Jesus is telling us to seek God and you shall find him, to ask God and you shall have him, and most of all, God is the only door when we knock would surely open us to new beginnings.

In explaining the unique call we have received from God in Christ, St. Paul gives us the whole reality of our being Christians, of having a faith that is realistic.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:27-29
Photo by author, August 2020.
Faith demands conviction and consistency.

God’s gift of faith in us is not everything; we have to cultivate and deepen our faith to experience its wondrous fruits and grace. See the kind of conviction of St. Paul in proclaiming and explaining his faith in Jesus Christ.

Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:11-12

Like the Galatians, many of us are easily swayed by so many other beliefs and teachings that are misleading, claiming to be a part of the faith we have received. Without firmness and conviction in our faith, some among us have gone to accommodating modern thoughts and lifestyles that run contrary to our faith in Christ like abortion, same sex marriage, and in-vitro fertilizations or test tube babies.

A believer without conviction and consistency in faith and actions is not faithful at all. What happens with our “faith is a relationship” when the chips are down, when we are confronted of either being for God or against God?

Sometimes we try “moving the lines”, convincing ourselves that we are not crossing the line of morals and morality like when we are bent on accommodating others and ourselves in some occasions to justify personal preferences.

Sad to say, it happens even among us clergymen like when we tinker with the liturgy and the sacraments in the name of modernism and of arts and worst, with some issues pertaining to acts intrinsically sinful and immoral.

Maybe if we would have the conviction and consistency of faith, we would all be like the good Samaritan in the Lord’s parable – a neighbor to everyone especially those in need, willing to cross the street to faithfully reach out to others in Jesus Christ (Lk. 10:25-37).

Try examining our faith today. Has it bloomed into a relationship we keep with God our Father in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit or has it remained as it is, a given, a safety net just in case we need?

Have faith, have God and we’ll journey far, together! Amen.

From americamagazine.org.

On Wednesday, we reflect on being faithful and free, and how faith works through love. Have blessed Monday and see you again!

You may also check our prayers from October 05-14, 2020 based on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians at the archives of http://lordmychef.com.

When time is not

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 25 September 2020
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11  >><)))*>  >><)))*>  >><)))*>   Luke 9:18-22
The wildfires created a natural Instagram filter across California. Photo from MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images; 10 September 2020.

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. He (God) had made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11

Thank you, dear God our Father in appointing time for everything, in creating the dimension of time and space so we can have a grasp of your vast reality in this universe. We are finite and you are not whom time and space cannot limit and hold.

Teach us to be open to your presence and grace in every moment of our lives, to make that constant effort to pray like your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Prayer is so difficult for us because in our limited time and space, we try to be one with you who is infinite and eternal. We find it boring and a waste of time not only because it is difficult, requiring discipline on our part but because it requires a lot on us to truly love you.

Only love can bridge the finite and infinite, the temporal and eternal. When we are with our beloved, time neither rushes nor slows but seems to stand still like eternity as if we are holding it – when time is not. It is the same experience we have when we are deeply absorbed in prayer, when we feel that intense love for you inside when time passed so easily that an hour seemed like an instant, exactly like what you have said in the Bible that a thousand years are just a day for you.

Because you love. And we also love.

How lovely it is to read in the gospel today that once when Jesus was praying in solitude and the disciples were with him, that is when he surveyed them about what people were saying who he is, later asking them the same question up and personal.

Help us to appreciate and value silence and stillness, to befriend time and eternity in prayer to express our love for you and for others. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, May 2020.

Being servants and stewards of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 04 September 2020
1 Corintians 4:1-5 /// Luke 5:1-11
Photo by author, Lent in our parish 2020.

Dearest Jesus Christ:

Your words today through St. Paul are very edifying but also demanding, even scary and frightening.

But, I would rather have it that way than get them into my head.

Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Yes, it is an honor to be chosen as your servant, Lord, and a steward of the mysteries of God.

It is so pleasant to the ears and so flattering to one’s self to be a steward of the mysteries of God, of his wisdom – of Jesus Christ crucified.

Keep me lowly and humble, Lord. Remind me always that everything is about you and never about me. Keep me faithful to you and your call that whatever others may say about me, let me be concerned solely with your words and with your judgment. At the same time, keep me silent too, never to brag of my mission and most of all, never to judge others for that resides in God alone.

Keep my mind and my heart open to you always, Lord, so I may always be like a fresh wineskin to be poured on with new wine to mature and grow spiritually in you. Amen.

God never fails in finding us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 28 August 2020
1 Cortinthians 1:17-25 <*(((><< ||+|| >><)))*> Matthew 25:1-13
Philippe de Champaigne’s painting “Saint Augustine” (1645-1650) from wikimedia.org.

Whenever I look back in my life, Lord, the more I realize the truth that it is YOU who finds us when we are lost. Even before we searched for you, you have been asking us to come home to you. In fact, to look for you is a grace in itself because that is when you have finally found us!

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you… You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness… You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

From the Confessions of St. Augustine

Thank you dearest Jesus in giving us the great St. Augustine, another version of St. Paul who started so wrong in life but ended right on your side.

Please be patient with us, Lord, specially in those times we feel so wise, thinking we know everything, that we can direct our own lives without you.

Open our hearts and our minds that we may heed the words of St. Paul like St. Augustine:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

We pray, O Jesus, for the gift of wisdom like the wise virgins of your parable that even in the darkness of our lives, our hearts may always be aflame with your love. Amen.

Photo by author inside our parish at sunset, 25 August 2020.