Words, words, words!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 August 2021
Judges 11:29-39   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Jerusalem at dawn, May 2017.
God our loving Father,
please make me conscious
beginning today of every word
that I say, of its meaning and
implications; better, teach me
to be silent and still, to speak only
when necessary, avoiding especially
making any oath even before you.

Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes ot of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the Lord. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering. When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah (after defeating the Ammonites), it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.”

Judges 11:30-31, 34-35
"Words, words, words!" 
Like Hamlet, we read and say 
many words without meaning, 
falsely believing words become true
when multiplied and said over and over
not realizing the most powerful words
ever spoken where those borne out of
silence when you created everything.
Give us the grace, dear God,
to be like Jesus your Son, 
"the Word who became flesh"
to be a person of credibility
and integrity whose "yes" means "yes"
and "no" means "no" - always dressed
in "wedding garment" for your
banquet in heaven (cf.Mt.22:12-14).
Amen.

Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims 
the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

When people malign us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 03 August 2021
Numbers 12:1-13   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 14:22-36
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes, September 2018.
Dearest God our Father,
you are just, always demanding 
us to be fair and just like you,
to never malign and bear false
witness against one another
especially those serving you.
We pray, loving Father
for those among us buffeted
with nasty talks, malicious
stories and gossips especially 
fake news that besmirch one's name
just to make them or their masters look good.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses
on the pretext of the marriage he had
contracted with Cushite woman.
Now, Moses himself was by far
 the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the Lord said to Moses and 
Aaron and Miriam, "Come out,
you three, to the meeting tent."
Then the Lord came down
in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.
When both came forward, he said,
"Now listen to the words of the Lord:
Why, then, did you not fear to speak
against my servant Moses?"
So angry was the Lord against them
that when he departed, and the cloud
withdrew from the tent, there was
Miriam, a snow-white leper!
(Numbers 12:1, 3-6, 8-9)
Please, Lord, keep us
 and those being maligned
 to be meek like Moses,
 remaining kind to those
who speak ill about us, especially those
supposed to be closest or dear to us.
Jesus said, "Come."
Peter got out of the boat
and began to walk on the water
toward Jesus.  But when he saw
how strong the wind was
he became frightened; and,
beginning to sink, he cried out,
"Lord, save me!"
(Matthew 14:29-30)
Give us, O God, the courage
and strength to withstand the fierce
winds of criticisms and lies hurled
by our detractors, unlike Peter
let us never doubt the love and mercy
and protection of your Son Jesus we follow.  
Amen.

Making room for God, finding our home in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year I, 23 July 2021
Exodus 20:1-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:18-23
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from commons.wikimedia.org
It has been raining for a week,
loving God and Father.
Farmers and sowers must be so
delighted to come out in the fields
to sow their seeds while we stay home
trying to keep ourselves dry and warm.
Help us to make room for you, dear Father,
to open up ourselves to the seeds 
of your presence that come to us daily
in your words in the Sacred Scriptures.
Let us be like the fertile soil in the parable
by Jesus "who hears the word and 
understands it, who indeed  bears fruit
and yields a hundred or sixty or 
thirtyfold."  (Matthew 13:23)
Your seed is always good
springing into life wherever it falls
for you alone, O God, is good!
How lovely it is to imagine
that all Ten Commandments sprang up
from just one seed that is YOU, dear Father -
You are the seed we always reject
when You are the seed we all need.
Whenever we choose to commit sin,
we take on other strange gods
and idols besides You that
we worship and follow.
May we open ourselves to You, God
welcoming you like a seed into our little room
so we may find home in You when it blooms.
Amen.

To stretch or not to stretch our hands

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 20 July 2021
Exodus 14:21-15:1   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Matthew 12:46-50
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.
For the second straight day,
you have amazed me, dear loving God
and Father when your words
speak of previous topics I have prayed
and heard from you: yesterday was about
getting lost that continued our Sunday reflection;
today is the same scene last Friday
on the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
when your Son Jesus Christ stretched his hand
to point at his disciples as his family:
And stretching out his hand
toward his disciples, he said,
"Here are my mother and brothers.
For whoever does the will of my
heavenly Father is my brother,
and sister, and mother."
(Matthew 12:49-50)
Today I wonder, if you would allow
me to be funny and a little naughty
or even dare to ask you like Abraham 
before you burned Sodom and Gomorrah:
What if Moses did not obey you
and refused to stretch out his hand
over the Red Sea?
Would you still part it so the children of Israel
would be able to cross to safety?
Would you still save them, God?
Would you still part the sea
to let the people go?
Please forgive me, Lord
for my silly questions
that sincerely came to me
as I prayed over your words today,
convincing me more than ever 
that even if Moses did not stretch out his hand
 over the sea, dear God,
you would have still saved them
because whether we obey you or not,
you would still love us,
reaching out to us in loving mercy,
even giving us your Son Jesus Christ.
That is your nature, O God:
you are love, you are the perfect Being
always existing, always reaching out;
despite the evil in the world
despite our choosing sin instead of you,
you continue to love us,
forgiving us,
blessing us
because you will forever be
our Father. 
Take away our pride,
fill us with the humility of Christ
who stretched out his hands on the Cross
to restore our relationships
with you and one another, 
forever reminding us
 we are yours,
always loved and cared for
since the beginning
for we are all interconnected
in you our God, our Creator.  Amen.
.
Photo from en.wikipedia.org

Surprising Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Cycle B, 04 July 2021
Ezekiel 2:2-5 ><}}}'> 2Corinthians 12:7-10 ><}}}'> Mark6:1-6
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2015.

There are only two instances in the gospels that say Jesus was surprised or amazed: first is in his hometown of Nazareth as we have heard today when “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk.6:6) and the second is in Capernaum when a Roman centurion asked him to heal his sick servant. When Jesus obliged to come with him to heal the servant, the Roman officer declared, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed. When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt.8:8, 10).

What surprises Jesus most is our faith in him. Or, its lack like the people of Nazareth.

Last Sunday, he dared us to examine our faith in him when he brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus. On their way, Jairus was told his daughter had died, that there was no need to bother Jesus anymore; that’s when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36). Reaching his home, there was commotion on the dead child but later, everybody was “utterly astounded”(Mk.5:42) after Jesus brought her back to life.

Today, St. Mark deepens our reflection on the need to have faith in Jesus by telling us a surprisingly sad episode in the Lord’s life and ministry of being rejected right in his native Nazareth:

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. so he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:2-3, 5-6
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

The need for faith

For the past three weeks, St. Mark has slowly introduced to us that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah or Savior through his teachings and miracles like healing the sick, pacifying a violent storm at sea in the darkness of the night, and bringing back to life the dead child of Jairus.

However, it is not enough to “know” who Jesus is.

Knowing Jesus – or anyone – will not matter at all unless we believe in him and enter into a relationship with him lest we end up like his folks who “knew” him as the carpenter and son of Mary, wondering where he got all his wisdom and power.

And worst, “they took offense at him”. As we would say in Filipino, “pinersonal nila si Jesus.”

But, that is what faith is – something very personal because it is a relationship. No relationship can mature and grow unless there is faith. The deeper and stronger the faith, the most wonderful is the relationship because despite all the troubles and sufferings that may come, the ties remain because of faith.

That is why it St. Mark is telling us today the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, of how even the Son of God experienced failures and rejections, calling us for a deeper and firmer faith in him who alone is our Lord and Savior. Aside from sickness and deaths in our lives, there are many other pains and heartaches, disappointments and failures and losses in our lives that if we do not have faith, we can never make it through with Jesus.

Yes, Jesus is with us in this journey of life in the many seas to cross while in darkness amid violent storms; but, we have to believe in him first before he can make his moves in our favor like in Nazareth where he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” due to their lack of faith in him.

Photo by author, altar in my room at the Fatima National Shrine, Valenzuela City, February 2021.

Surprising Jesus with our faith

Too often in our lives, we have boxed God as being stiff and stern, a disciplinarian watching us for our sins and mistakes. Wrong! God sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we may experience his tender mercy and love, his personal relationship with each of us.

Unlike most of us, Jesus is a touch person, so sensitively human, not numb, always feeling us in our gestures and looks and words like that Roman centurion at Capernaum, that sick woman in the crowd last Sunday, the widow of Nain and the sisters Mary and Martha. They all moved and touched Jesus with their grief and sufferings, and most especially with their faith and joy and confidence in him.

Most beautiful in these stories of Jesus being surprised and moved by humans are the more surprising kindness and blessings he bestowed on them – like in our own experiences! Notice that when we were so surprised by God with his blessings, that is when we have also surprised him with our faith.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we continue to listen and speak his words of justice and truth. In this age of faith in a mass mediated-culture, we find the voice of God drowned in the cacophony of many sounds competing for everyone’s attention where the ones that prevail are those appealing to the senses that are both easy and pleasurable. Through media manipulations, what was unacceptable was first made to be tolerable until it has become acceptable like promiscuity and “safe-sex”, divorce and same sex marriage, birth controls and abortions. Any discussion of God and religion, ethics and morality and values are dismissed as limiting and narrow-mindedness or worst, as being old-fashioned and conservative. In modern man’s effort to be “fair” and “all-encompassing”, the human person has been reduced to technicalities and legalese, replacing life with lifestyles.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Ezekiel 2:4-5

Jesus shows us today in his unhappy homecoming to Nazareth that even if people refuse to listen, we continue with our prophetic role of proclaiming his good news of salvation “in season, out of season”.

Even if nobody listens, even if we do not win converts or followers, we are prophets of God like Ezekiel, the voice of God, of his justice and truth amid a rebellious and wayward generation. Like John the Baptist, we are the voice in the wilderness preparing the coming of the Lord by speaking the truth, calling people to repentance and conversion.

Though God speaks in silence, our being silent in the midst of evil worsens the sinful situation as we shut doors among humanity leaving no room at all for Jesus to come and work his wonders among us. Be the voice of Jesus, be his opening, and be ready for great surprises happening soon!


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we remain standing with him at his Cross, bearing all pains and wounds with him. In this age of affluence and convenience characterized with everything instant in a click of a button, modern life has become sedentary to our own detriment. As we prefer to be seated more than standing, we have become so passive, avoiding every form of pain and suffering that make pain relievers as the most prescribed and widely used medication these days.

See how we quarrel over our places of “seat” everywhere – at home and school, office and community and parish, public and private transport – as they connote powers without realizing that what matters most in life is where we stand because that is when we are defined as a person for our faith and values in life, when we most surprise Jesus as he surprises us most with his strength like what St. Paul had realized:

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Great things begin to happen in us, in our lives when we are out standing for Jesus, with Jesus because that is when we are truly one in him as he passed over our miseries and sins to rise again with him and in him in his Resurrection.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we are filled with joy and love in him despite everything. To love and be joyful like Jesus calls for a deep faith in him, to be kind and merciful even when others are rude and unforgiving. Notice how these days it takes a lot of guts to be good. And we are so amazed with them!

On the other hand, notice when we hear news of a band of people who are inconsiderate, corrupt, unkind, selfish, and proud: are you not surprised they are filled with anger and hate and negativities?

During the persecution of the early Church, Christians were easily spotted and rounded because they were amazingly loving and caring with the marginalized like the poor, the sick, the widows, the old, and the orphans. Pagans were most surprised that the more they persecuted the Christians, the more they grew in number! It is one of history’s most surprising facts but, that is how God moves, so unusual in the most surprising ways.


Have you been surprised by Jesus lately?

Try surprising him with your great faith in him and you will be surprised greatly by him!

Have a blessed Sunday! Amen.

Photo by author, flowers at the Pater Noster Church outside Jerusalem in Israel, 2019.

True blessedness this Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-6 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Advent Week IV, 21 December 2020
Zephaniah 3:14-18     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 1:39-45
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, the Holy Land, May 2017.

The Bible rarely tells us conversations between women, except for the Book of Ruth which records to us the story of two women, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth who became the grandmother of King David, and therefore, a kin of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But more rare in the Bible are conversations between two pregnant women, mostly conversations even fights among pregnant mothers and their midwives or rival wives found in the Old Testament. It is therefore so unique is Luke’s account of the Visitation when Mary meets Elizabeth. There must be something so significant for Luke – and for us most especially – in this encounter and exchange.

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:39-45

Women as vessels of God’s blessings

Recall Matthew’s genealogy dominated by the male figures as it was the prevailing culture at that time when women were not really given much attention. But to show the immense power and freedom of God, Matthew mentioned five women who made the coming of Jesus Christ possible.

Most of the women were not really that good whom we would rather describe as a problematique: Tamar pretended to be a prostitute to entice her father-in-law Judah to get her pregnant while Rahab was a real prostitute (a mamasan in fact) at Jericho who helped the spies sent by Joshua before attacking that ancient city; Ruth was a foreigner, not purely Jewish while Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah whom David had killed after she got pregnant with Solomon. And Mary, the wife of Joseph, was found pregnant while still a virgin! (That is what I like most with God – he has a great sense of humor all the time!)

Very interesting with the gospel by Luke is that he got a lot of stories not found in the three other gospels but we find him unique in having a special place for women. He was one of the earliest champions of women in the Church by mentioning many females in his stories to show their important roles in God’s plan for mankind.

Photo by author, frescoes at the Church of the Visitation depicting the Visitation and then the infamous Holy Innocents Day of how an angel helped save the child John the Baptist from Herod’s executioners (2019).

In this story of the Visitation, we find a totally different presentation of women even in today’s world. What do I mean? Recall how during the lockdown the memes of pictures of women meeting with a caption “mga nagbabagang balita” (today’s news headlines) portraying women as rumor mongers or chismosas. Later when classes resumed, another meme circulated of women gathered together exchanging class modules of their children as if to show they are stage mothers.

Luke always presented women so dignified in stature like in the Visitation, so blessed by God.

First thing we notice in the story is how Luke never mentioned Mary and Elizabeth were pregnant. He merely indicated their situation by saying “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb” at 1:41 while at the following verse 1:42, Elizabeth proclaims to Mary, “Most blessed are you among women, blessed is the fruit of your womb”. Biblical scholars say that perhaps, Luke wanted to assure his readers that God’s powerful blessings marked both women, over each of whom the Holy Spirit overshadowed them with a child: Elizabeth in her barrenness and old age, Mary in her being a virgin before living with her husband Joseph.

What a display of the power of God so simple, so unassuming!

But the most beautiful part in this conversations by these two great women is the meaning of being blessed. So often when we think of being blessed, especially us Filipinos, it is something more of being “lucky” or “swerte” that means having money to spend and buy things. Sometimes being blessed for us is having achieved something that makes us and our loved ones famous.

The Visitation story tells us something entirely different: to be blessed means to believe in God, that His words would be fulfilled in us like with Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45).

True blessings

Luke’s Gospel teems with so many occasions of blessings beginning in the infancy narratives up to the Presentation to the temple and then of Jesus pronouncing His blessings especially to those who listen and act on God’s words or those who accept Him as the Christ.

It is at the Visitation where Luke shows us the true meaning of blessedness through Mary because of her faith and trust in God’s word spoken to her by the angel at the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Her faith makes her a model disciple to be imitated by all followers and believers of her Son Jesus Christ.

And here we find again the artistry of Luke because it is not only Mary who is blessed in the Visitation, but also Elizabeth as another model disciple like the Blessed Mother. Elizabeth was the first to call and recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk.1:43).

Photo by author, Advent Week IV, 2020.

See that when Elizabeth heard the greeting by Mary, like when Mary heard the greeting by the angel at the annunciation, it signaled the coming of the messianic age. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI even claims the annunciation is the beginning of the New Testament.

Elizabeth is the first person as far as Luke is concerned to call Jesus “Lord” and the first to call Mary “blessed” whom she will confirm later in her Magnificat, “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk.1:48).

Two women so blessed by God because they both believed in His words, both believed in the Christ still in the womb. Mary and Elizabeth are in fact the first two Christian disciples who showed us the essential task of every disciple: after hearing the word of God and accepting it, we must share it with others not only by repeating it but interpreting it in our very lives that everyone would see it as the good news.

With barely a week left on this final week of Advent, let us ask ourselves how are we going to show to others what we believe happens in Christmas in this time of the pandemic, that true blessedness is not being rich with material wealth but being enriched by a deep and animated faith in Jesus Christ who is Christmas Himself.

A blessed Monday to everyone!

Faithful and free

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 10 October 2020
Galatians 3:22-29     ||+||   >><)))*>   ||+||     Luke 11:27-28
Photo by author, 2019.

Glory and praise, O God, our Father for another week that had passed and another new one to start! Thank you so much for everything we have received this week: the beautiful things that have blessed us wondrously and the sad things that have also blessed us with lessons in life.

Thank you for the gifts of faith and conviction, faith and being realistic, faith and consistency.

And so, I pray today for the gifts of faith and freedom for a truly faithful person is always one who is also truly free!

Brothers and sisters: Scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe. Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.

Galatians 3:22-25

You know how so many times, Lord, when we feel imprisoned and chained by our broken and toxic relationships, sickness and handicaps, painful memories, failures and other past sins.

Let us realize and be convinced that you have come to set us free from all of these, that we are now free to love, free to be ourselves, free to grow, free and faithful in you.

Show us the path how we can break the many barriers that continue to imprison us and prevent us from maturing in faith and freedom in you like gender, color, language, social status and even religion.

Help us imitate you, Jesus, who boldly claimed before everyone that true blessedness is not found in affinities or blood ties but in freely receiving and observing the word of God. 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).

More than words

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2020
Revelation 21:9-14 >><}}}*> |+| >><}}}*> |+| >><}}}*> John 1:45-51
Photo by author, Subic, 2018.

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus, the “Word who became flesh and dwelt among us” to reveal the Father’s immense love for us all. He was not contented in just telling the prophets of Old Testament how he loved us that He came and lived with us in you, Lord Jesus!

And that is why we also rejoice on this Feast of St. Bartholomew, a.k.a. Nathanael, who was introduced to you by another Apostle you have called earlier:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How did you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

John 1:45-49

O dear Jesus, like St. Peter in the gospel yesterday and now St. Bartholomew, you are telling us anew to never be contented with mere words, with the “what” of who you really are, that we must always “come and see you” in order to experience your very person and truly know you.

I really wonder O Lord what your words meant that before Philip called Nathanael-Batholomew, you have seen him under the fig tree; however, I am so convinced that in your words, Nathanael-Bartholomew must have felt something deep inside him that he threw himself totally to you as your Apostle.

Most of all, teach me to remain simple and hidden in you, Jesus that like St. Bartholomew, despite the scarcity of stories and information about him except this little anecdote from the fourth Gospel, he remained faithful to you until his death by flaying reportedly in India.

May we imitate St. Bartholomew who had shown us that more than words, what matters is our oneness in you, Jesus, without any need for us doing sensational deeds, earning thousands of “likes” and “followers” in social media because only you, Lord, remains extraordinary above all. Amen.