Friday, 1 March 2019

Our Lady, Mother of the Church - Memorial

Some of us like to look up to certain role models in our lives. We try to follow their habits and ways, as we are attracted to their lives. But the reality of our earthly role models is that they do not remain with us forever. Some fall from their role model status, due to some significant wrongdoing or even scandal. Others become too old or even pass away, leaving behind a legacy which may be forgotten as the years go by. So what sort of role model do we really have, and what sort of role model should we Christians have?

As Christians, we have one role model whom we can look up to, and who has been guiding us and praying for us and with us all this while. That one role model is our Lady, Mother Mary. In the Gospel, when Jesus was dying on the cross, He gave Mary to the beloved disciple, and in doing so, gave Mary to us, His disciples, as our role model, mother and guide. In the reading, we see Mary with the apostles, joined in continuous prayer. Mary, as a role model, showed us what it means to be part of the church community, by joining in continuous prayer, instead of just keeping to herself.

So if we embrace Mary as our role model, then we do not need any other temporary earthly role model, since we already have an eternal role model who continues to pray for us and with us, while leading us to her Son, Jesus. Ultimately, Mary our role model is showing us the way on how we should become more and more like her Son Jesus, instead of bringing attention to herself, as what some of our earthly role models may do.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter

It is interesting to observe how, from a young age, we begin to compare ourselves with others. We differentiate ourselves according to our intellectual abilities, our talents, our cultural differences, our upbringing, our social status, and much more. Some of us even become quite proud about who we are, where we come from, and what we are, that some begin to look down on others, thinking that others do not measure up to us. But as Christians, do we have such attitude and behaviour? Do we still differentiate ourselves, segregate ourselves, and discriminate towards others?

In today's Gospel, Peter and John are both called disciples of Jesus and each is given a different task to fulfil. But what is surprising and intriguing is when Peter questions John's role. He asks Jesus: 'What about him, Lord?' In response, Jesus answered, 'If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.' This caused the others to think that John would not die, when it was clear that Jesus had not said so. Notice how trying to compare oneself with others could lead to unnecessary confusion, unhealthy competition or even resentment, and as a result, our focus shifts from doing God's will to doing our will?

At the end of the day, we should realise that comparing ourselves with others is a mistake. The Lord prefers that we mind our own business, and focus more on our friendship with Him and on our dedication to preaching the Good News. The inspiring examples of others should push us forward to greater holiness and self-giving. We should rejoice in others' triumphs, seeing God alive in them, instead of allowing jealousy and competition to fester, and disrupt our duty or even ruin our relationship with God and with others. May we make every effort to glorify God in all we say and do, and be joyful and grateful of who we are and what we are, while also being joyful and grateful of who and what others are.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Saturday of the 6th Week of Easter

What is our priority in life? Some of us think that our priority is our career or job, and we spend hours building it or climbing the corporate ladder. Some of us think that our priority is our peace of mind and happiness, and we find ways and means to maintain such peace and happiness. Some of us think that our priority is our family and loved ones, and we making every effort to find the time to spend quality time with them. But as Christians, what is our real priority?

In the four Gospels, we read of several times where Jesus assures us: "Ask and you will receive." But today's Gospel not only tells us: "Ask and you will receive," but also "and so that your joy will be complete." What is this joy that Jesus assures us about? Many a times, we think that our joy would be complete when our wants and needs are fulfilled. But perhaps one way of looking at the word "Joy" is when we prioritise our lives by putting our lives according to this order: J for Jesus, O for others, then only Y for you. When we prioritise our lives in that order - Jesus, others, you - then we will indeed find true meaning and joy in our lives, and then we would find our lives complete.

Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter

Living a life as a Christian in today's world is certainly not easy. There are things in the world which may cause us to commit sin or despicable acts, but such things in the world is considered normal or part of so called "life" according to the ways of the world. For example, in some countries, abortion has been made acceptable or even legal, and those against abortion or are pro-life could be persecuted or even assaulted. Also, some countries have even permitted mercy killing or euthanasia, even though Christian teaching clearly prohibits such acts. So if we as Christians are in organisations that promote or even conduct such acts, either directly or indirectly, which clearly goes against our Christian faith, what would we do? Would we close our eyes and pretend that such acts is not our problem, and we content ourselves into thinking that we are merely doing our job to make a living, or would we go against such practices, even to the extent of losing our jobs to uphold Christian principles?

In today's gospel, Jesus warns us when He said: 'If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.' What does Jesus mean when he says “the world?” The "world" refers to that society of people who are hostile towards God and opposes His will. When Jesus talks of persecutions, He refers to the sufferings and persecutions His disciples, in proclaiming His teachings, would undergo at the hands of such persons in society. Jesus leaves no middle ground for His disciples. We are either for Him or against Him, for His kingdom of light or for the kingdom of darkness.

What about us? It seems convenient and easy when things are fine. But when we have a choice of either following the ways of God, or the ways of the world, and we have no middle ground or option, which would we choose? Are we prepared to choose God's ways each and every time, consistently, wholeheartedly and be willing to face the possibility of persecution or even being put to death?

Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter

Some people can have interesting and even wild imagination when it comes to what they think God looks like. Some think that God looks like Santa Claus, giving us lots of gifts, benefits and other goodies. Others think that God looks like a fierce judge, ever willing and ready to mete out punishment and torture on all who displeases Him. But what does God really look like? Is really that important for us to know? Would we really be satisfied just to know what God looks like?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.' ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me? ‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" Not only that, the Gospel reminds us that we are to believe in Jesus, and by doing so, Jesus assures us: "I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father."

So what does this mean to us? It means that it is not enough just to know what God looks like, though by seeing Jesus we would have some idea of what God looks like. What is more important is for us to believe in Jesus and do the works He did. May we concern ourselves more in preaching the Good News with words and deeds, and give glory to God while doing so.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter

It is easy for us to listen to nice or soothing words from Jesus. After all, we yearn for His love and care, and there are several things Jesus said which appeal to us. However, there are also several things that Jesus said which can be difficult to hear or accept, especially if such things concern us or affect us in some way. When we listen to such words, how do we respond? Do we accept both the good and the not so good that Jesus tells us? Or do we filter out the not so pleasant things, and only accept that which sounds pleasant? When it comes to following Jesus, are we disciples only when it benefits us or we find comfortable?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?'" Jesus did not back down or water down what he said, and because of this, "many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him." Yet, the Twelve chose to stay, and "Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’"

The reality we face is that we cannot have it both ways. If we want to follow Jesus, we must be prepared to accept both the eay and the difficult, the pleasant and the unpleasant. We cannot pick and choose only what we want, but take Jesus' teaching as a whole. Are we willing to let go of our prejudiced hearing, and let Jesus' words dwell and florish in us, as we let Him lead us and guide us closer to Him?

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter

Fear is innate in all of us human beings. It is a defensive and survival instinct, and is usually a response to a particular situation. For example, a person may see a snake and experience fear, even though the snake may actually be harmless and not doing anything. We have experienced fear, either real or imagined, limitations and inadequacies in this life; and when we experience fear, what do we do? Quite likely our tendency is to back out, hesitate or even run away from difficult situations.

In today's Gospel, the disciples were frightened to see Jesus walking on water. Why were the disciples frightened? Perhaps they thought they were seeing a ghost. To calm the disciples and reassure them, Jesus said: "It is I. Do not be afraid." It seems strange and ironic that the disciples themselves were still subject to fear, even though they had been with Jesus for a while. By being fearful, the disciples seemed to still lack trust and confidence in Jesus, and to help them, Jesus constantly reassured them not to be afraid.

What about us? Do we still lack trust and confidence in Jesus, and let fear interfere with our duty and mission in preaching the Good News? Ultimately, fear is useless, what is needed is trust; and with Jesus as our help and guide, we should not fear anymore, but continue bringing the Good News to all, and give God the glory while doing so.