LORD IS MY CHEF

Why pray at all?

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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the First Week of Lent, 20 February 2024
Isaiah 55:10-11   <*((((>< + + + ><))))*>     Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by author, 2019.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"In praying, 
do not babble like the pagans,
who think that they will be heard
because of their many words.
Do not be like them.  
Your Father knows what you need
before you ask him.
This is how you are to pray:
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be thy name,"
(Matthew 6:7-9).

What a great segue,
so seamless!

Jesus said you know
what we need before we ask you
yet he tells us too
how we must pray
by calling you "Our Father"!
If you know what we need, Father,
then, why should
 we pray
at all?
In this blessed season of
Lent, teach us Lord
to go back to you
in prayer
because in prayer,
you let us know
what we really need
to be fulfilled,
to be at peace,
to be fruitful
and that is you,
dear Jesus;
in prayer,
you make us realize
that more than things,
what we really need
is a relationship
with you
who loves,
who feels,
who is like us
in everything except sin;
in prayer,
we are disarmed
of our many defenses
and pretensions,
making us humble
to be more loving
while in need of a lot of loving too
only you can give.
Yes, God,
you know everything we need
before we pray to you
but we need to pray
because we simply need you
whose words are "like
the rain and snow
that come down
 and do not return there
till they have watered
the earth,
making it fertile and fruitful,
giving us seeds
and bread
to eat,
achieving the end
for which
you sent your
word"
(cf. Isaiah 55:10-11).
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo in Virginia, January 2024.

Lent is seeing God in others

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The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the First Week of Lent, 19 February 2024
Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18   ><))))*> + + + <*((((><     Matthew 25:31-46
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier in Quiapo, Manila, 09 January 2024.
Today I pray dear God
to your directive since the
Old Testament until the coming
of your Son Jesus Christ:
"Be holy , for I, the Lord your God,
am holy" (Leviticus 19:2).
But, what is really to be holy,
what is to be like you,
God?
Perfect.
Loving.
Kind.
Good.
Merciful.
Forgiving.
Caring.
Understanding.
Warm.
Open.
There are so many other
traits and characteristics I can think
of you as being holy,
O God,
that we have to imitate
to be like
you
that makes holiness
 so difficult,
elusive,
and impossible!

Who can really be like you
when we are so different from you?
But, thank you in sending us
Jesus who not only made it
possible for us to be holy
like you, God,
but also made it
simpler:

“Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me… Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least one, you did not do for me.”

Matthew 25:40, 45

On this blessed season
of Lent,
teach us to fast 
and be empty of ourselves,
of our pride,
and of our sins
so we may be filled with YOU;
holiness is first of all 
being filled
with you, O God,
that we feel,
we see,
we think
of others like you,
that is, of seeing you
in each one of us.
When we begin to
realize and experience 
that you fill us, O God,
then we learn to be
generous in sharing
more of ourselves, 
of our time,
of our talent,
of our treasure,
and most of all,
of you dear God
dwelling in us
with others;
we can only be holy
not when we try being
like you but more of finding
you first in us
in order to find you
in others too!

Then, 
maybe we stop
fighting,
committing every sin
against each other
if only we can see you
dwelling,
filling 
each one of us.
Amen.

Lent, a pilgrimage to God

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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Lent I-B, 18 February 2024
Genesis 9:8-15 + + 1 Peter 3:18-22 + + Mark 1:12-15
Photo by Walid Ahmad on Pexels.com

Pope Benedict XVI eloquently described Lent in his first papal Lenten message in 2006 when he wrote, “Lent is a privileged time of interior pilgrimage towards Him Who is the fount of mercy. It is a pilgrimage in which He Himself accompanies us through the desert of our poverty, sustaining us on our way towards the intense joy of Easter.”

What a beautiful picture too of the short gospel from Mark we heard this first Sunday in Lent that briefly describes the temptation of Jesus so unlike the detailed versions by Matthew and Luke. Nonetheless, Mark’s terse account is loaded heavily in rich symbols and meanings.

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of god is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15

This scene comes right after the baptism of Jesus by John at the Jordan. It is sad that our liturgical texts have not yet adopted the new revised editions of major Catholic bibles wherein Mark noted how “immediately” or “at once” after his baptism, Jesus was tempted in the desert.


(At once) The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert tempted by Satan. 
“Temptation in the Wilderness” painting by Briton Riviere (1840-1920) from commons.wikimedia.org.

Do we not experience the same thing daily in life when even right in the moment we are trying to pray, trying to become better when temptations come our way like when we decided to pray or go celebrate the Mass, something else would distract or prevent us from fulfilling it?

See how difficult it is to go on diet when suddenly mother cooks your favorite meal or somebody comes for a visit with burgers and sodas and cakes! Just when you have decided to quit a vice, at once the temptation comes to pick it up again, as we plea to make it our “last” cigarette or joint, last shot of alcohol, last look at pornography, last gamble and so many other lasts that never really ended! Recall those times we decided to finally embark on any religious or spiritual endeavor when at once we are intensely challenged by carnal and material desires.

It is a reality of life that Jesus faced too like us, being tempted immediately by Satan after his baptism when God identified him as his beloved Son with whom he is well pleased. Mark warns us today how Satan is bent on tempting us to abandon God, be lost and just be ordinary without meaning and fulfillment in life and existence. The five Sundays in Lent depict to us our internal pilgrimage and journey into God’s inner room to be with him in Christ Jesus. It is a pilgrimage as we return to our very root and grounding who is God. Let us not waste the grace of this blessed season to become like God again, truly his image and likeness marred by sin and evil.

Oh what a joy to be one with God again, to regain our true selves – contented and fulfilled in our very selves minus all the trappings of this world’s artificialities of fake selves with fake faces and skin, of fake lives glamorized in social media. It is a pilgrimage in the desert where we are invited to leave everything behind, to be bare and nothing for we solely need only God to truly see again our selves as true, good, and beautiful. Not with cosmetics nor food nor even modern thoughts and ideas pretending to be just and fair that deceive us and leave us more empty and lost.


He was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

“Jesus Ministered to by Angels” painting by James Tissot (1836-1902) from commons.wikipedia.org.

Lent is an interior pilgrimage to God lived in the wilderness too, an invitation for us to go back to Paradise even in the midst of the chaos around us. This we do every Sunday in the Mass when we go back to God, to his Church and the sacraments.

This is why Lent is the time for more prayers, fasting and alms-giving as they all strengthen our spiritual resolve to become better persons, to become who we really are – beloved children of God with dignity, meaning and purpose found in him.

Despite the fall of Adam and Eve, God never abandoned us because he loves us so much that he sent us Jesus Christ his Son to accompany and show us how among the wild beasts around us, there are angels attending to our needs at all times. Everyone has a struggle, a problem dealing with. Nobody is without any crisis nor lives perfectly. That’s the imagery of the desert, a wilderness with the wildest beasts that are most ferocious and most poisonous.

Yet, God has assured us even right after the Fall that we are his most precious creation that he takes the initiative always to save us from every danger of sickness and death. Most of all, of sin like when Cain was so jealous of his brother Abel, the Lord said to him, “Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door; its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it” (Gen. 4:6-7).

In the first reading we heard how God acted like human, so fed up with our sinfulness that he sent a great flood to wipe the earth clean again. However, do not forget that before sending the great flood, God sent first Noah and his family. Again, that is exactly how our life is!

Unknown to us, long before any problem and sufferings come to us, there is always God preparing already a remedy, a solution, an exit plan for us in the first place like when he sent Noah and his family to ensure there would still be good people left after the flood. This reached its highest point in Jesus whom the Father sent to become the new rainbow of the sky when Christ stretched out his arms on the Cross to save us. Peter beautifully explained this truth in our second reading today, reminding us how the great flood at Noah’s time was a prefiguring of our baptism in Jesus Christ when we become the Father’s beloved and forgiven children.

Never lose hope when things seem to be so bad and miserable in life. Remember how the silver linings appear always after the heavy rains or how the leaves are greenest after the storm. Yes, life is like a desert, a wilderness with so many wild beasts that may times we could not escape temptations and fall into sins. But God is greater than our hearts, sending us more than enough angels even his only begotten Son so we may overcome temptations and sins, downfalls and defeats in life. Go back to God, go back to paradise in prayers and the Mass. Handle life with prayer, always PUSH, that is, Pray Until Something Happens.


After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 
"This is the time of fulfillment. 
The kingdom of God is at hand. 
Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Photo by shy sol on Pexels.com

This is the most unique feature in Mark’s brief account of the temptation of Jesus by Satan. Mark began his gospel just like the three other evangelists linking the life and mission of Jesus with John the Baptist; however, he abruptly removed John from this scene by simply saying “after John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God.”

“Ganun lang yon?” we might ask in Filipino. It would take five more chapters before Mark explains to us the fate of John the Baptist.

And yes, that’s the way it is with us too! We never stop with our mission like Jesus amid all the storms and darkness hovering above us. There will always be sufferings and trials coming and these in itself are the reasons for us to continue with our mission like Jesus.

Inasmuch as the lives and fate of Jesus and John are intertwined, so are our lives and fate as disciples of Christ with him! It is during trials and difficulties when our proclamation of God’s kingdom are loudest and most credible. Most of all, it is in our sufferings when we go back to our internal desert when we truly experience the time of fulfillment if we remain faithful to God like Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:

Dearest Jesus:
accompany us 
on this first week of Lent
into the Father's house; 
make us stop all whining
and complaining on the many
desert experiences we are going 
through for that is how life is -
like a wilderness with many wild beasts!
Let us never lose sight of your
loving presence among us, Lord,
of your angels ministering to us,
assuring us of the colorful rainbow
of life in the horizon if we remain
faithful and true.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Annalyn Dela Torre, Bgy. Caypombo, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 14 February 2024.

Lent is self-confrontation

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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after Ash Wednesday, 16 February 2024
Isaiah 58:1-9  + + +  Matthew 9:14-15
Photo by author, 2020.
Thank you, dear Father
for this lovely season of Lent
when everything is in hue
of violets representing the future,
the imagination and dreams,
while spiritually calming
our emotions to attain 
spiritual enlightenment 
while at the same time
keeping us grounded in you, 
O God,
our very first love.
Give us the courage
in Christ Jesus your Son 
to confront our very selves, 
to accept who we 
really are before you 
minus all the pretensions
and alibis and excuses: 
forgive us, Lord
because very often we look so 
highly of ourselves,
unconsciously or consciously
playing god, 
keeping ourselves
as standard and measure 
of what is right and proper,
even of truth; worst, 
many times, we demand you 
to conform to us 
than we conforming to you.

Thus says the Lord God: Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; they ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God.

Isaiah 58:1-2

Let us be your prophets
especially in this age when
we no longer fast nor abstain,
no longer praying individually
and communally,
so contented with online Masses,
so that we have forgotten not only
you, Father but even those
around us, both those nearest
to us in the family circle
and those outside our margins;
Father, in this age with
so much emphasis 
on individual rights,
we have forgotten about
others: we have refused to
see each others plight
and condition in life
because we have bloated
our egos,
has failed to look at the mirror
to confront our own dirt
and smudges,
questioning everyone
even you, O Lord,
except our very selves.
Amen.

Life is Lent

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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday After Ash Wednesday, 15 February 2024
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 +++ Luke 9:22-25
Photo from petalrepublic.com.
Our most loving
and merciful Father,
thank you 
for this new season
of Lent, 
in giving us this most
wonderful occasion to
reflect on life's meaning
we always confuse as
outside of us, 
dependent on things,
and most of all,
perfect without pain
and sufferings.
Life is Lent.
It is the only season
that begins not on a Sunday
but on an ordinary day
of the week,
right in the midst 
of our many duties
and worries
because Lent is something
within us, always asking us
to make the right choices,
of choosing life,
not death;
blessing,
not curse.

Many times, Father,
we are out of touch with
ourselves,
with life itself 
which we see as outside
ourselves that we hardly live at all
without experiencing life
itself in its wholeness 
that includes all the beauty 
and scars,
the lights and darkness,
the glory and sorrows,
the defeats and victories,
the tears and laughter,
the Good Friday and Easter.

If, however, you turn away your hearts and will not listen, but are led astray and adore and serve other gods, I tell you now that you will certainly perish; you will not live a long life on the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and occupy.

Deuteronomy 30:17-18

The way to life
that you, Father, offers us
through the life and example
of Jesus Christ your Son
is the exact opposite
that the world
proposes;
help us realize that truth,
clear us of all doubts
and dilly-dallying,
of making excuses and alibis
that what the world sees
as God's ways are limiting
when in fact are liberating!

Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Luke 9:23-25

We have seen
for ourselves many times
how the way of the world of
indulging in every desire
and pleasure like
 wealth and fame,
sex and drugs
have actually led to destruction
and death,
sorrows and miseries
than life and joy;
clear our minds
and hearts
to make the right
choice and decision
of following Jesus
to the Cross daily
because that is what
it means that life is lent,
a daily journey
 to Good Friday
that leads surely
to Easter.
Amen.

True love leads to freedom: Ash Wednesday on Valentine’s Day

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Forty Days of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 14 February 2024
Joel 2:12-18 + 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 + Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Illustration from Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, 14 February 2018.

This is not the first time that Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday, the start of the holy season of Lent of 40 days before Holy Week in preparation for Easter. The last time they coincided was in February 14, 2018.

Actually, there is no problem at all with both happening together on the same date. Both celebrations have the heart as its focus, inviting us to examine how much love we have in our hearts, because, ultimately when we die and face God our Creator, He will judge us on how truly we have loved while here on earth.

And because they both speak of love, Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day confront the reality of death.

Ash Wednesday reminds us that we all die which is the meaning of the imposition of the ash on our foreheads while the priest says, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  But, we do not merely die and end life on earth. Notice how the ashes imposed on us are shaped as cross because Ash Wednesday assures us that we die in the love of Jesus Christ our Savior who leads us into eternal life.

Meanwhile, Valentine’s reminds us of our undying love for those bonds of love we make throughout our lives as lovers, friends, and admirers.  Lovers and couples pledge – with or without God – their love for each other “til death do us part.” Anyone who truly loves and had truly loved knows that death is love’s final test. And the whole world is filled with so many beautiful stories and magnificent buildings and structures that remind of us one’s undying love like the Taj Mahal in India.

Therefore, today is a wonderful celebration, an amazing juxtaposition of the sacred Ash Wednesday and the secular Valentine’s Day on this February 14 so that we may purify the love in our hearts, that our love is not merely expressed in words but most especially in deeds.

From Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods.

For his Lenten Message this year, the Holy Father had chosen the theme of freedom in his reflection by going back to the Exodus experience of the Israelites. Indeed, love and freedom go together. Always.

Lent is the season of grace in which the desert can become once more – in the words of the prophet Hosea – the place of our first love (cf. Hos 2:16-17). God shapes his people, he enables us to leave our slavery behind and experience a Passover from death to life. Like a bridegroom, the Lord draws us once more to himself, whispering words of love to our hearts.

Pope Francis, “Through the Desert God Leads Us to Freedom” (Lent 2024)

Love is most true when there is freedom. We cannot truly love if we are not free. And the more we love, the more we are free, that is, free to love, free to be caring, free to be kind, free to be honest and true, free to be sincere.

From simchafisher.com.

Remember your first crush or your first love. Amid all the exciting feelings and “kilig moments” we have had every time our eyes met those of our crush or when our skin touched each other, one thing we always made sure was to keep it a secret.

During our time, it was imperative that we boys and men keep our feelings to our selves about our crush and love interests because, the moment our love, our feelings are made known, problems happen. Everyone in the class or barkada starts teasing, making us unnatural in our words and actions as they dictate us on what to do and what to say. Our crush or beloved then gets irritated and uncomfortable with all the attention she gets not really from us but from every Maritess and Marisol around!

I have realized later in life that when something so deep is so true, most often we treasure it in our hearts, keeping it in secret not for anything else but to make it grow and mature. In this case, into selfless love. People who brag their love or crush or just everything in life are often the most untrue and unfree. Everything is just a show or palabas for them, a front that is not real which is what we see on social media. Jesus tells us true love that is free is something more of the inside than of the outside appearances:

Jesus said to his disciples: ”Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you… When you pray do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogue and on street corners so that others may see them… When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites… your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Matthew 6:1-2, 5, 16, 18

Photo by author, Our Lady of Fatima University-Laguna, 19 January 2024.

Love and freedom go together. Love grows and deepens only when there is freedom because love is a grace from God that naturally flows out from us, from our being. There is no need to make noise about it or be dramatic for everyone to see. Just let your love flow as the song from the 1970’s said.

When we “manipulate” our love, we become self-conscious instead of being mutual. Love is always other centered as the late American Trappist monk Thomas Merton said, “the sign that we truly love is when we love somebody more than ourselves.” When we have so much of ourselves, when we are selfish, that is when we reject God and eventually others.  That is why every sin is essentially a refusal to love which bothers us inside as we feel guilty and become unfree to be who we are, beloved and loving.

Lent invites us to love and be free through conversion, a turning of our hearts away from the wrong loves we have pursued and led us to loneliness, emptiness, and sadness within. Love and freedom come from within our hearts where God dwells; hence, the call of the Prophet Joel to turn our hearts back to God:

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

“Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God.”

Joel 2:12-13

To speak of the heart is to speak of the whole person whose only fulfillment is found in God.  A heart that is far from God is a person separated not only from God but also from others, even from himself.  Only a heart that is inclined to God is able to truly love and be truly free. A heart without God is a heart without love, a heart that is not free because it had gone cold and dead.

Conversion then leads us to reconciliation, to being one again in God in Jesus Christ as St. Paul admonished in the second reading, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). To be reconciled with God is to be one with Him in our hearts through prayer, almsgiving, and fasting that are the hallmarks of the Season of Lent that lead us to true freedom that deepens our love for God and others.

Prayer enables us to pause and regain our freedom to examine our real selves, of how truly free are we especially in this world when there are so many voices dictating us on everything that have left us alienated, lost, and confused within.

Almsgiving sets us free from greed and helps us regard our neighbors as brothers and sisters. It deepens our love for God because our daily encounters with those who beg for our help point us to God Himself who provides us with everything we need.

Fasting on the other hand weakens our tendency to be self-centered, “disarming” us of our false selves, removing the masks we put to impress others so that we can grow and mature as it makes us more attentive to God and others.

As we begin our 40 days of Lent today, let us journey into our hearts and into the heart of God so we can truly be free to love like Jesus Christ His Son who died on the Cross on Good Friday.

Ash Wednesday on a Valentine’s Day is the perfect reminder to us all that the Cross is the best expression of love symbolized by the heart that is free and willing to suffer and die for a beloved. May we “not receive the grace of God in vain” (2 cor. 6:1). Amen. Have a blessed week ahead.

Praying on the eve of Ash Wednesday

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The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 13 February 2024
James 1:12-18 <*((((>< + ><))))*> + <*((((>< + ><))))*>  Mark 8:14-21
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Bgy. Tagalag, Valenzuela City, 2023.
On this eve of Ash Wednesday,
help us, dear God, 
to prepare for a
meaningful start tomorrow
of our Lenten journey of
40 days to Easter;
banish from our minds
and hearts all thoughts
and apprehensions
about the coming days
of fasting and abstinence,
prayers and penance,
and alms-giving;
forgive us, Father,
when our attention goes
to the details and technicalities
of Lent that we set aside 
the most essential 
which is to return to you -
our very first love.

Enlighten our minds
and our hearts, Father in your
Son Jesus Christ, 
to understand fully the 
meaning of Lent which is
having less of ourselves
and of the world
to have more of you
and of the Spirit;
until now, we have not
yet understood Christ's coming
and teachings as we are still bothered
by our scarcity and poverty,
never comprehending at all
how despite the affluence and
abundance of material things 
these days, the more we have
become empty and lost in life.

When he became aware of this he said to them, “Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread? Do you not yet understand or comprehend? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?” They answered him, “Twelve.” When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did younpick up?” They answered him, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you not still understand?”

Mark 8:17-21

Worst,
we got it all wrong that
our sinful temptations are
from God, not realizing these
come from our own worldly
desires.

Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death. do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

James 1:14-17

On this Tuesday
before Ash Wednesday,
we pray, O God,
for us to understand
the sources of temptations
and sins within us;
give us the courage
and strength to confront our
true selves,
to be sincere before you
so that we may be
transformed into your 
image and likeness
that Christ had restored
in us.
Amen.

Sigh, and be kind!

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The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Sixth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 12 February 2023
James 1:1-11  ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>  Mark 8:11-13
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee in Israel, May 2019.
Dear Jesus:
I love that word "kind" 
from the responsorial psalm
"Be kind to me, Lord,
and I shall live" 
and that scene from the
Gospel when you "sighed":
the word "kind" 
is from the root "kin" 
or "kindred", that is,
someone like us,
from the same family,
or the same tribe;
being kind is treating others
as one's family or kin
and that is how you are to us -
kind!
And you were most like one of us,
and kind, dear Jesus
 when you "sighed from the depth
 of your spirit" (Mk. 8:12)
after the Pharisees
asked you for sign from heaven
 to prove you were the Christ;
of course, that meant nothing
for the Pharisees but for us
who believe in you, it was something;
like you, dear Jesus,
many times we sigh out of
exasperation and exhaustion,
acceptance and surrender,
hope and inspiration
to persevere,
to keep on,
to forge on in life.
You became like us,
dear Jesus,
in everything except sin
but, when you sighed
we felt you being so kind too,
truly a brother to us
like when St. James
addressed us 15 times
as "brothers and sisters"
in his short letter
while teaching us the important
lesson of bearing all trials
in life as you did at your
Crucifixion, Lord.
Whenever we sigh,
may we remember your kindness,
your being one with us, Jesus
because you too sighed
during those amazing moments
of difficulties and trials,
powerlessness and poverty
when we most gain character
and depth as person,
not when we are strong
and powerful
or successful.
Amen.

Approaching Jesus, approachable like Jesus

 7,657 total views

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 11 February 2024
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthian 10:31-11:1 ><}}}}*> Mark 1:40-45
Photo by Ms. Analyn Dela Torre in Caypombo, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 04 February 2024.

We have seen these past two Sundays Jesus Christ’s personal manner of relating with everyone. It had always been Jesus coming, touching, and speaking directly to the man possessed with unclean spirit at the synagogue in Capernaum on a sabbath and later the sick mother-in-law of Simon Peter at home.

Jesus has always been coming to everyone – to us – in the most personal manner. And he would always ensure all “barriers are down” around him so that we too can approach him like in our gospel this Sunday when a leper came to him for healing.

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Mark 1:40-42

From vaticannews.va

For the third consecutive Sunday, Mark tells us another healing by Jesus at the start of his ministry in Galilee. This is the last in the series but this is so unique because it was the sick who approached Jesus.

Most of all, that sick was afflicted with leprosy, the worst disease considered at that time when people believed (until now) that any sickness and handicap was a punishment from God for sins committed. Leprosy was the worst because it reminded them of the boils God inflicted on the Egyptians when the pharaoh refused to let them go home to their Promised Land with Moses as leader.

More than the ugly sight of the disease, leprosy became the perfect metaphor for sin and punishment. That is why God himself in the first reading personally issued the health guidelines for anyone with leprosy and similar diseases of the skin. Though God’s prescriptions were more of hygienic purposes, these took on a deeper spiritual meaning for the Israelites especially when lepers have to be separated from the community that it seemed for them, it was indeed a punishment for a grave sin.

Jesus radically changed that perception in this healing of the leper who had approached him.


A leper came to Jesus...
From wikipedia.commons.

Inasmuch as Jesus comes to us everyday as we have seen these past two Sundays, Jesus assures us today that we can always come to him like that leper.

See how this scene was unimaginable because lepers were given strict orders at that time to never approach anyone while people were supposed to drive them away. Where were the four disciples supposed to be following Jesus? And, wasn’t anyone there to restrain that leper from getting close to Jesus?

It seemed Jesus was by himself when the leper approached him as Mark never bothered to tell us of any witnesses at all nor the exact time and location of this incident because this scene happens everyday in our lives. The fact that the leper was able to get near Jesus who welcomed him warmly that day is actually the good news today - Jesus wants us to leave our comfort zones to join him in the middle of the street of his journeys!

Jesus comes to us in the most personal way everyday. And the good news is, nothing can keep us away from Jesus, even our sins which leprosy signified in this story. All barriers are down when Jesus comes and calls us to approach him. No restrictions nor appointments needed to see Jesus who simply wants us to get closest with him like when he “indignantly” told the disciples to let the children come to him (Feast of Sto. Niño, Jan. 21, 2024, Mk. 10:14).

What prevents you or keeps you away from approaching Jesus who passes by everyday?

"I do will it. Be made clean."
Painting by James Tissot (1836-1902) of “Healing of Lepers of Capernaum” from catholic-resources.org.

In his healings these past two Sundays, recall how Mark presented them to us who seemed detached or far from Jesus like spectators watching, astonished and amazed with his authority as the Son of God, all-powerful and beyond us.

This Sunday, Mark shatters all those feelings within us, telling us to dismiss all those thoughts of Jesus being hard to reach when a leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

Imagine Jesus and you as the leper in this beautiful scene, experiencing the power of his words and hands together!

The words, “I do will it. Be made clean” shows us again the authority of Jesus in his words being sufficient to effect healing like when the Roman centurion declared to him, “only say the word and my servant will be healed” (Mt. 8:8/Lk. 7:7) or when he told the unclean spirit in the man in a synagogue, “Quiet! Come out of him!” (Mk. 1:25).

What is most unique in this Sunday healing is how Jesus felt deep inside that strong love for the leper -for each of us today – that he was filled with compassion to be “Moved with pity”. It was more than an emotion or a feeling within. To be moved with pity is to have one’s heart stirred or disturbed – the literal meaning of the Latin misericordia or mercy. See now the progression from the heart of Jesus, in his compassion and mercy, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.”

So beautiful! And that happens everyday if we approach Jesus no matter how dark our sins are, no matter how sad we may be or even devastated. Come to your worst like that leper and Jesus will gladly welcome you, heal you, forgive you because he loves you so much!

Photo by Ms. Analyn Dela Torre in Caypombo, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 04 February 2024.
"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ."
(1 Corinthians 11:1)

Oh, how easy it is to approach Jesus for sinners and weak people like us but is there anyone like Jesus who puts all barriers down to be approachable through our parents and siblings, teachers and friends, and priests to express what’s deepest in our hearts?

Is there still a St. Paul among us who can humbly declare, “Be imitators of me, as I am an imitator of Christ” who welcomes modern lepers getting near for love and affection, even company?

St. Paul may seem to be boasting to us modern people these days but if we try to understand the context of our second reading, we realize the great apostle was simply being humbly honest and true. The Christians at Corinth never saw Jesus like St. Paul. They needed a model to imitate Christ which St. Paul ably provided them with. After all, St. Paul had truly conformed himself to the crucified Christ (Gal. 2:19) as attested by the early Christians.

And while it is true we are all called to imitate Jesus, we priests are expected to be more like the Crucified Christ – approachable especially by the sick and the poor. How sad when we priests are more seen with the rich and powerful, in all their lavish parties but never or rarely with the poor. The same is true with church workers and volunteers when those at the margins find them difficult to approach. Something is gravely wrong with us if people find us priests and lay Christians difficult to approach because, clearly, we are not imitators of Christ. Have a blessed week ahead as we approach Jesus this Ash Wednesday for the 40-day journey towards Easter. Amen.

God does everything so well

 7,897 total views

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 09 February 2024
1 Kings 11:29-32, 12:19  ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>  Mark 7:31-37
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, an orange-bellied flowerpecker (Dicaeum trigonostigma) somewhere in the Visayas, December 2023.
Today, dear God,
I share in the joy
of the people at the time 
of your Son Jesus
when he healed a deaf in the
district of Decapolis:

They were exceedingly astonished and they said, “He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

Mark 7:37

Yes, loving Father,
you have done all things well,
so very well in fact,
in Jesus Christ our Lord
that I am also exceedingly astonished
with your love and mercy.

When I look back to my life
even amid all the storms and
failures I have had,
you still have done
 all things well in my favor;
when I remember those sufferings
I almost gave up and quit,
you have done all things
in my favor, making me stronger
and better, even wiser today;
when I look back to the many
losses and defeats I have had,
you still have done all things well
in my favor, teaching me the
values of perseverance, patience,
and fulfillment, as well as
the differences between
 happiness and joy,
success and fruitfulness.

Dear Father,
keep us open to your grace
and wisdom and plans for us;
most of all,
keep us open to Jesus Christ
who comes to us always even
in paths we least expect to find him,
in backward routes no one takes,
and in foreign territories
we refuse to venture into.
Let our daily prayer include
his command,
"Ephphatha"!
Amen.

Light a candle to pray better.

 8,222 total views

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 February 2024
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

Last Friday was the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus to the Temple (February 2) also known as the Feast of the Candlemass wherein candles were blessed outside the church after which the people led by the priest enters to begin the Mass in a procession with lighted candles.

Candlemass is a beautiful celebration, especially when done properly by priests. Its origin dates back to more than 1500 years ago in France where it started when people incorporated the blessing of candles into the Feast of the Presentation then known with its Eastern title as “the Encounter” to refer to how Simeon with the Prophetess Anna met the child Jesus being offered by his parents Joseph and Mary to the temple 40 days after Christmas. According to St. Luke, Simeon sang the following upon meeting the child Jesus Christ.

Presentation in the Temple painting by Fra Angelico from fineartamerica.com.

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

Luke 2:29-32

In proclaiming Jesus Christ as the “light” of salvation for the nations, the early French Christians thought of having the blessing of candles and procession of lighted candles to signify Jesus as the only and true light of the world. Thanks be to God for those pious early French Christians!

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Though candles are no longer used as a major source of lighting in homes and other places, it is still used in almost all churches, monasteries and other houses of worship around the world, gaining a renewed popularity among the younger generation. It is a most welcomed development in our modern time as more and more people are rediscovering the need for spiritual growth of whatever label. And right in the midst of this is the candle as a tool for better prayer periods.

Unfortunately, this beautiful tradition of the candles is dying in our country. How ironic that we who belong to the Third World have switched to electric vigil lamps and candles while those in the First World still use the traditional candles in their homes and churches.

Go abroad like in North America and Europe, one finds a plethora of all kinds of beautiful candles used and sold even in the simplest churches and stores! During a Holy Land pilgrimage in the 2017 Easter Season, one of the things I appreciated and admired next to the pilgrim sites were the lovely and regal designs of paschal candles in the churches we visited that made me wonder why nobody makes them here in our predominantly Catholic country.

Candles have always have a special place in the life of our faith and the Church since its early beginnings. From the Latin words candere and candela that mean “to shine”, it evolved into the Middle and Old English words candele and candel.

Aside from lighting the gatherings of the early Christians especially in the catacombs to evade arrests during the persecution, candles have always been used to signify Christ as the light of the world guiding our paths as Christians in every celebration, from Baptism to Weddings and Funerals.

Candles do not only make rooms shine but most especially the souls and the hearts of those who cultivate a prayer life. It has that unique warmth that can soothe and calm those who are agitated or worried with life’s many trials and challenges.

Every time we light a candle during prayer periods, our inner selves are made brighter as they evoke in us so much feelings of the Divine presence. Their little lights that flicker remind us of our feeble selves whose life could be easily snuffed out with a single blow.

The scent of burning candle permeates our senses, calming us within, inviting us to leave all our worries in life as we lay our cards out in the open to God. A candles warmth can dissolve every hardness within us, purifying us within and becoming empty and open for God’s grace to work in us.

Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

In a sense, candles may be considered as a sacrament too which is defined as a visible sign with invisible power.

The very act of lighting a candle is already the start of prayer, something like the making of the sign of the Cross. I strongly recommend for those who wish to aid their prayer periods with candles to use matches not lighters that are artificial.

Lighting up a candle for prayer especially in the morning can rouse our senses. The striking of the match with its sudden burst of light to kindle the candle is like an angel had suddenly come down to assure us that our prayer is heard by God, that God is with us at the very moment or at least reminds us we have turned into the mode of praying.

The strong scent of the burning matchstick also adds flavor and aroma to the prayer period especially in the early morning when the whole world is still dark and everyone still asleep with you as the only one awake with God. Lighting a candle first thing first upon waking up can help us avoid from getting our cellphones or turning on the radio or the TV. A lighted candle can prevent us from being distracted by these modern gadgets that keep us away from God and from one another.

My altar with lighted candle at night; see the candle snuffer at the foreground.

Lighting a candle during a prayer period in our room or home works like the candlelight dinner that sets us to a lovely communion with God our beloved. The slow burning of a candle reminds us even in our busiest morning that we are at prayer in the presence of God, that we need to slow down too in our lives, to be conscious of our selves, surroundings and time so we can set our sights to God alone like a beloved in a candlelight dinner date.

At night time, the sight of the candle burning in one’s room is most dramatic as we close the day. Actually, it is during night time that the Church prays the Canticle of Simeon.

Imagine that scene at the temple when Simeon sang as he held the Child Jesus in his arms – of his readiness to die, to go in peace, after seeing Christ the light of salvation. In the darkness of the night punctuated only by a burning candle, we are able to examine our hearts of the many things we have done and failed to do the whole day. These become clearer in the light of the candle that penetrates our hearts and conscience, piercing and rending our souls to remove the darkness within us, exposing the festering anger or bitterness and sadness hiding inside, melting them away with its warmth so we may go to sleep clean and ready to continue with life – here or hereafter like Simeon.

By Kay Bratt in Facebook, 13 December 2023.

One last note about candles as we end this reflection. Monks use a candle snuffer in extinguishing candles in their chapels and monasteries.  These are long metal instruments with tips like a bell that monks hover above a candle, slowly covering it until its light is snuffed out, hence, the name candle snuffer.

If you want to be serious in praying better with lighted candles, you may buy those small candle snuffers for home use available at some candle shops in the malls. If there is no candle snuffer, one may use the cover of the candle to snuff out the light. What is important is that as we close our prayers with the lighted candle as companion, we don’t simply blow its light to abruptly end its glow.

When blowing the candle used in prayer, do it slowly as if you are whispering. Do it with solemnity. Every candle used at prayer becomes blessed, demanding some sort of reverence as companions in our prayer life and journey. Of course, it would be good if you can have your candles blessed by the priest for use at home to ward off negative vibes but more important than that is we grow in our prayer life, we become like lighted candles who give light to others in Christ. Like our candles, we also become a prayer to God in our very selves. Amen.Have a blessed Thursday.

Wisdom of Solomon

 8,359 total views

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 07 February 2024
1 Kings 10:1-10  <*((((>< + ><))))*> + <*((((>< + ><))))*>  Mark 7:14-23
Photo by Ms. Analyn Dela Torre at Caypombo, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 04 February 2024.
I wonder, God our dear Father,
what did the Queen of Sheba
ask King Solomon when she visited him
that she was so convinced that indeed
he was a man of great wisdom?
Did she ask Solomon of the
Big Bang Theory and everything before history?
The evolution of humans and theodicy?
Or, did she ask him if the world was flat or round? 

The scriptures tell us nothing except that...

When the queen of Sheba witnessed Solomon’s great wisdom, the palace he had built, the food at his table, the seating of his ministers, the attendance and garb of his waiters, his banquet service, and the burnt offerings he offered in the temple of the Lord, she was breathless.

1 Kings 10:4-5

You are a God of order and
balance,
of fairness and justice,
of beauty and majesty,
O Lord;
these are the attributes
of a magnificent palace,
of exquisite cuisine,
of men and women of great
bearing as guests and servants
that the Queen of Sheba
had noticed that impressed
her so much of Solomon's wisdom.

Most of all,
the spiritual maturity of Solomon
that in his worship,
the Queen of Sheba was so
impressed and left breathless!
Therefore,
what made Solomon so wise,
what is true wisdom?

It is this, O Lord
which we also pray you grant us
to be like King Solomon:
perfect our faith in you,
most loving God,
that we may learn to value
those things we believe
through faith,
starting with you
in Christ Jesus
right here in our hearts;
let your grace and wisdom
O Lord flow out like streams
from our heart,
out to our mouth
and into our arms and limbs,
into our whole person
in loving service to others.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Analyn Dela Torre at Caypombo, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 04 February 2024.

God our foundation

 8,470 total views

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. Pedro Bautista, Paul Miki & Companion Martyrs, 06 February 2024
1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30  <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>  Mark 7:1-13
Photo by author, Jerusalem 2017.
Dear God our Father,
thank you for being for us,
thank you for being with us, 
thank you for being in us;
you are our foundation,
our root, and our very life.
Everyday in nature you show
us your beauty and majesty,
but most of all, in all history,
you have allowed us to express
your might and power with
our magnificent buildings
of worship everywhere
that like King Solomon,
we pray and wonder:

“Can it indeed be that God dwells on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built! Look kindly on the prayer and petition of your servant, O Lord, my God, and listen to the cry of supplication which I, your servant, utter before you this day.”

1 Kings 8:27-28

Thank you dear God
for the gift of missionaries
who have come to build churches
and schools and hospitals
and towns that until now testify
to your being with us;
many of them have literally
given their lives for the gospel
of Jesus Christ your Son
like San Pedro Bautista
who worked only for nine years
in the Philippines but had transformed
lives from Bulacan to Camarines Sur;
he later joined the first Japanese martyr
and Jesuit priest St. Paul Miki and
other companions in Nagasaki
when rulers there became suspicious
of their missionary works
that have won so many converts.
May we remain faithful to you,
O God, as our sole foundation
in life even in death.
Forgive us, Father,
when many times we confine you
 in our churches,
in our beliefs and traditions
becoming more focused with
material foundations
than your divine foundation
like the Pharisees and scribes
in the gospel today;
let us continue to pursue learning
in the light of Christ's teaching,
sometimes relearning and
unlearning things we have been
used to by always going back to
you O God as our sole foundation
in this life.
Amen.
Photo by author in Jerusalem’s via Dolorosa, 2017.

We are God’s dwelling, praying for cancer patients

 8,447 total views

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Agatha, Virgin & Martyr, 05 February 2024
1 Kings 8:1-7, 9-13  <*((((>< + ><))))*>  Mark 6:53-56
Photo by Mr. Boy Cabrido, kids playing “piko” outside patio of the National Shrine of St. Michael & the Archangels in San Miguel, Manila, 04 February 2024.
On this first working day of the week,
we pray to you dear Father,
may we share your loving presence
we experienced at the Sunday Mass
to everyone we shall meet today;
like Jesus your Son, 
may we "approach, touch and raise"
especially those who are down in
trials and tribulations in life;
dwell in our hearts, Lord, like when
your clouds envelop the temple built
by Solomon when they placed your
Ark of the Covenant at the Holy of Holies.

When the priests left the holy place, the cloud filled the temple of the Lord so that priests could no longer minister because of the cloud, since the Lord’s glory had filled the temple of the Lord.

1 Kings 8:10-11

Dwell on us your people, Lord;
fill us with your grace of courage to
witness your love and truth among peoples
like St. Agatha who died remaining a virgin
for your holy name after enduring so much
pains from her torturers who cut off her breasts
but with the intercession of St. Peter the Apostle,
her wounds were healed, making her the
patron saint of those with breast cancer;
you know O Lord the pains and difficulties
those with cancer go through;
give them the strength to withstand the 
long process of treatments along with their
loved ones;
never let them lose hope in you through
Jesus Christ who never gets tired "crossing
the lake" to reach the sick;
have mercy on those with all kinds of cancer,
bless those who were healed and in remission,
and please accept the souls of those
who have died.
Amen.
From en.wikipedia.org, painting of St. Agatha with her severed breasts that many thought to be loaves of bread that is why in some churches in Europe, breads are distributed during her memorial.

Real power empowers

 8,910 total views

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 04 February 2024
Job 7:1-4, 6-7 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 ><}}}}*> Mark 1:29-39
Photo by The Good Brigade/Digital Vision/Getty Images via cnn.com.

There’s another “war” happening that had actually started a long time ago but only now recognized by the powerful US Senate in Washington DC when they summoned last week the owners of big tech companies to a hearing on the harmful effects of social media.

It is a war that at first seemed to have been neglected or even unrecognized when parents and experts have long been complaining about the ill effects of social media. Finally, authorities are doing something about it.

“Great power comes with great responsibilities.”- Spiderman. Photo from peakpx.com.

Though the issues at hand are very contentious because of the many benefits too of social media, the US Senate hearings are a big step in demanding more social responsibilities from tech owners who have become so powerful with their products’ wide reach and influence.

Of course, much responsibilities are also in the hands of parents and users of social media but one thing has always been clear these past 20 years when experts and ordinary folks have been raising the red flag on social media being so impersonal in nature where persons are often considered as objects than subjects to be loved and respected.

Our ability to communicate is a sharing in the power of God, a sharing in his authority meant to foster union among peoples as persons. Despite the efficiency of social media, it cannot and must not replace the human person in every communication. This we have seen last Sunday when people were “astonished” and “amazed” one sabbath as Jesus spoke with authority in their synagogue in Capernaum. From there, Jesus moved into the home of Simon Peter, staying for a while in Capernaum before moving on to other locations to continue his ministry of teaching and healing.

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them.

Mark 1:29-31

Photo by author, ruins of the neighborhood around the synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus used to preach; underneath the Church are believed to be the ruins of the home of Simon Peter where Jesus healed his mother-in-law.

It was still the day of sabbath and we could feel the great joy and pride of the four disciples with Jesus that they “immediately told him” about Simon’s mother-in-law who “lay sick with a fever.”

Notice Mark’s detailed report on the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law by Jesus: He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waited on them. In this continuation of a slice in the life of Jesus last Sunday, Mark is presenting us again another important aspect of Christ’s authority and power that is personal which empowers others.

To empower means to raise up a person from one’s lowliness in order to restore his/her well-being. To empower means to make a person whole again as he/she discovers and experiences anew his/her giftedness in God and as a person.

Photo from kimaldrich.com

Now, imagine this in the light of the powers of social media made possible by the internet through various devices: Jesus could have healed anybody who was sick within a 100 or 200 meter radius from the synagogue of Capernaum with his great powers being the Son of God. He could have just sent off signals like a router to heal more sick people instead of making them flock to the home of Simon Peter. Even today, perhaps, we could just come to the church, stay in a specific spot like the confessional to get connected to Jesus and voila – get healed!

But, Jesus never did that kind of healing and would never do it. Recall how Jesus would always approach and touch, speak and meet the sick before healing them. When a woman was healed of her hemorrhages after touching his clothes while they were in a crowd, Jesus stopped and searched for her to have a personal relationship. Unlike the internet, Jesus came in order to personally connect with us and connect us with the Father in the most personal manner.

In every healing by Jesus, there is always something deeper than restoration of one’s health which is salvation, a personal encounter with the Christ who leads us to fulfillment as persons. In every healing of body, there is the forgiveness of sins in one’s soul and being. Healing is more wholistic in nature than being being relieved of headache or any discomfort. Many times, our sickness can leave us deformed, disabled and even invalid without any cure at all yet deep inside us we still experience freedom and joy. That is healing because we are assured of being loved and cared for by another person and most of all by Jesus, personally.

So unlike the powers of any human or professional nor even by the social media so much around us that may be indeed so strong and efficient with its great speed but could never uplift us or restore our well-being. For sometime, they can offer us with relief but the deep longings and emptiness within us lingers on. Why? St. Augustine expressed it perfectly when he wrote in his Confessions, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”

From Pinterest.com

This Sunday, Mark is telling us that Jesus comes to us daily right in our hearts where our home is, always “approaching us, grasping our hands, helping us up” from all our burdens and pains, sufferings and miseries. Are we present to meet Jesus? Do we “immediately” tell him our problems like Simon Peter when his mother-in-law had fever?

The only essential and vital connection we must keep and maintain in this life is our personal connection with God in Jesus Christ who exemplified this well at the end of this Sunday’s gospel when “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed” (Mk. 1:35).

Last Friday we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation where Simeon and Anna showed us too how they remained personally connected with God in their daily prayers and fasting at the temple so that when Joseph and Mary came with the Child Jesus, both were led by the Holy Spirit to meet them. Imagine the crowd at the temple at that time plus Simeon and Anna being both old with the usual woes but were both never distracted in their focus on God and his promise of salvation in Christ before dying.

Photo by Vigie Ongleo in Virginia, USA, 02 February 2024.

There will always be suffering in life as the first reading reminds us. Like Job, we go through many setbacks in life, making us wonder all the more at the mystery – and scandal – of human sufferings, of how it could befall us if we have a powerful and loving God. St. Paul meanwhile tells us in the second reading how imperfect our world is when we sometimes have to make sacrifices to keep the unity of our family and community.

Both Job and St. Paul in their sufferings and sacrifices remained connected with God, bore everything in silence to become “all things to all men” (omnia omnibus) by sharing God’s power and authority in their weaknesses even in death that have empowered countless men and women through the ages including us in our own time.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
our true healer of all sickness
in body, heart, mind and soul:
keep us connected in you
especially in moments of trials
and difficulties so that we may
be filled with your personal powers
as we too empower others
when they are weakest.
Amen.

A blessed weekend to everyone!

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