From shadow to image

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2023
Hebrews 10:1-10   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><  -  ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 3:31-35
God our loving Father,
help us grow from being 
your shadows into your
image and icon among peoples;
thank you for sending us
your Son Jesus Christ who came
to do your will of offering his
very self as a sacrifice for the
forgiveness of our sins
so that in the process,
we too may learn to
offer ourselves to you, 
surrender ourselves wholly to
you like Jesus to become your mirror.

Brothers and sisters: Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Then he (Jesus) says, Behold, I come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:1, 9-10
There are times, dear Jesus,
that I listen and speak of your words, 
very much "inside" with you
in the church, 
in our community,
among our family and friends;
but sadly, Lord, I am so far
from doing the will of the Father
after listening and preaching
your words.
Teach me to be like your Mother,
Mary:  though she was "outside"
that house where you were staying
teaching the people gathered around you,
she was very much "inside",
in you in her total identification with you
and your mission until the end.
Enable me, Jesus,
like St. Francis de Sales
who used to have a fiery temper
and problem in handling his anger
to surrender myself to you,
to make the Father's will my own,
experience liberation from sin
and sanctification in your Spirit
to become united as one in 
the Father, his mirror
and image.
Amen.

Tasting Jesus Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of the Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, 18 November 2022
Revelation 10:8-11   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 19:45-48
Lord Jesus Christ,
as we celebrate today the
memorial of the Dedication of the
last two Basilicas in Rome -
St. Peter's in Vatican and 
St. Paul's Outside the Walls -
you give us a "taste" 
of what is to be your Church,
your Body,
and your accompanying mission.

I took the small scroll from the angel’s hand and swallowed it. In my mouth it was like sweet honey, but when I had eaten it, my stomach turned sour. Then someone said to me, “You must prophecy again about many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings.”

Revelation 10:10-11
Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for the sweet taste, 
for the sensation of being a Christian,
of listening to your words,
of being a Catholic,
of serving you,
of worshipping you,
of being loved by you.
Definitely so sweet indeed
to experience you in the Church!
But everything becomes sour
and bitter when we internalize
your words,
your call,
your mission
for that is when reality happens,
when we realize being your disciple
is a way of life in you,
a way of the Cross,
of giving one's self
to others like
the two pillars of your Church,
St. Peter and St. Paul.
Sometimes, Lord Jesus,
give us a taste of your anger
like when you cleansed the temple; 
let us taste your strong words
when we make the church a den of thieves
literally speaking;
let us have a taste of your discipline
when we dirty your Body,
when we hurt your Body,
and worst, 
when we mutilate your Body,
the Church with our lives so far from
your calling and mission
especially us your apostles.
Let us learn to love and accept
being Christian is savoring both
the sweet and sour tastes of
proclaiming your gospel 
both in words and in deeds.
Amen.

*Photos from en.wikipedia.org.

Powerless before God, powerful in God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 16 October 2022
Exodus 17:8-13 ><000'> 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 ><000'> Luke 18:1-8
Photo by author, Baguio City, February 2020.

Time flies so fast that there are only five Sundays left in our liturgical calendar before Advent comes in preparation for Christmas. For the next three Sundays beginning today, we shall again hear three gospel stories found only in Luke that underscore the importance of faith and prayer, revealing to us the beautiful image of God who “does justice” to defenseless people like the widow today, “justifies” those who humble themselves like the publican next Sunday, and “saves” sinners like Zacchaeus two Sundays from now.

As we reflect on God’s goodness, we discover along the way our own giftedness that we must share with people around us, especially those suffering and in need.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'”

Luke 18:1-5
Painting “Le Juge Inique” (Unjust Judge) by Swiss artist Eugene Burnand (1850-1921) from http://www.eugene-burnand.com/Parables/unjust%20judge.htm.

Both the widow and the unjust judge exhibited admirable traits we are all invited to emulate: the widow being persistent and the unjust judge eventually becoming a just one in handing a good decision.

Jesus intentionally used the image of the widow in this parable because widows in his time were particularly powerless and vulnerable. Recall how Jesus was moved with pity on a widow upon witnessing the funeral of her young son in Nain (Lk.7:11-16).

Imagine the very sad plight of widows in ancient time when women were not even considered as persons at all that they were not counted like the children; women were totally dependent to their husband and sons in their lives that if they die, the widows left behind were reduced to nothing at all because they could not inherit their husband’s estate that was passed on to the deceased man’s sons or brothers.

Painting of “Parable of the Unjust Judge” by Pieter de Greber (1628) from Web Gallery of Art,https://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/g/grebber/pieter/parable.html.

The widow in this parable tells us of the need for us to be powerless like her, to totally entrust ourselves to God who is our only hope in life. The widow had no other recourse but to persistently beg the unjust judge for a favorable ruling for her. That is the spirit and attitude we must have when praying which is a call for our total surrender of self to God.

And here lies the difficulty for us especially these days when we spend so much efforts to be powerful than powerless. This we have been practicing extensively in social media where we always want to be the one in control of everything, of being the first to post the latest and hottest news and gossips, of flaunting our newly acquired expensive gadgets or received gifts, of making known to everyone our sumptuous meals or how we have gone to some expensive far-away vacation spot. Come on, one can easily determine when we are posting simply to share or to brag.

As much as possible, we try to resolve our problems using our own powers. We pray and come to God only when all options have been exhausted, when we feel hopeless because it is already beyond our powers. Prayer is more of a last resort than our first recourse because God is only a “footnote” or a safety-catch in our lives in case we go through severe tests like tragedy, illness, death of a loved one, or failure in whatever form.

The widow in this parable reminds us of that beautiful lesson we have reflected these past Sundays that faith is a relationship nourished and nurtured by our prayer.

People who love always talk. They always relate and communicate for no reason at all simply because they love and care for each other. Like the widow, wala nang iba talaga!

If prayer is conversing with God, then, we would always relate with him whether our problem is big or small, serious or not, or even if we have no problem at all because we love him! Without God, we find no meaning and strength to hurdle life’s challenges.

This is the meaning of that story of Moses praying to God on top of a hill while Joshua battled the forces of Amalek in the wilderness; it was the power of God that prevailed over Israel’s enemies because they all relied in him alone. It is the similar story of the Feast of our Lady of the Rosary when the outnumbered Spanish fleet defeated the Ottoman Turks at Lepanto Bay (07 October 1571) while Christians prayed the Holy Rosary as instructed by St. Pope Pius V.

When was the last time have you felt like the widow before God, of having that attitude there is nobody else who can fulfill us except God?

Photo from https://freebibleimages.org/photos/persistent-widow/

On the other hand, we are also the unjust judge in this parable for we are not only sinful and unjust like him but also blessed with great powers to help those in need!

Many times, we act like the unjust judge when we refuse to recognize and admit the great powers – with its great responsibilities – God had given us in our various capacities and positions in life. We may not be issuing verdicts in courts but everyday, our decisions matter so much to those around us right in our own families, in our schools, in our offices and in our neighborhood and community.

Confronted by the persistent widow without any means to pay and bribe the unjust judge, we are reminded most especially to have a heart in favor of those who have less in life. One of the most important lessons I have learned in priesthood happened during our final year of formation in the seminary when our former bishop, the Most Rev. Rolando J. Tria-Tirona of Naga City told us in a conference that “those who have less in life must have more of God”.

Beautifully true but sadly, far from happening in our Church because we rarely use the powers God has shared with us to love and save, to heal and raise to new life people saddled with so many sufferings and sins in life. Like the unjust judge, may we open our eyes and hearts to the plight of the powerless around us.

Have faith that even the most evil persons are capable of doing the right thing. Imagine if every disciple of Christ is a man of faith despite of his/her sinfulness and weaknesses? That would be so nice as life could be a bit better and fair for everyone! This is the reason why at the end of the parable, Jesus asked the crucial question:

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:8
Photo from Photo from https://freebibleimages.org/photos/persistent-widow/.

Has anyone ever told you that you are “the answer to his/her prayers?” In life, God answers our prayers through one another, through faithful disciples who are both powerless before God and powerful in God.

We all have this great power of God in our hands, in effecting change, in bringing peace and justice to this world through the power of his word as St. Paul reminds us today in the second reading.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power; proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

2 Timothy 4:1-2

We live in a world characterized not only with great desire and display of power but also of instant gratification. We have lost the virtues and values of patience, persistence, and perseverance. Everything must be had instantly. Now na!

This Sunday’s parable invites us to recover our great power in God by being powerless before him again so we may be the answered prayers of many people suffering and thirsting for justice and mercy, forgiveness and salvation.

Be that person of faith and power of God. The widow and needy person who comes to you could be Jesus Christ himself. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

The majesty of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2022
Job 38:1, 12-21, 40:3-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by Greg on Pexels.com
God our loving Father,
open my eyes
open my mind
open my heart and soul
to your majesty
to experience your
immense mystery
so profoundly
unthinkable
unexplainable
yet so true
that it can be felt
and experienced
because we live
in you though we
are not aware.

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface? The earth is changed as is clay by the seal, and dyed as though it were a garment. Have you entered the sources of the sea, or walked about in the depths of the abyss? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Job 38:1, 12-14, 16-18
Dearest Father,
many times I have asked you
so many questions 
and would still have more to
follow you up with but,
when I contemplate
your love and presence
in my life,
among the people you
have surrounded me with,
then I realize 
you are all questions 
that in itself more than enough
for me to see, even imagine you!

Like Job,
let me remain silent
and be wrapped by
your majesty
and glory!

Then job answered the Lord and said: Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.

Job 40:3-5
Open my eyes
in Jesus your Son
to appreciate more
your coming
your loving presence
your healing
O God our Father;
let me listen
and be more attentive
to Jesus,
your Word who became
flesh to dwell
among us;
like St. Jerome,
give me the grace
to read and study
especially to pray
your Sacred Scriptures
each day of my life
to be still
and remain
in you always.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.

Believing, living like Mary

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2022
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><)))*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias at UP-Diliman, April 2022.
Glory and praise to you,
Father, for this great solemnity
of Mary being assumed body and
soul into heaven to remind us
of our glorious future too
which she now enjoys ahead of
us all because of her fidelity and 
total submission to your will
in every stage of her life;
teach us like Mary to believe (Lk.1:45)
and live your Word who became flesh
for us in Jesus Christ.

May this faith in you prompt
us to go in sharing Jesus
with his love and mercy, 
kindness and compassion
to those doubting you, O God,
because of too much pains
and sufferings, poverty and sickness;
in this age when people believe more
in the lies peddled by social media
and advertisements, may our lives
mirror like Mary your truth and 
greatness, dear Father with our
loving service to the needy;
in this time of so many tribulations
like this pandemic with the ever growing
materialism of people that has given rise
and spawned so many social evils in the
name of wealth, power and fame,
lead us to the desert of prayers and
purification (Rev. 12:6) so we may receive 
and respond properly to the graces and 
blessings you pour upon us lavishly,
primarily Jesus whom we receive
Body and Blood in the Eucharist,
thus making us like Mary herself,
the bearer of Jesus!
Loving Father,
so many people are suffering
these days, many are about
to give up, many are so lost
that their only hope is heaven,
sometimes wishing death
as a way out, not as a way
through the Cross of Christ
who is our way, truth and life;
show us the way,
lead us like Mary
 by believing your words
and putting them into practice
so that even now,
in the midst of sufferings and
darkness, we may enable
the people to experience and
see our true destiny in eternity
while here.
Right now.
Amen.
“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Becoming a Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 10 July 2022
Deuteronomy 30:10-14 ><}}}*> Colossians 1:15-20 ><}}}*> Luke 10:25-37
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, May 2022.

After telling us last week to “do not rejoice because spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Lk.10:20), Jesus today answers a scholar of the law asking him what he must do to gain eternal life.

It is the very same question we often ask others because inside us we are convinced there is something else deeper than the laws and commandments of God written in the Bible. Like the scholar of the law, we have experienced that God’s commandments and statutes – his very voice, his very words – are written in our hearts.

Moses said to the people: “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul. No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

Deuteronomy 30:10, 14

God’s commandments and laws are not just mere codes of conduct like in other religions. The Law of God is no dead letter but his living Word right in the depths of our hearts no matter how hard we deny his existence. More than a code, the Law of God evokes a relationship that is a fruit of one’s conversion of heart and soul in union with God and with others.

It is here that we find the novel approach by Jesus in narrating the parable of the good Samaritan in answering the scholar of the law who wanted to test him by asking, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk.10:25) that was followed up with a second one, “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk.10:29) to justify himself. In narrating this parable, Jesus showed us how we must live as neighbors, as brothers and sisters in him who is our head.

Photo from americamagazine.org.

We are all neighbors.

We have heard so many times this beautiful parable by Jesus which only Luke had narrated while the Lord was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51). Too often, we see this parable as a reminder of something we are all aware of, that everyone is our neighbor.

Like the scholar of the law, we are not surprised at all with Christ’s question, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” because we have always thought of the question in our own point of view! We are the ones looking at the victim of the robbers that it is always easy to assume we would be good Samaritan to him which is so presumptuous on our part. Fact is, so often we have failed being a good Samaritan to so many in need who came to us for help because we were like the priest and Levite with many excuses, with more important matters to attend to that they both passed by the robbers’ victim.

Like the scholar of the law, we have failed to see the whole point of Jesus who was asking us to be in the victim’s point of view, to be in his shoes: would anyone be a good Samaritan to help me if I were the victim?

Jesus had reversed the point of view – instead of looking through the window from the outside, we are asked to look at the window from the inside! Would somebody stop to be kind with us?

From inquirer.net.

Many times we have felt so disappointed at some people we were expecting to be our friends, who would be on our side but when trials came, they turned their backs from us and left us alone when suddenly, somebody we least expected or even hardly knew came to help us!

How many times have you found yourself saying, “I thought they considered me as their friend but it turned out, somebody I hardly knew was the one who helped me out of my plight!” Worst, there were times we have said strangers are even better than our family and friends, saying, “Mabuti pa yung ibang tao kesa kamag-anak o kaibigan”.

Hence, to our most Frequently Asked Question (FAQ), “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus is asking us to act and live in such a way that everybody sees us as their neighbor, not the other way around. When it is others who see us as their neighbor, it means we are living the gospel, we are like Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan who came to save us all. It is different when it is us who claim to see everyone as our neighbor – it holds nothing at all but an idea in the mind, a plan or mere intention no matter how noble it may be.

Most of all, to see others as one’s neighbors is a sign of a malady of our faith and religion: that we are not yet evangelized though sacramentalized wherein Jesus is just in our minds but not yet in our hearts, not yet flowing through our very being.

Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images, Laoag City, 08 May 2022.

The preeminence of Jesus Christ

This oneness in Christ is the gist of Paul’s beautiful exposition about Jesus in our second reading this Sunday. Paul wrote the Colossians while in prison to prevent them from joining some preachers encouraging them to adopt ascetic practices in order to have angelic powers as well as appease higher powers. Paul insisted Jesus Christ is God and what he had accomplished on the cross is sufficient for our salvation.

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or principalities or powers; all things were created through and for him. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Colossians 1:15-16, 19

In presenting the preeminence of Jesus Christ, Paul is also telling us that Jesus is the foundation of our moral life. Our lives, our actions must flow from our communion and oneness in Christ. That is when others see us as a neighbor, when they see us as one of them too!

This is the fulfillment of Moses’ teaching in the first reading, that the “voice of the Lord”, the word of God is not far from you for it is in your hearts – that is Jesus Christ who is not only the fulfillment of the laws but the Law himself. After all, as John had expressed in the fourth gospel, Jesus is “the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us”, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us.

From Facebook of Marivic Tribiana, 2021.

Today, Jesus is inviting us that in order to gain eternal life, we must do what he does, that is, to love and be kind with everyone, to be seen as a neighbor and a friend others can count on. In becoming human, God became one of us in Jesus Christ, the one who crossed the street to reach out to us victims of robbers on the way to Jerusalem. He not only healed our wounds but even lifted us to regain our dignity as beloved brothers and sisters. And neighbors.

There is a very beautiful word in English that captures this reality of our being neighbors or brothers and sisters in Christ: “kind” or “kindness” which came from the root kin or kindred. When we say “she or he is kind to me”, it means he or she treats me as a kin or a kindred, not as different like a stranger.

Artwork by Fr. Marc Ocariza based on Marivic Tribiana’s photo, 2021.

We are all kins or kindred in Christ. And every time we choose to be unkind and indifferent with others especially those in need, we are bothered by our conscience because it is an affront to our very personhood. It is unnatural like what the American writer George Saunders had realized:

“So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

George Saunders from “Congratulations, By the Way” (page 22)

Avoid having such regrets later in life. Whatever good deed you may do at the moment, do it for it could be Jesus Christ who is passing by, who is the one in need. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Lent is trusting God’s promises

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 28 March 2022
Isaiah 65:17-21   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   John 4:43-54
Photo by author, view of Israel from Mt. Nebo in Jordan, May 2019.
How sweet are to the ears
your words today, O God our
loving Father, when you promised
to create new heavens and
a new earth, when the things of
the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind, when there shall 
always be rejoicing and happiness.

No longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; he dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed. They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Isaiah 65:20-21
Sana now na, Lord!
Sanaol, God!
But I know you are speaking
not in literal sense though that
time would surely happen when
we experience no more pain and
sufferings nor crying and wailing
nor death of any infant nor of anyone
less before 100 years of age.
Yes, I know Father
this life will always be filled
with pains and sufferings,
trials and tribulations but these
are meant to make us stronger
and more trusting to your coming
to us in Jesus Christ; give us the
grace to be wholly committed
to you in Jesus, in your words
like that royal official from Capernaum
for it is only in our total trust in you
can we experience peace 
and healing that only you
can give in Christ while in these
troubled earth.  Amen.

Taking Jesus to the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week VIII-C in Ordinary Time, 27 February 2022
Sirach 27:4-7 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ><}}}}*> Luke 6:39-45
Photo by author, 2016.

We enter the Season of Lent this week with Ash Wednesday as the Ordinary Time takes on a long break until June; hence, our gospel this Sunday is a fitting cap to the teachings of Jesus these past three weeks about discipleship.

After expounding on the need to love like God full of mercy even to enemies, Jesus now speaks in parables citing ordinary experiences in life to underscore “wholeness” in one’s self that is rooted in one’s heart where speech and being go together.

True discipleship in Christ is taking into heart his words by putting them into practice – of walking the talk – to bear fruits in our lives of holiness.

Jesus told his disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:39, 45
Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.

Our heart, our center of being

People often make various gestures of the heart to convey the message of love especially when posing for pictures. But of all these gestures, nothing beats those two hands shaped like ears and put together to look like a heart.

It is the best sign of the heart, of two ear lobes joined together because a loving heart is one that listens, never judges just like what Jesus taught us last Sunday.

Most of all, one’s heart is always known by its words and actions wherein the actions speak louder than words! In this symbolism, we find the inner dynamics of speech and being perfectly together.

See in the three parables of Jesus in today’s continuation of his sermon on the plains, we find this primacy of listening to his words and putting them into practice: guides cannot guide others unless they have clear eyesight; the hypocrisy of seeing other’s faults unmindful of one’s own faults; and, how every tree is known by its fruit.

Jesus is calling us today to an “education of the heart” so that we may have open ears, open hearts, open minds, and open arms to be truly his disciples!

It is with the heart that one must listen to the Word to produce good and plentiful fruit, it is in the heart where every disciple of the Lord must meditate and treasure his Word like his Blessed Mother Mary “who kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk.2:19).

When the heart is cleansed of its impurities, it opens to God and to others, gets filled with the Holy Spirit to become like the Father who is merciful and loving as revealed by Jesus Christ.

Recall how in Genesis God created everything by simply speaking because his speech and being are one. In the prologue of the fourth gospel, we find how the Logos – the Word who is Jesus Christ became flesh to save us and make us experience God himself which he fully expressed while proclaiming the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth while launching his ministry (Third Sunday, 23 January 2022).

This Sunday we find everything coming to full circle, showing us the whole picture of Jesus and his mission, of his plans for us to be like the Father.

And here lies our problem so often when our words betray our true character, when our speech and being do not match, when what we say is far from what we live.

Image from Google.

Our sharing in the power of God to love

Of all that God has created, only humans were gifted with the ability to communicate intelligibly. Unlike the animals and other creatures, only us humans can speak to express what we feel, what we know, what we want.

Our ability to communicate is in fact a sharing in the power of God, a power to serve in love like Jesus, not power to dominate or lord it over upon others as the world sees and uses it.

This is why Ben Sirach reminds us in the first reading to hold our praises of any person, especially the eloquent speakers because words are empty unless supported by actions. One’s real worth is found in times of trials and tests like “what the potter molds in the furnace” (Sir. 27:5).

It is Jesus Christ himself, his very words who purify us his disciples to be able to preach his good news of salvation to others in words and in deeds without any duplicity and hypocrisy.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

The Lord is not asking us to stop criticizing nor be silent in the midst of so many injustices and evil around us. That remains an integral part of preaching the good news, of standing for what is true and just; however, Jesus is demanding us his disciples to always examine our very selves to see the kind of deeds that arise from our hearts.

Our actions, our very lives reveal the purity of our hearts, of our intentions and of our sentiments.

This is the reason why we priests and bishops are always doubted and even questioned by so many faithful whenever we denounce the many ills in the society, when we speak against social injustices, against corruption in government because our lives do not match our words. The worst and most painful part of it is when people see our “double-standard” with priests who lead lives so far from the Good Shepherd, that instead of taking care of the flock, there are some of us who take advantage of the poor sheep entrusted to us!

Today’s gospel challenges us, especially us your priests, if we lead a truly Christian life with preferential options for the poor?

Let us not be contented with outside appearances only, especially this coming Lenten Season. Take Jesus and his words into our hearts.

Discipleship is not about frequenting the church, reciting all the prayers, observing all the rites and rituals and devotions nor just denouncing the wrongs in the society nor fund-raising for so many projects for the benefit of the poor.

Discipleship is bringing to fruition all our prayers and faith expressions to loving service for one another. If not, we might just stay home so as to minimize the damages and hurts to the Body of Christ.

Let us continue to strive in purifying our hearts with the Word so that we may bear much fruits of good works in our lives, to “be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

Huli ka!

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-8 ng Pebrero 2022
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com
Huli ka!
Mga salitang 
kinatatakutan,
hangga't maari ay
iniiwasan, 
tinatakasan,
tinatakbuhan dahil sa
tiyak na kapahamakan.
Ngunit mayroong 
bukod tanging pagkakataon 
ang salitang "huli ka" ay
katuwa-tuwa, 
dala ay galak
hindi takot at pangamba
bagkus kaluwagan
at kasaganaan.
Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Pagkatapos ni Jesus magsalita ay sinabi niya kay Simon, “Pumalaot kayo at ihulog ang mga lambat upang manghuli.” Sumagot si Simon, “Guro, magdamag po kaming nagpagod at wala kaming nahuli! Ngunit dahil sa sinabi ninyo, ihuhulog ko ang mga lambat.” Gayon nga ang ginawa nila at sa dami ng kanilang huli ay halos magkansisira kanilang mga lambat.

Lucas 5:4-6
Ano nga ba nangyari
magdamag wala silang huli
nagkubli ba mga isda
sa dilim ng gabi?
Paano ang nangyari nang
si Jesus ay nagsabi,
mga isda ay dumaiti
mga bangka napuno ng huli?
Araw-araw
dumarating si Jesus
sa buhay natin
upang tayo ay hulihin:
hindi upang pagdusahin
sa mga pagkakasala natin
bagkus upang lubusin
mga pagpapala niya sa atin.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2018.
Kasabihan ng matatanda
sa bibig nahuhuli ang isda,
ngunit sinabi ni Jesus
sa bibig ng Diyos nagmumula
tunay na pagkain sa atin nagpapala
lahat ng pagpapagal at pagsisikap natin
 makabuluhan mayroon mang kabiguan
hindi mahuhuli ang Diyos sa kanyang kabutihan!
Parating abangan pagdaraan ni Jesus
pakinggan kanyang panawagan
at kung siya ay ating matagpuan
sana'y ating iwanan ang lahat
upang siya ay masundan
pamamalakaya sa sanlibutan
hindi mo pagsisihan, buhay na walang hanggan 
tiyak makakamtan ngayon pa lamang!
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 31 Disyembre 2021.

Living, loving amid contradictions

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday IV-C in Ordinary Time, 30 January 2022
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 ><}}}}*> Luke 4:21-30
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini, Greece, 2017.

Life and love are full of contradictions that make both so wonderful, so appealing, and so engaging. The more contradictions we encounter in life and love, the more we become better persons, more like Jesus Christ who is himself “the sign of contradiction”.

We are still inside the synagogue at Nazareth where Jesus had come one sabbath, proclaiming – and claiming himself as the fulfillment of that part from the Book of Isaiah he had read. And here we find him already a sign of contradiction at the inauguration of his ministry!

People were amazed with him at the beginning but, soon enough, their true colors appeared: first, they doubted him for being the “son of Joseph”; then, they became hostile to him after hearing him say how God sent Elijah and Elisha to help pagans after being rejected too by their ancestors.

He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was none to these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Luke 4:23-30
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, a Black Winged Stilt (Himantropus himantopus), Quezon Province, 27 January 2022.

Making a choice, taking a stand with Jesus

It is true that there are always two or even many sides to a story; that is why, it is imperative that we make a choice for what is true which we must accept and believe and hold on. That was the challenge posed by Jesus Christ to the people at the synagogue and to us today: which part of the scriptures do we fulfill today, his coming or his rejection?

While the gospel is good news, it is not always comfortable because it dares us to be like Jesus Christ, freely living in love and in truth. His gospel challenges us always to change our ways and be witnesses of his justice and mercy.

Last Sunday, we are told that every time we listen and take to heart the words of God found in the scriptures, Jesus becomes present among us, “fulfilled in our hearing”; today, we are challenged to affirm and live the word of God daily in words and in deeds.

And that is where the ironies, the contradictions begin when we make a stand for Jesus and his gospel: his words and teachings are all about love and mercy, kindness and care for one another but, the more we preach and practice them, the more life becomes difficult for us. The more we love, the more we are hurt.

Photo by author, 2019.

Like Jesus, every time we come out in the open to make a stand on what is true and just, good and proper, there will always be rejections. When we speak the truth, there will always be some or many who would be hurt and disturbed from the illusions (even delusions) they have been holding on.

It is the most unkindest cut of all, so to speak: the ones who reject us, the ones who feel “hurt” with our stance are the ones closest to us, the ones we are serving, the ones whose lives we are trying to uplift by liberating them from darkness and ignorance, sins and evil.

We have a Filipino saying that goes, “mahirap gisingin ang nagtutulug-tulugan” (it is difficult to wake up one pretending to be asleep).

That was the problem with the people of Nazareth at that time and even with some of us today: we can be easily astonished with one’s proclamations and words but it can happen that such rave can also mean doubts and skepticism. Some people are not really surprised and even if they ask for more proofs and arguments, no amount of explanations can ever enlighten them because they trust more in themselves and in their illusions of having the truth. They have already made up their minds and would keep on holding on their beliefs.

Worst of all, any appealing discourse is rendered useless and immaterial when people take on the person proclaiming or speaking like Jesus Christ: “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Now we see the contradictions becoming more pronounced than ever when it involves the person. It always happens everywhere wherein it is the messenger, not the message, who becomes the focus and issue at hand. And here we have the perfect communicator of all, Jesus Christ who is both the medium and the message rejected by his own folks and by us today when we insist on the truths we believe in!

It has always been like that since the beginning of the Church until our present day when those who should have been the first to accept the good news and its preachers have reacted exactly like the folks of Jesus at Nazareth! More than 50 years after Vatican II, until now there are still those who continue to reject the reforms and changes we have in the Church, insisting on maintaining the past that was also borne out of developments in the course of history.

Sometimes I find it amusing whenever we put distinctions between “practicing” and “non-practicing” Catholics. Why be called a Catholic or a Christian at all if you do not practice or believe the teachings of our faith and of the Church?

Photo by author, April 2020.

The power of love that surpasses all others

Luke noted at the end of our story today how Jesus “passed through the people and went away” when they tried to hurl him down headlong at the brow of the hill on which their town was built. See their murderous intents against Jesus, their kin?!

But Jesus simply walked away from them, unharmed.

Like the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading, God assures his prophets and each one of us today how he would protect us every time we make a stand for the Gospel, when we live by the values of the Gospel.

We may not concretely experience God’s protection and deliverance in the given moment but we know from the life of Jesus that God is always present with us, especially at the nick of time, leading us to life eternal.

But, there is still something more to that image of Jesus “passing through” the people; it is very evocative of his own passover that would happen on Good Friday at the cross. For now, there would be so many oppositions and contradictions to him but nothing and no one can deter him from proclaiming his good news of salvation to all.

Like Jesus in this scene, we are invited to follow him in his path, to continue listening and internalizing his words, put it into practice in our daily lives which is a daily passing over, of passing through many contradictions and doubts sometimes from people supposed to love and understand us, accept us.

And that is why Paul encourages us in the second reading to choose a “more excellent way” that surpasses all other gifts, the way of love.

As I have told you earlier, life becomes more appealing and wonderful, so enriching when there are many contradictions coming our way because that is when we truly experience the power and meaning of love in Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters: “Love is patient, love is kind… It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 12: 4, 7, 8

When doubts are cast upon us by others, especially those closest to us whenever we persevere in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in words and in deeds, that is also when our love for him and for others is purified and made perfect.

It is very difficult and would always be painful but it is during these contradictions when our lives become more meaningful because of the love that we have and share. Remember the beautiful reminder about loving from St. John of the Cross, “The soul that walks in love never gets tired nor tires others.” Just love, love, love.

Jesus gives us the grace today of meaningful life lived in love if we listen and internalize his words, choosing to make a stand for him by fulfilling his words in deeds despite the many doubts and contradictions around us, especially from people we love and trust.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, a Black Winged Stilt (Himantropus himantopus), Quezon Province, 27 January 2022.