The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 07 November 2020
Philippians 4:10-19 <*(((><< |||+||| >><)))*> Luke 16:9-15
Thank you very much, O God our Father for the ability to still kneel before you on many occasions daily. I have just realized how times have indeed changed these days when we rarely kneel, when the rule of each day is to always rise above, go up higher, to be on top.
We call it “upward mobility” that we try our best to get the best education, best jobs and careers so we could move up the corporate ladder, up the social strata, to be popular, to be looked up upon, be admired and followed.
But, what goes up always goes down if we have no foundation in you, dear God, as St. Paul had learned. How amazing that after going through so much sufferings and hardships in his ministry and now in prison awaiting trial and sure death that he had felt on “highest high” in his life!
I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.
Make us realize like St. Paul that it is in going down like Jesus Christ that we truly rise in you; it is going down, in leaving everything behind and trusting in you that we truly become most effective and fulfilled.
It is in going down when we become fruitful though not necessarily successful which is very relative.
How sad, O Lord, how we have become a clapping generation that even in our churches we always clap our hands for things we see like achievements and material things forgetting those not seen by the naked eyes like character, sensitivity with the poor and hungry and other things of the heart that you look for and always see.
And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Teach us, Lord, to go down further by being one with those at the bottom and margins so we may experience you in them. Amen.
While praying on your words today, O Lord, thoughts of the beach came through my mind. I do not know why; maybe this is the only year when I would have not gone to a beach that I miss so much.
But, as my former spiritual director during our 30-day retreat, the late Fr. Arthur Shea, SJ, used to assure me, “the most difficult prayer is always the most meritorious”.
Indeed, sweet Jesus!
Like your prophet Nahum in the first reading looking forward to the defeat of Nineveh, I remembered those days in the past when I felt so fearful on many occasions whether I can overcome the many trials and challenges that have come my way.
See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah, fulfill your vows! For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed. The Lord will restore the vine of Jacob, the pride of Israel, though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined the tendrils.
Nahum 2:1, 3
Like Judah, I have won and prevailed in my many battles in life in your power, Lord, when I entrusted myself to you totally.
When I look back in my life, it is so true that it is in giving that we receive, it is in losing when we have, and it is dying when we truly live. That is the lesson of the waves at the beach that keep on coming to shore, as if trying to take it to the sea.
How I wish I could be like the sea, always moving, always light without anything except water unlike the shore that is so adamant as if it would never budge in.
But in reality, it is the sea that always prevails because water is always willing to give up itself to follow the form of the shore, to take the shape of every container where it is poured while the shore through time, its sand and rocks eventually give into the waves to get lost in the sea.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Dearest Jesus Christ, teach me to give up myself to you completely. Teach me to learn to get lost to you in order to find myself, to find fulfillment in life.
This COVID-19 pandemic reminds us today in this age of abundance and affluence that still — the key to authentic living is in giving up, in having less.
As they always say, “something’s gotta to give”. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2020
Isaiah 55:1-3 >><}}}*> Romans 8:35, 37-39 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:13-21
Remember our reflection last Sunday? Of how parables teach us that “less is always more” because to have the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ himself – we have to learn to appreciate the little things in life?
Beginning this Sunday until August 16, our gospels will start telling us who is Jesus Christ by showing us his powers and abilities that are exactly opposite the way we see and understand them. This new series of stories are so relevant to us in this time of pandemic, giving us wonderful insights into God’s ways of responding to our human situations.
St. Matthew now leads us with Jesus to the wilderness after teaching us in parables to experience his power in transforming us like the five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.
Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread
All four evangelists have recorded this story of Jesus Christ’s multiplication of the loaves of bread with their particular focus and stress, showing us that it truly happened and was a major event in the Lord’s ministry.
Very unique with St. Matthew’s version of this miracle story – which has not one but two! – is his economy of words in narrating it like a straight news as if it were a developing story or a “breaking news” unfolding before us, calling us to follow its updates and details due to its multi-layered meanings.
When Jesus heard of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
The consolation of Jesus.
Our situation in this time of the corona pandemic is so similar with that of Jesus. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it has finally hit us hard, so close to home with news of those we know getting infected and worst, dying from this disease.
Like Jesus upon hearing the death of John the Baptist, we are all saddened that we wish to withdraw away from everyone.
We want to mourn but there are more people in need of our presence and help in this time of pandemic like the countless medical frontliners and health workers who must be so tired – even sick, physically and emotionally – by now with the growing number of COVID-19 patients and yet have chosen to remain in their posts.
And there are still the other casualties of this pandemic like those who have lost their jobs, those evicted from their rented apartments, those stranded and separated from their loved ones, those begging for food, and those afflicted with other sickness going through dialysis and physical therapy.
Jesus knows so well the “wilderness” we are all going through and he is right here with us, one with us in our sufferings, in our fears and anxieties, and in our exhaustion.
To be one with us is consolation, from the Latin “con” or with + “solare” or alone, to be one with somebody feeling alone.
Jesus did not remove our pains and sufferings, even our death; he joined us to be one with us in these that he can call us to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt.11:28-30, 14th Sunday, 05 Jul 2020).
Compassion of Jesus.
Still with Christ’s reaction of being “moved with pity” at the sight of the crowds who have followed him to the wilderness, we find something more deeper with his being one with us, in consoling us that he had forgotten all about himself, his tired body that he went on to heal the sick among them.
To be moved with pity is more than a feeling of the senses but a response of his total person.
You respond for help, you reply to a call.
Ever wondered why we have the “responsorial psalm” after the first reading in the Mass? Because those words from the Psalms express our total assent and commitment to God, involving our total self like body, mind, heart and soul.
God cannot suffer because he is perfect.
That is why he became human like us in Jesus Christ to be one with our suffering and death so that we would one with him in his glorious Resurrection.
In the wilderness, Jesus stayed with the people, not allowing them to leave as suggested by the Twelve because he was moved with pity with the crowd because he wanted to suffer with them.
That is compassion, literally means to “suffer with” from cum + patior. Here in the wilderness, Jesus showed his compassion for the people which will reach its highest point in giving himself on the Cross on Good Friday.
Have we “responded” to God’s call to serve, to a call of duty, and to a plea for help from the poor? Have we truly given ourselves to somebody without ever thinking our own comfort or rewards? Or, are we running away from his Cross?
What a shame in this time of pandemic there are some among us who rejoice at the losses of others like the Twelve who wanted the crowd to be sent home because they were afraid of responsibilities, of taking care of the suffering people.
Consolation and compassion are the two most needed from each of us in this time of crisis.
Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.
We now come to the miracle of the feeding of five thousand. According to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, this story is an example of our “scarcity mentality” when we think of not having enough, of finding what we have as too little, always looking for more; hence, our tendency to hoard everything.
The Twelve were thinking more of themselves, afraid they could go hungry with the five loaves of bread and two fish they have. They were so afraid of difficulties ahead of them in their situation where to find and how to feed those great number of people.
They were focused on what was lacking than on what they have, and who was with them, Jesus Christ! They were hungry for food in the stomach than for food to the soul unlike the crowds who have followed Jesus.
Worst of all, the Twelve got “mad” upon seeing the crowds who have followed them to the wilderness when in fact, it was Jesus who needed most to rest to mourn John’s death!
But through all these, Jesus patiently bore the people’s woes and the Twelve’s selfishness to teach them all in a very nice way something so essential in our response to every human suffering and extreme situation: opening and entrusting our selves totally to God.
And that was actually the greatest miracle that happened that day.
In doing it, Jesus simply asked the Twelve what they have, never asking how much they have or its condition. Just whatever they have to give everything to Jesus like those five loaves and two fish that he took, and while looking up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the Twelve to distribute to the crowd.
And everyone was satisfied with a lot of left overs too!
Matthew nor any of the other Evangelists ever explained how it happened because it does not really matter at all. What is most important is what are we willing to give up to Jesus so he can transform us into better persons.
That is what we continue to do this day in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist- whatever we have, even not the best or the worst and littlest we have, when given to Jesus becomes holy and multiplied!
The power of God is immense, without doubt. But, in this miracle of the feeding of five thousand, Jesus is showing us that his power is not meant to satisfy our material or bodily needs but our deepest desires that lead to our fulfillment in him as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.
Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.
Amid the pandemic worsened by our government officials’ inanities, irresponsibilities, and sheer lack of compassion with us in this wilderness, the Lord assures us today that he is with us for “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Second Reading) if we are willing to give him all that we have.
It is our spiritual transformation first that leads us to our material blessings. We can all have it if we are willing to give everything to Jesus and believe in him always. What do you have for miracles to happen?
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIIIth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 28 June 2020
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16 >><)))*>Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 >><)))*> Matthew 10:37-42
Jesus continues his lessons to us his disciples being sent to look for the “lost sheep of Israel”, to be not afraid for he is with us in this journey and mission. But, it is not enough that we have Jesus on our side and be present among us: we have to allow Jesus to take possession of us completely!
From having no fear because Jesus is here, Christ now deepens his presence by inviting us to be possessed by him, to be in communion with him.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
The Mystery of the Cross
Discipleship in Jesus Christ is more than a total allegiance to him who is neither a demanding nor exacting Lord and Master for he does not arbitrarily impose himself upon us.
Nothing like that of subservience but something more lofty because it is wrapped in a mystery — a mystery of love freely given and shared to us by God even if we do not deserve it all. Remember the mystery of the Blessed Trinity four Sundays ago (June 07)?
Ever since, God has never imposed himself upon us, that we should love him back in return for he does not really need our love. He gave us the gift of freedom so that we may love him freely for he never imposes on us.
And here lies the beauty of discipleship, of this relationship we have with God that is based solely on love expressed to us in the most personal manner by giving us his Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the Cross but rose again on Easter. This we were reminded by the Solemnities of the Body and Blood of Jesus and of his Sacred Heart last June 14 and 19 respectively.
Now you see my dear readers the clearer picture of our liturgical celebrations expressing our concrete experiences of being loved by God in Jesus Christ most especially during times of trials and sufferings like in this COVID-19 pandemic.
It is Christ who made the initiative to be one with us in our pains and sufferings; God did not remove our crosses in life but made them holy in his Son Jesus Christ so that every time we go through life’s many difficulties, we share in the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
That is why, we are invited to take and carry our cross every day for it is through the Cross we are saved. It is not enough to simply believe in the person of Jesus but we need to accept and embrace his Cross because it is through which he had won our salvation by dying on it and rising again.
This is easier said than done. It is so difficult to love Jesus more than our loved ones like family and friends. And it is most difficult to love the Lord more than our selves, when we have to let go of our plans and agenda.
Letting go and letting God in itself is already crucifying — but that is when this mystery of Christ’s love and of his Cross deepens further when we lose ourselves in him!
Possessed by Christ
To be possessed by Jesus is to receive God and his gift of salvation through the mystery of Christ and his Cross. Like our Christian life, proclaiming the gospel carries with it the sign of the Cross of Christ.
We are not asked to reenact or reproduce his Crucifixion nor is Jesus asking us to be suicidal or go against our natural aspirations and dreams.
To be possessed by Jesus means we continue to take care of ourselves without neglecting the needs of others.
To be possessed by Jesus means being generous to others in the same manner Jesus has always been generous to us.
To be possessed by Jesus means to realize that every act of self-giving is really an act of receiving!
That is the paradox of the Cross, of discipleship in Christ: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt.10:40).
And that is also where the mystery of Christ’s love deepens because whatever we give is not really ours but Christ’s.
Every time we give love, it is the love of Jesus.
When we are kind and generous with others, it is the kindness and generosity of Jesus we give and share.
When we are patient and understanding to others, it is still the patience and understanding of Jesus in us.
Even if we give and share material things like money, food, clothing… whatever good we share and give are all from Jesus not from us.
And the more we give, the more we receive!
Have you noticed especially during this pandemic how the generous among us are now more blessed?
Wonder no more because you have allowed yourself to be possessed by Jesus Christ!
This is what the woman at Shumen had realized after welcoming the Prophet Elisha into her home in our first reading. She even gave him a room to stay every time he comes for his mission while the Lord provided all her needs, even rewarded her with a son as promised by Elisha.
When we allow Jesus to take over us, when we enter into communion in him and with him in his very life, we become more free to love, we strengthen our relationships with others, we wander less and worry less in life; most of all, we feel lightened in our burdens with the presence of Jesus giving us fullness of life in him.
This is the grace I hope we have seen from this quarantine period, especially those two months of lockdown when were freed from our usual grind and busyness with more time to be silent and still, to pray and reflect on our relationships with God and with others. It was a difficult and very trying period that had given in return a lot of opportunities to others.
Dead to sin, alive to God
Brothers and sisters: We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.
It has been four months since houses of worship were ordered closed to help stop the spread of the corona virus. Somehow, the lockdown had made us realize the importance of receiving the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist.
But, sacraments are not everything for we have the bigger roles of putting into practice its reality of being the saving presence of Jesus Christ.
Now that lowly life is beginning to go back to its usual grind especially the traffic, soon we might forget again the more important things in life like God and our relationships in our family and friends that it is hoped we have rediscovered during the quarantine period.
That is why I strongly feel the government must now allow Churches to open so the people may experience again God in the sacraments and in our rites and rituals lest they get busy again with so many things only to miss finding anew the meaning of our lives found in silence and stillness before the Cross of Christ.
It is my hope that in this quarantine period, may we find through the Cross of Jesus that when we learn to submit and surrender to him, that is when we truly become free; and, when we lose and give away our lives to him, that is when we gain fullness of life in him. Amen.
A blessed week and a more abundant July to everyone!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 April 2020
It was three in the morning
my day was earlier than usual calling
while kneeling I began praying
I could not believe the words coming
for they are meant before sleeping:
"Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit."
Since the beginning
of this quarantine
there is this feeling
seeping within, asking
what is happening
but scared when answering.
It is reality now biting
reminding me of one thing
that is so intimidating
haunting me ever since
not just of dying
but of being alone.
I know it is the Easter season
but there must be a reason
why this is going on:
I have never felt alone
until I have grown old
when there is nobody home.
When Jesus died on the cross
he was alone but never abandoned
for when he implored
the Psalm for his farewell song
he added the word "Father" that will lead us on.
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!
Such was the loneliness of the Lord
but in one word expressed his oneness
and closeness amid the great darkness
a love so immense, so intense
where every life and spirit here on earth commenced.
What a unique invitation
from Jesus to follow him on the Cross
into his Resurrection
by being lonely and abandoned
so we may pray in his filial way
Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!
It is in calling God our Father
when we are far and lost
that we can truly have that intimacy
with our Maker who breathed into thee
the very spirit that keep us alive
here and in eternity.