The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin, 08 February 2023
Genesis 2:4-9, 15-17 ><000'> ><000'> + <'000>< <'000>< Mark 7:14-23
On this middle of the week,
I pray to you dear God our Father,
that I may keep you at the center of my life
always inasmuch as you have made us humans
the center of all your creation.
At the time when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens while as yet there was no field shrub on earth and no grass of the field had sprouted, the Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.
Genesis 2:4-5, 7
How lovely it is, O God,
to keep in mind in this other
creation story in Genesis that
you created us humans first as
"center" of your creation!
Equally lovelier, O God,
is the imagery of man you have
settled in the garden of Eden,
creating him in your image and likeness
endowed with the most wondrous gift
of freedom which is at the "center"
of our humanity, right in our hearts.
Alas, O God!
Instead of remaining at the center
with you and in you, we prefer
creating our own "center",
moving away from you and from each other;
forgive us in making our hearts,
our very center, dirty with sin and evil.
Jesus summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. From the within the man, from his hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile.”
Mark 7:14, 21-23
Reign in our hearts, dear Jesus;
may you be center of our lives!
Like St. Josephine Bakhita who went
through so much pain and sufferings as
child when she was sold as a slave in Sudan
that in the process she had forgotten her name,
she was able to keep her sanity and
regained her dignity as a person
until she converted to Catholicism
and eventually became a nun
because she found you, Jesus,
as the center of her life, even forgiving
those who have tortured and maltreated her.
Her redemption from a life of slavery
and constant sufferings proved that indeed,
we are the center of your creation, O Lord,
that you hear our pleas
and come to save us
if we remain centered in you too.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2022
I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between ten and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are
I'm 22 for a moment
And she feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars
The piano, the voice and the lyrics were unmistakably Five for Fighting when I heard it played again after a very long time at the 40th day of the death of a young college student in our parish recently.
It was only then when I truly appreciated this 2003 hit “100 Years” after realizing its deeper implications about life and death leading to eternity. Besides, there were some interesting things about the song and the deceased young man who was also a talented pianist like Five for Fighting himself – Vladimir John Ondasik III. Most of all, the deceased young man I have celebrated Mass for was aged 22 like the character depicted in the song 100 Years.
Celebrating Mass at the funeral of a child, whether an infant or a grown-up is the most difficult one for me. Normally, we children bury our parents but, it is so different when children die ahead of their parents and even grandparents. As a priest, I could feel the pain of the grieving parents in losing their son or daughter even if I totally do not know them at all. Yet, it is a grace of the priesthood that while we are emotionally affected by grieving parents we hardly know that we are likewise uplifted in identifying with Jesus who had brought back to life a dead young man at Nain after being moved with pity for the man’s widowed mother (Lk.7:11-15).
Notice that Jesus brought back to life the dead young man because of pity for his mother, not because he pitied the dead son. God tells us in the Old Testament that he is saddened with the death of even just one of us but the event at Nain shows us how the eyes of the Lord are always with those left behind especially mothers because they are indeed the most pitiable in losing a child who would always be a part of them. Moreover, life is most difficult for those left behind who have to continue to bear all pains and sufferings while their departed loved ones rest in peace in eternity. And here lies the call of Jesus for us all to help those grieving to rise again and move on with life after the death of a beloved, especially of a child.
We shall talk about this later and let us just remain a little more with the reality of death.
Although 100 Years is a soft-rock ballad about a love relationship, it is very philosophical, in fact a Martin Heidegger, in calling for “authentic living” because we are all “being-towards-death”. While the song is generally a “feel good” piece, it reminds us of that reality we refuse to accept that coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life. It is when we are faced with the “existential” possibility of death that we begin to see the beauty of life and the joy of living.
15, there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself within a morning star
15, I'm alright with you
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you've only got a hundred years to live
Half time goes by, suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye, 67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on
Truly, as the song tells us, our life is precious – whether you are 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 – because it could all be gone in a moment or a blink! Like Heidegger, Five for Fighting is calling us in his song to cherish each one’s presence with more love and kindness, care and understanding, with a lot of mercy and forgiveness because we live only for a period of time like 100 Years.
St. Paul also spoke of this constant awareness of death, of how “the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31) that we should live authentically as Christians. This pandemic has taught us in the most strongest terms this truth, not only with actually dying but also of being prevented from spending precious moments with our dead’s remains! May we not forget this pandemic’s lesson of living in the present moment as if it is also your final moment in life, of cherishing each other always because true riches are found only in God through one another as Jesus reminded us in last Sunday’s gospel (Lk.16:11).
To live is to love. What we need are more people, more children, more friends to celebrate life with. Like God, friends and family do not perish; they live on even if we do not see them because they just move on to higher level of existence. Unlike money and wealth, power and fame, and other material things that perish and become obsolete after a year.
Our weekday readings these past week teemed with so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom about people and relationships learned at the heels of death: the centurion who sent for Jesus for the healing of his slave who “was valuable to him” (Lk.7:2) on Monday; praying for those who grieve like that widowed mother in Nain (Lk.7:13) on Tuesday; and last Wednesday at the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we were reminded of our transformation through life’s sufferings or little deaths in life; and, finally on Thursday at the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, of how we are invited to imitate Mary who remained at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday with her dying Son Jesus Christ. Here we find how death has become a blessing when seen in the light of Jesus and his Cross as witnessed by the Blessed Mother and preached by St. Paul.
This positive aspect of death as a blessing is wonderfully portrayed in the music video of 100 Years set in an isolated place in soft shades of dark blue and green, with some hues of grey evoking a deep sense of peace and tranquility minus the morbidity. Laid-back and relaxed, perhaps. Of course, Five for Fighting’s trademark piano makes the music video so lovely, so appealing, giving a joyful note on death’s certainty leading to eternity.
I'm 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are
15, there's still time for you
22, I feel her too
33, you're on your way
Every day's a new day
At the start of the music video of 100 Years, we find a younger man playing the piano before Five for Fighting appears singing. That shifting of the younger and older Ondasik would happen about six times maybe interspersed with other characters coming to play the piano too until in the end he leaves to walk toward a big tree to meet his older self. Or God maybe.
That big tree seems to convey something like paradise, a gateway to eternity where time is totally held in completeness with everything at the present moment shown by Five for Fighting’s repeated returns to climb the big tree to look at his younger self kissing his first girlfriend until toward the end, he fell from the tree as if he had died only to be seen singing while playing the piano again. It was reminiscent of one of the final scenes in the 1990 movie Flatliners with Kiefer Sutherland trying to amend his childhood sin and crime in pushing to death his playmate from a similar big tree; Sutherland was eventually forgiven when during an induced “flatline” he was able to go back to his past to apologize to his dead playmate with a reversal of role, of him as an adult in the present moment falling from the big tree.
It was after that scene of falling from the big tree when Five for Fighting had awakened singing and playing the piano again when he finally stood to walk back to the big tree to meet his older self, or maybe God — something like Easter.
On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken by Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.
John 20: 1, 11-14
Like on that Easter morning, there will always be the darkness of death but only for a moment if we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus who had risen. Many times we are like Mary Magdalene grieving and weeping that we fail to see the light of Jesus and of our deceased staying with us right in the darkness of grief and death that envelop us. And like Mary, we keep on insisting in relating with them in our old, physical level, forgetting the fact they have risen with Jesus to new life, to new realm of existence.
Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.
“Stop holding on to me” or “noli me tangere – touch me not” are the words also meant for us today who continue to cling and hold to our departed loved ones like Mary Magdalene, still hoping to hug and kiss them again, to touch and tell them how much we loved them or perhaps say sorry for our sins and lapses when they were still around. It is time to level up in our relationships with them as Five for Fighting reminds us in the last stanza that “every day is a new day”.
It does not really matter if we, or they our departed, are just 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 — what is most important is we value each moment of our lives here and now where in the present we meet them once or twice if we are living fully and not blinded by our grief and wishful thinking. Have faith in God. Someday, we shall all be together. For the moment, here is Five for Fighting with his100 Years. May the Lord console you and raise you up to move forward again in life. Amen.
*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 18 September 2022
Amos 8:4-7 ><}}}}*> 1 Timothy 2:1-8 ><}}}}*> Luke 16:1-13
Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of Amos sounds like coming from a recent publication denouncing the corruption and social decadence in most countries these days, of the rampant injustice and exploitation of the poor, of how hypocrisies thrive among the rich and powerful and religious too!
Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”
How sad that long before the coming of Jesus Christ and more than 2000 years after his birth with all the civilization and religion all over the world, nothing has really changed at all: greed for power and money continue to divide peoples and nations, causing many losses of lives from crimes and wars that have ensued.
"Everything has a price,
everything has to be summed up
that sadly in the process,
God and people are commodified
while things are personified! "
Throughout history, we have never learned and perhaps, have continued to refuse to learn from God, beginning from his prophets like Amos down to his own Son Jesus Christ, the important lesson of giving more value to him and to one another. We have always put more premium and value on things that perish than on those of true value that remain even to eternity, none other than God and one another.
“If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
True wealth vs. dishonest wealth
Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem, intensifying his teachings on discipleship with two parables this Sunday and next week to deepen our knowledge and relationship with him and others as disciples.
We have heard today his parable of the wise steward who reduced the debts of his master’s creditors to ensure he could find employment in them when fired from his job. Jesus did not approve of his wily scheme but praised him and those like him of the world in finding ways to “win hearts” of people with their pakikisama as we call in Pilipino which is often a wrong sense of camaraderie when people help each other even in shenanigans and other corrupt practices.
If we could just find means in truly helping each other in life with the same ardor, we could probably have a better and more humane society where we value persons more than things. That is the kind of discipleship Jesus is teaching us today with his sayings after narrating this parable — of having God and one another as our true wealth in life, not dishonest wealth of money, power and fame that feed on our pride and ego. Having God and others as our true wealth means valuing them most in our lives through Jesus Christ.
Problem happens when we value things like money and fame more than God and persons like in the time of Amos that continues to this day as we focus more with how much we shall earn, of what’s in store for us in terms of profits and returns without giving the slightest concern for people and God. Everything has a price, everything has to be summed up that sadly in the process, God and people are commodified while things are personified!
Sorry to say this but the clearest example of our commodification of God is this online Mass when we make him like a canned good or a video on-demand like in Netflix we take out to watch and consume when we just have a feel for it. No relationship at all. Just like that, as in ganun lang… in case of an emergency, we take out God like a life vest tucked under the plane seat.
In the same manner, we commodify people when we see them in utilitarian perspectives, in their usefulness for us in attaining our selfish goals. We commodify people when we totally disregard them as “no body”, as if they do not exist that we do not recognize them at all, not caring for them as “some body” like in next Sunday’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
Even us in the Church contribute in this commodification of God and of people long before the advent of online Masses in the way we regard parish assignments. How do we priests look at the people and the parish, really?
What a shame at how we priests persist that unChristian frame of mind in distinguishing parishes as “big parish” and “small parish” in reference to their income and collections, never in terms of population or number of souls and their pastoral needs! This results in the tragic mire we are stuck called careerism fueled by the never-ending competition among priests for parish assignments, forgetting altogether our sense of service and mission.
Sad. Very, very sad.
"True wealth and riches are God and people.
We live to love. Let us put an end to restrictions on whom to love, whom to value for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ..."
This Sunday, Jesus is blessing us with the grace and challenge of examining deeply in our hearts what and who do we value most?
If we consider material things as riches, then, we have not moved away from the time of Amos; we are still living in ancient time of decadence and immoralities despite the sophistications we now have like hi-tech gadgets we use for cheating others as we hide in our fine clothes and air conditioned homes, offices, and vehicles.
True wealth and riches are God and people. We need more people, more children, more family, more friends to share and celebrate life with. Not more money nor more houses and cars we cannot use at the same time; we do not need more food nor more clothes for we live not to eat.
We live to love. Let us put an end restrictions on whom to love, whom to value for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today. Most of all, the great apostle tells us to value everyone, from our leaders down to the common tao we meet everywhere, praying for one another for it is God’s design that in the end, we shall all together dwell in him in heaven, the true wealth and riches we must all aspire. Amen.Have a blessed weekend everyone!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Mother’s Day, Second Sunday of May Fourth Sunday in Easter, 08 May 2022
O God our loving Father,
when you sent the Archangel Gabriel
to the Blessed Virgin Mary
to announce her becoming the
Mother of your Son Jesus Christ,
she was greeted “Hail, favored one!
The Lord is with you" (Lk.1:28).
On this second Sunday of May,
I thank you for the gift of all mothers,
especially my Mom and all the other
Moms so dear to me: they are
your favored ones, being chosen
to bring life and us into this world,
enabling us to experience you, O God,
in them for you are always with every Mom
in all their love and kindness and tenderness,
including their vast knowledge and wisdom
in knowing almost everything;
you know how we disliked them so much in
acting like Google and Wikipedia rolled into one
but, lo and behold! - most of the time they
they were proven right with what they knew.
Thank you, our loving Father,
in giving us a glimpse of your beauty
and majesty in our Mothers; most of all, for being
our first teacher and catechist who taught
us how to love and care, respect and obey
others and most especially you, God
in prayers and spirituality.
Thank you for our Mother's patience and
perseverance, for their being the best
economists who taught us how to save
and invest not only money and tangible
wealth but most of all with virtues and
values that give us fulfillment and joy
in your Son Jesus Christ.
Thank you most of all for our Mother's
mercy and forgiveness like you:
you know, dear Father, how many times
we have hurt our mothers, how we have
disappointed them but despite all these,
they have remained most loyal and faithful to us,
ready to forgive us, giving us with countless
chances that many of us have abused.
O God, take care of our dearest Mothers,
ease their pains and sufferings not
only in body but also in heart and soul;
heal them of their sickness,
assure them of your presence and
providence so that they may not worry
so much; lighten their loads and burdens
in life and most of all, fill their hearts with
your Son Jesus Christ's peace and joy,
fulfilling their wishes and prayers
not only for themselves but also for their
loved ones; likewise, we pray for all Mothers
who have gone ahead us - please grant them
eternal rest in your Divine Presence.
Lastly we pray for our dear Motherland,
the Philippines: tomorrow we vote for
our next leaders; let us express our love
and gratitude to you and our dear Motherland
by choosing candidates closest to being like
your Son Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd
who values life and every person,
values Mother Nature and most all,
values family - leaders with that beautiful virtue
of Motherhood of nurturing and caring
of every person and family,
not those who will promote death in all forms
and destruction of family through divorce or
same sex union. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 03 March 2022
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Luke 9:22-25
Thank you very much,
dear God our loving Father
for the gift of prayer today:
to pray to you, to remember you
is already a choice for life,
a rejection of death.
Moses said to the people: “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
Thank you for the gift of these
40 days of Lent for us to be
conscious again of our decision
to choose life, to choose you;
but, Lord, what is to choose life,
what is to choose YOU?
Then Jesus said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
Choosing life, choosing YOU
dear God means choosing to love
myself, you, and others;
choosing life, choosing YOU
dear God means choosing the
Cross of Jesus Christ your Son;
how ironic that with love being
the best we can have in life,
it is what we always reject too
as we find it hard to love our very
selves and in the process, love you
Choosing to love myself is to accept my
giftedness, to see myself as you
see me despite my sins and flaws
yet still loved and forgiven;
to love you, O Lord, means to
enter into a personal relationship
with you, to love whom you love,
to simply love; and to love others is
to love as myself, to find you in them
especially the sick and the poor.
Oh God! How easy it is to say these
because it is indeed a cross - sometimes
too heavy when I love myself more than
I love you or others; while we always
choose life and love, in reality we choose
death because we refuse to love like
Jesus who gave his life for our sake
so that we may also love like him.
Send me the Holy Spirit to enlighten
my mind and my heart always so that
in every choice I make beginning
this Lent, may I be more focused with
the "who" or person than the "what" or thing
because it is only in YOU found within me
and in every person I meet that there can
truly be life, love and blessings. Amen.
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
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
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.
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.
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Day 2, 17 December 2021
Genesis 49: 2, 8-10 ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< Matthew 1:1-17
Today we officially start our countdown to Christmas as we enter the second phase of Advent when all readings and prayers beginning this December 17 to 24 will focus on the first coming of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago.
And what a way to start this every year with Matthew’s gospel that begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ!
All four evangelists have their own style in addressing the two most important questions about Jesus, then and now: Who is Jesus? Where is he from? Both questions are inseparably linked that in the final analysis, they also apply very much with each one of us too!
Every person is a continuum – a work-in-progress who cannot be chopped or sliced like a sausage. Every person is a one whole made up of every minute and second and years from the very start of his existence in his/her mother’s womb. In fact, even before that when we see life in its entirety in the plan of God.
That is the meaning of the genealogy of Jesus Christ that speaks so well of our origins too, of who we are. Matthew uniquely started his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus not only to present the roots of Jesus in the past but also to tell us about him in the present and in the future.
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nashon, Nashon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.
The genealogy of Jesus by Matthew tells us the beauty of every person, of each one a mystery, a gift of God wrapped in so many stories involving people and events who have shaped us, for better or for worse, always precious and valuable, never to be taken in parts but always as a whole.
Ever noticed that the more we get to know another person – whether as family member or friend – the more we realize we do not really know that much about him/her?
I always tell couples during their wedding how they must continue to get to know each other after marriage, to be always surprised by new things about each other as they mature in their love.
We cannot have a full grasp of every person in just one scoop or one flash. Every person is made up of years and years even before his existence with great probabilities and possibilities of what he/she can be in the future!
See how the Son of God is so much like every one of us with a not so perfect background. Though he is from the lineage of Abraham and David, the two most prominent figures in Israel’s history, we find so many kinks and quirks behind each name mentioned in his genealogy. It was on Abraham God fulfilled his promise to make him the “father of all nations” while it was on David’s line came the King of kings, Jesus Christ.
But, as we go into details of the genealogy, we find bizarre things like how Jacob stole the birthright of his elder brother Esau from their father Isaac to become the ancestor of Jesus. Jacob in turn had 12 sons but instead of passing on the “scepter” we heard in the first reading to Joseph who was most qualified of his sons, Judah was chosen to be the leader of his sons from whom the Christ would later come from.
Judah was not that good at all being a part of the sinister plot of his brothers in selling their youngest brother at that time, Joseph, to Egypt; then, he got his daughter-in-law Tamar pregnant after she pretended to be a prostitute when her husband died without leaving her a son. Judah was already old and could not give her a son to her husband to have a child; hence, Tamar devised a plan of pretending as a prostitute to lure Judah into her. And it worked – much to the shame of Judah and family!
If Tamar pretended to be a prostitute, one of the five women mentioned in the genealogy was actually a whore, Rahab. When Joshua sent spies into Jericho led by Salmon, they hid inside a “red house” ran by Rahab. She offered them help in exchange for the safety of her entire family should they succeed in conquering Jericho and they did by just going around the city and blew their trumpets! Jericho fell and so did the heart of Salmon for Rahab and they had a child named Boaz.
A further twist into the genealogy of Jesus came with Boaz who married a pagan foreigner named Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi who went back to Israel when her husband and two sons died. Ruth insisted in coming with her and while picking grains at the field of Boaz, the two were introduced to each other and love blossomed between them who were blessed with a son they named Obed who became the father of Jesse who was the father of the future King David.
Now, David was not that totally faithful to God at all: he sinned big time against the Lord!
First, in having an illicit relationship with the wife of his army officer Uriah named Bathsheba. When their forbidden love led to Bathsheba having a “love child”, David tried all means to avoid fatherhood but failed. So, he ordered Uriah positioned in a battle where he would surely get killed and it worked so well, giving David the free hand to take Bathsheba as his wife and their love child became his successor, King Solomon. King David suffered greatly from the grave consequences of his sins agains the Lord who forgave him and never took back the promise that from him would come the Christ.
As we read on further in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, the plot thickens as the drama unfolds further revealing to us the many colorful as well as controversial relatives and ancestors of the Lord who did not just appear as an isolated human being.
His genealogy shows us the important aspect of his Incarnation of not only coming from God but also intimately and crucially linked with the history of his own people, just like each one of us.
Notice how Matthew did not attempt to sanitize or “photoshop” the genealogy of Jesus to paint his better picture or that of his relatives. There was no shortage of “skeletons in the Lord’s closet” and yet, it was to Jesus Christ that the “scepter” of power ultimately belongs, the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation who also comes to us everyday among persons we meet, in our family, in the most unusual instances and peoples too.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, today’s gospel reminds us how we too was the natural development of the long process of God’s relationships with people. In becoming truly human like us who had come from God, Christ’s birth reminds us that it is good to be human.
Most of all, for us to go back to God, to be closer to God, we have to be first truly a human person with no ifs nor buts because God loves us so much as he sees us. God believes in us that no matter how dark or painful or sinful our past may be, we can still have a brighter future in his Son Jesus Christ in whom we have our rootedness in the Father in faith.
This Christmas, let us remember our being a mystery in God and share this joy, this wonder with others. Like Jesus who became human to show us our blessedness in God, let us share with others too. Have a blessed Friday!
The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 02 November 2021
Wisdom 3:1-9 ><}}}*> Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 ><}}}*> John 14:1-6
God our loving and merciful
Father in heaven, as we commemorate
today all the faithful departed on
this All Souls' Day, my thoughts are
still with this ongoing COVID-19
Of how I lament the way authorities
continue to insist religious gatherings
as non-essential that despite the many
deaths since last year due to this pandemic,
our people are still denied of the chance to
pay respects to their departed loved ones
in the cemeteries when malls, restaurants,
and public places like tourist destinations
are opened and allowed to operate
to revive the economy.
How sad, dear God, it is still the money
and the economy that matter for them
than the soul and spiritual needs of people.
But I am also thankful, Father
for the valuable lessons this pandemic
has taught us most especially the value
of every person seen in the beauty
of "face-to-face" or F2F encounters
we all so desire these days;
due to the pandemic, we have realized
nothing beats face-to-face meetings,
personal and actual relationships
despite the conveniences of online classes
and work from home set ups or any
of those internet transactions.
How funny, dear God,
now we realize "life is F2F",
face-to-face both here on earth
and in heaven, your best gift to us
to be present and actual with you
and with one another!
And so, through the assuring words
of your Son Jesus Christ to "Do not let
your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God;
have faith also in me.
In my Father's house
there are many dwelling places"
(Jn.14:1), we pray for the souls
of our departed loved ones
to finally have that grace of seeing you,
merciful God and Father, face-to-face
in your eternal glory in heaven,
and not that soon, we too may join them
in that ultimate F2F, praising you,
thanking you for making us worthy
in Jesus Christ.
And while still here on earth
as we approach the end of 2021,
we pray most earnestly to you, O God,
that slowly we may have the grace
and joy of experiencing anew one another
face-to-face, celebrating life
more meaningfully as we continue
to learn the harsh lessons of COVID-19.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 September 2021
Instead of being sick with the government’s new experiment that begins today of designating letters and numerals to our quarantine level, stay home if there is nothing really necessary for you to do outside and keep your sanity as you enjoy some series at Netflix that has become our bestest friend since this pandemic began.
Topping our recommendations are Clickbait and Blackspace that tackle relevant issues of our time, reminding us for the need to recover our sense of morals, values and virtues now becoming so rare.
What we like best with both series is its packaging into short installments of eight episodes with each running less than 50 minutes. Each episode is quick-paced, so impactful that you would be forced to finish the series in one whole day, especially if you happen to be in quarantine due to COVID-19.
The term “clickbait” was coined by blogger Jay Geiger in December 2006 by combining the words “click” of the computer mouse and “bait” that literally means to lure the user to something in the internet. Google defines clickbait is an internet content that aims to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.
The term has become notorious in its meaning and usage which the Netflix series Clickbait presents and explores so well that in the process every episode had in fact been a clickbait – luring you to click on the next episode to finish the series.
Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs
that reminds us of the Church's teaching at Vatican II that
"Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love" (Communio et Progressio, #11).
Australian Tony Ayres did an excellent job creating the series with its story line that kept us “clickbaiting” too to find out if Nick Brewer really “abused women” and finally, who really killed him.
And that indeed is a good question to ask as the series unfolds with so many twists and turns happening, exactly like in real life when we are so quick to jump into conclusions “whodunnit” just because everything seems to fit with what we think, with what we know, or what we believe.
In the end, we realize like Dustin Hoffman in the 1997 movie Mad City that “we killed” a totally innocent man because of how we have allowed ourselves to fall into bait in abusing and mishandling the great powers of communication.
Clickbait teems with so many instances reminding us to be careful with this gift of communication which is a power God only shared with us humans. Recall how in the creation account that God spoke only with words and everything came into being; such is the power of communication. Hence, another movie, Spiderman reminds us too that with “great powers come great responsibilities”.
The series Clickbait presents so well how our pride and ego come into interplay for our dreams of greatness, of being somebody else who is famous, well-liked by everybody, building our own tower of Babel, only to crash and crumble in death and destruction because of the web of lies we have succumbed to and could no longer be stopped just like those nasty things we find trending and viral in the internet or simple rumors and gossips going out of proportion.
At the same time, Clickbait teaches us with so many values, primarily the importance of family relationships (first and foremost), fidelity, respect to elders and love among siblings, the value of life as against suicide, and most of all, the value of every person – that we in our very selves are good without any need to be famous and be liked by everybody.
It also focuses on the need for more trust among couples and siblings in this age of modern and instant communications that can never fully express who we are and what we feel deep inside us.
Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs that reminds us of the Church’s teaching at Vatican II that “Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love” (Communio et Progressio, #11).
Don’t miss this series. See it with your loved ones because Clickbait is one good mirror of who we are these days of the internet and smartphones, of how sincere and honest are we with one another and with our true selves.
Respect for each one’s dignity
One very good thing with Netflix is our being exposed to foreign movies and series we never had the chances before. It is very educating and enriching like this Israeli series Blackspace that is so bold and daring to discuss the dignity of every human person through prevailing issues not only there but in the whole world.
The series begins with a caution to viewers of the violent and disturbing scenes in its first episode that opens with a mass shooting inside a school during a memorial program.
As we have said, the series is bold to present how the Israeli police attempted to twist their investigation by coercing some workers found hiding on the school’s roof deck as primary suspects to the crime just because some were from the West Bank and non-Jewish.
But what is so entertaining and thought-provoking in Blackspace is how the chief investigator Rami Davidi played by Guri Alfi solved the case by proving himself right that it was an inside job by some students who were all victims of bullying – just like him!
It was in fact a homecoming of sorts for Davidi to his old high school still with the same principal who was the assistant principal when he was bullied while a student that cost him his right eye.
Though the series is a bit slow in its pacing, it is still an excellent one where the creators have woven seamlessly various topics into a beautiful tapestry that present to us the many problems we adults and the young people are dealing with without getting into its very roots.
First is the value of respect for every person with equal rights and dignity that begins at home, at how parents treat their children and accept/reject them when their inclinations are different from theirs or when they have homosexual tendencies. It is very surprising how this series is able to weave into its storyline issues about fatherhood and single-parenthood, about suicide and drugs, and yes, the abuse and misuse of the internet and computer technologies!
“Blackspace” is supposed to be a meeting room of the students in the dark internet.
Everything is summarized towards the end like a scene between Pontius Pilate and Jesus (no pun intended) when Davidi finally solved the crime that involved a school official who told him, “There is no truth. Only consequences.”
It is amazing that 85 years ago today, Pope Pius XI wrote “good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and of the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least, to favor understanding among nations, social classes and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue and to contribute positively to the genesis of aa just social order in the world” (Vigilanti Cura, #25).
Clickbait and Blackspace just did what the Holy Father wrote in 1936.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVII-B in Ordinary Time, 25 July 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44 ><]]]]*> Ephesians 4:1-6 ><]]]]*> John 6:1-15
Beginning today until August 22, 2021, our Sunday gospel will be from the sixth chapter of John who continues last week’s scene of the great crowd following Jesus and his disciples to a deserted place in order to rest after returning from their first mission.
We were told by Mark how Jesus was “moved with pity” upon seeing the people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” that he taught them with so many things (Mk.6:34); after teaching them, Jesus fed them – about 5000 men excluding children and women – from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish with a lot of leftovers gathered that filled 12 wicker baskets!
It is a very beautiful story found in all four gospel accounts but it is only in John’s gospel where we are presented with a more complete and detailed story of the event followed by Jesus Christ’s “bread of life discourse” at Capernaum. Let us focus at the conversations among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew before the miracle where they used the demonstrative pronouns “where” and “there” that indicate deeper meanings.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
When all directions point to Jesus – but we miss!
While praying over today’s gospel, one song kept playing in my mind, the Beatles’ 1966 classic love song by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere. It is a very lovely music, so unique in many aspects that it is also McCartney’s most favorite as a member of the Fab Four.
What struck me with this Beatles hit are the demonstrative pronouns here, there and everywhere used not to point at directions but to a person, the girlfriend of McCartney at that time he so loved who would also be his Here, There and Everywhere!
To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there
There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there
The same is so true with Jesus today asking Philip “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Jesus was not asking for a store in that deserted place to buy and get food for the people. John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip because “he himself knew what he was going to do”. He wanted Philip to look deeper, to see beyond places and things even if his answer was correct, that “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”
When odds are against us, when things are beyond us and humanly impossible, where do we go to?
Of course, we go to God!
Where else do we go when we are in deep or great troubles?
We go to prayers, we go to church, we go to the prayer room or Adoration Chapel, or wherever there is peace and silence where we can be with God.
When this pandemic started, where did we go during lockdown? To God with our online Masses at home, daily praying of the Rosary with the whole family. But when the quarantines were eased, we suddenly forgot God, regarding every where as merely a place, a location.
Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!
We now come to that second demonstrative pronoun in the same scene before the miraculous feeding of five thousand said by Simon Peter’s brother Andrew who told Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
How unfair that the boy who actually had Jesus working on his miraculous feeding of the crowd with those five barley loaves and two fish he had given was merely referred by Andrew as there or here!
See how Andrew did not bother to ask the boy’s name because during that time, any male kid had no any significance at all except by the time they reached 13 years of age for the bar mitzvah, when boys begin to read the Torah. In fact, John noted in this narrative how the children and women were not even counted to show their grave error at that time of giving importance only to men.
How sad the same thing continues to our own time when we are taken for granted as a person, reduced to mere statistics, to mere numbers, to there and here!
Despite our insistence on the use of inclusive terms for all, it seems that the more we have actually degraded the human person into objects as we personified objects. Listen to commercials and newscasts to realize what I mean: food is described as “masarap siya” while typhoon is referred to as “siya ay lalabas ng Philippine Area of Responsibility” while persons are made into objects like handsome men called “yummy” or “delicious”. No wonder, people have become like food, good only when young and fresh but when old, discarded like trash! Sometimes, people are labelled like ice cream as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” when rich and famous while ordinary folks are called “dirty ice cream”.
There is always a person to be respected and recognized in every here and there!
Let us heed St. Paul in the second reading telling us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received as beloved children of God “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:1-3).
How sad that we cannot even look at one another as a brother and a sister, even in our own family circles because we are so focused on the bread, that is, the money and wealth we could get for ourselves. And that is the great irony in this scene: the boy was willing to let go of his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish yet Andrew did not notice at all the face, the personhood of the boy so kind to share what he had, thinking more of others than himself!
What a tragedy in our time, in our own family and circle of friends, at work and in school, even in our parish community when some people would give more value to things than persons, who would rather maintain or keep their honor and dignity at the expense of others.
When the “where” and “there” of Jesus meet on the Cross
This story of the multiplication of bread occupies an exceptional place in all four gospels. However, it was only John who added a long discourse preached by Jesus at Capernaum after this event to reveal its full meaning.
For John, the multiplication of bread is more than a miracle but a sign, a revelation of supernatural power above the ordinary pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who is the bread from heaven who had come down to nourish us in this journey of life to eternity like during the time of Moses in the wilderness. Or like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread to satisfy the hunger of not just 100 people but over 5000 with leftovers of 12 wicker baskets.
We are reminded of other instances in the Old Testament like the Jewish feast of Passover as backgrounds of this sign by Jesus in the deserted place as a prelude to the sign of the Holy Eucharist he instituted on Holy Thursday that we celebrate daily especially on Sundays as one body, one family. This in turn will reach its highest point on Good Friday as the ultimate sign Jesus Christ’s loving presence when his being the “where” and “there” of God would be revealed in the final sign of the Crucifixion that many would still miss to recognize.
That is why in the next four weeks, we shall hear John narrating to us the discourse by Jesus to explain the full meaning of this multiplication of bread in that deserted place.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him 0ff to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Let us “capture” Jesus in the Holy Communion of the Mass later when the priest holds high the Body of Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
Here in the Mass, it is very clear this is where Jesus is, where we get the real food to eat. Tell it to everyone, point unto Jesus, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world like John the Baptist. Most of all, it is in the the Holy Mass where Jesus is present here, there, and everywhere – in his words proclaimed, Body and Blood shared, and with everyone celebrating!