Lent is for delaying.

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-A, 26 March 2023
Ezekiel 37:12-14 + Romans 8:8-11 + John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
Photo by author, 22 March 2023, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City.

We conclude this Sunday the three Johannine readings during this Lenten season with the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. More powerful than the healing of the man born blind last Sunday, St. John shows in this raising of Lazarus who had been dead for four days that Jesus is truly the Christ, the awaited Messiah. Most of all, it is in this raising of Lazarus that Jesus also made his greatest “I AM” statement of all, “I am the resurrection and the life”.

Like the two previous long stories from St. John, let us focus on the opening paragraph of this long narrative that right away gives us a hint of something very striking, of why Jesus delayed his coming to Lazarus supposed to be his friend, someone so dear to him.

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”

John 11:3-7
An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.

Don’t you find it striking that after asserting that “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”, then, “he remained for two days in the place where he was” (vv.5-6)? How could Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus yet delayed his coming in visiting them, especially Lazarus who was sick? His love for Lazarus as his friend should have made him proceeded to visit him right away and had he gone soon enough, Lazarus would have not died at all!

Many times we are also baffled with God who claims to love us so much but too often, delays his coming to us, in answering our prayers, and even seems to allow us to suffer so much before finally coming to our rescue!

The key, my dear friends, is found in verse 4 when Jesus said “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Like in the healing of the man born blind last Sunday when Jesus told his disciples that “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (Jn.9:3), St. John is reminding us in this raising of Lazarus from the dead that the love of Jesus Christ for us is manifested in works that show the glory of God by which we his disciples come to deeper faith.

When bad things happen to us making us feel in dire need of help and deliverance from God immediately, we tend to focus on what’s wrong, what’s broken and what needs help, expecting God to do something quick about it. But Jesus is teaching us this Sunday to approach situations of tragedy and deep crises like when somebody is too sick, even death by first seeking means how we can be an instrument who manifest God’s glory in this moment of great danger and need. Jesus is governed by something greater than human affection and expectations but by the Father’s will.

See at a very young age after Jesus was lost and then found in the temple when he clarified to his parents that he had to be in his Father’s home?! As he matured and later with his disciples, he would always insist on the need to seek, follow, and stand by the truths of the Father for he does and says nothing not known by the Father. When it seems to take time so long in receiving God’s assistance, never think he loves us less. In fact, he loves us so much that he finds something else so beautiful in such situations that he opts to delay in answering our prayer requests immediately.

Remember how the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land after their exodus from Egypt when they could have accomplished that in less than a month maybe or even a year. But in their wandering in the desert for 40 years, they were purified and bonded as a nation. It was during those years they developed their language and culture and most especially, the composition of the first five books of the bible! Many times, God delays his coming to us so as to make us stronger and deeper in our faith like Martha and Mary. Just because God does not act quickly to our needs does not mean he loves us less that we begin doubting his love for us.

“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org

The love of Jesus for everyone, especially his friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary is best expressed in giving glory to the Father by helping them come into deeper faith. That is the greatest gift we can also give our family and friends – deepened faith through a life that points to God and not us.

There are times we feel like being grounded and even pulverized by God – dinudurog – not because he does not love us but primarily to transform us into better persons. In the first reading, God assured Ezekiel which was fulfilled in Christ that he would make us rise not only at the end of time but even in our little deaths daily in life by breathing into us his Spirt. This is the goal of every Lenten journey that leads to Easter, that amid all the sufferings and pains, even deaths we experience in life, we always emerge better, living more in the Spirit of God (second reading) than in flesh.

Hindi lang tayo mahal ng Diyos. Mahal na mahal na mahal tayo ng Diyos kay Jesus!

After each darkness in life, there is always new life in each new day with Jesus calling us to “come out” like Lazarus as a better disciple. Amen. Have a blessed week!

Photo by author, 22 March 2023, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City.

Lent is arising, not being afraid

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Lent-A, 05 March 2023
Genesis 12:1-4 >+< 2 Timothy 1:8-10 >+< Matthew 17:1-9
Photo by author, sunrise at Taal Lake, 08 February 2023.

Something so personal has happened with me this past week. It is something that is still unfolding, making me realize so many things in my life and ministry that as I continue to reflect on the death last Sunday of our elderly priest, Msgr. Vicente Manlapig, at the Fatima University Medical Center where I serve as its chaplain.

I was out when told about Msgr. Manlapig’s passing shortly before 3PM. It was the First Sunday of Lent. After saying a prayer for him, it suddenly dawned upon me that he was the second elderly priest I had taken cared of who also died in this blessed Season of Lent. The first was Msgr. Macario Manahan who died 16 March 2014, the Second Sunday of Lent at that time. I was with him when he died that afternoon as he lived very near my former parish assignment.

What a tremendous blessing God has given me to have attended to their spiritual needs preparing them for their deaths, of how life indeed is a daily Lent preparing for Easter when we have to go through many difficult series of temptations and sufferings that lead us to our transfiguration (https://lordmychef.com/2023/02/27/deaths-in-lent/).

It is the very path of life and death of every disciple of Jesus, from temptations in the wilderness to transfiguration on the high mountain. It is something we all have to go through in Christ, with Christ and through Christ.

Jesus took Peter, James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here…” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.” And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone. As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-4, 5-9
Photo from commons.wikimedia.org of mosaic inside the Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel.

Unlike Luke’s account that was set in the context of a prayer, Matthew’s version of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ illuminates the Lenten pilgrimage of the Church that is the tragedy of the Cross being seen always in the perspective of the Easter radiance. It is the oneness and inseparability of Christ’s divinity and glory with the Cross through which we get to know Jesus correctly.

Recall that the transfiguration happened after Peter’s confession of Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” at Caesarea Philippi (Mt.16:16) where Jesus also made the first prediction of his passion, death and resurrection. From that day on, Jesus began instilling into the Twelve his conditions of discipleship, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24). It was a very difficult lesson for them to learn and accept that triggered Judas to betray Jesus. The remaining disciples would only fully appreciate it after the Easter event with the help of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

That is why the transfiguration was actually some sort of a “teaching aid” for this most difficult lesson of his disciples when Jesus gave Peter, James and John a glimpse of his coming glory after his pasch. See that very clearly, Matthew recorded Christ’s instruction not to tell the “vision” to anyone until Easter; the transfiguration did happen and was seen by everyone there as Matthew used the word vision to describe it.

Like the three disciples, many of us are given with this unique privilege by Jesus to have a glimpse and vision of Easter, of glory when we join him on the Cross with our own sufferings and trials and when we accompany those in severe tests in life like the sick and dying.

Photo from iStockphoto.com of Mount Tabor in Israel where Jesus is believed to have transfigured.

Amid the pain and hurts we go through or see in others, we “see” Jesus, we feel Jesus, we experience Jesus.

Many times like Peter we speak and do things without really thinking well about them because we are overwhelmed by the experience as well as the vision and sight.

And most of the time, the sight and experiences are very frightening when God speaks to us, telling us to listen to Jesus his Son, to simply obey him and trust him.

Here we have a deepening of our reflection last Sunday of the need to fix our eyes on Jesus son that we may not fall into temptations and sin. Many times we do not see everything clearly but if we close our eyes and have faith in Christ, things get clearer until it is him alone do we see with us especially after passing over a turmoil or a test in life. Like the first man and woman, our eyes are misled by so many things that look so good but not good at all. In fact, there are things that look bad that could really be good after all like pains and sufferings in life!

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us through St. Timothy to “bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tim. 1:8) which matches directly the instruction in the voice heard during the transfiguration, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Mt. 17:5). After the transfiguration, everything that Jesus would tell his disciples and everyone that include us today is his coming passion, death and resurrection as well as the conditions of discipleship we mentioned earlier. God wants us to listen and follow his Son Jesus Christ to the Cross in order to join him in the glory of Easter.

We are transfigured and transformed into better persons by our pains and sufferings. That is the irony and tragedy of this age: we have everything like gadgets and money and other resources to make lives easier and comfortable but we have become more lost and alienated, empty and no direction in life. There cannot be all glory without sorrow; no Easter Sunday without Good Friday.

Lent is a journey back home to God who wants us all to share in his glory through Jesus Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. It is a blessed season we are reminded to always arise in Christ, to have courage and be not fearful of failures because right now, we are already assured of victory and glory in Jesus. Let us ascend with him the high mountain of sacrifices and hard work, of prayers and patience, mercy and forgiveness to be transfigured and glorified like him. Let us imitate Abraham in the first reading to respond to this call by God with faith and hope, obedience and perseverance. Amen. Have blessed and transformative week ahead.

Photo from custodia.org of Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel.

We are in God’s good hands always

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time, 28 July 2022
Jeremiah 18:1-6   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 13:47-53
Photo by author, St. Anne Church, Jerusalem, May 2017.
Bless me today,
loving God our Father;
help me to be still,
to be silent, and be like
a clay in your hands.
Do whatever you want 
with me for I have offered you
myself long ago though like
your prophet Jeremiah, there
were times I have whined and
complained, or worst even indulged
in self-pity when I felt you 
have left me or forgotten me
when things get rough and tough
with me.
Thank you, loving Father
for what and who I am today -
these are all because you have
molded me like a clay in the potter's
hand:  so many times I have to be 
mashed over and over again,
remodeled, redesigned, reconstructed
until your desired image appears;
truly, all we can do is to propose but
ultimately, it is you, O God, who disposes.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?” says the Lord. “Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.”

Jeremiah 18:5-6
When I look back to those difficult
and even painful days of molding,
everything was pure grace from you
and your loving hands:  nothing was 
wasted because I have become a better
person, I have learned to blend what is
new and what is old.

And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Matthew 13:52
In the name of Jesus
your Son, keep me strong,
fill me with courage to forge on
with life's many trials as you
mold me into your beautiful
masterpiece, an "earthen vessel"
of your glory and mystery.
Amen.

Pentecost for “top gun” Christians

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Pentecost, 05 June 2022
Acts 2:1-11 ><]]]]'> Romans 8:8-17 ><]]]]'> John 20:19-23
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Today we close the Easter Season with the Solemnity of Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus when he sent the Holy Spirit to his Apostles gathered with his Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

As promised by Jesus at his Last Supper, the Holy Spirit which he called the Advocate in the form of “tongues of fires” came to fill each disciple with wisdom and courage to remember and understand everything he had taught them, moving them from fear to courage to boldly proclaim his good news to everyone from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It continues to happen in our days wherever the Sacraments are celebrated and every baptized Christian becomes open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the “schooling” of every Christian to become a “top gun” – the “best of the best” – disciple of Christ. That is why he sent us the Holy Spirit! St. Paul perfectly said it to Timothy to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2Tim.1:6-7).

Photo from themoviedb.org.

I know. Some of you might not agree with my using of a very secular term “top gun” but if you have seen this latest Tom Cruise starrer, you will find it has some semblance with the Pentecost.

While it is about fighter pilots who are the best men and women on air with their sophisticated planes, Tom Cruise as their instructor insisted how everyone should be deeply grounded with themselves and with everyone. That is his first lesson to them: it is the pilot, not the plane.

For me, the turning point of the movie is when Tom Cruise realized the need for his pilots to play football at the beach in order to have bonding as a team.

That scene shows us the essential downward movement of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to break all barriers and remove every excess baggage with us and among us so we may rise, go upwards to higher level of relationships and living in Christ and with Christ who ascended last week to the Father. See how at the first reading Luke describes to us the great joy among peoples that despite their differences in language and even in cultural background, they understood each other. There was openness and understanding that led to communion, exact opposite at the Tower of Babel that the builders failed to rise to their desired heights as everyone became a burden to each other.

Pentecost is grounding below to be rooted with one’s self and with others to realize our higher goals in life who is God in heaven which we said last Sunday as intimacy with the Father in Jesus Christ. Pentecost reminds us of God’s belief and trust in each of us, of how much he loves us that he gave us his Son Jesus Christ who now sends as the Holy Spirit to fill us with his life and breath.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:19, 21-22
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Our gospel this Pentecost Sunday may be short but it is so rich in meaning. First of all, it is reminiscent of the story of the creation of the first human when God breathed on him his very life (Gen.2:7) and became alive. But, that life was destroyed with his fall into sin. God then promised to transform human life that had become like dead and dried bones by breathing on them the Holy Spirit (Ez.37:9-10).

That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ at his Resurrection when his first official act upon seeing his disciples was to greet them peace and breathed on them the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to transform their lives. It is a beautiful imagery of us being filled with God, the literal meaning of the word “enthusiasm” which is from the Greek words en theos.

When we are enthusiastic of something or someone, we feel so energized, even inspired to do and achieve great things (inspired/inspiration literally mean to be filled with spirit of God too). That is why the Pentecost is also considered as the birthday of the Church not because it was established on that day but it was on that event when it came out to the world to transform not only individual lives but the whole world and creation itself.

Recall three Sundays ago when Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper that whoever loves him and keeps his words, he and the Father will dwell on that person (Jn.14:23). What a beautiful imagery of us being the indwelling of God!

Here at the Pentecost as Jesus breathed on us the Holy Spirit, we have become his very presence in the world – not just his proxy because he is not absent at all.

It has always been said that if you want to change the world into a better place to live in, you must first change yourself. In Jesus Christ’s saving works, from his Incarnation to his Passion, Death and Resurrection and now in his sending of the Holy Spirit, we have no more reasons to be at the pit of life’s basket. We are God’s greatest miracle on earth – he has not only equipped us with a marvelous body so capable of doing many things but had even blessed us abundantly with every spiritual blessings in the world (Eph.1:3), primary of which is the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Everyday is a Pentecost, a coming of the Holy Spirit who enlivens us, inspires us to be the very best disciple of Jesus, truly the presence of God in this world so badly damaged with so much darkness and divisions, pains and sufferings, poverty and injustices happening not merely in individual cases but even on a large-scale basis. That is why the world needs top gun Christians these days to show everyone how wrong and erroneous are the ways that the world has chosen, that despite all the affluence and technology it has, people are more sad and lost, with some rejecting life itself resorting to violence and subtle attacks on life like abortion.

From pinterest.com.

Pentecost is something we have to live out daily as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, of trying to shift our sights and way of life to God, of living in the spirit and not in the flesh as the world would teach these days.

How sad that this past week, the two most trending topics in social media are the separation of popular husband-and-wife music tandem of Jason Hernandez and Moira dela Torre plus the court decision in the multi-million dollar defamation case of former couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The sad thing about these viral showbiz news items is how people closely followed them as if they are the most vital topics in the world at the moment, forgetting all about human trafficking, peoples displaced by wars, the many people without the basic necessities of life like decent housing and water. Until now, nobody is talking about keeping our population safe from violence especially the children except having more laws and more weapons. And most insane in the country as a result of the Jason-Moira split, people are again clamoring for the passage of the divorce bill as if it would solve all marital woes of infidelities.

Despite the coming of the Holy Spirit trying to level up our lives and existence by grounding us to the more real and essential issues in our person, we choose to ignore them and would rather sink ourselves deeper into the dirt of others.

Here, we really need a lot of enlightenment by the Holy Spirit like what Tom Cruise insisted to his team members in Top Gun: Maverick – it is the pilot not the plane. Yes, it is the person who must first be thought of, giving importance to his/her well being – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I think what makes this Top Gun sequel better than its 1986 original is the aspect of redemption of the characters played by Tom Cruise and Miles Teller who played “Rooster” as the son of his best friend who had died.

That is what the Pentecost is all about: the Holy Spirit was sent and continues to come to uplift us all, to transform us into better persons and disciples of Jesus. Are we ready to do the hard work of letting go of our personal issues and agendas to let the Holy Spirit fill us and lead us to higher heights in Jesus?

Have a blessed week ahead! God bless you all! Amen.

Photo from polygon.com.

Easter is “levelling up” in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter, 26 April 2022
Acts 4:32-37   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 3:7-15
Photo by author, Puerto del Dol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ!
Your Resurrection remains a mystery
that is so beyond descriptions
and reasons because it is of 
another dimension, of another world;
yet, I am so convinced of its truth
and reality because I have experienced
you so many times in simple occasions
in life that deep inside, I burst with
joy and conviction like Thomas
and the disciple you love.
Grant me the grace, dear Jesus,
to level up in my understanding and
looking at things in myself and around
me; help me to level up, to be "born from 
above" as you have told Nicodemus:

Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

John 3:10-12
By your Resurrection, 
you have paved the way for us
to enter into new levels of 
living, of seeing things like
"the community of believers
who were of one heart and mind,
and no one claiming any of his
possessions as his own as they
had everything in common";
most of all, "there was no needy
person among them" as they
cared for one another (Acts 4:32-34).
Continue to transform me,
dear Jesus, deepen my faith
in you by further going down
in humility and simplicity to
be uplifted in you on your Cross.
Amen.

Lent – when “staying” and “going” merge in Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Lent-C, 13 March 2022
Genesisn15:5-2, 17-18 ><}}}*> Philippinas 3:17-4:1 ><}}}*> Luke 9:28-36
Spring blooming of poppies in Galilee near the Nazareth, against the background biblical Mount Tabor, Israel, from iStockphoto.com.

From the desert where Jesus was tempted by the devil last Sunday, Luke now takes us on top of Mount Tabor for the Lord’s Transfiguration.

In the Bible, the mountain is like the desert that signifies a deeper reality and meaning. It is more than a place that shows communion and oneness with God, indicating an inner ascent within us to unite with God especially in this season of Lent.

And like in the temptation of Jesus in the desert last Sunday, it is very interesting how Luke tells us again two important details not mentioned by Mark and Matthew in their versions of the Lord’s Transfiguration:

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Luke 9:28-31

First, only Luke tells us the reason why Jesus went up the mountain which is to pray. Here we find that the transfiguration of Jesus is a prayer event. That is why we need to pray always because prayer transfigures us like Jesus Christ.

Second, as Jesus transfigured while praying, only Luke informs us the topic Moses and Elijah discussed with the Lord which is his coming “exodus” or passion, death, and resurrection on Good Friday. When we pray, the more we accept and embrace the Cross that truly transfigures us into becoming like Jesus Christ.

But the problem is, we always refuse and avoid prayer because it is always difficult to pray. Prayer is a discipline. Despite its being a grace from God to be able to pray which he freely gives to each one of us, it is gift that also requires from us total surrender and consistency.

Prayer does not necessarily change things like stop calamities or sickness; prayer primarily changes the person, enabling us to respond properly to problems, trials and sufferings that come to us; hence, prayer in itself is an exodus, a pasch that leads us to transfiguration.

Usually, when we pray we feel nothing is happening, that it is a “waste” of time, of being “idle” in one place that could have been used to other productive activities like fixing one’s problems. But it is in prayer when we first experience how “staying” and “going” merge to become one in Jesus Christ.

This we find in the only detail that Luke shared with Matthew and Mark when Peter woke up and saw Jesus transfigured, conversing with Moses and Elijah.

As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying.

Luke 9:33
Photo from commons.wikimedia.org, mosaic inside the Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel.

The Transfiguration, a preview of Christ’s glory via his pasch

Very often in life, we want every beautiful and good experience we have to be preserved, wishing they would never end, like Peter asking Jesus if they could just stay on top of the mountain to keep their “cloud nine” experience.

On the other hand, we are quick to beg Jesus to end soonest every pain and suffering, trials and difficulties we are going through in life that if possible, have them erased or deleted from our memories too!

For us, “staying” and “going” are opposites but Jesus is telling us in his transfiguration that these two come together.

In his transfiguration, Jesus is telling us that discipleship is both “staying” and “going” in him. It is only in Christ that we can “keep” the good time of being one with him while we “passover” from life’s many darkness, trials and sufferings by remaining one with him.

After assuring us last Sunday that we can overcome life’s many temptations through him, Jesus tells us today that our transfiguration and glory can only come through the Cross like him. Before Easter comes, there is Good Friday first.

At his transfiguration, Jesus showed us that his divinity belongs with the Cross and cannot be separated because that is his identity as the Suffering Messiah whose glory and pasch are always together. Hence, his transfiguration was the “preview” to his coming glory whereby he remained one in the Father in prayer expressed perfectly in his exodus on Good Friday which Moses and Elijah discussed with him on Mount Tabor.

Recall that his transfiguration occurred after he was recognized by Peter as the Christ while they were at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus also bared for the first time to the Twelve his coming passion, death and resurrection. It was also at that time when Jesus laid to the Twelve the very foundations of discipleship in him which is to forget one’s self, take up one’s cross daily, and follow him.

From Caesarea in Philippi, Jesus and the Twelve made a U-turn to go back to Jerusalem with a stop-over at Mount Tabor for his transfiguration where he reiterated his teachings about himself and his mission. See that during the transfiguration as Peter, James, and John watched in awe, they were frightened when a voice was heard from the cloud that declared “this is my chosen one; listen to him” (v.35).

And what do we hear from Jesus after his transfiguration? His two other predictions of his coming passion, death and resurrection plus his repeated calls to everyone to deny one’s self, to take up one’s cross daily and to come follow him!

It is interesting to note that while the fourth gospel does not have this story of the transfiguration, John rightly refers to the Crucifixion as the “exaltation” of Jesus Christ – his going down, his suffering and dying on the Cross is actually his rising to glory!

The same thing is true to us disciples of Jesus.

Photo from custodia.org, Basilica of the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor, Israel.

Staying and going in Christ, with Christ

The grace of this second Sunday in Lent when we hear every year the story of Christ’s transfiguration is his assurance of his love for us by going through his exodus which is his self-offering on the Cross.

The question is not whether we should stay or go but are we willing to both stay and go in Jesus, with Jesus? Discipleship is remaining in Jesus, going with Jesus up to the Cross!

According to Luke, Peter, James, and John did not tell to anyone what they saw and heard on Mount Tabor. Like Mary, they kept everything in their hearts as they remained with Jesus, going with him in all his journeys especially at the Garden of Gethsemane before he was arrested, listening to his words and teachings, witnessing and experiencing his many healings and exorcisms including his passion and death from afar except for John.

They never fully understood everything they saw and heard from Jesus until the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost day but, their “staying” and “going” with him transfigured them without realizing how the Lord was already transforming them inside.

The same thing happens to us when we “stay” and “remain” in Jesus through prayers and reflections of the Sacred Scriptures, through the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist every Sunday, through the guidance of other faithful disciples like our family and friends who witness Christ to us with their living examples. Akala natin wala namang nangyayari pero mayroon palagi dahil kasama natin ang Panginoon!

As we stay in the glorious presence of Jesus in prayers and penance, the more we go forward in our dying to self and rising to life in our loving service to everyone, in our kindness, in our patience and understanding, and in our mercy and forgiveness. When we offer ourselves wholly to Jesus, he does everything like what God did to the animals offered by Abraham in the first reading. Notice how Abraham on that night fell into a trance as if he could not believe what was happening while in the presence of the Lord. Palagi naman ganoon sa harap ng Diyos – nakakapangilabot, nakakatakot kasi totoong-totoo!

Lent is not just a preparation for Easter but also a journey for us all to purify and renew and rekindle our faith in Christ’s resurrection by remaining in him, ascending with him through mountains of sacrifices, and being tested in the desert of temptations.

These 40 days of Lent involve many stopovers where we are invited to examine our hearts, our inner selves to see who is inside us, of who are we dwelling with, of who we are going with. Let us heed Paul’s call in the second reading to “stand firm in the Lord” (Phil. 4:1) because our “citizenship is in heaven and Jesus will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body” (Phil. 3:20, 21).

Let me end this reflection with a quote I got and memorized as a child waiting in our former family dentist, Dr. Eddie Calalec of Meycauayan, Bulacan:

Time is fast for those who rush;
Time is slow for those who waith;
Time is not for those who Love.

Have a blessed week and please say a prayer for me on Wednesday (March 16) when I go through a surgery. Thank you and God bless you!

Advent is God’s transforming presence

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Simbang Gabi 5, 20 December 2021
Isaiah 7:10-14   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, an altar near the Chapel at the site of the Annunciation below the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

We are now at the final stretch of the week leading to Christmas as cash registers ring following the renewed economic activities with the lowering of COVID cases this month after a long lull since this pandemic began early last year.

Though the commercial hubbub is all around us, let us not forget that unlike the commercial green and red shades of Christmas, our Advent color is violet like Lent to signify the spirit of penance though in a more subdued manner. Amid our busy schedules, let us not forget that Advent is a preparation of our inner selves, of our interior disposition for a deeper meaning and nature of Christmas. With still a week to go, we are invited to empty our selves of sins, of pride and of other excess baggages so we can create a space for Christ’s coming right in our hearts, like our Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” She was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:26-29
Photo by author, site of the Annunciation beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

One of the most beautiful characteristic of Mary as a disciple is her openness to God. She always had that empty space in her solely for God, an inner disposition nurtured by her deep prayer life.

See the very solemn narration by Luke of the Annunciation, specifically mentioning to us the time, place, persons and circumstance involved in this “sacred moment” we have reflected yesterday. Mary must have been deeply in prayer when the angel came, a sign she was always attuned with God.

Notice that next to her surprise with the coming of the angel with the good news was her “pondering” what sort of greeting that might be. What an image of the Blessed Mother disposed to God’s calling and plans that immediately during her conversations with the angel, she was already reflecting on the meaning of the message. No hesitations or whatsoever. Just clarifications but willing to obey.

Luke tells us in other instances how Mary would “ponder” on words and events in her life like when the shepherds came to visit her newly-born child Jesus and after finding Jesus at the temple. Mary would always ponder the words and events that came her way, an indication of open acceptance, of a welcoming attitude to God’s works and wonder.

Photo by author outside Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

Her pondering on the words of the angel Gabriel was very significant; we can’t help compare her attitude to Zechariah who was made mute after questioning the angel’s announcement his wife Elizabeth would bear a child six months earlier.

There’s nothing wrong asking God and seeking clarifications with his plans for us but, never challenge and dare him like Zechariah who doubted the good news brought to him by the same angel Gabriel whose name means “the presence of God.”

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God… for nothing will be impossible for God.”

Luke 1:34-35, 37

In asking the angel “How can this be”, we find in Mary an honest and sincere, an innocent question already inclined to accept and cooperate with the plan. In fact, Mary indicated no resistance at all to the plan to be the Mother of Jesus – she just wanted to know the “script” or her role in the Divine plan of the Incarnation.

It is here where we find the transforming presence of God coming upon her at that moment when the angel told her “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”.

What a picturesque description that only an artist like Luke could express so vividly well.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you – God coming down to her, becoming present in her. And the power of the Most High will overshadow you – that is the clincher!

Look at the wonderful flow and unfolding of the Incarnation: a coming down, a descent of the Holy Spirit and an overshadowing of the power as some sort of being “possessed” by the Divine! Observe how Luke would repeat in his second book, the Acts of the Apostles the same sequence of coming down of the Holy Spirit and overshadowing of the Apostles with Mary!- at the Pentecost in Jerusalem. Their striking similarities remind us of the tremendous grace and power coming upon us when like Mary and later the Apostles we entrust our total self, including our future to God. It is only then when God’s transforming presence begins to work wondrously among us.

Photo by Ezra Acayan of Getty Images, February 2020 in Baclaran Church.

Too often, we feel uncomfortable and even not amenable to being overwhelmed by another. Our sense of independence is so strong, deeply ingrained in us even in childhood when we would always assert our very selves, insist on what we want that along the way, we also feel very suspicious of anyone trying to get too close, too soon with us.

It is funny that even with too much presence in social media like Facebook, we get that feeling of being violated or at least slighted by someone too close for comfort in posting and commenting on our walls.

At the Annunciation, we find Mary personally giving her yes to God, calling herself the handmaid of the Lord to let his will be done upon her. And the rest is history. That is why we have this joyous season of Christmas today when Mary allowed herself to be overwhelmed, transformed by Christ’s presence in her womb.

While we were so busy with our Simbang Gabi and Christmas preparations last week, another powerful typhoon battered the southern part of our country resulting in many losses of lives and properties. So typical of the stronger than usual typhoons hitting our country this past decade in this part of the year, it makes us wonder where is God amid all these things happening while we are in a pandemic.

Where is the transforming presence of God in this time of pandemic and calamities and inanities of so many gunning for the top positions of the land?

Photo by author, 2019.

We need not look far and beyond us. Like Mary, let us look into our hearts to see if there is room in my life for God. Recall in the Book of Genesis how out of chaos God’s transforming presence created everything good and, how in the darkness of Israel’s and mankind’s history came the Christ.

In this time of darkness and calamities, God is very much present among us, so raring to transform the world and our lives to something better. But, is there anyone among us willing to be like Mary telling God, “I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word”?

To transform this world into a better one, let us first be transformed in Jesus Christ. With Mary. Amen.

Have a blessed Monday!

When negative is positive

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2021
Numbers 21:4-9 ><]]]]*> Philippians 2:6-11 ><]]]]*> John 3:13-17
Photo by author, statue of the bronze serpent mounted on a pole by Moses overlooking the Promised Land of Israel at the Franciscan Monastery on Mt. Nebo in Jordan (May 2019).
God our loving Father,
in this time of the COVID-19
pandemic when being "negative"
is actually "positive",
help us see the meaning
of celebrating your transformation
of repugnant symbols of suffering
and death into signs of glory
and majesty like the snake
and the cross.

Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Numbers 21:9
How wonderful it is, Father
when you transformed a
dangerous snake into a
healing and saving symbol
at the desert,
prefiguring the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ
who showed us personally
that the path to exaltation
 is through lowliness
or self-emptying.

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Philippians 2:6-9
Most amazing of all, dear Father
is how you have transformed in Jesus
the most cruel instrument of suffering
and death which is the cross
into a symbol of salvation.
What a beautiful transformation
you have brought in Christ's Passion,
Death, and Resurrection
when the most negative sign
has become the clearest positive sign of all!

Jesus told Nicodemus: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:14-17
Help us find and celebrate, 
O God, in this Feast 
of the Exaltation of the Cross 
Christ's resurrection and glory
in heaven, instead of mourning
his death for he is Life himself; 
help us focus on healing and salvation
instead of dwelling on pain and
suffering especially in this time
of the pandemic; may his Cross
be our light in guiding us through
the darkness of COVID-19,
transforming us within to see
ourselves and one another clearly
as your beloved children, dear Father,
realizing the depths of your love 
and mercy while looking up to Jesus 
on the Cross.  Amen.
Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

COVID-19, our transfiguration

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 06 August 2021
Homily for Baccalaureate Mass, Our Lady of Fatima University
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10

I know. Just like everybody, I have that surreal feeling this could not be happening again: another lockdown with a strong probability of being extended that will definitely cement our position as world record holder in having the most and longest lockdown in this pandemic.

And of all the dates for the start of this new lockdown, it begins right on this day of our Baccalaureate Mass, right on this week of our Graduation rites, and still, so close to our school opening!

Talaga naman… talagang-talaga!

But, don’t be sad.

If we examine the situation leading to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor witnessed by his selected apostles Peter, James and John, you will discover that the Lord is also leading us to another transfiguration.

This pandemic is definitely not from God. Nothing bad can come from God. And whenever something bad happens to us, especially for those who strive to become good people, God would always ensure that any dismal situation would turn out to work in our favor like your graduating this year.

Prelude to the Transfiguration

See, my dear graduates, the apostles were feeling very sad too before Jesus was transfigured. They have just made a U-turn at the pagan city of Caesarea Philippi to head south to Jerusalem after Jesus asked them what do the people say about him, his identity. Their answers were varied and the people clearly did not know who Jesus really is.

Then, Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him” (Mk.8:28-30).

Immediately after admitting to them that indeed he is the Messiah or Christ that means the Anointed One of God, Jesus told them for the first time about his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection. That is in fact the reason they were going to Jerusalem – in order for him to suffer and die and rise again on the third day.

The apostles were disturbed. They could not understand how could Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would be rejected by their leaders and would suffer greatly and be killed but rise again on the third day. It was too much for them.

Like this pandemic.

How could this be happening to us if God is love, if God is merciful? Why all these pains and sufferings?

Where is Jesus Christ now that we need him most?

A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.

Our transfiguration in time of pandemic

Congratulations, dear graduates! You hold that great distinction of graduating in time of the pandemic. Do not be ashamed nor listen to what others are saying about your going through online classes, of not having much exposures like on-hand training.

On the contrary, be proud because you are so blessed and privileged by the Lord to go through all these difficulties and still finish your courses. You are like the three apostles – Peter, James, and John – Jesus had selected to join him up a very high mountain to witness his transfiguration and be transfigured themselves too in the process.

That is your main distinction, graduates of 2021: you are privileged. Many years from now you will realize that and be thankful to God, to your parents, to your professors, and even to COVID-19 pandemic in letting you go through this process of transformation and transfiguration.

You were privileged to experience and witness so many unique and new opportunities in learning and in life in general that were never known before. You were in fact shown like the apostles with Jesus on that mountain with a glimpse of the future glory to come.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

Mark 9:2-4

In the most concrete way, Jesus tells you today in the same manner he had shown the three apostles that the surest way to any glory is is the path of the Cross, of being one with Jesus Christ in life and in prayers. That is the beautiful imagery of going up a high mountain. In the bible, the mountain is the presence of God; ascending a mountain is being one with God in prayer.

Study hard, work harder, pray hardest, my dear graduates and students of Our Lady of Fatima University.

Transfiguration in Christ means learning the importance of what is basic and necessary, of not basic and unnecessary.


In this one and a half years of the pandemic, 
we have all learned the most essential in life 
are not our gadgets nor grudges 
but our family and friends, God and life itself.

In this one and a half years of the pandemic, we have all learned the most essential in life are not our gadgets nor grudges but our family and friends, God and life itself.

The pandemic is a transfiguration moment most especially to you graduates and students because now more than ever, we learn the essence of education, of educare from the Latin “e ducere” that literally means to lead out of darkness and ignorance which is as we say in Our Lady of Fatima University, “to rise to the top” by “improving man as man”.

That is “pagpapakatao”. It is in our being human and humane we become true to our ideals of Veritas et Misericordia, Truth and Mercy.

Therefore, fall in love, stay in love with humanity, dear graduates and students.

Of what use are our degrees, our years of studies if we do not serve and care for every person, if in the process of our profession we kill people, destroy lives instead of inspiring them, transforming them and the society?

What matters most in life is not what we have achieved nor done but what have we become.

Have we become better persons?

See the clothes of Jesus dazzling white, an expression of his very person that is pure and clean. In Matthew and Luke, they both mentioned the face of Jesus shining to indicate his holiness.

To love God is to love humanity.

And that can only be through listening.

Then a cloud came, casting aa shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

Mark 9:7-8

After admitting to his apostles that he is indeed the Christ at Caesarea Philippi, God the Father now himself affirmed on Mount Tabor before Peter, James and John that Jesus is his beloved Son to settle once and for all the question of his identity.

The only question remaining is what kind of a Messiah is Jesus?

At his Transfiguration, the answer was laid before us: Jesus is the suffering Messiah of God, the one who had come not to remove but be one with us in our pains and sufferings to be one with him in his Resurrection.

After this event, everything that Jesus would be teaching is all about being good, of being loving by forgetting one’s self, carrying one’s cross and following him every day.

Doing our share in the vaccination program with our volunteers. Photo from FB/OLFU.

We have learned in this pandemic that life is a daily dying to one’s self, of forgetting our selves, letting go of our self-centeredness and selfishness to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.

We cannot know everything, we cannot do everything.

But Jesus knows everything and he needs us to cooperate with him in order to effect the changes and transformations in us and in the world.

That is why we have to listen to him always. In school and at home, you must have been so tired of listening but as you go into the world to practice your profession, you will be doing a lot of listening to be successful.

Listening is not just hearing but acting on what you have listened to.

It is in listening we are transfigured like Peter, James, and John who after the event continued to ask among themselves, wondering what was “rising from the dead” meant. It would only be after Easter and the Pentecost when everything would be clearer to them.

That is the beauty of this story of the transfiguration of the Lord: the three apostles were also transfigured in a process after that as they went down the high mountain, discussing the experience and eventually living it out for the rest of their lives.

Peter as the leader of the Twelve would treasure this experience so much and most likely must have learned a lot from it too that he keeps on telling the story to everyone until his martyrdom.

Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:19

Treasure this trying time of the pandemic, my dear graduates of 2021 of the Our Lady of Fatima University.

Remember and be attentive to the voices of God and of one another not only in this time of COVID-19 but throughout your career so that someday, a new day dawns and the morning star of love and joy rises in your hearts. Amen.

Transfiguration in time of corona

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 06 August 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10
A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the Feast
of your Son Jesus Christ's Transfiguration,
we come to you amid the same darkness
that enveloped them that night atop Mount Tabor
as we enter another series of lockdown
in this COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken
faith in you among many of us.
Like the apostles before his Transfiguration,
we too are wondering the meaning of Christ's  
Passion and Death when he is your Son, the Messiah.
"How could he suffer and die?", they must have wondered.
In the same manner, we too wonder, could not stop
the questions coming from deep within us why are you
allowing these sufferings and trials, Lord?
Have you been angry with us, Lord, that these happen?
Jesus took Peter, James,
and John and led them up a high
mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach
them... Then a cloud came, casting
a shadow over them; then from the
cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved
Son.  Listen to him." (Mark 9:2-3, 7)
Like Peter during the Transfiguration,
we do not know what we are saying to you, Lord;
whether we are filled with joy or burdened
with sorrow, we speak without thinking much
even if you know what is in our hearts.
Open our hearts, dear God, to always
listen to your Son by remaining with him
in his journey on the path to his Cross.
Moreover, we possess
the prophetic message that is
altogether reliable.  You will do well
to be attentive to it, as to a lamp
 shining in a dark place, until day dawns
and the morning star rises
in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19) 
Bring us back to the path of faith in you, Father;
despite our dismal progress or lack of faith this year due to 
the many trials and difficulties by this pandemic, 
open our hearts to let us go back to you in Jesus, 
listening to him intently when all is dark and even dead 
because for as long as we return to you, sin and failures
become means for us to be changed and transformed -
transfigured when we rise in Jesus Christ's Resurrection.
Amen.