Take me out of the dark, O Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin, 08 February 2021
Genesis 1:1-19     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 6:53-56
Photo by author, Petra, Jordan, May 2019.

I know dearest, Lord, my prayer sounds like a song but on this first day of work, I wish to pray for all those living in darkness, for those whose lives are in disarray due to so many reasons like being misled by others or left out on their own weaknesses.

So many people today are living in the darkness of sin, darkness of addiction, darkness of failures, darkness of diseases and sickness, and darkness of social evils that continue to denigrate every person’s dignity and honor.

Despite all of these darkness and evil in the world, you never stop, O God, to bring light and grace through Jesus your Son like in the story of creation.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed — the first day.

Genesis 1:1-5

This you have proven so many times in everyone’s life, most especially in St. Josephine Bakhita of Sudan whose memorial we celebrate today.

Kidnapped and sold to slavery when she was only seven years old in Darfur, Sudan around 1876, St. Josephine went through so much physical and emotional sufferings that she had forgotten her true name after being resold to many different masters until finally to the Italian consul in Khartoum, Callino Legasti.

Legasti brought her to Venice and gave her to his friend as her new master, Augusto Michielli who made her a babysitter to his daughter Mimmina who was then receiving catechetical instructions for baptism. While babysitting the young Michielli, she felt drawn to the Catholic faith, eventually getting baptized and confirmed in 1880, adopting the name Josephine. Her ordeals did not end with her becoming a Catholic until all conflicts in her were resolved by the Italian court in 1885, declaring her free from slavery. In 1893 she entered the Canossian Sisters excelling in service and charity not only among the poor and suffering they served but even among her fellow religious. She was canonized by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in 2000.

Sometimes in life, we have to cross as in today’s gospel great seas of challenges and sufferings, go through many darkness so we may arrive at the light of brand new days in Jesus Christ.

Help us to trust in you always, Lord Jesus, so we may get out of the many darkness of our lives. Amen.

Photo by author at the chapel of the Graduate School of Theology, Immaculate Conception Major Seminary, November 2020.

Prayer to be devout like Simeon

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 02 February 2021
Malachi 3:1-4  >><)))*>  Hebrews 2:14-18  >><)))*>  Luke 2:22-40
“Presentation at the Temple” painting by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna done around 1455; Mary holding Baby Jesus while St. Joseph at the middle looks on the bearded Simeon. The man at the right is said to be a self-portrait of the artist while the woman at the back of Mary could be his wife. Photo from wikipedia.org.

Dearest God our Father:

It has been 40 days since Christmas when you sent us your Son our Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you very much for this wonderful gift but, have we had him? Have we truly met him?

Fill us with your Holy Spirit like Simeon, dear God: make us devout like him who finally “met” Jesus Christ on his presentation at the temple by Joseph and Mary.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God…

Luke 2:25-28
“Simeon’s Moment” by American illustrator Ron DiCianni. From http://www.tapestryproductions.com

Only St. Luke used the word “devout” in the scriptures. First in describing Simeon, and thrice at the Book of the Acts of the Apostles to describe the Jews who attended the pentecost at Jerusalem (2:5); “the devout men who buried” our first martyr Stephen (8:2), and called Ananias a “devout observer of the law” when you told him to pray over and heal Saul who got blinded on the way to Damascus (22:12).

Teach us to be devout like Simeon, give us a “good heart, ready to believe, and then to act openly and with courage” (Timothy Clayton, Exploring Advent with Luke; page 125).

More than being faithful to you, a devout person O Lord is one who does not only wait patiently for your coming but most of all, looks forward to its fulfillment by making it happen. Exactly what Simeon and Anna did on that day when Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple.

So many times in our lives, Jesus comes, enlightening our minds and our hearts but we are so busy with so many other things that do not truly fulfill us, that in the end, would be more of an excess baggage on our way to you and others. And eventually, making death difficult and devastating instead of becoming a blessing like with Simeon and Anna.

Let us spend more time meeting Jesus in prayers to be more attuned with his coming so that we may be ready to follow his promptings and leads.

May we also learn to respect and care for others in order to meet Jesus like Simeon who recognized his parents for their roles in bringing the child into this world; likewise, the attitudes of Mary and Joseph in giving Simeon and Anna the child Jesus. What a beautiful scene of loving and caring for one another, especially of respect for the elderly! So many times we forget that truth, that we meet Jesus coming in others.

Lastly, fill us with joy no matter how difficult life may be has for us; we can never meet your Son Jesus if all we have are bitterness and resentments. Like Simeon and Anna, they were overflowing with joy, so excited to meet Christ and upon encountering him that day, they embraced him in their arms, expressing their readiness to die and rest in peace.

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, an d glory for your people Israel.”

Luke 2:29-32

Dearest Father in heaven, make us devout like Simeon and Anna with hearts overflowing with joy, striving to realize its fullness only in Jesus Christ, in this life and hereafter. Amen.

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Advent is a quarantine

The Lord is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-4 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Advent Week III, 19 December 2020
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Luke 1:5-25
Photo by author of our altar after a “private Mass” at the height of the lockdown last summer when public Masses were suspended.

I just realized the other day how fast really time flies after seeing photos of some of the couples I have married early this year now happily cuddling their babies… It did hit me hard that we have been in quarantine for nine months already, enough time to conceive and deliver a baby!

It sounds funny but it is the reality showing us how the birth of every child is a milestone not only to the parents but even to everyone and to history in general. We shall wait until next year to find out if there was a big increase in babies born this 2020 due to the long imposition of lockdowns and the quarantine we are into.

It is interesting to know that “quarantine” was actually borrowed from our Catholic practice of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for Easter called Quadragesima or Quaresma, from the Spanish word for forty.

When plagues became so common in Europe with devastating effects even before the middle ages, officials in the port of Venice in Italy ordered all incoming ships to spend “quaranta giorni” or 40 days of being moored first before entry to ensure they carry no plagues. Quarantine had always meant a period of time until lately it had also referred to a place or holding area as in “quaratnine area” to cleanse and disinfect people, animals, plants and things.

Advent 2019.

Its concept of spending days for purification had always been in our Judaeo-Christian traditions dating back to the Old Testament when the prophets of God would go to mountains and desert to meet Him who were later emulated by holy people including John the Baptist, Jesus, monks and hermits.

The Church imitated that practice that led to our Seasons of Lent and Advent. In fact, Advent used to be as long as Lent in duration, starting a day after the Martin Mass, the feast of St. Martin of Tours on November 11 but was later reduced to four Sundays to distinguish it from Lent that is meant to be more serious in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Now you see, my dear Reader, how interesting it is this year 2020 when we actually went back to our old practices of Lent, and now Advent in truly preparing for the Lord’s coming going through the quarantine.

Going back now to our gospel which is from Luke, we have heard how Zechariah doubted the good news he and Elizabeth would finally have a son after so many years of praying to God. For that, the angel Gabriel chastised Zechariah and made him speechless that people waiting outside the temple were amazed when he emerged from the Holy of holies unable to speak.

Then, when his (Zechariah) days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:23-25
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem (2017) where Elizabeth and Zechariah had a summer residence where they stayed when Elizabeth went into seclusion after getting pregnant with John.

Opening our selves to God and others

I find our gospel today so timely: Zechariah went home while his wife Elizabeth went into seclusion. They went into an Advent preparation for their son John the Baptist. They both went into a quarantine but not for the same reason: it was imposed on Zechariah while Elizabeth went into it voluntarily.

To lose one’s voice is to lose power and ability to lead. Zechariah was forced into silence in order to meditate and reflect more on the good news he had received from the angel. He was forced to go into silence to listen more to his true self, to others and to God to find new perspectives in life. As a priest, he must have been much sought after in their town for his wisdom and intelligence. Now that he is speechless, Zechariah was confined inside his home, to his very self to listen and most of all, to renew himself in God.

On the other hand, Luke shows us how Elizabeth seem to know better than her husband in dealing with their unusual situation by going into seclusion for five months. Observe how Elizabeth right away prayed to thank God as she meditated His mystery in “taking away her disgrace before others”. Remember that during that time, the only reason why a woman marries was to bear a child; failure to have a baby was seen as an embarrassment, almost like a curse or punishment from God.

In the first reading, we have seen this reality too but unlike Zechariah, the wife of Manoah believed the angel from God who told her she would bear a child despite her old age and being a barren. She was also instructed to go through a quarantine during her pregnancy when she was instructed to “be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean” (Judges 13:4). Furthermore, she was told not to cut the hair of her son to be born and named Samson “for this boy is to be consecrated to God… who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).

Here we find the concept of quarantine, of separation from the usual things and people because of a special mission from God. If we can just truly appreciate the rich lessons we can learn from this pandemic, how wonderful to see that we are being quarantined like Elizabeth and wife of Manoah because God is preparing us for something greater.

From these stories of two old, barren women bearing a child we find Advent as the season that reminds us God comes to us hidden in our very time and space when we need to go to quarantine to create a space within us where we can be silent and be transformed as we listen more to ourselves, to others, and to God.

How sad that in our 24/7 world where we have made nighttime like daytime earning money to have everything, we have become more empty, more alienated, more sad and incomplete. Quarantine is essentially a sabbath when we are supposed to rest and be breathed on by the Lord with His Spirit, exactly what we like Zechariah needed so much

Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

Christmas negativity or Nativity?

One of the blogs I have been following for the past one and a half years is by a young Catholic lady in New York who is so full of enthusiasm in sharing Jesus in her writings as well as in the tasty recipes she dishes out weekly. Last week I found her blog so interesting, titled: “Christmas — negativity or Nativity?” (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2020/12/10/christmas-negativity-or-nativity/).

How sad that we are missing a very rare opportunity today during this pandemic not only to spiritually prepare for Christmas but to truly understand the things going on around us and in our very lives amid this pandemic. I have always believed COVID-19 has a spiritual dimension that we must face and address lest it happens all over again despite the discovery of a vaccine.

And what is that spiritual ailment? Too much negativities like Zechariah!

Imagine the very rare opportunity to incense the Holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple once a year with many other priests present and Zechariah was “chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense” (Lk.1:9)? That in itself could have been a great sign for him that something good may be happening.

Then, while inside the sanctuary of the Lord, an angel appeared to him with the good news, his news of a lifetime, something he and Elizabeth must have been praying all their lives: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall name him John (Lk.1:13).”

And we really wonder why did he doubt the angel’s good news? Did he not see it coming or at least, was it not the only thing he was always wishing for?

It is really so unthinkable. “Wow, ang labo naman” as teenagers would say.

What happened to Zechariah could also be going on to many among us these days that even if we have been praying and celebrating the Mass weekly or even daily with all of our professed faith, hope and love in God, we have also grown accustomed to the darkness of this pandemic with all its fears that unconsciously, we sully ourselves with many negativities, even cynicism and pessimism as if we would never make into better days.

Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

Sometimes it happens in our lives that our prayers have become mechanical and worst, our hearts have grown apart from God that we have become so resigned to our plight or predicament that we just pray and believe in God because we have to.

Here we need the creative courage of St. Joseph we reflected yesterday by keeping our love alive.

In telling us the story of the coming of John first before Jesus Christ, Luke is telling us to be ready for greater things about to happen with us if we become silent, take a few steps backwards and rest in the Lord to experience his presence in us and among us.

Whenever I feel low with my life, I just think of my other brother priests striving in the Lord’s vineyard or think of the cops and soldiers and simple folks who work so hard because they believe there is meaning in this life.

Let us drive away all negativities and focus more on the Nativity! Believe always in God and most of all, remain in love with Him, that He has plans for us and mission to make Him known into the world that has forgotten Him.

The fact that after almost a year of pandemic there are still so many women anywhere in the world delivering a baby every second, every minute means this planet is filled with life, is suffused in life that comes only from Life Himself, Jesus Christ.

Each one of us is a “John” – a grace of God, a reminder that Jesus Christ had come, will come again, most of all, is come! Cheer up, energize the sagging spirits of our many brothers and sisters who have become so negative this Christmas. Let them see the Nativity in our enthusiasm to live and to celebrate Christmas meaningfully despite the pandemic.

A blessed Saturday to everyone! Amen.

Advent: A parable of our life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-B (Gaudete Sunday), 13 December 2020
Isaiah 62:1-2, 10-11 >><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 >><)))*> John 1:6-8, 19-28
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday at the Parish, Advent 2019.

Advent is a parable of our lives. Three months ago we reflected every Sunday the many parables of Jesus and we have learned that a parable is a simple story that contains deep meanings. Just like Advent: a season that comes in our church calendar every year that we take for granted not realizing the deeper meanings it teaches in the four weeks before Christmas or the Second Coming.

On this third Sunday of Advent also known as “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday”, joy is the motif of all our readings for indeed, we are moving too closely to Christmas – and parousia. The lovely shades of pink remind us that we have to be alert to experience the advent of Jesus. Once again, its precursor John the Baptist guides us this Sunday in grasping the parable of Advent during his time and in our own time.


We are all a John the Baptist -
a reminder of Christ present among us.

All four evangelists mention John the Baptist in their gospel version before telling the ministry of Jesus Christ; but there is something so different with the approach of the author of the fourth gospel in introducing the Lord’s precursor.

In the fourth gospel, he is simply called “John”, omitting his title “the Baptist” for he is the only John in this gospel. The author of the fourth gospel never named himself preferring to be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” or simply “beloved disciple”. We learned his name is John through the other three gospel accounts, that he is the brother of another apostle James, both being the sons of Zebedee.

Why the author of the fourth gospel never identified himself with his name John is another topic; what matters to us is that there is only one man named John in his gospel and that is no other than John the Baptist whom he presented in the most unique manner like an official pronouncement, full of solemnity by declaring that this “man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn.1:6-7).

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 20 September 2020.

Here we find John the Baptist clearly being placed by the author of the fourth gospel in relation to the Christ that is essentially the meaning of our being a baptized Christian — we are another John to remind people of Jesus present among us. It is one of life’s parables we always miss, something that can elicit joy in everyone.

And the more we find ourselves like John the Baptist in his mission, the more we experience Jesus closest to us too!


Life is a perpetual Advent
of Jesus who needs a 
John the Baptist in us.

After formally introducing to us John as man sent from God to testify for the Christ, our gospel today skipped the rest of the Prologue and jumped into the mission of John to introduce the ministry of Jesus Christ. See how in a few verses we find transitions from John to Jesus then to us.

Painting by Raphael of John preaching in the wilderness; photo from wikicommons.

John said: “I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said. I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John 1:23, 26-27

John is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. But, at the same time, he is the continuation of the Old into the New as he stood present pointing to Jesus Christ who had come and would come again!

This we find in his last reply to the query of the Pharisees: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This is the parable of Advent: it is a perpetual event, something that keeps on happening even in our time that needs a John the Baptist to remind us that Jesus had come, that he is coming and most of all, he is come!

Aside from preparing others for Jesus Christ’s coming – we need to be like John the Baptist who also prepared himself for his Lord and Master!

In telling us that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize”, John humbly prepared himself to recognize and receive Jesus when he identified the Lord while coming to him for his baptism as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, saying “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me'” (cf. Jn.1:29-30).

But most of all, we find the most beautiful lesson of John in preparing for the Lord’s coming when like him, we allow Jesus to reveal himself to us, always saying “He must increase; I must decrease” as he taught his disciples asking him about Jesus’ ministry.

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

Advent is being alert
and open to the Holy Spirit
who always comes with Jesus.

Advent is a parable of life when we hope in joy and humility for the Second Coming of the Lord who also continues to come to us in so many ways we never expect. It is a time of prayer and reflections when we try to become more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading we are reminded of the exact words of the Prophet that Jesus proclaimed in their synagogue when he came home to preach that,

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

Isaiah 61:1-2
Photo by author, Advent 2018.

After proclaiming those beautiful words of the prophet, while people were all eyes on him, Jesus declared “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That is the power of the word of God, it is always effective and performative as the very sign of his presence among us. That is why Advent is the season when we are encouraged to cultivate that habit of praying the Sacred Scriptures that cleanse our hearts to be empty and ready to receive Christ in his coming. We encounter God first in his words filled with parables that enrich our lives.

To be open for the word of God and to the Holy Spirit means being alert that Jesus is “one among you whom you do not recognize” as John had told us.

Like John, it is finding the “whole” of God’s plan for us from the Old Testament to the New Testament and into our own time in the Church. It is the joy of discovering in this myriad of events and happenings, there is a God personally coming to us, loving us in the most personal way.

Like John, we are sent from God to give testimony to Jesus who had come, will come again and always comes.

That is the parable of Advent: when we realize deep within that we are able to rejoice and be glad to be alive to meet Jesus. May we heed to the words of St. Paul in the second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Have a blessed and joyful week!

Photo by author, Advent 2018.

“Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (1975)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 December 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon (03 December 2020).

Finally got a song so perfect for this Second Sunday of Advent that speaks so well of being awake, awaiting judgement day by leading a life of loving service to others. It peaked on top of the Hot Soul Singles chart of 1976 for two weeks that launched the careers of some of the big names in R&B during that great decade of 1970’s.

My dear readers and followers, welcome Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes doing the original version of Wake Up Everybody.

Wake up everybody no more sleepin' in bed
No more backward thinkin' time for thinkin' ahead
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be
There is so much hatred war an' poverty
Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way
Maybe then they'll listen to whatcha have to say
'Cause they're the ones who's coming up and the world is in their hands
When you teach the children teach em the very best you can

The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me

Since its release in 1975, Wake Up Everybody has been covered by other artists not only in the US but also in Great Britain and France. During the 2004 US elections, it was covered by various prominent R&B artists with some rappers to urge young people to go out and vote. John Legend also did a cover of the song in 2010 with The Roots featuring Common and Melania Fiona.

Perhaps because of its theme and lyrics, the song has always been considered as political but, hey! even Jesus and John the Baptist were also accused of political leanings in their preachings about truth, dignity of every person, and value of life!

It is said that music is the food of the soul that when a song is so true and really good, it will always present the gospel values of Jesus Christ which is the case in most protest songs of the 60’s and 70’s like Wake Up Everybody.

See how the composers of this classic – John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, and Victor Carstarphen -have consciously or unconsciously incorporated Advent thoughts and theology in Wake Up Everybody that is still so true today:

Wake up all the doctors make the ol' people well
They're the ones who suffer an' who catch all the hell
But they don't have so very long before the Judgment Day
So won'tcha make them happy before they pass away
Wake up all the builders time to build a new land
I know we can do it if we all lend a hand
The only thing we have to do is put it in our mind
Surely things will work out they do it every time

The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me

Next to the lyrics, what makes this song so Advent-ish is its slow and cool instrumentations at the beginning of the song that bursts under control with the soothing voice of the late Teddy Pendergrass taking over, sounding so calming yet hits hard through one’s inner core without being preachy either.

That is how Advent happens: Jesus comes to us whenever we proclaim and embrace his gospel of repentance, doing what is right and good to everybody, when we wake up from our life of sins and evil, and indifference with others.

Listen, and wake up to this classic piece and have a blessed Second Sunday of Advent!

Posted on Youtube by yxyoic in 24 September 2011; licensed to YouTube by SME (on behalf of Epic); ARESA, BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, CMRRA, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc., Warner Chappell, PEDL, LatinAutorPerf, LatinAutor – Warner Chappell, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, LatinAutor – SonyATV, LatinAutor – UMPG, and 7 Music Rights Societies.

Advent is a two-way street

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-B, 06 December 2020
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11   > + <   2 Peter 3:8-14   > + <   Mark1:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon (March 2020).

Had a most unique experience this week about waiting when I was told by my doctor to take a swab test Wednesday after coming home with a terrible flu Monday afternoon. With no results yet after 24 hours, I felt worried.

It was later that evening when I regained my bearing in the Lord guided by his words during prayer where he proclaimed his coming “a very little while” (Is.29:17, Friday Advent Wk.I), comforting me through the night. The following day after breakfast, I was informed my swab test yielded negative results that I rejoiced and felt Jesus finally coming!

And that is when I realized too that Advent happens on a two-way street: Jesus is always coming to us and we have to come to him too in order to meet him and experience Advent.


Jesus always comes;
we need to also come to meet him!

Advent is a wonderful season that teaches us the beauty and value of waiting that has become so rare in our 24/7 world of instants. Nobody wants to wait, thinking it is a waste of time as they feel empty when waiting for someone or something. We want our hands always full, our bases loaded with something concrete and tangible.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary in Infanta, Quezon (03 December 2020).

But that is what we forget when we wait: we are never empty when waiting. In fact, the very reason we wait is because we always have something already, never empty. We await results of all kinds of tests we have undertaken because we have given our best shots or specimen; we await a loved one because we have a beloved; and, we await the day because it is night time, the best time to believe in the light as we have reflected last week.

Yes, in Advent we await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time which we do not know when but we are not empty waiting for him; we are filled with him but we hardly notice him because we have filled ourselves with so many other things and people. We need to empty ourselves once in a while, leave our places of comfort to come and meet Jesus in the many desert of life.

Like John the Baptizer.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. a voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Mark 1:1-8

The gospel of Jesus
begins whenever
we come to meet him.

St. Mark wrote the first gospel account in the Bible that became the pattern for St. Matthew and St. Luke in writing their own gospel versions. Being the first evangelist, St. Mark was also the first to give us a portrait of who is Jesus Christ, the suffering Messiah.

Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, November 2018.

He did not have an infancy narrative of Jesus unlike St. Matthew and St. Luke because St. Mark was in such a hurry to proclaim the good news of salvation of Christ who had to suffer for the forgiveness of our sins.

And that makes him so perfect in this Season of Advent: we need to hurry in order to meet Jesus Christ right here in our own darkness and sufferings as we have mentioned last Sunday.

Advent as a season of new beginnings happens wherever and whenever we become another John, a voice in the wilderness, one who goes out to proclaim that the Lord is coming, that he in fact has come.

To speak of a “beginning” always implies an end like in the beginning of a new day after the end of yesterday.

But with St. Mark telling us “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”, he is not implying something that had ended. When we look at how he ended his gospel, we find it to be “hanging”, not really finished with the discovery of the empty tomb: St. Mark “ended” his gospel abruptly because he wanted his audience and all believers of Jesus to continue telling and living the gospel of Christ!

And that is how the gospel Jesus truly begins: in every heart that is open and empty for his coming, for anyone honest and sincere to admit his sinfulness, his shortcomings, his limitations, his being less than God, his being in darkness longing to be in light.

Here we find that imagery of the desert in John’s preaching to show us the need to retreat, to come to terms with our true selves in our bare essentials — no ifs nor buts, no pretensions, no hypocrisies. Come to Jesus in our sinfulness, in our littleness, in our being his precursor like John.


Beginning does not always mean the end
but sometimes the continuation of
something so beautiful that had already began.

Sometimes in life, we do not see everything so clear right away. There are times even when nothing seems to be so good as if God has abandoned us that we do not know where to begin at all, if ever we could really start again.

Imagine the people of Israel at that time living in exile at Babylon: they have not seen nor heard anything about their country nor their temple in Jerusalem that once stood as their pride being God’s chosen people. No doubt, they could not see anything good at all in their exile as everything must be so bad and dismal — their masters, the food, the water, and life itself.

Suddenly, here comes God, telling them through the prophet:

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2
Photo by author, Advent Week-I in our parish, 29 November 2020.

Last Thursday, while feeling so sick and helpless with my situation, awaiting the results of my swab test coupled with some problems, I cried out to God.

It was like a desert experience when I felt so helpless, so weak before him, lamenting that this should be the season of Advent, of his coming yet I could not see him.

But it was an outpouring of my feelings inside where deep within, I trusted God so much that he would do something wonderful. That there is something beautiful coming like his very Advent. And it did happen! I was found negative of COVID-19 and most of all, all my other problems and worries were solved in a flash.

Sometimes in life, we need to go to our “desert”, to come out of our false securities in life, come to the open in order to meet Jesus who is always coming. This Second Sunday of Advent, we are called to be another John the Baptist, “A voice of one crying out in the desert” expressing our hope in Jesus that he is coming, that he is come, that he is already here.

To go come out to meet Jesus is when we are also comforted in this season of patient waiting for his Second Coming as he strengthens us in our faith and hope in God. To comfort is not just to feel good but to give strength, from the Latin cum + fortis, with strength.

When we do not see someone or anyone, that does not mean he/she does not exist; there are times we need to go out and walk around, even go up a mountain or hill to find Jesus coming. God is always with us and will never abandon us even in our worst and most sinful and darkest moments in life.

That is why every “beginning” does not mean the end of something but the continuation of something that had began so beautiful which is the coming of Jesus, his meeting with us. And the more we continue in these series of new beginning, the more wonderful life becomes.

May we heed this Season of Advent St. Peter’s teaching:

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:8-9
Photo by author, Advent Week-I in the parish, 29 November 2020.

God remains faithful to his promise and he will surely come again like a thief at night. This is the very essence of Advent, the other facet of our focus in our four-week preparation for Christmas. May we witness to this hope as disciples of the Lord not with what we say but with how we live, how we try to be holy in life even if we have to begin anew every day. Amen.

Have a blessed Sunday, my dear reader!

Advent is “a very little while…”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Advent Week-I, 04 December 2020
Isaiah 29:17-24     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Matthew 9:27-31
Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 20 September 2020.

Your words today, O God our Father are so reassuring and refreshing especially for many of us like the Babylonian exiles who are so tired and exhausted, almost about to give up for the many pains and sufferings, hardships and trials in life while awaiting your Advent, your coming.

Thus says the Lord God: But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 29:17-19

Yesterday I was crying out to you, pouring out my pains unto you, Lord, wondering and lamenting if Advent is truly your coming when sometimes I feel the opposite, that you have abandoned me; your words are so sweet but when I looked into my life, I felt so bitter as things are not turning out so well as you have promised.

And I paused, waiting for you.

Then, you said, “But a very little while…”

How long is your “a very little while”, Lord?

Soon enough I have learned yesterday too that it all depends on my faith in you!

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

Yes, a very little while you can change everything from darkness into light, from gloom into joy, from sickness into health, from desolation into consolation, from problem into solution!

It all depends on how strong are we holding on to you, Lord.

Like those two blind men who followed Jesus. How they did it — I do not know though it is funny– at how people of great faith would always do extraordinary things because of you, Lord!

Teach us that in life, we need to come to you in faith, hope and love to experience your Advent, your coming because you have already come. That is why, a very little while, so many great things and miracles can happen because as Jesus had shown us in the gospel today, you are just waiting for us like those two blind men to come to you for healing and other needs.

Grant us, O Lord, the courage and perseverance to always seek you, hold on to you, and come to you no matter how dark it may be because you are always with us so that a very little while, your Advent is fulfilled. Amen.

Life in the dead of the night

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 29 November 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7  +  1 Corinthians 1:3-9  +  Mark 13:33-37
Photo by Atty. Polaris Grace Rivas-Beron at the summit of Mt. Sinai, May 2019.

A blessed happy new year to everyone as we begin today the new liturgical year of our Church calendar with the first Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus for “coming”, Advent is a time meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.

And with all the problems and sufferings we have been going through this 2020 with the pandemic still around us in this joyous season of Christ’s coming, we hope that we make this Advent Season more serious so we may have a more meaningful Christmas, prepared for 2021 (see our recent blog, https://lordmychef.com/2020/11/23/surely-there-will-be-christmas-2020/)!

Like Lent, though in a less penitential mode, Advent is a time to pray and reflect on our lives and if possible, go to confessions to cleanse our hearts so Jesus may come and rest there like when he was born on a manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

Our first reading today beautifully sets the mood for Advent 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 with a prayer so true with each one of us:

You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…

Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Advent is for new beginnings, for coming again.

Year 2020 is without doubt very difficult for everyone but it teaches us in the most unique way the essentials in life like God, family, friends, true self, and things like kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, simplicity, presence, and other niceties we have taken for granted for so long. It is about time that we recover these specially in Advent which is the season of new beginnings when we start anew in life.

And where do we start?

Right where we are, here in our darkness in the pandemic and within our hearts, far from God by beginning to pray anew to him so he may finally come and return to us!

The words by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading are so perfect at this time as if these were written only recently, expressing our true sentiments within: that we are sorry for having drifted far from Jesus and from others all these years, so focused with things and gadgets than with God and persons.

Our hearts have been too hard, distant from God and each other, so cold and so dark that we have become so insensitive, callous and numb or even without any conscience at all that in the midst of a pandemic, there are some who can still utter lies and malice with their hands also tainted with blood and corruption.

It is so sickening but, the more we pray and listen to our inner selves, we also find how this darkness has slowly encroached on us too, happening at different levels right in our own family circles, in our community, and even in our church maybe!

On bended knees, we humbly admit our need for God to intervene now – to rend the heavens – and bring us back to our senses and unto him, so we may finally find rays of hope, even a glimmer of light in this darkness we are into.

As we pray for the Lord’s advent or coming, we need to strive to be vigilant on our part as we patiently await him right in our hearts in this night of the pandemic and chaos going on.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

Mark 13:33, 35-37
Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Though we live in darkness, we belong to Christ who is light himself!

Everywhere in the world, except Down Under perhaps, the Season of Advent always falls in that time of the year when the nights are longer and most of all, darkest as in winter experienced in the western hemisphere, including Europe.

In fact, Christmas Eve is the darkest night of the year, the date Christ was born to bring light and be the light of the world.

See how Jesus used the night as the time of the return of the “lord of the house” (who is himself, too) when everything is dark and difficult.

For the young generation today, it may mean nothing at all as they have grown accustomed to our 24/7 world where work continues into the night like during the day with offices and stores opened and public transportation readily available.

During the time of Jesus and even 30 years ago, we rarely travelled nor even went out past six in the evening because of the many dangers at night like criminal elements lurking for their preys and simply the difficult situation of seeing clearly the roads ahead. In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil and sin like Jesus being betrayed by Judas after their last supper while in Genesis, we find how in darkness was nothing but chaos until God created everything.

And there lies the good news of the night, of darkness, and of Advent: Jesus Christ as the light himself of the world comes to save us at night! It was before dawn when Jesus walked the waters of the Sea of Galilee to save his apostles while being tossed by giant waves in their small boat. It was also in the darkness of the night when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Yes, we all live in the night when darkness envelops us, even our hearts and very lives with so many problems and crises happening but we never lose hope, we never lose sight of that glimmer of light for we do not belong to the night but to Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Advent is patient waiting for the Lord’s coming.

Night is the time when it is best to believe in the light. As one poet had said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” But, another unknown poet had also said that “Only the brave who dare to walk the darkest of nights shall see the brightness of the stars above.”

Our lives may be in darkness or even dark itself these days but we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist today even if the the Lord’s coming may be delayed because we know deep in our hearts that “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor.1:9).

One thing we need to pray for this season are patience and vigilance in awaiting his return during this darkness.

Patience is a virtue becoming so rare these days when everything is rushed as we live in a world of “instants” like instant gratification and, yes! — even instant vaccine against COVID-19 without us realizing its deep implications of calls for changes in the way of living and doing things in the world as individuals and as nations. From the Latin “patior” which is to bear all pains, patience is also believing that something better will happen in every sufferings we patiently endure.

Likewise, vigilance is more than being awake and prepared for any eventuality but an active waiting for someone or something by taking risks due also to a firm belief something better will come out of trying situations.

Patience and vigilance go together for both are fruits of real and hard prayer, expressions of deep faith in God.

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

On this first Sunday of Advent with clouds still turning dark with rains that have never stopped drenching us these past weeks, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist thanking God for our long-term faith in Christ’s Second Coming.

When we look back to those past nine months of darkness in this pandemic worsened by recent calamities and a clueless government since January, we actually gone far than we have expected.

Why? Because we have never lost hope from the little glimmers of lights God has sent us since the lockdown in March! We have survived and slowly, many of us are finding life’s deeper meanings and realities in God our Father.

Notice how in every patient waiting for Christ’s Second Coming in the midst of the many darkness in life, the Lord actually comes nearer to us, albeit slowly and unnoticeably?

That’s the beauty of Advent, new beginnings always happening for those patiently waiting in the Lord.

Let us be on guard during these long nights of darkness when temptations are strongest and so appealing. Like at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wants us to “watch” with him by praying to the Father so we may remain faithful and focused on him alone to soon find life in the dead of the night. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!

What is so fearful with winds?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, 18 November 2020
Acts of the Apostles 28:11-16, 30-31     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Matthew 14:22-33
Photo from wp-media.patheos.com

Today, O Lord, we celebrate anew the Dedication of your two other Major Basilicas in Rome, St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s. Last week, we celebrated the dedication of the Cathedral of Rome, the St. John Lateran and in August, the St. Mary Major.

All these major basilicas remind us of the spiritual nature of the Church signified by these beautiful buildings of stones as community of believers following you, dear Jesus.

Since the beginning, we have always been sailing in rough, stormy seas as you have seen your apostles that night in their boat “being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it” (Mt. 14:24).

As I prayed today on that scene with the recent fierce winds of typhoon Ulysses still so vivid to me, I felt like Peter – so fearful with winds like in the gospel today when you bid him come to you by walking on water too. “But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened” and began to sink in water, crying out to you, “Lord, save me!”(Mt. 14:30).

When the strong winds and heavy rains by typhoon Ulysses ravaged our region last week, it was also nighttime, so dark, so cold, and we felt so fearful like Peter. Some people took shelter in our church and hopefully have given them some sense of security in you, Lord.

As I reflected on the many things that have frightened me from the winds, I have realized some beautiful things too about you that reassure me of your perfect love that casts out all fears.

Photo by author, Sea of Galilee, May 2019.

Two things I have found so fearful with the winds, Lord.

First was the howling sound of the winds.

It was scary especially when you are very silent, Lord, because I felt so alone.

No wonder the Apostles thought you were a ghost when they saw you walking on water!

Inside and outside the Church today are so many voices like harsh winds that add to our many confusions that isolate us from you and from one another, making us so afraid that sometimes lead us to doubt your presence and love.

Please give us the courage to grow deeper in your silence, befriending it more when you are most silent so we may heighten our sensitivity of your presence and overcome our fears.

Second thing so frightening with the winds, O Lord, is its relentless force that refuses to stop that it seems to pummel everything on its path.

Sometimes in life, forces around us can be felt so strongly that frighten us but without really hitting us at all!

Yes, it is so scary but unfounded! Sometimes, it is more in our minds than in the winds actually because we are afraid of being bruised and hurt, of being knocked down especially when we do not know where the blows are coming from.

Remind us, Lord, how often our fears are imaginary.

Teach us not to resist the strong winds, to be calm, to hold on, and if ever we are swept away, to await you for you are definitely coming even if you have to walk on water to save us! Amen.

Trusting God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest/Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2020
Job 9:1-12, 14-16  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>   Luke 9:57-62
Photo by author, city of Jerusalem from Dominus Flevit Chapel, May 2017.

God our Father, sometimes I feel our situation today is very much like during the time of Job when sickness and destruction are all around us with the threats of death no longer lurking out in the dark but most present and getting nearer to us even at daylight.

And that is why lately, I have felt very much like Job too that I want to engage you in a conversation to ask you why all these things happening to me and those special to me. I am so afraid, God, of getting sick that I chill inside when I hear those dear to me going through surgery, chemotherapy, and dialysis.

I feel like asking you why these things going on, why them getting sick instead of just praying for them but, every time these things cross my mind, I just feel like Job:

Job answered his friends and said: I know well that it is so; but how can a man be justified before God? He does great things past finding out, marvelous things beyond reckoning. Should he come near me, I see him not; should he pass by, I am not aware of him; should he seize me forcibly, who can say him nay? Who can say to him “What are you doing?” How much less shall I give him any answer, or choose out arguments against him! Even though I were right, I could not answer him, but should rather beg for what was due me. If I appealed to him and he answered my call, I could not believe that he would hearken to my words.

Job 9:1, 10-12, 14-16

I wonder, Lord, if my faith and trust in you have deepened during this pandemic or, have I just become passive with how things are going on, getting used to the new situations, blankly hoping things will soon get better.

Have I really learned to trust you more than ever, surrendering everything into your hands like Job as I have realized too your immeasurable greatness, your being God beyond my limited knowledge and understanding that you make me wonder and be awed with your transcendence?

Yes, Lord, deep inside me amid all these fears and questions is the conviction you can never be doubted, that all I need is to completely trust you and strive to be good. Thank you for that grace as I continue to pray for healing of those dearest to me.

Let me grow closer to you as your disciple, forgetting everything about myself, surrendering myself to you in complete trust unlike those called by Jesus to follow him in the gospel today filled with many alibis and excuses.

May I have the devotion and discipline of St. Jerome whose memorial we celebrate today in finding you, loving you, and following you in the Sacred Scriptures as well as in the people we serve.

Like St. Jerome, may I have the courage to contemplate like Job on things beyond this world and life like death and eternity without bargaining or haggling with you except to trust in you completely. Amen.

Photo by author, mosaic on the wall of the Chapel of St. Jerome in a cave underneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where he had lived for 34 years until his death in 420 devoting himself in prayers and studies of the Sacred Scriptures while directing some women like “Paula” towards holiness (May 2017).