40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Wednesday, a.k.a. "Spy Wedneday", 31 March 2021
Isaiah 50:4-9 ><}}}*> Matthew 26:14-25
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.
God our loving Father in heaven, it is now the eve of the Sacred Paschal Triduum called “Spy Wednesday” or “night of traitors” when Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and offered to “hand Jesus over” to them for thirty pieces of silver.
Bless us, dear Father, to be holy like you by being true to you in Jesus Christ.
Give us the grace to be like your “Suffering Servant” in the first reading to remain true to you by not turning our backs from you.
Let us not rebel against you especially when we insist on our own agenda and plans in life.
So many times in life we are like Judas, and even Peter, when we betray Jesus especially after breaking bread with him in the Holy Mass, when we malign people around us, spread lies about them so we may look good; when we deny knowing you or standing for family and friends because we are afraid for our safety; and, so many times we have been remiss in our responsibilities and obligations at home, in the office, in the school and in the community like the church.
Teach us to be true and holy not only to you but most especially to one another.
May we be like the tall tree that is an image of being true: firm and reliable, dependable, trustworthy, and most of all, deeply rooted in you through people we love and care and serve. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-B (Laetare Sunday), 14 March 2021
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 ><}}}*> Ephesians 2:4-10 ><}}}*> John 3:14-21
Today we burst in joyful shades of pink in our liturgy as we rejoice in this Fourth Sunday in Lent known as “Laetare Sunday” when our entrance antiphon calls us to “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her…”
This early as we go halfway through in our journey to Easter, we are called to rejoice as we continue to experience God’s immense love for us in Jesus Christ seen in our readings and most especially, if we have truly taken into heart the spirit of Lent through prayer, fasting and abstinence, and alms-giving.
Jesus said to Nicodemus: “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 he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Path to God opened for us in Christ crucified, our light.
As we have mentioned last week, the fourth gospel is also called “the book of signs” because John refers to the miracles and words of Jesus as “signs” that point to him as the Messiah or Christ, the Anointed One of God.
This Sunday we hear John introducing to us another sign and symbol he uses in his gospel for Jesus: his being LIGHT himself.
This we must first see in the context of his crucifixion which John refers to so many times in his gospel as Jesus being lifted up or raised up on the cross.
It is very meaningful for John because the Crucifixion is Christ’s greatest sign and revelation of his glory when he opened a path for us back to God in his Cross. It is in opening this path to God in his Cross that Jesus had also shone so brightly as our light along the way.
After cleansing the temple last week, John tells us how at the start of the following third chapter of his gospel that “There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” who “came to Jesus at night” (Jn.3:1,2) to discuss things he must have heard and seen about Jesus.
Remember chronemics, the non-verbal communication expressed by time and space? Again we find this employed by John in our gospel scene this Sunday in Nicodemus meeting Jesus at night.
According to biblical scholars, Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night in order to hide in darkness for he was afraid of being publicly associated with Jesus considering his being member of the Sanhedrin, the highest governing body in Israel at that time.
Moreover, his coming at night to Jesus is also symbolic, suggesting that despite his expertise in the Mosaic Law, Nicodemus felt within him a sense of still living in darkness and ignorance. If you read this whole scene, you find many instances of darkness and ignorance in Nicodemus that at one point, there is a tinge of sarcasm from the Lord telling him, “You are a teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?” (Jn.3:10)
Eventually on Good Friday, Nicodemus would come out into the open to join another secret disciple of Jesus named Joseph of Arimathea when they asked Pilate for his body to be buried in a new tomb not far from the site of the crucifixion (Jn.19:38-42).
The fourth gospel teems with many teachings as well as scenes depicting Jesus as the light dispelling the many darkness that envelops the world beginning at its Prologue.
Only John has this scene of Jesus discussing with Nicodemus his coming from heaven to dispel the darkness in our lives.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
Jesus enlightening us, uplifting us
This love of God for us through the coming of Jesus Christ is not only the joy of Lent but the very joy of our lives the Lord had expressed in two ways: in being our light in the many darkness of life as well as in uplifting us all from the quagmire of sins and evil.
But this joy in the Lord needs to be worked for; it does not come in handy as something given out freely in the sense that it calls us to do a Nicodemus too, of making efforts to come out from darkness, to follow the light of Jesus Christ that leads to the Cross.
And this is where it becomes more joyous, how Jesus enlightens us and lifts us up with him to the Father.
Let me explain it this way: when we talk of sin, we always find its logical connection with punishment. We see it everywhere and have always experienced it because rightly so, every sin is punished. Certainly, no one escapes punishment of sins in this life or life after. It is the law of karma that in every action, there is a corresponding reaction (excluded are other concepts like reincarnation we do not accept).
The problem arises in the question who punishes us for our sins?
Unfortunately, in any religion the finger always points at God which is very untrue and unfair!
God does not punish and would never do so because “God is love (1 Jn.4:16)”!
Those passages we find in the Old Testament of God “getting angry, punishing people” are literary devices used to convey to us deeper truths about God as a person relating with us like human. But notice too that the Sacred Scriptures itself declare in so many instances how God is “so gentle and slow to anger, full of mercy always foregoing his wrath” on the sinful.
Jesus clarified this in many instances, in words and in deeds, when he showed mercy and forgiveness to sinners like prostitutes and tax collectors who were then considered the most wretched and hopeless ones in the society. In the healing of the man born blind, Jesus clarified that sickness and disease are not a punishment from God (Jn.9:1-12).
Rest be assured in his words today to Nicodemus, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.”
St. Paul attests to this truth found in his beautiful reflection in the second reading:
Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved — raised us up with him, and sealed us wit him in the heavens in Christ Jesus…
Such is the great love of God for us. When something bad happens to us due to our sins or somebody else’s sins, it is not from God. It is our self-indictment of refusing to change our sinful ways that we suffer the consequences of our evil deeds: “And this is the verdict, that light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.“
When we try to reflect deeper, we find that avoiding sins is the most practical thing we can always do in life but, unfortunately, something we refuse to do for so many reasons.
Why we prefer darkness than light is something we have always been struggling with when we know so well it is better to be out in the light.
If we reflect deeply, we realize that God has no need for us; he remains perfect even if we sin, if we do not obey him, if we abandon him. But God chose to love us, even begging us to remain good and holy so we can be fulfilled in this life.
Should something bad happens to us because of our sins or somebody else’s sins, the very good news is that God would always find ways to enlighten us to ensure it will turn out well for our own good, even if he has to use pagans and unbelievers or sinners to bring us back into light as experienced by his people with King Cyrus of Persia.
We all have a Nicodemus in us when we sometimes prefer darkness, of coming to Jesus at night because of fears of what others might say about us in following the path of the Lord, of being good, being just, being kind, and being holy.
Like Nicodemus, we try following and listening to Jesus from afar as we have been so used to staying and living in darkness when light sometimes hurt our eyes, making it difficult for us to really see and accept people and things because truth hurts.
This Sunday, let us examine the many darkness we still have within us. Like the author of the Book of Chronicles we heard in the first reading, let us try to see the religious significance of what is happening in our lives and nation to find where God is leading us.
Jesus had come to save us, not to judge us. Step out from your darkness within and let the light of Jesus enlighten and uplift you high like never before in rejoicing as you see the beauty of life in God its author. Amen.A blessed and joyful week to everyone!
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz and Companions, 28 September 2020
Job 1:6-22 >><)))*> >><)))*> + <*(((><< <*(((><< Luke 9:46-50
How great it is, O God our loving Father that on this Feast of our first Filipino saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz, our readings today and even yesterday were all about words and how we must “walk our talk”.
San Lorenzo Ruiz remained true to his words that if given with a thousand lives, he would give them all to God when he chose martyrdom in Nagasaki, Japan in 1637 along with 15 others that included nine Dominican priests, two brothers, two laymen, and two consecrated women.
Exactly the same way Job is the best example of fidelity and complete trust in God when after losing all his children and properties in just one day, all he said was…
“Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord!” In all this Job did not sin, nor did he say anything disrespectful of God.
So many times, Lord, we say so many things without really meaning them well, when our words and actions do not jibe at all.
Sometimes, all we have are good intentions, lacking in actions.
And worst, there are times when we our words reveal dark intentions in our hearts that cannot escape you.
Help us to be true to our words, to be your witnesses in this world where words mean so cheap that even if we say more, we still mean nothing at all because our words are empty.
Through the intercession of San Lorenzo Ruiz, grant us the gift of martyrdom, of witnessing to your Gospel not only in words but most of all in actions. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog IIMonday, Week XXIII, Year II, 07 September 20201 Corinthians 5:1-8 /// Luke 6:6-11
Forgive us, loving and merciful Father, for the many times we have chosen to be silent in the face of ongoing evil around us, when we unknowingly conspire in silence against you, against life, against justice.
Both our readings today speak about this deafening silence among us in many situations when we are so afraid to speak for what is good and true.
On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Worst than our silence in standing for life and dignity of persons is our “unwitting support” for evil and sin so as not to disturb our family and community.
Brothers and sisters: It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans — a man living with is father’s wife. And you are inflated with pride. Should you not rather have been sorrowful? The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.
1 Corinthians 5:1-2
How true is the saying that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing” (attributed to both Edmund Burke and John F. Kennedy).
Forgive us, Lord Jesus.
Strengthen us inside, make our will and our hearts strong to stand for your Gospel specially when friends and families are the ones doing what is wrong and sinful.
Strengthen our firm resolve to be consistent in living our new life in you, Jesus, that is free from what others would say about us and free to be our true selves freed from sin, free to love and be faithful to you and for others.
Enlighten our minds and our hearts with your Holy Spirit on the actions we must take and words we must say to win them back to you.
Most of all, purify our intentions that we do this out of love for you and our beloved going astray. Amen.
Immediately after our Mass for the Passion of John the Baptist this morning, Lord, I am leaving for the celebration of funeral Mass for a very kind woman I have known since high school seminary, Dra. Nenita San Diego who succumbed to COVID-19 three weeks ago.
Yesterday after praying the Holy Rosary, another parishioner passed away, more than a month after I have visited her on her birthday to anoint her with oil for the sick and receive the Holy Viaticum. I was told it was a peaceful death, so true to her name which is “Puring”, from “Purita” for “pure”.
I am not complaining, Lord, but, what is with death – with “Christian death” – that we “celebrate” it, be it for the martyrdom of saints or the demise of ordinary mortals like us?
Thank you for the experience, Lord.
In this time of pandemic when death comes easily almost daily, we are not only reminded of our mortality but most of all, our eternity and victory in Jesus Christ, making every death an image of hope in you.
John the Baptist stood and died speaking for what is true because he had hope in Jesus Christ, the truth, the way and the life.
So many people like him are suffering today, refusing to give in to the pressures and whims of modern Herods among us because they believe in you that they stand for what is true.
O good Jesus, we pray for those suffering for truth and for life like John the Baptist in this time of pandemic; bless them and keep them always for they remind us like your precursor that you have come, that you are among us.
Keep our hopes vibrant and alive in you and to a more just tomorrow, Lord, so that we may persevere in speaking your words of truth no matter what others would say. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 01 July 2020
Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 <*(((><< <*(((><< >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 8:28-34
Praise and glory to you O God our loving Father for this brand new month of July! It is our hope this month will be kinder and more gentle with us than June. It is our hope that this July, we can all come closer to you doing what is good, what is right.
Seek good and not evil, that you may live. Then truly will the Lord, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim! I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the Lord, I take no pleasure in your solemnities… Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.
Amos 5:14, 21, 23-24
Most of all, through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, it is our hope O merciful Father that beginning today we start to reject and shake off evil from our lives, from our very selves.
We have not only sinned, O sweet Jesus; worst part of our sinfulness is how we have accepted sin and evil as a way of life, as a part of life itself with our usual excuses and arguments “wala nang magagawa, nariyan na yan, hayaan na lang” (there’s nothing that can be done, just accept it).
We have got so used to immoralities and lies that we simply accept them as facts of life.
Like those people at Gadarenes where two demoniacs have terrorized them for some time that “no one could travel by that road” (Mt.8:28).
But when you came, Lord Jesus and drove the demons into entering the herd of swine that jumped and drowned into the sea, the whole town came out to meet you and begged you to leave their district!
Instead of being thankful, they begged you to leave, Lord, because you have disturbed their lives so used to the demons. They have failed to see how two people were finally healed and exorcised. Most of all, they have refused to accept the new order in their place.
What a silly turn of events that continues to happen day when people have grown so used to evil and sin, refusing changes and conversion.
How sad that whenever we make a stand for what is right and good, what is true and just, we are the ones made to suffer, even persecuted for bringing order because we have disturbed the evil that people have been used to.
We pray for those who continue to fight injustice and immoralities in our communities, in our church that they may always be guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.
And we pray for those among us who have lost the sense of sinfulness, of living with sin and evil and yet continue to worship and praise you O God. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, 30 June 2020
Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12 >><)))*> <*(((><< >><)))*> <*(((><< Matthew 8:23-27
As we remember today, O Lord our God, the courage and fidelity of the first martyrs of Rome, we also pray for more martyrs and prophets who may inspire us to be your witnesses in this troubled time.
Or better still, make us one!
How sad that until now, we live in a time so similar with ancient Israel and ancient Rome where many of us turn away from you to worship money and other false gods, blinded by the material wealth and prosperity around us.
Many of us have become greedy and unjust in our ways to others especially the poor and marginalized.
Send us a prophet, Lord, like Amos who would dare to speak your words of truth, warning people who have gone astray.
The lion roars — who will not be afraid! The Lord God speaks — who will not prophesy! I brought upon you such upheaval as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: you were like a brand plucked from the fire; yet you returned not to me, says the Lord. So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.
Amos 3:8, 4:11-12
Increase our faith in you, O God, while at the middle of this great storm of COVID-19 pandemic worsened by many social upheavals happening around the world and right in our country.
Sometimes, we feel like the disciples of your Son Jesus, so terrified with the violent storm going on with waves almost swamping us.
Forgive us, Lord, when we panic because we sometimes feel that you do not care at all that we are perishing in the storm while you are “sound asleep”.
Fill us with your courage, sweet Jesus, to give witness to you like the martyrs of Rome who chose death than be one with the modern Neros of our time who lie and mislead many others into evils and sin. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week IX, Year II of Ordinary Time, 06 June 2020
2 Timothy 4:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 12:38-44
Imagining and praying this whole scene at the temple, Lord, is so chilling, demanding each of us to examine our being your disciple especially in this time of social media when every good deed being presented is no good at all.
There you are, Lord, warning us against doing every piety and religiosity for a show:
“Beware of the scribes , who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers.”
Forgive us, dear Jesus and have mercy for those moments we think more of getting famous, of getting known, of having more likes and more followers, when everything is done for the sake of setting a trend and becoming viral.
How sad that we miss the more important that is always beneath the surface, of what is in our hearts.
As I prayed on your next scene when you “sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury”, that’s when the veracity of our prayers and deeds are proven, when what is in our hearts are trul poured out.
If anything is done not coming from the heart, nothing can truly come out from the heart!
Grant us, Jesus, the same gift of selflessness of St. Paul that at the end of each day, we can sincerely pray to you,
“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”
2 Timothy 4:7
If possible, Lord, teach me today to be like that poor widow to draw from my inmost being what is most precious to give and offer you. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week VI, 18 May 2020
Acts of the Apostles 16:11-15 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 15:26, 16:4
Open our hearts, Lord, to the truth that it is you who truly works in us and through us in changing the world. We are your instruments, your lips, your voice, your arms, your body… And you remain the Message we have to deliver.
But it seems, there is another more important reason why we have to pray to you to open our hearts in this time of the corona pandemic: after more than 60 days of staying home due to quarantine, many of us have grown callous and cold inside like zombies.
Many of us do not seem to care at all for our less needy brothers and sisters.
Many of us still go on our own selfish ways, thinking only of each one’s own good.
Nobody seemed to care at all, especially our government leaders who refuse to admit their negligence in handling this pandemic trying to win the peoples’ hearts with monetary assistance that have bred corruption. They are more concerned with material needs, giving into the temptation of the devil in the wilderness as a fast solution in making stones into bread.
Now, they have allowed to open businesses especially malls over the weekend in order to spur economic activities, forgetting the other essential need of people for spiritual nourishment in their houses of worship.
Many were left in total disbelief how this government arrogantly preferred to keep churches and other houses of worship to remain closed when so many hearts and souls are dried up, longing to experience you again in the celebration of the sacraments?
More than the opening of our minds, please open our hearts in this time of pandemic when minions of this government are more concerned in silencing their critics than mass testing the people for the virus, when all they have in their minds are money and food forgetting the spiritual nourishment that teaches contentment and charity among people.
Open our hearts, Lord, for us to be more loving and kind to one another like the women in Philippi who listened to the preaching of St. Paul in the first reading.
Most of all, Lord Jesus, open our hearts to welcome your Holy Spirit who would lead us to the truth and be one in the Father so we may find him in the face of every person we encounter.
It is only in opening our hearts that we can truly be kind and charitable with others because that is when you and the Father in the Holy Spirit truly dwell in us, abide in us in your great love. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Saturday, Easter Week-IV, 09 May 2020
Acts of the Apostles 13:44-52 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 14:7-14
As we end another week O Lord, we pray this time for those who refuse to follow your path of truth. We pray for all trolls and peddlers of fake news and lies, including those who concoct and spread nasty and malicious talks about us.
The gossipers and slanderers.
We pray for them, Jesus, that they may finally come to their senses to see and accept the realities around them.
We pray that they may stop living in darkness, speaking of lies that have destroyed many good names and have caused so much heartaches to those they have maligned.
How sad, O Lord, that these liars and trolls are using the modern means of communications to spread their fake news and lies and gossips to mislead a nation, destroy families and organizations.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we saw how Jews were filled with jealousy against Paul and Barnabas while proclaiming your Gospel at the synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia.
Not contented in engaging your apostles into “violent abuse of contradicting” their teachings, they also “incited the women of prominence and leading men of the city” to persecute Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:45, 50) because they cannot accept the truth, they cannot accept you, Jesus.
And that continues to happen today when people cannot accept you as Lord and God who truly loves us, forgiving our sins and setting us free to become better persons despite our sins and weaknesses.
Keep us faithful to your words, Lord, and purify our minds and our hearts that we may be one with you in the Father in thoughts, words, and deeds.
Likewise, we pray for everyone that we may always be on guard in examining information and stories we read and hear in order to stop the spread of fake news and lies. Amen.