Easter and our sense of awe

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday within the Octave of Easter, 22 April 2022
Acts 4:1-12   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 21:1-14
Photo by author, sunrise at Puerto del Sol Beach, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.

John 21:4-6
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
everyday you come to our life,
as early as the dawn, already standing
at the shore of our daily grinds without
us ever recognizing you; 
we are so focused with our work 
and studies and goals for the day 
that we forget to see and notice you; 
keep in us our sense of awe,
of being surprised daily, 
especially early in the morning 
to realize your coming,
your presence, and your staying
with us.
Deepen our love for you, 
make us desire you always
to heighten our sense of awe 
in simple things in order to find
you; let us be surprised like your 
beloved disciple to always find you 
dear Lord Jesus in the great catch of fish 
as Peter explained to everyone 
the miraculous cure of the beggar at the 
Beautiful Gate of the Temple.
In times we are awed,
in times we wonder how things
are happening and turning out
for us, for better or for worse,
may we find you Jesus and
your message for us.  Amen.
Photo by author, sunrise at Puerto del Sol Beach, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Finding God and our mission

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, 14 July 2021
Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 11:25-27
Photo by author, site of burning bush inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, Lord,
speak of being surprised,
of how wonder can lead us
to you, dear God, the biggest
and most beautiful surprise of all
in this life.
There an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a fire flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see
that the bush, though on fire was not consumed.
So Moses decided, "I must go over 
to look at this remarkable sight, 
and see why the bush is not burned."
(Exodus 3:2-3)
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden
these things from the wise and the learned,
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been
your gracious will."
(Matthew 11:25-26)
Like Jacob at Bethel 
upon waking up from a dream,
Moses was surprised and wondered
what was with the burning bush
only to find out it was you, Lord,
calling him, sending him to a mission.
The same is true with Jesus our Lord
who exclaimed after being surprised
with the faith of the little ones in him;
what a beautiful flow of things in
every sense of wonder and surprise
when first we find and meet you, then you send us.
We pray, dear God,
you continue to surprise us
in this time of pandemic and trials;
may we take off our sandals like Moses
to realize the whole earth is sacred
because of your divine presence.
Like St. Camillus de Lellis,
open our eyes to find and see you
in various forms of the "burning bush"
like pains and suffering, failures and losses,
or victories and gains where you are always present
calling and sending us to our specific mission in life.

Surprise us, Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 05 July 2021
Genesis 28:10-22   ><)))'>+><)))'>+><)))'>   Matthew 9:18-26
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Quezon Province, 2020.
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, 
he exclaimed, 
"Truly, the Lord is in this spot, 
although I did not know it!"  
In solemn wonder he cried out:  
"How awesome is this shrine!  
This is nothing else but an abode of God, 
and that is the gateway to heaven!"
(Genesis 28:16-17) 
Surprise us, O Lord, today
like Jacob after his dream.
Gift us with the sense of
wonder and awe,
open ourselves to realize
and experience your presence;
teach our hearts and minds
to be observant and sensitive
of your coming in Jesus Christ
who is filled with life and joy
from whom flows healing
and fullness of life.
We pray, dear God
for the gift of faith
so we may be surprised again
with the usual things in life
like the tassel of the cloak of Jesus;
help us imitate that
hemorrhaging woman
so convinced of
Christ's extraordinary powers
present in the most ordinary
happening daily if we believe
then we can see clearly your majesty!

Be surprised this Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week I, 24 February 2021
Jonah 3:1-10     <*(((><   +   ><)))*>     Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 26 February 2020.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father, in making Lent a season of surprises just like in our readings today. Continue to surprise us with your love and mercy, with your movements in our lives and in our time. Open our hearts and minds at the many possibilities of good things happening even in the midst of great evil and sufferings.

Forgive us when we lose hope, when we refuse to be surprised with our pessimism and cynicism like Jonah who refused to obey you in going to Nineveh to warn the pagans and sinners there of your coming wrath lest they repent and change their ways.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

Jonah 3:4, 10

It is about time that we reflect and examine also this Lent our attitudes with other people, especially those different from us not only in ways and looks but also in beliefs, that there is always hope in everyone to change and become a better person.

Even your Son Jesus Christ had told us how we would be surprised someday with the kinds of people entering your kingdom in heaven. Let us not be surprised in the end in the wrong sense like that warning by Jesus:

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater that Jonah here.”

Luke 11:29-32

Cleanse us of our prejudices and biases, Lord, and open our sense of wonder and awe to continue to be surprised of your presence and coming, of your love and mercy in us and among others. Amen.

Welcoming God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 31 August 2020
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 >><)))*> |+| <*(((><< |+| >><)))*> |+| <*(((><< Luke 4:16-30
Photo by author, CICM Retreat House, Taytay, Rizal, 2007.

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father! Please, keep us open to your coming in Jesus Christ. Surprise us always with your simplicity, silence, and hiddenness.

You know how we are always attracted with people’s credentials and titles, outward appearances, and great talents in speaking and explaining things that we get carried away, leaving you behind.

I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5

Let us come to you and meet you in Jesus by forgetting our self, taking our cross and following him in his passion and death.

Sometimes we forget your simple invitation to come to you with our sinful selves minus our pretensions and masks because all you want is our total selves. You do not ask for our perfections but imperfections, nor for our virtues and talents but for our lacking and sins.

And through this all, Lord, you give us life and freedom, fulfillment in you in our hearing:

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at Yvoire, France, 2018

Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

Come, Lord Jesus, you are most welcomed in me. Amen.

Disappointments- and Surprises -await us in Heaven

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe Week XXI-C, 25 August 2019

Isaiah 66:18-21 ><)))*> Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 ><)))*> Luke 13:22-30

The small door leading to the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, symbolic of the need to be lowly, to bow to meet our Lord Jesus Christ who became human like us to save us. Photo by author, May 2019.

The Lord concludes his series of “shock preaching” today with a big bang by dousing us with a big disappointment…

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.'”

Luke 13:23-25

It is very disappointing that after joining Jesus as he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem these past four Sundays in taking into our hearts his many earth-shaking lessons about the “end” only to find out that we could end up being locked out of the door to heaven. More shocking than the lessons last week is the disturbing revelation today that we have to be strong enough to enter through the narrow gate to eternal life.

How strong? We really do not know. But, we have learned from the Old Testament of the need to patiently obey and faithfully keep the commandments of God while the gospels remind us clearly to deny ourselves and carry our crosses even up to the point of dying with Christ.

Very difficult, huh…? And here’s more! Striving hard to enter the “banquet hall of heaven” is keeping in mind the important lessons we have heard these past three Sundays: life does not consist of possessions but of what matters to God (Lk.12:15,21; Aug. 04); that we must always gird our loins to be ready for death that comes like a thief at night (Lk.12:35,39; Aug.11); and, most of all, we have to go through our own passion and death like Jesus to be filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit to bring the peace of Christ into world (Lk.12:49-51; Aug. 18).

It is useless to count how many would be saved for there is enough room for us all in heaven. Through the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading, God wants us all to be with him in heaven despite his knowledge of our sins by sending us his Son Jesus Christ!

Thus says the Lord: I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory.

Isaiah 66:18
The small door to the Church of the Nativity from the inside.

See again in our gospel today an apparent contradiction in the teachings of our Lord like last Sunday with his bringing of fire and division among us. When Jesus refused to give that man a definitive answer to his question “if only a few people would be saved”, the Lord in fact revealed something deeper than the initial disappointment we have felt about the gate of heaven being narrow that would be closed when the time comes. Again, he mentions the Eucharist, our Sunday Mass as the wonderful opportunity to be strengthened in order to get inside the heavenly banquet.

“And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

Luke 13:29-30

It is during the Sunday Mass when the Lord gathers us all together after a very difficult and disappointing week to refresh us, to strengthen us for another week of hurdling more problems, more trials in life. This is why before receiving him, we say, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” The Father gave us his Son Jesus Christ so we may have that strength needed to enter the narrow gate to heaven by doing more loving service to others, being kind and forgiving, being honest and generous. Yes, these are easier said than done but doable in Christ.

What is so surprising in our many experiences are the many times when in our many disappointments Jesus comes to guide us to new doors, new routes and new openings that mysteriously lead to new life for us!

Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes, Baguio City, January 2019.

Brothers and sisters: You have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children: “My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges.” Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?

Hebrews 12:5-7

That is the mystery of God’s universal plan of salvation for us: the path may be filled with so many hardships and obstacles, the gate may be so narrow and difficult to pass through but he has made it possible for us to make it through by sending us Jesus Christ our Lord in leading this way to the heavenly Jerusalem. Authentic faith always involves pains and sufferings. When we embrace death like Jesus Christ, we also ensure life.

In every setback in life, we only have two choices always: either to be better or bitter. Choose to be better and that can only be through the narrow door of Jesus Christ by letting go of our anger and hatred, resentment and bitterness to give way to joy and peace, love and forgiveness. That is when God begins to surprise us!

Tam-Awan, Baguio, January 2019.

The author of Amazing Grace, John Newton was once challenged by a man after he had delivered a homily about heaven. Remember that Newton, as he claimed in Amazing Grace, was a “wretch” being a former slave trader after being a slave himself.

Newton was asked by a man to give something that would surprise him when he gets to heaven.

The former wretch replied that there would be three great wonders in heaven: first, he would see many people he never expected to be there; second, he would not find many church-goers he expected to see there; and third – which is the biggest surprise of all – is to find himself there in heaven when he knows very well his sinfulness.

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, we are all sinners, now feeling disappointed with so many things in life. Just strive to be good and better persons as we celebrate every Sunday the Lord’s Supper and he will do the rest. And be ready to be surprised even before going to heaven! Amen.

Visit and surprise us, Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Friday, Easter VI
Feast of the Visitation of Mary, 31 May 2019
Zephaniah 3:14-18 >< }}}*> <*{{{ >< Luke 1:39-56
Bronze Statues of Mary visiting Elizabeth at the patio of the Church of Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel. Photo by author, April 2017.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary in today’s feast of the Visitation, I rejoice in you O God:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

Luke 1:46-49

And like her cousin Elizabeth, O Lord, I also wonder:

“And how does this happen to me, that (the mother of) my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:43

You always surprise me, O Lord, whenever you would come to visit me and do great things for me that people recognize you in me.

Of course, it feels good, Lord, when people affirm us for doing your work.

Problem is, fear creeps into us the moment we see the great tasks and mission you have for us. That is when we start wondering why visit us, Lord or why choose us, Lord? Then, we look at others, telling you they are better than us in doing your work.

And that is when we walk away from you, or worst, if we remain, we pretend to be doing your work.

Give us the grace of humility like Mary to accept and own our blessedness from you, of being chosen by you for a specific work and mission. Give us the grace to walk and live in the truth of being blessed like Mary to share you, Jesus, with others.

Visit us always, Lord, to surprise us of your great works in us so we may visit others too to share you with them.

Like Mary, let us welcome you in your every visitation to us.

Most of all, like Mary, let us always believe your words would be fulfilled in us, O Lord. Amen.

Church of Visitation at Ein Karem, Israel. Photo by author, April 2017.