What surprises you?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 August 2022
Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

I recently attended a children’s party when the youngest daughter of a friend, Mimi, turned seven years old. And I was so glad that I came because of the great fun I had at the magic show, clapping my hands and cheering along with all the kids and their parents.

It was so “aliw” as we say in Filipino.

Very comforting.

Not just entertaining.

Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

There was total sense of wonder in me, of pure joy seeing doves and flowers suddenly coming out of the magician’s clenched fists or folded handkerchief even if I knew it was just a trick or a sleigh of hand.

The most beautiful part of the party, of the joy and comfort was the chance for me to be like a child again as Jesus had repeatedly told us in the gospel that “unless you become like little children, you shall never inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

Imagine the great joy and comfort of believing again at what one sees and hears.

Of suspending reason and logic.

Of just enjoying the moment, of not thinking so much.

Of being like a child again at the circus or fair – “perya” as we call it in the province.

Most of all, of being caught in the magic of wonder and surprise, eagerly awaiting what’s next or how did it happen as you scratch your head while looking at the person next to you with those eyes so bewildered as you laugh out loud because you both know it was just a trick yet so true, so real.

It was so comforting because I had lost senses of time, of reason and of reality that often lead us to many anxieties of things to do and accomplish. Like Mimi the birthday celebrator, I felt I have grown and matured after regaining life, of enjoying life, of believing again in the many mysteries of this life that we can never explain nor even understand at all except to accept simply as it is like children.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son in our former parish in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, January 2020.

To be like a child means to owe one’s existence to another, of being open to every possibility in life, of trusting that there is someone greater than us or anyone we call God who can talk to us through others who may even be different from us like the magician in his tuxedo and magic wand. That is why magic shows are not only entertaining but also comforting or nakakaaliw in Filipino. The word comfort is from the two Latin words cum fortis that literally mean “to strengthen”.

This is the reason why I think children “grow so fast” – they are always surprised because they are open that they are emboldened to try everything, trusting they can do it, that somebody is watching over them, that they are in good hands. Try observing an infant asleep in a crib when suddenly would kick his/her feet or move hands. My mom used to tell me that when babies are surprised – nagugulat – that means they were growing.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

See how the Blessed Virgin Mary had grown and matured after being told by the angel that she would be the Mother of the Messiah to be sent by God. She was probably 15 or 16 at that time but had kept that child-like attitude of openness, of being surprised which her Son would be teaching later. Mary must have been so wrapped in awe and wonder upon hearing the angel’s annunciation to her.

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29

Try to feel the resulting joy and fear of Mary in hearing the good news of the birth of the Messiah through her!

Right there, we could feel her faith in God at work, listening intently as the angel explained everything to her.

In the Old Testament, we find Jacob the younger son of Isaac having that same attitude of being like a child, of being open to God coming in every possibility. Remember when he fled to escape the murderous plot of his elder brother Esau after he had duped their father in bestowing his blessing to him?

On his way toward Haran, Jacob stopped at a certain shrine at sundown and took one of the stones there to place under his head as he slept for the night. It was then when he dreamt of “stairway to heaven” where angels were going up and down before God who spoke to assure him of his protection.

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!” In solemn wonder he cried out: “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!”

Genesis 28:16-17
Photo by Dr. Mai b. Dela Peña, Mt. Carmel, Israel, 2016.

Every time we are surprised by something or someone, it brings out the child in us, our wonderful sense of wonder, of believing, of trusting, of being open. Ultimately, of living again, of forging on in life amid all the darkness and uncertainties around us because we have that firm faith in a loving and merciful God who is also a Father to us.

See how this call for us to be childlike, of being surprised has become difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.

In this age of the social media all around us, nothing is hidden anymore. Everything is bared open even to the skin and bones we enjoy so much like in Tiktok as if we are a planet of sex-starved, foul-mouthed, filthy rich and wanna-be’s flaunting everything and anything that can be shown by the camera.

Unfortunately, the world of “macho” men and glamorous women we love to relish with delight in the secular and even religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone, leaving us more empty, more lost, and more alienated with one another and with our very selves.

Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

Many times in life when we feel tired and burned out, we go somewhere for some “me time”, of recharging. But, after some time, we feel lethargic again that we go out of town to find one’s self until we find nowhere else to go for retreats because the problem is actually within us.

Be like a child. Stop insisting of being an adult who knows what he/she is doing.

Set aside everything, especially your own agendas in life and open yourself to God and others to allow yourself to be surprised again, to regain that spark of rediscovering simple things without much thinking and reasoning, of just believing and be comforted that everything in this life is taken cared of by God. Like that magician in a children’s party.

May your week be filled with more surprises to gladden your heart and your spirit! God bless!

Praying to keep strong

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, 12 July 2022
Isaiah 7:1-9   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 11:20-24
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, October 2019.

When word came to the house of David that Aram encamped in Ephraim, the heart of the king and the heart of the people trembled, as trees of the forest tremble in the wind.

Isaiah 7:2
God our Father,
so many times in life 
our hearts tremble like
trees trembled in the wind,
almost falling because of 
so many fears in life:  fear of 
going hungry, fear of going poor,
fear of losing wealth, power and status;
fear of being conquered and
subdued by others stronger than us
BUT we never fear of losing you!
Forgive us, O Lord, for being like
the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida
who refused to believe in Jesus Christ
your Son despite the many marvelous 
things he had made in their towns;
despite your goodness and blessings,
we refuse to give ourselves to you; but,
when things go off hand, when trials come,
we call on you, demanding you to rush 
to our side and be quick to save us;
let us be "tranquil and do not fear" against
our enemies and every trial that come our
way by doing our part of having faith 
in you, of daring to go against the tide
to allow you do your work because after all, 
if ever things get worst, so often not because
you were helpless but because we kept you
out of our lives, we chose to break away 
from you, choosing our own destruction.

Uphold us your people, O God!
Amen.

“Sleeping” in Christ, trusting in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Our readings today are a parable of the Church, of what we should and would be as the Body of Christ celebrating the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pillars of the Church.

Despite their personalities being poles apart while their social, cultural and religious backgrounds were greatly different, both men were won over by Jesus Christ to proclaim his good news of salvation, eventually dying as martyrs like the Lord. Both apostles displayed deep trust in Jesus Christ whom they have come to know on a personal basis.

Let us reflect first on St. Peter, the “prince of the Apostles” and servant of all. Notice how Peter could sleep soundly inside prison, even between two soldiers as narrated to us by Luke.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

Acts 12:6-9

It is very amusing, even funny, but facts can truly be stranger than fiction!

How could Peter sleep soundly after being arrested and thrown into prison with two soldiers sandwiching him inside his cell while a host of other guards secured the area outside?

We think again of St. Joseph sleeping soundly in a similar critical situation when he decided to silently leave Mary who was found pregnant with a child before they were married. Too often, we find it difficult to sleep when we have problems because we cannot decide decisively as we lack trust and faith in God. Both Joseph and Peter slept soundly under critical situations because of their complete trust and faith in God.

But, Peter shows us another dimension of his trust in God – his total trust also in the Church, believing that they were all praying for him.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2022.

It is a beautiful imagery of the Church then and now, always in darkness like during night time when Peter was imprisoned. And that is the parable of this scene: it is always a time of Exodus for us in the Church, of passing over from every trials and difficulties, always trusting our leaders, trusting our faithful and most of all, entrusting everything to God!

If there is one thing most needed these days in our Church especially in the Philippines is this attitude of being in an Exodus, of exiting from our excesses from the past, of submitting ourselves more to God than to our own thoughts and plans especially in politics that we have forgotten the more crucial proclamation of the gospel by reaching out to the grassroots level, of witnessing our faith in God instead of lording it over among people, exerting our influences. The recent elections is a dark period of our imprisonment with secular thoughts and dispositions, forgetting our sphere of influence in spiritual matters.

May we, both clergy and laypeople, imitate Peter by abandoning everything to God in deep prayers, following God not our plans as symbolized by his putting on his belt and sandals as commanded by the angel.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

Meanwhile, we find the same kind of total abandonment by Paul of himself to God while in prison where he wrote some of his finest letters like this Second Letter to Timothy, the last of his captivity letters which we heard in the second reading today.

Imagine the stress of being in prison but without any hint of duress on Paul while awaiting death amid all humiliations with his incomparable eloquence:

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-7, 17, 18

Very evident in all his letters, Paul had always expressed his total abandonment of self to Christ, of his faith in God. Here in this portion of his second letter to Timothy, we find two important lessons so apt in our celebration of this solemnity.


First is the nature of Christian life lived as a worship: am already being poured out like a libation. That is what I like most with Paul, his mastery of language, always using the most perfect words to express his experiences and ideas. For some, especially first-time readers of Paul, they may find it so “mayabang” as we say in Filipino. But no. For me, Paul is the most sincere and most humble writer in the world of letters then and now.

A libation is a drink offered to gods in ancient Greece and Rome. Here, Paul as he approached death, summarized his entire life as an offering to God that we also see in his other writings.

And that is the challenge of this solemnity to us, that we live our lives as a form of worship to God.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, 15 June 2022.

Our very lives in itself are a prayer, always centered on God, something so foolish when we go by the standards of the world today that is all show – palabas – with nothing substantial inside because only money and fame matter. Paul was very much like Peter who lived their lives as prayers that like Christ in the end, both offered the highest offering of all, martyrdom.

Second thing we find in this short but rich excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy is the deeper meaning of death as a passage to heaven, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom”. Like the gospel last Sunday when we heard Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” wherein Jesus freely chose to face his death to fulfill his mission and express his deep love for the Father and for us. To the Philippians Paul declared that “for me life is Christ, death is gain”. Here in his letter to Timothy, Paul freely accepts his death, making it a blessing for others, something we must emulate. Instead of having those bucket lists of things to do before dying, Paul is teaching us death comes in every present moment that we must always prepare for its happening so that the next generation may continue the good things we have started. And that is exactly how until now the Church’s missionary zeal is kept aflame by Paul’s letters and works.


Photo by author, 2019.

In the gospel proclaimed today about the investiture of Peter as the head of the church of Christ, we heard Jesus entrusting to him “the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (cf. Mt.16:19).

As I end this reflection for this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I wish to use the word “key” in a different sense – the key to unlocking how Peter and Paul achieved so much for God and for the Church lies in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Both apostles who have become the pillars of the Church today truly experienced Jesus in their lives in the most personal and in timate manner that in the process they have mirrored the true Christ himself.

The problems we have in the Church today, notably the declining number of the faithful following an all-time low in credibility is largely due to the many wrong answers we give Jesus to his question “who do people say I am?” Many Christians are losing their faith and interest in the Church because of the mixed signals we give them on what do we say who Jesus is.

The Church grew so wide during the time of Peter and Paul because both apostles shared the true Jesus Christ not only in their words but also in their deeds. May we have the courage to open ourselves to Jesus Christ again so we may know him more clearly, love him dearly, follow him closely and preach him daily. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

True joy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 27 May 2022
Acts 18:9-18     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 16:20-23
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa at Carigara Market, Leyte, 2018.
Today, Lord Jesus Christ,
you describe true joy in you,
scary yet so wonderful:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.”

John 16:20-21
Joy is like a woman in labor,
in anguish because her hour has arrived
but after giving birth to a child, she 
remembers no more the pain because
of her joy of bringing forth a child into
the world!
I wonder, dear Lord, in this time
when childbearing has become a major
issue with some women insisting on
their rights, refusing to bear a child,
that less and less people are also 
experiencing true joy; we have come
to trust ourselves more than God that
many are so afraid of having children,
thinking it would lead to more joy when
ironically it had led to fewer joys in 
their lives!
Joy is completely trusting in you, God,
in your providence and protection like 
St. Paul who was so fruitful - and surely, 
joyful - at his stay in Corinth because of his
complete trust in Jesus; no harm really
ever happened to him!  How sad these days
when those in the pro-choice movement
focus more on the minority having problems in
childbearing than on the majority who make it
through all the pains and joys of giving birth.
Joy is more than happiness; it is a complete
trust and confidence in you, dear Jesus 
that even if things turn to worst, 
you will never abandon us until the end 
for you alone is our joy dwelling within us
in our hearts.  Amen.

Holiness is in silence

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Saturday, 16 April 2022
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Nazare, Portugal March 2022.

A blessed Holy Saturday to you.  One of the most unforgettable scenes of COVID-19 pandemic when it started in the summer of 2020 was like what we have every Holy Saturday or, as we aptly call, Black Saturday: empty spaces, empty buildings, with everything and everyone so silent. 

Holiness is being at home with silence, the very language of God.  In the bible, we find that in every revelation and appearance of God to man, it is always preceded by silence.  Before everything was created, according to the Book of Genesis, there was great silence.  In his prologue to the fourth gospel, John said “In the beginning was the word” – clearly, there was only silence – “and the word became flesh” (Jn.1:1, 14)

And when Jesus, the Word who became flesh, came, he was totally silent during his growing up years in Nazareth and when he stared his ministry, he would always go into prayers and silence.

On this Holy Saturday, the whole creation comes to full circle. In the beginning, after completing God’s work of creation, God rested on the seventh day and made it holy (Gen.2:3). On the seventh day after completing his mission here on earth, Jesus Christ was laid to rest.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Lourdes, France, March 2022.

Silence and rest always go together. To be silent is not merely being quiet but listening more to your voice coming from the depths of our being; hence, it is not emptiness but fullness with God, in God. It is in silence where we truly hear ourselves and others better.

On the other hand, to rest is not merely to stop work nor stop from being busy. We rest to reconnect with God to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Filipino, to rest is magpahinga which means “to be breathed on”.  To rest is therefore to be silent and be breathed on with the breath of God. Like in the creation of the first man who was breathed on by God to be alive; on the evening of Easter, Jesus came to visit his disciples locked in the upper room and after greeting them with peace twice, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit.

Holiness is therefore found in silence and in rest, when we listen more God and allow him to breathe on us that we are filled with him. And that is holiness as we have stated at the start of this series, which is not being sinless but being filled with God.

When we rest, we return to Eden, like the garden where Jesus was buried. 

Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.

John 19:41-42
Photo by author, garden beside Church of St. Agnes in Jerusalem, May 2017.

How beautiful is that image, of God’s rest and silence in Eden and of Jesus laid to rest at a tomb in a garden: to rest in silence is therefore to stop playing God as we return to him as his image and likeness again!

Maybe that is why many of us these days are afraid of silence because it is the realm of trust and of truth. We have always been afraid to trust and be truthful so that we crucify Jesus Christ over and over again.

Let us be like those women who rested on the sabbath when Jesus was laid to rest. That like them, we may trust God more by being true to ourselves even in the midst of this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 23:55-56

Silence is the domain of trust; people afraid of silence are afraid to trust.

It is said that the Sony Walkman is the most revolutionary invention in the last 40 years that had changed our way of life.  It is not the computer.  It is the Walkman, the ancestor of that ubiquitous ear pods, earphones and bluetooth everybody is wearing these days, having each one’s own world, unmindful of others. 

Today let us cultivate anew the practice of silence, of listening to the various sounds around us and within us and most of all, trying to listen to the most faint, the softest sound that is often the voice of God, the sound of silence who reassures us always that in the midst of his silence, he never leaves us, that with him we are rising again to new life. 


Help us to be silent today, 
O God our Father 
as we remember your Son Jesus Christ’s 
Great Silence – Magnum Silentium – 
when he was “crucified, died and was buried; 
he descended to the dead and on the third day he rose again.”
Breathe on us your Spirit of life and joy,
O God as we rest in you,
listening to your voice within us
so that we may follow always Jesus Christ's
path to Easter in the Cross.
Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Lourdes, France, March 2022.

Holiness is being true

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Wednesday, 13 April 2022
Isaiah 50:4-9   +   Matthew 26:14-25
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 31 March 2022.

It’s Holy Wednesday, also known as Spy Wednesday, the night Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus Christ to the chief priests in exchange of 30 pieces of silver (Mt.26:14-15). Tonight is the night of traitors, of betrayers, of those not true to us!

This is the reason why in most parishes after the Mass tonight, there is the ritual of tenebrae or gradual turning off of lights and extinguishing of candles in the church to show how momentarily darkness and evil prevailed in the world when Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Photo from saopedroesaopaolo.com.br.

To betray literally means to hand over a loved one to pain and sufferings like when a husband is unfaithful to his wife, when we spill the secrets of our friends, when we answer back our parents or refuse to obey them, when children waste their money on their vices and other non-essential things instead of studying their lessons while their mother or father is toiling day and night abroad as an OFW.

Betrayal is so painful and most unkind because we exchange or “sell” our loved ones like commodities for someone or something less in value; imagine the pain a betrayer inflicts on the someone who gave everything, with all the love and care only to be “traded” for lesser value? It is said that during the time of Jesus, a slave can be bought for 30 pieces of silver; how foolish Judas must have been in exchanging Jesus who loved and cared for him for a slave! And that is what we are too when we betray God and our loved ones – fools to replace someone so precious for anything else!

Betrayal is rebelling against a loving God, a beloved one, turning our back from them who are most true to us. And that is the short of it: betrayal is not being true.

Holiness is being true; holiness and truth always go together.

The word true is from the Anglo-Saxon treowe or tree. For them, truth is like a tree that evokes a sense of firmness, of being rooted in the ground. When our words and actions are not firm, shaky and always changing, flimsy or “pabago-bago” as we say in Filipino, then it must not be true. It must be a lie and not true at all because it is always changing or shifting.


Photo by author, St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2019.

Truth is always firm, does not change and remains true forever. It may be concealed or covered by lies for sometime but sooner or later, truth will always come out. It cannot be deleted. That is why the Greeks referred to truth as aletheia or phusis, the blooming of a flower that cannot be hidden and would always manifest or show. Jesus himself assured us that “nothing that is hidden will not be revealed; nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Lk.8:17).

Closely linked with the word true is trust which also came from treowe: the Anglo-Saxons saw in the tree not only firmness but also rootedness or connectedness. The firmer the tree, the deeper are its roots. And that is what a true person is – always trustworthy, someone who can be trusted, someone who values relationships or ties and links. Traitors betray their loved ones because they do not value their relationships; a true person is always trustworthy because he values his relationships. A true and trustworthy person is one who would always listen to God and others, not insisting on his own plans and agenda like the Suffering Servant of God.

The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear, and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.

Isaiah 50:4-6
Photo from Pinterest.

Remember the scene of the scourging at the pillar in the film The Passion of the Christ (2004)? Biblical experts say that gory scene was very true as it was the most painful aspect of the Lord’s passion next to the crucifixion; every time the knuckles would hit the body of Jesus, a piece of his flesh is torn off. Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged in the belief that people might pity him when seen so tortured and bruised, perhaps agree to let him go freely.

But it did not happen as the people shouted more for his crucifixion.

And that is what happens when we betray our loved ones, including Jesus: the more we become indecisive in life like Pilate, the more we also betray them because we could not stand for what is true. That is also when we hurt them more and ourselves in the process too.

So often, traitors are not aware of their betrayals, believing in their wrongful and misplaced convictions, forgetting the people who love them most. Many times, we absolutize the truth, forgetting that only God is absolute. Most of all, that truth is a Person, Jesus Christ who said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.16:6). Being true, being holy is always directed to a person, not just a conviction.

So be careful by being true always with one’s self, with others and with God.

What makes you forget the truth and be untrue to others?


Lord Jesus Christ,
teach me to be true and holy
not only to you but most especially
to the people you give me,
those who love me truly and dearly;
make me like a tree,
firm and reliable, 
dependable and trustworthy,
most of all, deeply rooted in you
through then people I love and care and serve.
Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, January 2022.

Lent is trusting God’s promises

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 28 March 2022
Isaiah 65:17-21   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   John 4:43-54
Photo by author, view of Israel from Mt. Nebo in Jordan, May 2019.
How sweet are to the ears
your words today, O God our
loving Father, when you promised
to create new heavens and
a new earth, when the things of
the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind, when there shall 
always be rejoicing and happiness.

No longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; he dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed. They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Isaiah 65:20-21
Sana now na, Lord!
Sanaol, God!
But I know you are speaking
not in literal sense though that
time would surely happen when
we experience no more pain and
sufferings nor crying and wailing
nor death of any infant nor of anyone
less before 100 years of age.
Yes, I know Father
this life will always be filled
with pains and sufferings,
trials and tribulations but these
are meant to make us stronger
and more trusting to your coming
to us in Jesus Christ; give us the
grace to be wholly committed
to you in Jesus, in your words
like that royal official from Capernaum
for it is only in our total trust in you
can we experience peace 
and healing that only you
can give in Christ while in these
troubled earth.  Amen.

Discipleship is loving like God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week VII-C in Ordinary Time, 20 February 2022
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ><}}}*> Luke 6:27-38
Photo by author, 15 February 2022.

Jesus continues with his sermon on the plains, going into the details of his main lesson, the Beatitudes which is about love. But not just love as we know and practice: twice Jesus tells us to “Love your enemies” (Lk.6:27, 35).

His instruction to “love your enemies” captures all the other moral injunctions in his lessons this Sunday meant to teach us to love like God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Recall how these past three Sundays we have been assured of the grace of God of the paradoxical happiness in life’s many contradictions we as disciples of Christ are invited to adopt by being poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted.

Jesus is teaching us his disciples to trust in him always, to look at everything in his perspective so that we may live and act like God our Father who loves everyone without measure. And to love without measure even one’s enemies begins in foregoing revenge as shown by David in the first reading.

In those day, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David. So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him. Going across to an opposite slope, David stood on a remote hilltop at a great distance from Abner and the troops. He said: “Here is the king’s spear. Let an attendant come over to get it. The Lord will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness. Today, the Lord delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.”

1 Samuel 26:2, 7, 13, 22-23
Photo by author, Dead Sea desert, 2017.

Imitating Christ in his love

David is a type of Jesus Christ, a prefiguration of his coming, of someone who completely trusts in God and his words promised to him. If we read on further, this scene beautifully ends with Saul blessing David for sparing his life as they parted ways while David tells the king, “As I valued your life highly today, so may the Lord value my life highly and deliver me from all difficulties” (1 Sam. 26:24).

To avenge one’s self on an evil doer is a “fairly” spontaneous reaction, something so automatic with our human nature. But to renounce punishment, to not retaliate like the Bishop of Belgium who was recently attacked and mocked by half-naked women recently for his stand against homosexual lifestyles is something so different and unusual. That is why the Bible teems with so many stories of similar accounts how men of God patiently bore all humiliations and pains to educate and form our conscience, forego vengeance and retaliations by trusting in the Lord always who will render to each one his and her due.

One of the most unforgettable story in modern time of such trust in God is by St. John Paul II who went to forgive assassin Mehmet Agca a year after seriously shooting him at the Vatican Square in 1981. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shows the same confidence in God as his Savior in his latest pronouncements following recent attacks by some people regarding his handling of a sexual abuse case in Germany, not to mention his old age and sickness.

Photo by author, Tagaytay City, 15 February 2022.

Love begins with respect, seeing the worth of a person

Jesus is not asking us to be passive nor resigned in the face of injustice and violence happening around us; very clear at the inauguration of his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth how Jesus declared he had come to heal our sickness and liberate those oppressed.

In asking us to return good for evil, to love one’s enemies is above all to love like God like he had shown us in its highest expression at the Cross. It is not something reserved only for Jesus as the Son of God nor for the saints or holy men like St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or that Bishop in Belgium.

God does not love only those who do good or finds worthy; God loves everyone because of our very existence.

This is what Jesus is telling us to always look at, to find and see in everyone. We are persons to be loved, not things and objects to be owned and possessed that when no longer useful nor “good” who can be simply dismissed or thrown away.

An important component of love is respect which literally means “to look again” from the Latin words “re” for again and “specere” to look or see. From specere came the words spectacle/s, spectator, and spectacular.

It is when we fail or refuse to look and see an individual as a person – somebody like us with feelings and dreams, someone who cannot be simply defined by history or background, color or creed but another being with life who is from God alone – that is when we sin, that is when we fight and quarrel, making enemies.

When there is no respect, when we refuse to look and see the other as another person with a face reminding us of our very selves and God as our common Source and End, that is when hate and revenge get out of bounds because we have judged the other as somebody not like us or less than us.

It is from respect for the other person where all other virtues like justice and kindness, love and forgiveness spring form because it puts us at the same level despite the wrongs done to us. Respect is recognizing and affirming the personhood of each one of us in God that must guide us in relating.

Now that COVID seems to be waning in the country, may we keep the lessons of the face mask and social distancing which is the value of every person, to always reach out to others, and most of all, to look into the eyes, to find and feel the warmth of every person’s face as image and likeness of God.

To love is to find Jesus in everyone

All the teachings and moral instructions in the Bible – from the prophets to Jesus Christ – are not only doctrines and precepts to be followed but actually the self-revelations of our personal God who relates with each of us in every person. This is why at the end of his teachings this Sunday, Jesus reminds us that the “measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Lk.6:38).

Let us not look beyond for any other basis for our love and respect. Jesus alone is the One why we love without measure, even our enemies because in him we find the new Adam, the spiritual One according to St. Paul presents in the second reading whom we find in everyone as well as in our very selves. Amen.

You are loved. Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by Mr. Vincent Go, 2020, Mang Dodong of Caloocan City who was forcibly quarantined in Navotas for a month after being caught without an ID while buying some fish to peddle in his neighborhood while a police general got free of any punishments celebrating his birthday mañanita.

True discipleship

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the First Week of Advent, 02 December 2021
Isaiah 26:1-6   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 7:21, 24-27
Photo by author, Malolos Cathedral, 2018.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord. Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heave, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 7:21
Dearest Jesus,
how must I call out to you?
Not merely with my lips and mouth
but most specially with my heart
and soul as I stretch my arms, 
reaching out to others with my hands!
Thank you for the reminder, Lord;
calling you "Lord" is not enough
if we do not surrender our very selves
to you, if we do not trust in you;
to call on you Lord is to "open up the
gates to let in a nation that is just,
one that keeps faith" (Isaiah 26:2).
Help us to build our house on rock, 
one that is built upon you and identifies
with you like a "strong city with walls 
and ramparts to protect us"; let us trust
only in you, Jesus, by putting into
action our prayers, witnessing to your
words and teachings for you alone is
the everlasting rock!
True discipleship in you, dear Jesus
is believing in you, trusting in you
alone... not in one's self and abilities,
nor follies.  Amen.

Blessed are those lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2021
Exodus 14:5-18   ><]]]'> ><]]]*> ><]]]'>   Matthew 12:38-42
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, June 2020.
What a beautiful day to reflect
on your very unusual ways, O God our Father;
once again, there is that issue of 
being lost in our readings today:
your people have to take a long and 
circuitous route out of Egypt
going to your Promised Land only to be
caught up near the Red Sea by
their former masters pursuing them
to take them back to slavery.
But Moses answered the people,
"Fear not!  Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory 
the Lord will win for you today."
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and,
with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two, that the children
of Israel may pass through it
on dry land." (Exodus 14:13,15-16)
Yes, dearest God our Father,
sometimes we need to get lost
in order to find you and one's self;
we have to be led to unfamiliar routes
and places and situations in life for indeed,
complacency breeds contempt.
Set us free from our routines and
own ways of thinking and doing
 that have unconsciously enslaved us
that we no longer trust you.
Teach us to "stand our ground"
like when Moses answered his
people amid their many complaints
that we may be consistent with our
desires to be truly free and fulfilled.
Teach us to "go forward"
as you commanded your people
to cross the Red Sea and believe in you,
follow your lead to experience
your great power and wonders.
He said to them in reply,
"An evil and unfaithful generation
seeks a sign, but no sign 
will be given it except
the sign of Jonah the prophet."
(Matthew 12:39)
Forgive us, dear Jesus
in seeking so many signs from you,
doubting you, mistrusting you 
despite all the love and mercy 
and blessings you have showered us.
When we are lost in the many 
trappings of this world,
help us find our way back
home to you, to rest anew 
in your gentle mercy and love.  Amen.