Standing up for Jesus, with Jesus

Homily at the Baccalaureate Mass by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Chaplain, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 01 April 2022
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22   <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Photos by ANGELA WEISS/AFP | Robyn Beck/AFP from aleteia.org, 28 March 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of 2022 – our first batch to finally have a face-to-face graduation after two years in the COVID-19 pandemic!

Graduation is a high moment in life, specially at this time of the pandemic. You are a rare one among the rest. And so, like Mr. Denzel Washington, let me remind you my dear graduates and your families too that …

"At your highest moment, be careful, 
that's when the devil comes for you."
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Very true, my dear graduates.

What is very striking (no pun intended) is that it came from a celebrity star in Hollywood which is the bastion of everything worldly, and contrary to anything spiritual. So nice indeed of Mr. Washington who is not only a very fine actor but also a deeply spiritual person.

Imitate him.

After your graduation, there will still be more high moments coming into your life, so be very, very careful because the devil will never stop tempting you in order to destroy your life and crush your dreams

In your four or more years of studies and stay here at Our Lady of Fatima University, you must have felt in various ways the temptations and misleadings by the devil, dividing your mind, blinding your sight, telling you with so many seemingly valid reasons why you should just stop and go home, that nothing good will happen in this frustrating online classes.

Like in our first reading today, you must have felt many times telling yourself what the author of the Book of Wisdom experienced:

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

Wisdom 2:1, 13, 17, 20
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2019.

Praise God and congratulate yourselves for a job well done, dear graduates. You have passed the tests of your professors and teachers, and most especially overcome the temptations of the devil to destroy your beautiful plans of “rising to the top”, of becoming a doctor or a nurse or a medtech or a teacher or a seafarer.

Today we thank God in this Holy Mass that you have remained faithful to him, standing by his side in Jesus Christ at the Cross of sufferings and trials. Two things I wish to share with you, batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University to avoid the devil from destroying you.

First is to always stand and witness the truth of God who loves us so much even if we believe more in ourselves, in our science and technology. How unfortunate that despite the world’s sophistications and advancements in the sciences, we still have wars going on, we still have abuses in words and in deed happening right in front of us like that slapping incident at the Oscars. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech at the beginning of the American involvement at the Vietnam War in the 1960’s that “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Always stand for what is true which is our motto, Veritas.

Truth is not just an object but also a subject, a person when Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6). This we find when we examine the origin of the word “true” which came from the Anglo-Saxon “treowe” for “tree” that connotes something firm. And that is what is always true, firm and unchanging, never flimsy like lies and falsehoods. Like the tree, truth cannot be shaken nor moved for it will always be the same.

It is very interesting that from the Anglo-Saxon word “treowe” for tree came also its related word “trust” because where there is truth, there is always trust which connotes relationship. That is why the concept of “family tree” came also from the Anglo-Saxons who saw their family like a tree – a firm tree have deep roots with many connections or links. Wherever there is truth, there is also trust and relationships that lead to community borne out of commonality and sameness. Very close to this concept is the Latin genus from which came generation and gender that both refer to being of one or the same kind. Like trust related to true, the word related with gender and generation is generosity which is the act of giving that comes from knowledge of belonging and intimacy.

Hence, a truthful person is always a generous one, someone who can be trusted because he/she is always one with others. Never forget your beloved alma mater, Our Lady of Fatima University, your mentors and professors, your classmates and friends with whom you all shared the truth, whom you have trusted and shared common passion and brought you to graduation day.

At your highest moment in life, be careful, stand for what is true, think of others, be generous with them and most of all, stand for God by standing with Jesus at the foot of his Cross.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

Second, to keep you away from the devil in your high moments in life after your graduation, do not forget the other motto of our dearest alma mater, misericordia, mercy and compassion. From two Latin words, miseor and cor that literally mean to move the heart, mercy is more than a feeling but something that leads also into a concrete action. As I have told you in some of my talks, the Jews have that concepts of mercy of the heart and mercy of the hand that must always go together. It is not enough to feel the pain of another person but that feeling moves you to do something to ease that person’s pain.

One problem in our world today is how people have absolutized truth, always insisting on what they believe as true even in many occasions what they believe is not true at all. Nonetheless, let us remember that only God is absolute. We have realized and experienced in the past that truth can be so painful. To witness the truth of God is to be merciful and compassionate by enabling others to be liberated from their painful realities in life – not to bury and cement them in their sad predicament.

Being merciful, being compassionate in this time is to move away from the way of the world that is based on fame and power, always competing with somebody else for more likes and followers. To be merciful like God is to find the enormous giftedness we have that must be shared with those who have less in life, with those who suffer most, with those who cry in pain in silence.

This coming Sunday we shall the story of the woman caught in adultery, at how Jesus liberated the sinful woman from her miserable state in life made worst by the public shaming her, wanting to condemn her in public. See the beautiful image of Jesus bending down, not looking at the woman, letting her experience God’s mercy, offering her a chance to become better.

In today’s gospel, Jesus dared to speak the truth of God despite threats to his life because that mission was very clear to him.

As you embark on a new phase in life with more high moments as well as more challenges, more pains and hurts, never give the devil a chance to destroy you and your lives. Stay close to Jesus Christ. Stand with Jesus at the foot of his Cross, especially when everybody feels to be standing more on their own pedestals of fame and glory founded on shaky grounds. The path to higher moments in life with Jesus and in Jesus is to join him in his Cross, of going down in love and humility.

During these pandemic years, God has remained true and merciful with you, with everyone, with us, staying with us and never leaving us in our lowest moments. Let us do the same with many others losing hope and meaning in life in this time of the pandemic by sharing God’s truth and mercy so that others may experience some joy in life. Amen.

From Our Lady of Fatima University/FB.

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.

Remove my blindness, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 February 2022
James 1:12-18   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Mark 8:14-21
Photo by Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2018.
Lord Jesus,
please remove the many
blindness I have in myself
that prevent me from seeing you
from understanding you
from following you.
Please remove that one
particular blindness in me
about temptations:  they
do not come from God nor
God wills anyone of us to be tempted;
temptations come from deep
within each one of us!

No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God;” for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sins, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

James 1:13-15
Thank for this clarification and
reminder by St. James that 
temptations originate from
one's self in three stages:
desires, sins, death.
Please open my eyes, Jesus,
enlighten my mind, my heart
and my soul to see the sources
of evil in me to see where these
are leading me.
At the same time, Lord, 
let me count my blessings too
at how "God willed to give us
birth by the word of truth 
that we may be a kind of
firstfruits of his creatures"
(James 1:18).
Open my eyes, dear Jesus,
remove my many blindness
like your apostles who readily
jumped into conclusions and 
missed your whole point about 
hypocrisies of the Pharisees,
thinking you were worried with
their lack of bread, totally forgetting
how you have multiplied bread twice
to feed thousands.
Sometimes too, we are so blinded
with our high regard for ourselves,
seeing more ourselves that we no
longer look at you nor see you
as our sole sole reference in 
everything and everyone.
Amen.

God’s encompassing love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
40 Shades of Lent, First Sunday, Year B, 21 February 2021
Genesis 9:8-15   +   1Peter 3:18-22   +   Mark 1:12-15
Photo by author, ancient fortress of Masada in Israel, 2017.

Lent may be the most sparse in outward signs and decorations like flowers in all liturgical seasons but it is the most dense in meaning and imageries. Although it is often seen as a drab with its motif of penitential violet and subdued music when both Gloria and Alleluia are omitted, Lent sparkles with profundity and depth leading to joy deep within if we truly dwell into its main message of God’s encompassing love for us.

Take our gospel this First Sunday of Lent this year taken from Mark. It is the shortest compared with Matthew and Luke who both give us details, but, Mark’s brevity is so precise and thought-provoking, too!

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020, Infanta, Quezon.

Life is a daily Lent.

Of all the seasons in our liturgical calendar, Lent is my favorite because for me, it captures best the reality of life that is at the same time so beautiful but in some aspects ugly, nice but painful. There is always that contrasts of light and darkness that indeed, life is Lent, a daily Exodus filled with trials and difficulties that lead to joy and fulfillment in God.

See how Mark shows this so well in his brief narration that begins after the scene of the baptism of Jesus by John at Jordan. Immediately after that, Mark tells us without fanfare, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”

Is it not this is how life really is?!

At once after praying, after celebrating the Mass that is when you get into a debate with your wife or husband, son or daughter or siblings. Sometimes it happens while you are still in the church you get into arguments about parking. Right after you have resolved to be a better person and turn away from sins and its occasions, that is when your friends would come and ask you to join their “gimmicks” or that is when your “ex” would come or text you, entice you to go out again.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2020.

The desert is the image of that place of so many battles in life, where we cried in pain, where we were rejected, where we were hurt. Our life is like the desert, so hot and humid at day, so cold and freezing at night. Worse of all, the desert is our life because that is where we fight Satan who always deceives us with his many temptations that eventually lead us to wrong decisions, hurting not only us but those dearest to us, dividing our families, separating us from one another that in the end, we feel trapped in a terrible mess.

But, it is not that all bad because Jesus joins us in our battles and struggles in this life, in this desert that we find ourselves in a similar situation, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

Yes, life is difficult but it is in those situations we find its meaning and beauty. Though there are so many trials and sufferings, God never leaves our side, sending us angels like family and friends, even strangers who come and stay with us in life, believing in us, helping us, and most of all, loving us — right in the desert.

Photo by author, an oasis in the Dead Sea area of Israel, 2017.

Like an oasis where life springs abundantly, Jesus joins us in our many struggles against Satan by giving us the strength and courage to remain faithful to God, to experience fulfillment and salvation by giving us little pockets of Easter in the midst of our daily lent.

See that “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. Amid the bad news of John’s arrest, Jesus began his ministry and mission of love and mercy for us all, It was in the middle of such disturbing situation that Jesus came boldly proclaiming, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The same is true with us today as we enter the first full year of the pandemic that had altered our way of life so drastically, causing us so much pains in the many losses we have suffered in life and properties, God comes closest to us in Jesus especially in the Mass (https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/23/from-fishermen-to-fishers-of-men/)!

Most of all, as we shall see in this Season of Lent, even in the midst of sins and evil, that is when God comes closest to us to experience him and his saving grace.

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison who had been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah… This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.

1Peter 3:18-21
From Google.

Baptism as the key to Lent.

The key to understanding the Season of Lent is to see it in the light of the Sacrament of Baptism. Originally as a preparation to the mother of all feasts in the Church we call Easter, Lent was the period when candidates (catechumens) for baptism were prepared. That explains why the Easter Vigil we celebrate is too long because it was only during that time when people were baptized especially when the Church came under persecution.

In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean of our sins, we are cleansed and purified to get by in this life in the desert as beloved children of God.

He knows so well our human situation, our living in the wilderness that Jesus had to leave Paradise for a while to be with us here on earth, going through all our human experiences except sin so we may return to the Father’s home in heaven. Remember how we mentioned Lent as a journey back into the Father’s home: Ash Wednesday is the porch and every Sunday is a room we enter until we reach the Father’s inner room on Easter to be one with him in Jesus.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

In the first reading we have heard the story when God made a covenant with Noah and his children after the great flood which prefigured Baptism that cleansed the world of all the sins and evil. God had felt sad in creating the world when people turned away from him living in sins that he decided to destroy everything by sending a great flood. However, he found Noah as the only one along with his family still living uprightly. So, God asked Noah to build an ark where they stayed during the flood along with the different animals representative of every species. In effect, Noah prefigured the new Adam in Christ who came to be the new beginning of the human race, clean and without sin. After the flood, God sealed a covenant with Noah with the rainbow as its sign.

God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”

Genesis 9:12-15

As I was telling you at the start, Lent is so rich in meanings. When you look on the Crucifix and find those arms of Jesus outstretched when he died on Good Friday, that is the new rainbow of his covenant with us we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Remember when you look at Jesus Christ crucified, he is the rainbow promised to Noah by God that he would never destroy all mortal beings again.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

During the first Sunday of the COVID-19 lockdown that fell on the Fourth Sunday of Lent that was also my 55th birthday last year, we decided to carry around my previous parish the Blessed Sacrament so that the people may at least adore God after churches were ordered closed and public Masses suspended.

On the last leg of our route, it began to rain but I told our driver to go ahead with our “libot” until suddenly, as we turned to a long stretch of road in the middle of rice fields, there appeared over the horizon a rainbow! The sight made me cry as I felt God assuring me on my birthday that we can pull through this pandemic, that he is with us and would protect us, keep us safe.

And he kept his promise. Our parish had the lowest incidence of COVID-19 in the town of Santa Maria. From then on every Sunday afternoon, we would borrow the F-150 truck of our neighbor and I would carry the Blessed Sacrament around our parish, blessing the people who knelt at the side of the road. Eventually, it led us to innovations like “walk-thru” and “drive-thru” Holy Communion when I would announce the distribution of Holy Communion after our online Masses in front of our Parish Church and in some designated areas along the highway.

It was the most memorable Lent I ever had in my life when everything felt so real like Jesus in the desert being tempted. Yes, life is like in the desert where the devil and wild beasts attack us.

Have faith, be firm, and take courage in Jesus Christ for we are all covered and protected in his power and might, love and mercy. He is the Father’s best sign of his all-encompassing love for us sinners. Amen.

A blessed week to you!

Photo by author, 2019.

Email me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Jesus is both the Sower and the seed – and so must we!


The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XV, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 12 July 2020
Isaiah 55:10-11 >><}}}*> Romans 8:18-23 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:1-23
“The Sower” painting by Van Gogh, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Parables constitute the heart of Jesus Christ’s preaching. From the French para bolein which means “along the path”, parables are simple stories with deep realities that must be cracked open through prayers and reflections to uncover its meaning.

In fact, every parable by Jesus is a word of God that is like a seed that must be received, planted, and nurtured so we may eventually see and experience what is within it who is God himself!

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Jesus, the mysterious seed

Beginning today until the last Sunday of this month of July we shall hear different parables by Jesus taken from this 13th chapter of the gospel according to St. Matthew.

It is very interesting that as Jesus now begins to preach in parables, we also notice his usual usage of this image of the seed, especially of the mustard seed to stress to us what we have mentioned earlier about the significance of parables as simple things with deeper realities. Every seed is so small, easy to overlook and taken for granted. Yet, we all know how every seed is also the presence of what is to come in the future, of something so big and huge that we can never imagine.

That is how Jesus would always portray the Kingdom of God, which is himself, his very person who is always taken for granted but full of mysteries that later in the fourth gospel he would reveal a deeper reality of this seed akin his Cross:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

John 12:24

That is the mystery of the seed, the mystery of Christ: something so ordinary we take for granted with immense possibilities when given up, when it dies. In this parable of the sower, Jesus shows us a hint of this profound truth about himself as a mysterious seed, someone who must be broken to die in order to grow and bear fruit.

If we read the full text of today’s gospel, we find Jesus explaining the meaning of this parable and we discover that he himself is both the sower and the seed: he goes out everyday to bring us the good news of salvation, providing us with seeds we must plant so we can have food in the future.

Every seed Jesus sows in us is always good as the first reading assures us.

Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful… so shall my word; my word shall not return to me void.”

Isaiah 55:10-11

Most of the time, we reflect on this parable on the importance of the soil on which the seed is sown.

This Sunday, let us reflect on what kind of a seed are we, of how we waste or put into good the enormous potentials packed in each of us by God.

Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

“A sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.

Jesus the sower does not make distinctions on different kinds of soil; he just scatters the seeds freely. His words concern everyone.

Unfortunately, there are some of us who do not care at all, as hardened as the path or pavement.

These are the people who has no plans in life, no directions, spending their lives watching days pass without knowing that they are really the ones passing by.

Sometimes, they just go wherever the winds would lead them while once in a while, they step out of themselves a little to join friends or peers wherever they may be going. Eventually they leave when the journey gets farther.

They are literally wasting their lives.

Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.

They are the “spur of the moment” type who eventually end up as what we call ningas-cogon (a kind of local grass when dried is highly combustible; quick to start fire but quick to extinguish too).

Beware of them who are at the beginning very enthusiastic in every project and endeavor but when the goings get tough and difficult, they are the first to leave.

No roots, no foundations in life. Easy to give up. Just as hard as those seeds on the pavement.

Photo by author at Petra, Jordan, May 2019.

“Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.”

These are the people who thrived a little but eventually the “thorns of the world” choked them that they eventually dried and died.

They are the kind of people we lament and sometimes grieve, wondering what have happened within them that their hearts have suddenly turned away from God and others with their noble causes we used to share with them at the beginning.

Oh, they are well represented in Congress, especially the party-list representatives of various advocacies for the marginalized and less privileged who eventually come out with their true colors and ugly features. Some of them simply stopped thinking and feeling the other persons, blinded with power and wealth selling off their souls completely to any golden calf willing to pay them.

The modern Judas Iscariots.

But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, flower farm at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

We now come to the better seeds (because all are good seeds, remember?).

They are the ones who fell on rich soil and produced fruit because they were the ones who willingly gave themselves up to the Sower. They are the ones who let go and let God, those who let themselves “die” and fell on the ground to give way to new life.

They are fruitful, not successful; the former relied on the powers of God, patiently bearing all pains and sufferings while the latter relied on their own powers, own intelligence and even connections that on the surface may seem to have the upper hand but totally empty inside.

The fruitful seeds are those willing to fall and be broken by God according to his divine plan. Many times, what is fruitful to God may be failures to us humans. Being fruitful is not about results and accumulations we have made but what have we become.

Fruitful people are focused on with the future glory to revealed by God through our pains and sufferings as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today.

Let us not put into waste this good seed sown in us by Jesus Christ, allow it to be cracked open and broken to let the new life within us spring forth and lead us to becoming fruitful. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone!

Kung ikaw…?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-04 ng Marso 2020

Ang panunukso ng diyablo kay Hesus sa ilang, isang mosaic sa loob ng Basilika ni San Markos sa Venice, Italy. Larawan mula sa psephizo.com.
Palagi na lang kung 
ating titingnan
iisa lang napapakinggan
nang tuksuhin ng diyablo si Kristo: 
"Kung ika'y anak ng Diyos... 
gawin mong tinapay mga batong ito!"
"Kung ika'y anak ng Diyos...
magpatihulog ka mula taluktok ng templo!"
Puro "kung ika'y anak ng Diyos"
ang tukso ng diyablo kay Kristo
pati ng mga tao nang ipako siya sa Krus
patuyang hiniyawan, "Kung ikaw ang anak ng Diyos...!"
Larawan kuha ng may akda, gayak ng altar sa unang Linggo ng Kuwaresma, 01 Marso 2020, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista.
Ano kahulugan nito
sa ating mga tao?
Hindi ba ganito rin ang takbo
ng panunukso ng diyablo?
Sinisira ating pagkatao
tulad ni Kristo
upang tumalikod tayo
sa Diyos na tanging Absoluto sa mundo?
Ginugulo, nililito tayo ng diyablo
tanong niya ay "kung ikaw ang anak ng Diyos"
gayong ang totoo at sigurado tayo
taguri sa Diyos nati'y ,"Ako'y si Ako nga"!
Kuha ng may-akda, 01 Marso 2020.
Alalahanin huling tukso pa
ng diyablo kay Kristo
garapal at tahasang binigay 
buong mundo kung siya ay sasambahin nito.
Ganyan din tayo
kung hindi malilito ng diyablo
bibilhin niya tayo
sa presyo na nakagugulo.
Kung ating tutuusin
maliwanag naman lahat sa atin:
iisa lang ang Diyos na sasambahin
na tunay nagmamahal sa atin.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 01 Marso 2020.
Ito ang diwa ng pag-aayuno at sakripisyo
sa panahon ng Kuwaresma
sarili'y dinadalisay, ang ilang ay tinutunguhan
upang Diyos muling matagpuan at maranasan.
Sarili'y huwag nang pag-alinlanganan
tayo ay sinasamahan ni Hesus 
na dumaan din at nagtagumpay sa lahat ng
pagsubok at paghihirap (Hebreo 2:18).
Sa gitna ng kawalan ay ating katiyakan
at kaseguruhan sa Diyos Anak na sa sariling dugo 
ating kasalanan ay hinugasan
upang tayo ay mapabanal at malampasan mga kasamaan.

Who we are vs. who we are not

40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week I-A, 01 March 2020

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 +++ Romans 5:12-19 +++ Matthew 4:1-11

From Google.

Lent has always been associated with the Sacrament of Baptism since the beginning of the Church. In fact our Sunday readings this 2020 (Cycle A) are among the oldest in our liturgy used in the preparation of candidates or catechumens to Baptism on Easter Vigil.

This intimate link between Lent and Baptism is very evident in our synoptic gospels as Matthew, Mark, and Luke present to us how after Jesus was baptized by John in Jordan River, his temptations by the devil in the desert immediately comes next.

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

Matthew 4:1-3

The Season of Lent and the Sacrament of Baptism

From Google.

Let us go back a little to that Baptism scene of Jesus at Jordan so we can understand this link between Lent and Baptism as well as to appreciate the meaning of our celebration this first Sunday of Lent.

It was during his Baptism at Jordan when the Father formally launched and made known the mission of Jesus as the Christ or the “Anointed One” of God, that is, the Messiah in Hebrew or Christo in Greek from which we derived the word Christ in English.

As a prefiguration of his coming Pasch – Passion, Death, and Resurrection – Jesus Christ’s Baptism became his “investiture” or “commissioning” when the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17).

In his Baptism, Jesus entered into solidarity with us sinners when he plunged into Jordan River to be one with us in everything except sin. It is here we find very clear the intimate link of Baptism with Lent when we are called to be faithful children of God like Jesus Christ

An anatomy of temptation and sin

Detail of the mosaic of the “Temptations of Christ” at the St. Mark Basilica in Venice. Photo from psephizo.com.

Every temptation by the devil, every sin is always a turning away from God, a deviation from our identity as children of the Father in Jesus Christ.

Whenever we would wake up, the Father reminds us like at the Baptism of Jesus at Jordan that we are his beloved son or daughter with whom he is well pleased despite our many sins, failures, and weaknesses.

And like Jesus Christ right after his Baptism at Jordan, the devil also comes every day to tempt us to turn away from the Father, echoing to us his same words in the desert with the Lord, “If you are the Son of God” to lure us into becoming someone we are not.

The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written…”

Matthew 4:3-6

See this pattern of the devil in his first two temptations, “If you are the Son of God” – very enticing to be somebody else, to prove one’s worth and being.

This pattern will significantly change at the third temptation when the devil took Jesus to a high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence. No more “If you are the Son of God” but a more direct temptation that is affront and “garapal” as we say in Filipino:

“All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

Matthew 4:9

Observe how cunning was the devil in his temptations of Jesus until finally, he brings out his sinister plot: worship him, turn away from God!

The same is true with us: the devil will lure and deceive us in so many ways with just one objective which is for us to turn away from God. In every temptation, in every sin, the issue has always been the primacy of God which Jesus Christ firmly affirmed in his triumph over the devil’s temptations at the desert.

And this issue on the primacy of God is always attacked by the devil in every temptation when he confuses us on who we really are like the woman in the first reading after the serpent had told her that she would be like God:

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its frit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Genesis 3:6-7

Do we not feel the same way after every sin? We feel naked – ugly, dirty, and alienated from our very selves precisely because we have not become our true selves!

These temptations of Jesus by the devil would persist up to his crucifixion where some people jeered and taunted him, telling him “if you are the Son of God” or “if you are the Messiah” so that he would turn away from the Father and forget all about his mission and Divine plan of salvation.

Notice that the last temptation of Jesus is exactly our last temptation too: abandon God the Father and simply be like the devil, with no dignity, with nothing at all because he is separated from God, our only grounding of being.

Hubris, our greatest temptation and sin

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Batanes, 2018.

Last Sunday we have mentioned how the Greeks have always held that man’s first and greatest temptation and sin is hubris – that is, the arrogant presumption of man that he is god, or that he can defy the divine to do everything and have anything.

We call it pride which is at the very core of every temptation and sin. The director of the classic film “Ten Commandments”, Mr. Cecil de Mille was once asked which of the Lord’s commandments is most often violated by man?

According to Mr. De Mille, it is the first commandment of God that we always violate because whenever we sin, that is when we also have another false god or idol aside from the true God.

Very true!

Our problem in the world is not really hunger or war or poverty but our refusal to be faithful to God, to be who we really are as his blessed sons and daughters. In some instances, there are some who have totally rejected and denied God, believing more in themselves, in the sciences and technologies.

Jesus is not indifferent to hunger or wars still going on in many parts of the world today; he had come to show us the path to our problems is to reclaim our being children of the Father, listening and living his words, worshiping and trusting him alone.

In going through his Pasch, in fighting all temptations, Jesus shows us the path to see and experience the God we can meet when we come to our desert where we rely only in him alone. It involves hard work, without any shortcut and quick fixes or instants that have become our norm these days.

It is not a simplistic approach to the many problems we are facing, but if you read the newspapers or watch the news, we see how humanity is still in solidarity with Adam, with sin, with the material world as St. Paul explained in the second reading.

On this first Sunday of Lent, we are reminded anew of our identity as beloved children of the Father in Jesus Christ who showers us with every grace and blessing that we need. Let us live in him, trust in him, hold on to him to experience life anew.

Let us give Jesus a chance to work in us, rise with him to our being beloved children of the Father! Amen.

Photo by author at the ancient city of Jericho, Israel, May 2019.