Praying for unity

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2022
2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Mark 3:22-30
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, 18 January 2022.
Bless us, dear God our Father,
with the gift of unity among us -
in the family, in the community,
in office and in school, even in the
church; how sad that with the recent
surge of COVID-19, we have forgotten
the Church's annual Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity that closes tomorrow.
Like your servant King David, 
let us always seek you, God our Father
to be the very center and foundation
of our lives; like David, may we find 
you among one another as our kin -
"our bone and our flesh" - and never 
forget to serve you like a shepherd
to his flock.
Unlike the scribes who had come from
Jerusalem to accuse Jesus of driving out
demons by the power of Beelzebul, let us
not be instruments of divisions and 
fragmentations but of peace and unity.
May we heed the teachings of St. Francis
de Sales that in whatever situations we happen 
to be, may we always aspire to the life of
perfection through the practice of devotion
in different ways proper to our calling.  Amen.

When extraordinary is ordinary

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 01 July 2021
Genesis 22:1-19   <*(((><  +  ><)))*>   Matthew 9:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, M.D., March 2021.
When I look at your beautiful creation
O God our loving Father
I cannot but stop and wonder
be at awe with all the beauty 
and mystery so extraordinary
yet ordinary in your majesty.
Today we have two stories 
so extraordinary but with you
simply ordinary:  when you asked
Abraham to offer to you Isaac, 
off he went faithfully
even blindly:

As the two walked on together,
Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, 
"Father!" he said.
"Yes, son," he replied.
Isaac continued, "Here are the fire
and the wood, but where is the sheep
for the burnt offering?"
"Son," Abraham answered,
"God himself will provide the sheep 
for the burnt offering?"
Then the two continued going forward.
(Genesis 22:7-8)
The faith of Abraham in you, O God,
is so great, so extraordinary;
and so was the faith of Isaac
to his father that it never occurred 
to him he would be the one to be
sacrificed either.
Both Abraham and Isaac showed
extraordinary faith you ordinarily ask from us.
Give us the grace, O God,
to imbibe this ordinariness
of having extraordinary faith in you,
like the harmony and beauty
found ordinarily in nature;
may we realize that any sickness
is a "dis-ease", our lack of harmony
with you and with others due to sin.
Let us not "harbor evil thoughts"
like those scribes present at
Christ's healing of a paralytic
to whom he declared
"your sins are forgiven" (Mt.9:2)
to show that wherever there is
dis-ease, there is a lack of harmony
wanting your mercy and unity.
Amen.

True greatness in being small to become part of the whole

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Pentecost, 23 May 2021
Acts 2:1-11  ><}}}*>  Galatians 5:16-25  ><}}}*>  John 15:26-27.16:12-15
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Today we bring to completion our celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery – his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Ascension and Coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Although this mystery is one single reality, we have stretched its celebration over a period of 50 days (hence, Pentecost) or more than seven weeks because it will never be enough to fully grasp its whole meaning for it is a continuing reality and mystery in our midst just like the Ascension last week.

Note the upward movement of the Ascension that calls us to “level up” our relationships with God and one another in Christ; today, the downward movement of the coming of the Holy Spirit calls us to being small in order for us to be broken and shared with others. Whenever there is a downward push, what happens usually is a breaking down into smaller parts to fuse with the larger whole like a mix.


...our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others...  
It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole 
that we truly become great - 
whether in the Church or a community, 
in our personal relationships...

Jesus had taught us in his life and example especially on the Cross that our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others like him. It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole that we truly become great – whether in the Church or a community, in our personal relationships like family and circle of friends and most especially in the union of man and woman as husband and wife in marriage.

That is why the Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church when the disciples after being filled with the Holy Spirit came out in the open to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It was actually more of a “coming out party” of the Church that was established by Christ during his Last Supper.

See that since the very beginning, the Church started as a catholic – a whole – at the Last Supper of the Lord when he also instituted the Holy Eucharist that has become the sign of our unity from then on that enabled the disciples to recognize him at Easter at the breaking of bread.

Jesus promised them at the Last Supper how things would get clear to them when the Holy Spirit comes.

"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you
from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds
from the Father, he will testify to me.  And you 
also testify... I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes,
the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth."
(John 15:26-27. 16:12-13)

Believing in the Holy Spirit, Believing in the Church

Every Sunday in the Mass we profess our faith, declaring “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church” but, do we really understand its meaning? To believe in God is to believe in the Holy Catholic Church, to forget one’s own agenda in life, to submit ones self to her teachings from Christ our Lord and Master.

It is a declaration of the mystery and reality of the Pentecost, reminding us that becoming Christian means receiving and embracing the whole Church!

This is the beautiful meaning of the account by St. Luke at the first reading of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost at Jerusalem when all barriers – physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual – were broken as the disciples went around speaking in various languages to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ.

When the time of Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise
like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house
in which they were.  Then there appeared to them
tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest
on each one of them.  And they were all filled 
with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
(Acts 1:1-4)

Here we find the disciples of Jesus and their converts on that day of Pentecost allowing themselves to be taken up into the Church!

And how did this happen? St. Luke tells us “Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” Each one was parted, was broken down from their sins and selfishness that they became open for each other, trying to understand and accept each one as brother and sister in Christ.

It was a reversal of the story of Babel in Genesis when people were so arrogant and proud building a tower that reaches to heaven who were punished to speak in different languages that led to their confusion and quarrel until they all perished along with their ambitious plan.

Pentecost was different. There were different languages, different peoples with different backgrounds yet they were united and understood each other because everybody tried to become small, to mix into the whole and thus becoming a part of the Church on that day.

Unless we are willing to be parted by the Holy Spirit’s “tongues of fire” and “strong driving wind” like a storm, we can never be filled with God and his holiness to experience his peace and his joy.

It is a lifelong process and that is why Pentecost is a daily reality, happening to us especially when we sometimes have to be shaken by so many events and circumstances that come our way.

In the second reading, we heard St. Paul reminding the Galatians, including us, to “live by the Spirit and not gratify the desire of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). At that time, some missionaries sowed confusion among the Galatians, telling them to follow Jewish practices and Mosaic prescriptions to be fully Christians like circumcision. The issue had long been settled at the Council of Jerusalem but some Jewish converts persisted.

Here, St. Paul teaches us a valuable lesson in resolving conflicts and confusions in daily life in the light of Jesus Christ, of salvation, of the Church. For St. Paul, we always have to ask the Holy Spirit in guiding us in everything, no matter how secular and mundane it may be to find the theological and spiritual implications of our experiences.

What he told the Galatians remains true to our days, that freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but to choose and do what is good. Every person has that tendency to sin, an imperfection in the “flesh” that is always in contradiction with the “spirit”.

As we have mentioned earlier, our greatness lies in our ability to share and give ourselves to others by dying to our sins and selfish motives, precisely what St. Paul is telling us:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.

Galatians 5:19-21

These are the things that the Holy Spirit “part” in us when it comes to us daily especially in our prayers and in the celebrations of the sacraments like the Holy Eucharist. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are unified as a person, we become whole and integrated that we see the value and importance of being one with God and with others. It is not longer the rituals that become the law guiding us but the interior law of love of Jesus Christ that enables us to get out of our selfishness to give ourselves in loving service to others.

When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit guided by this interior law of love, that is when we become truly free and experience the gifts and fruits mentioned by St. Paul like peace and joy.

In our world today marred by sin and so many divisions happening in our society and even in the Church, in our communities and right even in our families and personal relationships, let us pray today to the Holy Spirit to come to us, break down within us the many walls we have and lead us to surrender ourselves to God to be led by his hand in continuing the mission of love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

A blessed week ahead of everyone!

Photo of the stained glass with the Holy Spirit bringing light into the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

True unity in God is love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 20 May 2021
Acts 22:30-23:6-11   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 17:20-26
Photo from inquirer.net

How should we pray today, Lord Jesus Christ when you are the one praying for us? How wonderful indeed that at the Last Supper, you have already thought of us who would come to believe you 2000 years later. And what a beautiful prayer you have for us all – that like you and the Father, we may all be one in love!

Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed, saying:
"I pray not only for these, but also for those 
who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one, as you, Father,
are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me."
(John 17:20-21)

Yes, Lord Jesus: being one is being like you and the Father, a unity expressed in love and mutuality. It is a unity that comes from above, from you, and not simply from below or from us that is so fragile, so easily broken because of so many divisions within our very selves and among us.

Exactly what St. Paul had wittingly exposed when he spoke before the Sanhedrin – the polarity in beliefs of their religious leaders at that time, of the Pharisees who believed in resurrection and in angels and spirits and the Sadducees who refused to believe in these at all.

Teach us, Lord, to be witnesses of your love and unity in the Father in this time when unity is seen more as uniformity than oneness in diversity that spawns respect for one another.

Let your prayer be on our lips today so that in our lives of witnessing to your love and unity, the more we make you and the Father present in this world that has come to reject spirituality, accepting only what is materially tangible.

"Righteous Father,
the world does not know you, 
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name
and I will make it known, 
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them."
(John 17:25-26)

We pray, O Lord, for those losing hope in humanity, for those who have become cynical that we can still change and work for a better tomorrow as a Church and as a nation. Amen.

Praying for our Church and churches

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 09 November 2020
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12  >><)))*>  1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17  >><)))*>  John 2:13-22
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

Glory and praise to you O God our Father who had sent us your Son Jesus Christ to establish his Body among us, both as the Church made up of his people and made of stones. As we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, we pray also for Pope Francis, all bishops and priests, and all the faithful who make us the Body of Christ.

May our temple of stones be a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, your Building among us as St. Paul reminds us today.

Let life flow like waters from the vision of Ezekiel in the first reading from our Church and give life to its members especially the sick and the poor, the marginalized and the forgotten.

Dearest Jesus, help us draw inspiration from the beauty and harmony of your beautiful churches despite our many flaws and sins to form a unity in you in the Holy Eucharist we celebrate day in, day out in our sacred buildings to proclaim your glory and majesty.

At the same time, as we strive to follow your will in building a spiritual temple of people who worship in truth and in spirit, may this feast remind us also to take special care in keeping your house in order where we meet you in our liturgy. Guide us with the Holy Spirit to make every sacred building a living temple of your love, a church of the poor. Amen.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

Faithful and upright

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. John of Capistrano, Priest, 23 October 2020
Ephesians 4:1-6     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 12:54-59
Pope Francis delivering his “Urbi et Orbi” before an empty St. Peter’s Square in Rome, 27 March 2020 at the height of COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Vatican Media/AFP via Getty Images.

So many things have happened in the past 24 hours, O God our Father, that the peoples of the world felt as if the earth was shaken and thrown off its course following the news of the Pope’s recent interview.

So many have spoken without really reflecting the Pope’s statement proposing a “civil coexistence law” (translation by Fr. Darwin Resuello) among people with homosexual tendencies “so they may be legally covered” (Pope Francis, Catholic News Agency) “in seeking mutual help or helping another” (Fr. Resuello).

Many were quick to conclude Pope Francis is endorsing same sex relationships or same sex-marriage when in fact nowhere did the Pope said it; in fact, he had avoided using the word “marriage” in his adherence to our teaching that marriage is only between man and woman.

Everybody is now taking it to advance each one’s popular opinions and preferences long rejected that would never be allowed in the light of your teachings and commandment to truly love like your Son Jesus Christ.

In this world so divided and colored with different beliefs, guide us Lord Jesus in the Church as we seek ways to be compassionate and loving to everyone like Pope Francis, may everyone see it is always in your desire to be one, just as you and the Father are one.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received… striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one Body and one Spirit, as you were called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1,3-6

We pray for Pope Francis, his continued guidance by the Holy Spirit as he tries to reach out to more people marginalized especially in the Church – which is so ironic. Help him in his efforts to bring into the fold those outside, those driven away by our lack of love and mercy.

Do not deter him from being your sign of unity despite his portrayal by some especially those in media who keep on presenting him as breaking away from tradition. May his life of kindness and compassion convince others of his fidelity and uprightness before you like St. John of Capistrano who called on us priests to be examples for others in holiness.

We pray also for everyone to be more reflective to avoid sowing confusion and divisions with the Pope’s pronouncements, just like during your time when those around you were so focused on themselves than on those truly in need. Amen.

The Chair of St. Peter, sign of the Primacy of Rome which is about the primacy of love and service especially to those neglected and unrecognized; how sad some sectors use these efforts by Pope Francis for their own agenda. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Our heavenly citizenship

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 20 October 2020
Ephesians 2:12-22     >><)))*> + >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 12:35-38
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Quezon, 2020.

Glory and thanksgiving to you, God our Father, through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit for reconciling us all in you, making us one despite our many differences.

How lovely to the ears, to our being the words of St. Paul today, Lord Jesus, assuring us of our citizenship in heaven through the salvation you have brought us all, regardless of our color, race, status or even religion!

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Help us, O Lord, to embody and manifest this unity of peoples in you in the Church, your Mystical Body here on earth.

Heal us of our many divisions and make us truly Catholic by helping everyone enter into communion with you through one another.

Keep us on guard for your return, Jesus, by “girding our loins and lighting our lamps” (Lk.12:35) ready to welcome you with our good works each day, leading others closer to you.

Let us start by going back to you in prayers and silent meditations that many have forgotten or taken for granted in this 24/7 world saturated by media with all the cacophony of sounds and blinding visuals that have blurred our vision of who we really are as citizens of heaven, beloved children of God our Father in heaven.

Help us find our way back home to the Father in heaven here on earth by finding our way back home to our true selves and to our brothers and sisters in you, dear Jesus. Amen.

Maturity in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 02 September 2020
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 <*(((><< || + || >><)))*> Luke 4:38-44
Van Gogh’s “The Sower” from wikimediacommons.org.

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ for the words by St. Paul today that remind us of something hidden among us, something we take for granted that prevents us from maturing fully in you as disciples which is our tendency towards factionalism.

While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:3-6, 9

So many times, we remain “infants” in our spirituality as we continue to see more of ourselves and of other persons than YOU, O Lord, in our mission and ministry. Instead of being united as one, we move towards being on our own, towards factions so we can choose whom to follow among us.

There are times we forget we are your stewards, that we are all co-workers in your field that we try to “own” everything, specially people and God himself. We idolize people, setting you aside from the whole picture.

We cannot let go of our labels and tags for each other, forgetting the more essential name of being Christians, of just belonging to YOU alone.

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us also when we try so hard to always “keep you” or “box” you like the people of Capernaum who tried to prevent you from leaving their town for selfish interests like healing of the sick.

Let us grow deeper in your mind, Lord Jesus Christ by reaching out to more people to proclaim your good news of salvation meant for everyone. Amen.