Refresh my heart in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church, 10 November 2022
Philemon 7-20   ><]]]'> + <'[[[><  ---+---  ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Luke 17:20-25
Photo by author, 25 October 2022 in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga.
Your words today are so lovely,
dear Jesus, spoken through St. Paul
in his letter to Philemon asking him 
to take back his former slave Onesimus:
"I, Paul, write this in my own hand:  I will pay. 
May I not tell you that you owe me your very self.
Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord.
Refresh my heart in Christ" 
(Philemon 19-20).
So nice of St. Paul to ask Philemon
to "refresh my heart in Christ"...
but, can we refresh one's heart in you, Lord?
Are you not the only one who can refresh our hearts?
Dearest Jesus,
many times in life like St. Paul
when we face so much difficulties,
we seek rest and affirmations 
that you are still with us,
that you have never left us
not because we doubt you
but because we feel tired,
we feel weak,
our spirits sag;
but when we hear people
doing your work,
expressing their faith, hope and love
in you in the most extraordinary ways
like doing the almost impossible,
our hearts are renewed,
our hearts are refreshed in you!
Like Philemon who had been cheated
or placed on the losing end when his slave Onesimus
fled from him; it must be so difficult for him
to take back Onesimus, to forgive and forget
his transgressions, most of all, 
to regard him as a brother without casting 
any doubts on his conversion
and reason for being a Christian.
So many hearts must have also been
refreshed in you, O Jesus Christ,
by the saints like St. Leo the Great
in his great works explaining your 
mystery of Incarnation,
in his touching homilies,
and handling of the barbarians
attacking Rome at that time;
his zeal and faith in you in achieving
so much feats as a pastor and administrator
refreshed many hearts in Christ
in those dark times following the fall of Rome
that until now upon learning his story
others continue to strive to be holy;
The Good Nurse is another notable
disciple you have used to refresh our tired
hearts in setting things right even if the
big bosses could not stand up against
systematic evil in their organizations.
Indeed, Lord Jesus,
"the Kingdom of God is among us"
not outside observable things
as you explained to the Pharisees 
its coming in today's gospel (Lk.17:20-21);
 touch us and fill us with your grace
to do your works, to be more loving and kind,
merciful and forgiving
so that in our witnessing, 
in our apostolate and ministry,
in our daily living of your Gospel
we may refresh the hearts
of those with sagging spirits
and joy in making you present
in the world.
Amen.

Prayer against complacency

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Thirty-Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 08 November 2022
Titus 2:1-8, 11-14   ><]]]'> + <'[[[>< === ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Luke 17:7-10
Lord Jesus Christ,
as we approach the end of the year
before we get carried away
with the excitement of your birthday
that is Christmas, help me focus on you
more earnestly these days.
Do not let me be complacent.

Jesus said to the Apostles: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table?’ When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

Luke 17:7, 10
Forgive me, Jesus
when there are times I feel so entitled
to you after I have done your assigned
task and mission;
let me keep in my mind always
that more than fulfilling the will of the Father,
what matters most is our relationship with God.

Do not let me be complacent in being good,
in being faithful,
in being a good example to others
as St. Paul instructed Titus
to remind everyone,
both the elder men and women,
 and younger men and women too!

For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.

Titus 2:11-14
Keep me temperate,
dignified, self-controlled,
sound in faith, love and endurance,
showing myself as a model of good deeds
in every respect, with integrity in teaching,
dignity, and sound speech 
that cannot be
criticized.
Amen.

Prayer to be good

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Thirty-Second Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 07 November 2022
Titus 1:1-9   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples, “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur, but woe to the one through whom they occur. Be on your guard!

Luke 17:1, 3
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ for this great Monday!
Thank you for reminding us how sin
will inevitably occur in this life,
in this imperfect world.
Bless us, dear Jesus,
to be always on guard;
guide us and keep us strong
with clear mind and conscience
to never allow ourselves to 
cause others to sin;
Like St. Paul reminding Titus today,
help us to be blameless before you
and others, "not arrogant, 
not irritable, not a drunkard, 
not aggressive, not greedy for sordid gain"
(Titus 1:7).
Help us, dear Jesus,
to be on guard by being good always
like being "hospitable, a lover of goodness,
temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled,
holding fast" (Titus 1:8) 
to your Gospel message of
love and mercy, 
kindness and justice.
Amen.

Guided by the Holy Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twenty-Eighth Week of Ordinary Time, 12 October 2022
Galatians 5:18-25     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 11:42-46
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Come, O Holy Spirit,
guide us in our daily life;
give us the courage 
to do what is good,
to follow what is true,
to practice justice,
most of all, to love
until it hurts.
So often
we are focused 
with the flesh 
with the corporeal
with the material
aspects of life that
only lead to dissension
and divisions among us
because of our pride
and selfishness
that evil thoughts form
and preoccupy our minds
that we eventually express in
our words and then in deeds.

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

Galatians 5:19-21
Be the "silent guest 
of our soul" (St. Augustine),
O Holy Spirit so we may
fulfill the law of Jesus Christ,
the law of love; 
overshadow us
with your fire and zeal,
power and wisdom,
gentleness and kindness
so we may remain with
Christ crucified
witnessing his loving
service to one another
without imposing 
heavy burdens on them
as we bring out your goodness
and presence within them.
Amen. 

Seeing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 22 September 2022
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 9:7-9
Photo by author, sunrise at Our Lady of Fatima University in Antipolo City, August 2022.
Your words today, 
O Lord our God are
"greatly perplexing" 
that I feel like Herod
the tetrarch in the gospel
"trying to see" you,
Jesus (Lk.9:7-9).
So many times
I have prayed before
asking you how I 
wanted to see you
because "all is vanity
in this world; nothing is new
under the sun.  Even the
thing we say as new has already
existed in the ages that
preceded us" (Eccl.1:2,9-10);
and so, what else is there
for us to see in this world,
in this life but you, 
dear Jesus! 
But, how can we see you
truly, O Lord Jesus, so that
we may also find the meaning
of this life amid all the vanities
around us?
When a group of Greeks
came to Jerusalem and
requested to see you
just before Good Friday,
you replied through Philip 
with the falling and dying 
of a grain of wheat 
(Jn.12:20-26) to show us
that in order to see you,
we have to learn to look
through your Cross; 
that we can only see you, 
Jesus, in your Passion
and Death to see your glory
in your Resurrection.
Forgive us, Lord,
when so many times
we wax our desire to see you
with novelties and sentimentalities
of the world that are simply 
vanities like Herod the Tetrarch;
let us go down to our knees
before you on the Cross,
commune with you in
prayers before the Blessed
Sacrament and most especially, 
live by witnessing your pasch
in a world so fascinated with
drama and effects
than with essence
that is love willing to
suffer and die like you
on the Cross.
Amen.

Getting up to follow Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 21 September 2022
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13     <*{{{{><  +  ><}}}}*>     Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, Lake Tiberias from the side of Capernaum where Jesus called Matthew to follow him.
You never fail to amaze me,
Lord Jesus Christ with your
unique manner and ways
of finding us, calling us, 
and loving us.
Of your Twelve Apostles, 
only five were called while
working:  the brothers Simon
and Andrew, James and John
who were fishermen and 
Matthew, a tax collector;
the first four belonged 
to the most ordinary 
and lowliest job of the time, 
fishing, while Matthew did
the most despicable job of
collecting taxes unjustly for
Roman colonizers making him
both a sinner and a traitor.
But, you have your plans
that are so different from our
ways when you told the Pharisees
and scribes that "Those who are well
do not need a physician, 
but the sick do... I did not come
to call the righteous
but sinners" (Mt.9:12, 13).
Thank you, Lord Jesus
for still calling me when
I was at my lowest point in life,
when I was most sinful,
when everyone was rejecting me;
thank you, Jesus,
for believing in me,
in calling me to come,
follow you; help me to rise
from my pit of anger and
bitterness, hopelessness 
and desolation like Matthew,
leaving all evil and sins
to follow you
and share you with 
everyone.
Help me, Jesus,
to write the fifth gospel
according to my life
like Matthew
by "living in a manner
worthy of the call I have
received" (Eph. 4:1).
Amen.

St. Matthew,
pray for us!
Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

*You may also want to check our reflection on Caravaggio’s painting “Calling of St. Matthew” by clicking this link:

Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Of “old yeast” & “withered hand”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-third Week of Ordinary Time, 05 September 2022
1 Corinthians 5:1-8   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 6:6-11
Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com
Your words today, O Lord
our God are so amazing:
in the first reading your speak
of "clearing out the old yeast so
that we may become a fresh batch
of dough" (1 Cor.5:7) while in the 
gospel there was Jesus healing a
man with a "withered hand" on a 
sabbath (Lk.6:6, 10).
Two beautiful images of death,
of decay so prevalent among us
even these days because we simply
would not heed St. Paul's calls for us
to discard our old ways of life in sins
and evil, of praising decadence as
progressive and liberal while at the
same time our refusal to break free
from our strict adherence to laws and 
traditions without seeing its whole
meaning of finding God in the face of 
every person we meet and those in need. 
Let us be aware, dear Jesus,
of the need for us to keep in mind
that holiness, being good and loving
with others is not just a personal effort;
let us realize that we as a community
of believers have to witness to what is
true and proper especially at this time
when many with various agendas in life
are getting organized to push for their
wayward beliefs on abortions,
divorce, same-sex marriage, including 
specific rights separated from human rights
being pushed by some feminists and LGBTQ's.
Father, it has been a crazy world lately
and sadly, those who are supposed to 
stand and voice out what is true and good,
what is reasonable and proper are the ones
now so silent and even timid like the Church,
the academic and education sector as well as
the media as vanguards of truth; stir the flame in
us, grant us courage to celebrate and live life 
"not with the old yeast of malice and wickedness 
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth"
(1 Cor. 5:8), always "stretching out our hands" to
reach out to others in loving service like Jesus
Christ in healing the sick (Lk.6:10).  Amen.

Becoming like John the Baptist

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist, 29 August 2022
1 Corinthians 2:1-5     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Mark 6:17-29
Photo from catholicworldreport.com, “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist” (1869) by Pierre Puvis de Chevannes.
Grant me the grace,
O dear Jesus Christ,
to be like John the Baptist,
truly your precursor in being
the first to receive you
and proclaim your coming
in words and in deeds by
being the first to suffer a 
similar passion and death like yours
by standing for what is true and good,
just and fair; let me be the first, O Lord, 
to disturb the many Herods of our time
with your gospel's power and wonders.

Herod was the one who had John the Baptist arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, whom he had married. John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” Herodias harbored a grudge against him and wanted to kill him but unable to do so. Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him.

Mark 6:17-20
Let me first be a reminder, dear Jesus, 
that there is a prophet in our midst 
who speaks your words for
the sake of the poor and marginalized;
let me be the first to have courage in
proclaiming the mystery of your
Cross, confronting evil in all its forms,
never toning down your message 
to please the rich and powerful 
Herods of today with their systematic
control of lives in its many aspects;
forgive me Jesus for failing to be a
voice in the wilderness like John
preparing your way, straightening
the paths of our lives by turning away
from evil and sin, embracing your
gospel of life and holiness.
Amen.

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

When God surprises us

Lord My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, 22 August 2022
Isaiah 9:1-6   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 1:39-47
Photo by author,Makati skyline at sunset from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.
It is a very busy Monday 
for everyone, O God, 
our loving Father:
it is the first day of school
for most students, 
another first day of work
with all the traffic and woes
of life slowly going back
to normal.
And I really wonder,
what could surprise us today, 
Lord, like Mary when your 
angel announced to her the
coming of Jesus Christ by
being his mother?

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

Luke 1:29
“Coronation of the Virgin” by Diego Velazquez (ca.1635/1636) from en.wikipedia.org.
On this memorial of the 
Queenship of Mary,
let us rejoice and be grateful
to you for the grace of being
favored to be up and going this day
no matter how busy we may be;
let us be surprised by the
tremendous blessings you
shower upon us like Mary
when deep in our hearts we know
we are nothing before you;
surprise us, Lord, of your 
presence, of your life, of your love,
most of all, of your trust;
enable us to say yes to your call
for us to serve you today,
to bring light in this dark world,
to share Jesus Christ like Mary
who is our "Prince of Peace and
Wonder-Counselor" (Is.9:5).
O most blessed Virgin Mary,
help us to welcome Jesus Christ
daily in our lives in order for us to
share him with everyone like you;
as the first of the human race in rank
before God's presence and as the
Mother of Christ our King, you are 
given the title of Queen not only as an
honor but an example of discipleship in
your Son Jesus.  Amen.

O, Mary Queen of heaven,
Pray for us!