Sunday, 17 November 2013

23 December - Season of Advent

Earlier we saw how Zechariah was struck dumb for not believing the angel Gabriel's message. In today's Gospel, we see Zechariah redeeming himself and getting his power of speech back when he gave his support to Elizabeth by insisting that the child be named John.

Sometimes in life, we may have committed sin and we suffer the consequences. However, we are given opportunities to make right what we had done wrong. Are we doing penance for our sins and building our relationship with God? Are we humble enough, like Zechariah, to do the right thing? Ultimately, we must take responsibility for our actions and conduct. God gives us opportunities to come back to Him, let us not squander away these opportunities and lose our life.

4th Sunday of Advent Year A

What's in a name? As parents-to-be, it is important to think carefully and consider the consequences of giving your child a particular name. Sometimes, we may not be aware of the meaning of the name and what it would mean according to different languages. For example, a person named Ho Chin Chai may appear to have an innocent name, but in Hokkien language, "Ho" means "very" and "Chin Chai" sounds like "cincai" in Bahasa Malaysia, which means "simply"; "casually"; "do as one pleases"; "without thought" or "randomly". Another example is if a person has a surname "Chan" and has a given name like "Bella" or "Isabella." The person would then be known as "Bella Chan" or "Isabella Chan." Sounds like an ok name, but if you look at it in Bahasa Malaysia, the name would become "belacan" or "is a belacan"! "Belacan" is shrimp paste or shrimp sauce, a common ingredient used in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese cuisine. It would be quite embarrassing if a teacher or some one would to call out, "Belacan, come see me now." So, it is important to choose a name wisely, otherwise one may face a lifetime of ridicule, teasing and embarrassment.

As Catholics, we are also advised to choose a baptism and/or confirmation name wisely. We are encouraged to choose a name of a saint, one whose example we could follow and imitate. In today’s Gospel, the angel of the Lord commands Joseph to name the child Jesus, "because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins." The name 'Jesus' means 'God saves.' Throughout the Gospels, we would see that Jesus truly lives up to his name as our saviour and redeemer. Jesus is also known, in today's First Reading and Gospel as "Emmanuel, a name which means 'God-is-with-us.'" God has taken the initiative to come close to us and has become one of us, instead of we trying to come close to Him.

Seeing how important it is for us to choose a name wisely, let us reflect on the name given to us. Is it a name of a saint? Are we living up to our name by following and imitating the saint's example? Our names are not a trivial or "cincai" matter. May God help us to be worthy of the name given to us.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Housekeeping - 3rd Week of Advent

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

15 December 2013 - 3rd Sunday of Advent Year A
16 December 2013 - Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent
17 December 2013 - 17 December - Season of Advent
18 December 2013 - 18 December - Season of Advent
19 December 2013 - 19 December - Season of Advent
20 December 2013 - 20 December - Season of Advent

20 December - Season of Advent

If Zechariah is an example of doubt, even when a message is given by an angel, in today's Gospel, we see an example of trust and total dependence on God. Mary did ask the angel Gabriel: "But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?" The difference here is that Mary accepted and believed in the angel's message by responding: "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me."

Supposing we received a message from an angel, would we unreservedly and willingly accept and act on the message? Or would we allow doubt to take over?

19 December - Season of Advent

Many of us may have been influenced by cute or beautiful pictures of angels. However, angels are far from cute. When an angel appears, it can be a terrifying and majestic sight. We read in today's Gospel that Zechariah was overcome with fear and the angel said to him, "Zechariah, do not be afraid..."

We know that it is highly unlikely for an elderly woman to become pregnant and bear a child. We also know that when an angel appears, it is usually for an important message from God. In this case, the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah to give him some great news: his wife would bear him a son. Such words from an angel should not be taken lightly. Yet, Zechariah still doubted the angel's words. By doing so, Zechariah seems to have doubted God. As a result, Zechariah as the Gospel tells us, "was silenced and have no power of speech until this has happened."

When we receive such amazing and mind-boggling news from an angel, what do we do? Do we doubt even the words of an angel? Do we begin to think that perhaps our mind is playing tricks on us and what we are seeing is merely an illusion, what we are hearing is merely an imagination? Or do we trust the angel's words and trust God, just like Mary did when she said: "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me."?

18 December - Season of Advent

If you are engaged to a person and you found out that she is with child, how would you respond? Some might walk away from the relationship. Others might decide to remain faithful and committed to the person despite of the situation she is in.

In today's Gospel, we see Joseph finding himself in a difficult and possibly dangerous situation. He was betrothed (something like being engaged in modern times) to Mary, but until they were properly married according to Jewish law, sex was not allowed and was considered adultery. A woman found pregnant during the betrothal could be stoned to death. Because of this, Joseph "being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally." However, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, "he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home."

Joseph knew that the child would not be biologically his, he knew there would be difficulties and challenges ahead, he knew Mary and he could be a source of gossip; and yet he was docile and humble enough to trust in the Lord. Would we be able to follow Joseph's example and do the same if we were in a similar situation?

Friday, 15 November 2013

17 December - Season of Advent

Family trees. Each and every one of us has a family tree. Some of us have managed to trace our family tree right to the earliest times. Some have only been partially successful. But one thing we may discover about our family tree is this: our ancestors were a mixed bag of good and not so good people. Each of our ancestors (nenek-moyang, as some like to say in Bahasa Malaysia) had their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, when we look at our family tree, we begin to realise and appreciate those who had paved the way to who and what we are today.

Today's Gospel introduces us to Jesus' family tree. This family tree is divided into 3 lists of 14: 14 patriarchs; 14 kings; and 14 generations from the Babylonian captivity to Jesus. Within each list, there were good and bad persons, showing us that God does not choose those who are the best from the human point of view, but from God's point of view.

We can also see that 4 women are included, 3 of whom are named: Tamar, Rahab and Ruth. Bathsheba is not named but mentioned as “Uriah’s wife.” These 4 women were Gentiles either by birth or through marriage. Tamar, Rahab and Ruth were Gentiles by birth. Bathsheba, an Israelite, became Gentile through her marriage to Uriah, the Hittite. This shows that Jesus had Gentile as well as Jewish ancestors.

When we see Jesus' family tree, we begin to realise and appreciate God's plan of salvation for all of us. Regardless of whether we are Jew or Gentile, saint or sinner; God can write straight with crooked lines and some of those crooked lines are our lives. As long as we are open to His pruning and guidance, we can be a part of God's plan. Let us then rise, and walk in His ways.

Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent

"Jangan cari pasal," is a Bahasa Malaysia phrase which is translated as "Don't look for trouble." In today's Gospel, we see the chief priests and the elders of the people trying to "cari pasal" with Jesus, hoping to find some excuse to trap Him. They challenged Him by asking: "What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?" They knew who Jesus was but refused to admit and acknowledge Him. When Jesus questioned them back, they themselves fell into the very trap which they had tried to set on Jesus.

In our lives, we too may be guilty of trying to "cari pasal" with others, especially when we think we are smarter, better qualified, or better off than they are. We think we can put other people down or belittle them and get away with it. But, as Jesus has shown us, sometimes we may just end up eating humble pie or we may end up making a fool of ourselves. Are we allowing our ego to swell and take control of our lives? Or are we willing to walk humbly in God's presence?

3rd Sunday of Advent Year A

We live in a world where everything must be done fast. We have ATMs for instant cash, we have credit cards for instant credit, we have instant coffee, instant noodles, instant this, instant that. But there are also many situations where we need to wait, to be patient. For example, babies are not conceived and born in a day or a week. It takes about 9 months of waiting and preparing. Nobody gets a degree after only one class. Most people need to study 2 or 3 years for a basic degree. Building a house cannot be completed too quickly. We need to ensure that a strong and secure foundation has been established before the building can commence. When we eat, we cannot shove everything into our mouth and swallow at one go. We may choke or get indigestion as a result.

Even waiting for the Lord's coming requires us to be patient. In the first reading, we are told: "Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; he is coming to save you." When is the Lord coming to save us? We do not know. So we need to be patient. In the second reading, we are
reminded: "Be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming... You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon." Here, we should be patient and not lose heart. The Gospel today also echos our need to be patient and not lose heart, as Jesus tells us: "happy is the man who does not lose faith in me."

Seeing that we need to be patient and not lose heart, let us make a choice. We could choose to trust God, or we could choose to do things our way. Whatever choice we may wish make, we must be prepared to face the consequences.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Housekeeping - 2nd Week of Advent

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

8 December 2013 - 2nd Sunday of Advent Year A
9 December 2013 - The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Solemnity
10 December 2013 - Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Advent
11 December 2013 - Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent
12 December 2013 - Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent
13 December 2013 - Friday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Friday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Following God's commandments is not that difficult or complicated. It is when we are stubborn, rebellious, wanting our way, proud or have big egos that we begin to think we can do whatever we like. We sometimes see such attitude in society today. Some of those who are rich and powerful begin to think that they are superior and they think they can get away with anything. What about us? Are we becoming more self-centered and refusing to listen and obey God's commandments? Do we think we can run away from right conduct and responsibility? In Bahasa Malaysia, there is a saying: "Sepandai-pandai tupai melompat, akhirnya jatuh ke tanah juga." Roughly translated into English: "No matter how clever a squirrel jumps or hops, it will eventually fall onto the ground." What we do or failed to do will eventually emerge in some form some day. We cannot continuously hide skeletons in a closet forever. Are we humble enough to change and let God take control?

Today's reading tells us: "I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go. If only you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river, your integrity like the waves of the sea." God is beckoning us to let Him teach us and lead us. Are we willing to open our hearts and minds and let him do so? Or are we still resistant and refusing to change? Life is short and unpredictable. Let us not waste the opportunities given to us to grow and dwell in God's embrace.

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent

As children, some of us often need reassurance from our parents that they love us. At times, they may find it difficult to say so, but they express their love in other ways. Even as adults, we need reassurance from our family, our spouse that they love us. In our relationship with God, there are times we seek reassurance from God that He loves us and is there for us. We may not see God face to face, but we see many signs of His love and care around us.

Today's reading reinforces God's reassuring love and care. We read: "I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you." What more reassurance do we need from God? He is holding us, he will help us. Why are some of us still skeptical or not trusting? Do we doubt that God can and will help us? Or have we become so impatient, expecting God to help us right away, not according to His time?

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

In life, we sometimes are laden with heavy burdens. At times, we may feel as if our burdens are too difficult to bear and some may give up and despair. However, in today's Gospel, we are reassured by Jesus who invites us to "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light."

With Jesus inviting us to shoulder his yoke and learn from Him, we no longer need to fear or worry, as Jesus is helping us along the way. However, are we willing to let Him guide us? Or are we still adamant that we go our own way?

Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

From time to time, we may have to strayed away from God. We may have thought we can go on on our own, and sometimes we end up getting into trouble. However, today's Gospel reassures us that God is constantly on the lookout and He is willing to "go in search of the stray." It is never God's will "that one of these little ones should be lost."

In the same way, just as God is always looking out for us so that we will not be lost, are we doing the same towards others around us? Sometimes we may be tempted to just wash our hands and give up on certain people, but let us be reminded that we should learn from our loving God and follow His example, leading and guiding others back to Him. However, God does not force us to go back to Him. We have a choice: to be found and guided back to Him, or to remain lost. It is all up to us. Let us pray that we will choose wisely for our eternal future.

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Solemnity

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In today's readings, we see the response of Adam who disobeyed and hid in fear and shame. On the other hand we see Mary who responds as a disciple and said "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me."

Mary trusted God totally even though she could have doubted and feared the consequences of saying yes to God. Despite the dangers and challenges she would face, she still said yes. She was the faithful disciple, the first to believe in Jesus, the first to receive him and give flesh to His body.

Mary said yes to the angel, yes to a life she never expected, yes to the sword that would pierce her heart, yes to the cross, yes to the unknown future ahead of her and always yes to her Son. God is always seeking us out, to love us, to care for us. When God calls us as he called Adam “Where are you”? How do we respond? Do we respond like Adam, embarrassed by our sins and hiding in fear, hoping that God will eventually leave us alone and let us be, or do we respond like Mary did, saying  "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me."

Let us look toward Mary as our model of discipleship, and reflect on our own response to God’s call. Have we been selective in our response, picking and choosing only that which suits us? Or have we been striving hard to be like our Heavenly Mother, Mary, who gave her all, inspiring us to also give our all for the greater glory of God?

2nd Sunday of Advent Year A

When we were baptised as babies, or as children, or as adults, did anything change in our lives? Some of us may think that baptism means we become adopted children of God, but do we really know what that means?

In today's Gospel, we see John baptising. His baptism is a baptism of repentance, and with repentance we need to be totally changed, totally converted and transformed anew. Total conversion means we can no longer be partial, we need to discard any form of prejudice, discrimination and intolerance. In the First Reading, we see how all creatures live in peace and harmony. They do no hurt, no harm,
on all God's holy mountain. In the Second Reading, we are reminded that "It can only be to God’s glory, then, for you to treat each other in the same friendly way as Christ treated you."

Seeing how we are supposed to behave as baptised Catholics and as adopted children of God, let us then examine ourselves. Do we treat others fairly and justly? Do we consider ourselves united as Catholics, and not just focused in a particular ethnic group or language? Are we able to care and love others without looking at skin colour, language, or appearance? When we sing, "They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they'll know we are Christians by our love," do we realise the significance of what we sing and do we really mean what we sing? If we consider ourselves as adopted children of God, then perhaps we should make more effort to treat others as part of God's family, and not as strangers.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Housekeeping - 1st Week of Advent

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

1 December 2013 - 1st Sunday of Advent Year A
2 December 2013 - Monday of the 1st Week of Advent
3 December 2013 - Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent
4 December 2013 - Wednesday of the 1st Week of Advent
5 December 2013 - Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent
6 December 2013 - Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

Sometimes when we pray and ask God for something, we may not necessarily get what we want so quickly. When this happens, how would we respond? Some would be patient and persistent in asking. Others may give up, thinking that we won't get it anyhow.

Today's Gospel shows us how the 2 blind men were patient and persistent by following Jesus as He went on His way. These 2 kept shouting, "Take pity on us, Son of David." Due to their patience, persistence and faith, Jesus healed them and their sight returned. What about us? Are we willing to go the distance with persistence, patience and faith, knowing that the Lord will grant what is best for us?

Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

Are we sensible people? Or are we stupid people? Some of us may take offence if someone would dare to ask us such questions. After all, would you dare to say such things to others? Surely not! However, this is precisely the gist of the Gospel today. Jesus Himself made this statement: "Therefore, everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man... But everyone who listens to these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a stupid man..." Notice that Jesus is telling us that we should not just listen to His words, He also asserts that we need to act on them if we are sensible.

Therefore, we should ask ourselves honestly: are we really sensible people or not? For Jesus warned us: "It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven." Have we been doing God's will, or our will?

Monday, 11 November 2013

Announcement: Some Suggestions for Reading Reflections

Greetings...

Some of you may have been reading the reflections which I have been publishing in advance. While it is commendable for you to do so, may I suggest you re-read a particular reflection the day or night before the Mass, of which its readings the reflection is based on. So, for example, if tomorrow's Mass is using the readings of Tuesday Week 30 Year 1, you may wish to consider reading the readings of that Mass, and then the reflection. In this way, it is hoped you will benefit more from the readings and reflection of the particular Mass.

Shalom and God bless,

Fr. Andrew Kooi

Wednesday of the 1st Week of Advent

There are times in life where we may feel as if no one is bothered about us, or people are too busy to notice us. This may cause some of us to feel unwanted, unloved, unappreciated and some may despair. However, today's Gospel reminds us that we have an Eternal Shepherd who is loving to all of us and willing to cure the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dumb and many others. Even when the crowd had been with Him for 3 days, clinging and pondering on His words, He did not want to send them off hungry, for they might collapse on the way. This led to a miracle of the multiplication of seven loaves and fish.

Seeing how loving and concerned Jesus is towards all of us, we need to look at ourselves and ponder sincerely. Have we been loving and concerned towards others, following the example of Jesus? Have we learnt to be generous in our giving, just as we have received God's generosity?

Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent

As adults, many of us try to take control of our lives and our destiny. We may also be less tolerant, less willing to be docile, less receptive to the promptings of God. Some of us may have inflated egos and find it difficult to forgive and receive forgiveness.

In today's Gospel, Jesus said: "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children." When we allow God to care for us and guide us in our lives, we become like mere children, willing and able to learn from Him. It is when we think we know it all and we try to do things our way that we become deaf to God's voice.

Monday of the 1st Week of Advent

How many of us really trust in God's providence? In today's Gospel, we see the centurion coming to Jesus for help to heal his servant. What is interesting about this passage is that the centurion had faith and full trust and confidence in Jesus, to the point that he even said: "‘Sir, I am not worthy to have you under my roof; just give the word and my servant will be cured."

If we come before the Lord seeking His help, would we be able to have the same trust and confidence as the centurion did? Sometimes the help we seek may not necessarily happen immediately. Are we patient and hopeful, knowing that our loving God will grant what is best for us?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

1st Sunday of Advent Year A

Some of us may have been asleep for quite a while. Instead of growing in faith and in relationship with God, we may have been dormant or inactive. Some do the minimal and seem focused more on wealth, success, fame, fortune, etc. of this world. But for how long can we be in this state of sleepiness? We may be awake physically, but are we truly awake spiritually?

As we begin a new Liturgical Year on this 1st Sunday of Advent, and as we prepare to say goodbye to this year, let us take this oppotunity, as the Second Reading tells us today, to change our lives and to "wake up for our salvation is even nearer; let us give up all the things we prefer to do under cover of the dark; let us arm ourselves and appear in the light. Let us live decently as people do in the daytime."

Throughout this year, we need to ask ourselves thoroughly and honestly: have we changed and become better persons? Have we become closer to God? Have we learnt to be more forgiving and loving? Have we learnt to be more patient, especially towards our family, loved ones, elders, etc.? If we have failed in one way or another to improve ourselves in any of these areas and more, let us wake up and take stock of our lives.

Jesus warns us in today's Gospel to "stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming" and we "must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." Are we going to allow ourselves to be caught off-guard? Or have we been making preparations spiritually to meet our loving God? Let us not pass the many opportunities given to us to grow spiritually, lest we find ourselves left out and have only ourselves to blame.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Housekeeping - Week 34 Year 1

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

24 November 2013 - Christ the King Year C
25 November 2013 - Monday of Week 34 Year 1
26 November 2013 - Tuesday of Week 34 Year 1
27 November 2013 - Wednesday of Week 34 Year 1
28 November 2013 - Thursday of Week 34 Year 1
29 November 2013 - Friday of Week 34 Year 1

The Liturgical Year for 2013 ends on 30 Nov 2013 tomorrow evening, where 1st Sunday of Advent Year A is celebrated.

Friday of Week 34 Year 1

Looking back at our lives, some of us may begin to realise that many things that we hold dear is not permanent. The people that we love, the things that we own, the feelings of joy or hurt; all these may matter for some time, but after a while, they are no longer around and may only be a memory. Even our memory too may some day fail us.

However, there is One who will always be around. The reading reminds us that God's "sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed." Seeing that God was, is and will always be there, we should make effort to get close to Him. Thus, let us strive to shed away the sin that clings on us, and make our peace with God and neighbour. He is beckoning us to come home and dwell in His presence. Are we still hesitant or reluctant to do so?

Thursday of Week 34 Year 1

There are times in life where we are placed in a difficult or dangerous situation. Some of us may feel as if we have no way out and we may be tempted to give up or despair. However, today's reading reminds us that with God, there is no problem too big, no situation too difficult or dangerous which He cannot help us out. Daniel in today's reading had full confidence and trust in God's help and God saved him from the lions. This caused King Darius to joyfully exclaim: "He is the living God, he endures for ever, his sovereignty will never be destroyed and his kingship never end. He saves, sets free, and works signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth; he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions."

If God is on our side and watching over us, there is no reason for us to fear. Let us therefore continue to build our relationship with Him and trust Him just as Daniel did.

Wednesday of Week 34 Year 1

"The writing is on the wall" is an idiom or expression which we sometimes hear and which originates from today's reading. It basically means "imminent danger has become apparent" or "there are clear signs that something will fail or no longer exist."

In today's reading, King Belshazzar had "defied the Lord of heaven, you have had the vessels from his Temple brought to you, and you, your noblemen, your wives and your singing women have drunk your wine out of them. You have praised gods of gold and silver, of bronze and iron, of wood and stone, which cannot either see, hear or understand; but you have given no glory to the God who holds your breath and all your fortunes in his hands." As a consequence to what he had done, the reading tells us that "Mene: God has measured your sovereignty and put an end to it; Tekel: you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; Parsin: your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.’"

What about us? Are we too in a similar situation and about to see "the writing on our wall?" Have we focused only on fame and fortune here on earth, and neglected to give glory to God? Let us take heed and do what is necessary to right ourselves before God while we are able to do so, before it becomes too late for us.

Tuesday of Week 34 Year 1

Some of us seem to be focusing a lot on life here on earth. While there is nothing wrong with doing so, since we also need to survive as we live our lives as best we can, but one should also prepare oneself for life hereafter. Things, events and situations come and go but God's Kingdom will be forever, as today's reading reminds us: "the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race: it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms, and itself last for ever."

Are we doing our part fervently and consistently so that we can be with God in His everlasting Kingdom? Life on earth may seem to offer a lot, but life with God in heaven offers us more than we could ever dream or hope for. Let us not waste the many opportunities given to us while here on earth to strive towards our eternal happiness.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Monday of Week 34 Year 1

How much of our wealth are we willing to offer to God for the proclamation of the Gospel? For some, a few ringgit (or dollars) a week is sufficient, though they are actually able to offer much more. Some may offer what they can afford, after carefully considering their needs and the needs of their family. Others may not be so well off, but they are willing to contribute generously.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that "this poor widow has put in more than any of them; for these have all contributed money they had over, but she from the little she had has put in all she had to live on." Have some of us become so calculative and stingy in supporting the church financially, while more than willing to spend lavishly in material things, some of which are luxurious? Or have we learnt to be generous like that poverty-stricken widow, who gave all that she had, knowing that she could trust and depend on God's providence?

Christ the King Year C

For most of us, a king or queen is someone who has power and prestige, lives in big castles or mansions, rules over all and probably lords it over all, whose interest is more towards preserving one's dynasty. Few of us actually have an opportunity to meet him or her in person and even if we do get a chance, we would probably need to go through some sort of elaborate protocol. Our earthly royalty is usually way beyond our league and way beyond our reach, and most of us would probably never have a chance to dine with or even be granted an audience with him or her.

In contrast, we have a divine royalty who is available and accessible to us. He was born in a stable. From humble beginnings, he reached out to all and taught us in many ways how to live and love God and neighbour. He ate and drank with us, as we can read in many parts of the Gospels. He even, as the Second Reading tells us, "made peace by His death on the cross." Even on the cross, while he suffered tremendously, he said to the repentant thief: "‘Indeed, I promise you,’ he replied ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’" This king, who is King of kings, is Jesus Christ. Today, we have plenty of opportunities to be in His presence in front of the Blessed Sacrament and also during daily and weekend Masses. Are we seizing the opportunity to build and grow in relationship with Jesus our loving King? Are we making more effort to dine with Him daily?

Today, let us pledge our allegiance to Jesus our Eternal King, for he loves us and wants all of us to be with him in paradise. Let us not procrastinate any longer, but do something now for the good of our souls.

Housekeeping - Week 33 Year 1

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

17 November 2013 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
18 November 2013 - Monday of Week 33 Year 1
19 November 2013 - Tuesday of Week 33 Year 1
20 November 2013 - Wednesday of Week 33 Year 1
21 November 2013 - Thursday of Week 33 Year 1
22 November 2013 - Friday of Week 33 Year 1

Friday of Week 33 Year 1

If you happen to visit different churches in your travels, one question may pop up: is the church a house of prayer or a robber's den? While having activity around the church may be a good thing, sometimes the activity itself may cause distraction to those who want to have some peace and pray. Also, at times, certain activities such as buying and selling religious items, food stuff, etc. may tempt some to sin (cheating others when charging prices, gossiping, squabbling over price, etc.) When these things happen, we may be turning the church into a robber's den.

Thus, we need to re-examine ourselves: why are we in church? Are we genuinely seeking God in prayer and reflection? Are we aware of the presence of the Most High in the Blessed Sacrament? Do we have respect for the sacredness of the church, within and it's surrounding? Or have we allowed worldly activities to take precedence?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Thursday of Week 33 Year 1

Most of us are given opportunities to be a leader in some way. Perhaps we are leaders in our home, perhaps in the office or workplace, perhaps in society, or perhaps in church. But wherever we are called to be leaders, we become aware of the great responsibility and expectation placed upon us. Are we firm and fair leaders, dedicated towards humble service? Or have we allowed power and prestige to get into our heads?

In today's reading, we see how Mattathias and his sons chose to do what is right and just and obey God's orders. The reading tells us that, "In his zeal for the Law, Mattathias went through the town, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Let everyone who has a fervour for the Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me.’ Then he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in the town. At this, many who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there."

Such leadership by Mattathias and his sons inspired many others to follow their example and remain faithful to God. As church leaders, are we showing fervour and good example, encouraging others to do the same? Or have we misused our leadership for our own gain, and caused others to go astray?

Wednesday of Week 33 Year 1

Most of us would be very protective towards our family and kids, and often we would do our best to provide a secure and happy home. Some would send their kids for lots of classes: music class, ballet, tuition (one after another), taekwondo, etc., hoping that their kids would benefit greatly from such classes and gain an edge in the world.

But if we are faced in a dangerous situation where our faith is being challenged and the entire family could be wiped out, how would we advice or teach our kids? Would we tell them to save themselves, reasoning that they are young and have got lots of life ahead of them? Or would we be like that mother in today's reading, who "was especially admirable and worthy of honourable remembrance, for she watched the death of seven sons in the course of a single day, and endured it resolutely because of her hopes in the Lord. Indeed she encouraged each of them in the language of their ancestors; filled with noble conviction, she reinforced her womanly argument with manly courage, saying to them, ‘I do not know how you appeared in my womb; it was not I who endowed you with breath and life, I had not the shaping of your every part. It is the creator of the world, ordaining the process of man’s birth and presiding over the origin of all things, who in his mercy will most surely give you back both breath and life, seeing that you now despise your own existence for the sake of his laws.’"

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Is faith in God so precious, so valuable, so important, that we are willing to let our children and ourselves lose our lives so that we may gain eternal life? Or have we become so attached to the ways of the world that we are willing to compromise or abandon our faith, and in doing so lose our soul?

Tuesday of Week 33 Year 1

Some of us look up to movie stars, music stars, and other "stars" who have made a name for themselves in the entertainment, movie, financial, etc. industry. We hope to follow their example and become successful and famous just like them. But how many of us look up to the saints and martyrs as shining examples of faith? It seems as if some of us are more interested in temporary success here on earth, compared to eternal "success" in heaven.

Today's reading shows us an excellent example of courage and willingness to sacrifice ones life to glorify God. The reading tells us that "Eleazar, one of the foremost teachers of the Law, a man already advanced in years and of most noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth wide to swallow pig’s flesh. But he, resolving to die with honour rather than to live disgraced, went to the block of his own accord, spitting the stuff out, the plain duty of anyone with the courage to reject what it is not lawful to taste, even from a natural tenderness for his own life."

If we are asked to do something unlawful or illegal, would we do it? If our boss asks us to do something wrong for the benefit of the company, would we do it? Or would we follow the example of Eleazar in today's reading, preferring to die than to commit sin?  It is certainly easier said than done, as we are being continuously tempted by riches, wealth and promotion and in pursuit of such things, we may be soiling and destroying our soul. Let us pray and continue to depend on God's help to stay true, just and faithful to our duty as Catholics.

Monday of Week 33 Year 1

Nowadays, most of us would have not experienced major persecution for practicing our faith. Perhaps we may experience persecution in one form or another but not yet to the point of being put to death. as we generally live in a peaceful and civilised society. However, if we were one day challenged to renounce our faith or be executed, would we be willing and happy to do so?

In today's reading, king Antiochus Epiphanes "issued a proclamation to his whole kingdom that all were to become a single people, each renouncing his particular customs. All the pagans conformed to the king’s decree, and many Israelites chose to accept his religion, sacrificing to idols and profaning the sabbath." However, the reading also states that: "Yet there were many in Israel who stood firm and found the courage to refuse unclean food. They chose death rather than contamination by such fare or profanation of the holy covenant, and they were executed."

If we were told to give up our faith and become a single people practicing another faith, would we do so to save our skin, or would we joyfully go to our deaths for the glory of God? Would we allow ourselves to be easily converted to another faith, possibly just for the sake of temporary benefits and wealth, or would we be enthusiastic about dying for our faith? If and when such a situation happens, let us pray that we would be brave and committed to do what is right and glorify God.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

There comes a time in life where we need to make a major decision. Some would call that a fundamental decision, one which you would stick to no matter what. What decision do we need to make? A decision to choose God and build one's relationship with Him, or to choose the world and all it has to offer. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (Matthew 6:24)." Perhaps some may say that such a decision requires less thought. After all, who wouldn't want to be with God? However, choosing to be with God has its consequences. Are we ready and willing to face such consequences?

Choosing God means we cannot just be, as the Second Reading tells us, "living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s." Building relationship with God requires much hard work, perseverance, and sacrifices. The Gospel reminds us that "men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness. Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives."

In the face of such challenges, are we determined, unflinching and enthusiastic in our resolve to choose God? Or could some of us be tempted by the ways of the world and fall away? Certainly being a Catholic is not easy, but the rewards if we endure to the end are out of this world.

Housekeeping - 6 Nov 2013

Usually, I would try to write reflections in advance so that you can have access to the reflections before the Mass. However, some of you may be unsure about my title system. I write according to the Week and Year the reflection is based on. Thus, for your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

8 October 2013 - Tuesday of Week 27 Year 1
9 October 2013 - Wednesday of Week 27 Year 1
10 October 2013 - Thursday of Week 27 Year 1
11 October 2013 - Friday of Week 27 Year 1
13 October 2013 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

14 October 2013 - Monday of Week 28 Year 1
15 October 2013 - St. Teresa of Avila
16 October 2013 - Wednesday of Week 28 Year 1
17 October 2013 - Thursday of Week 28 Year 1
18 October 2013 - Friday of Week 28 Year 1
20 October 2013 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

21 October 2013 - Monday of Week 29 Year 1
22 October 2013 - Tuesday of Week 29 Year 1
23 October 2013 - Wednesday of Week 29 Year 1
24 October 2013 - Thursday of Week 29 Year 1
25 October 2013 - Friday of Week 29 Year 1
27 October 2013 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

28 October 2013 - Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles
29 October 2013 - Tuesday of Week 30 Year 1
30 October 2013 - Wednesday of Week 30 Year 1
31 October 2013 - Thursday of Week 30 Year 1
1 November 2013 - All Saints Day
2 November 2013 - All Souls Day
3 November 2013 - 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

4 November 2013 - Monday of Week 31 Year 1
5 November 2013 - Tuesday of Week 31 Year 1
6 November 2013 - Wednesday of Week 31 Year 1
7 November 2013 - Thursday of Week 31 Year 1
8 November 2013 - Friday of Week 31 Year 1
10 November 2013 - 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

11 November 2013 - Monday of Week 32 Year 1
12 November 2013 - Tuesday of Week 32 Year 1
13 November 2013 - Wednesday of Week 32 Year 1
14 November 2013 - Thursday of Week 32 Year 1
15 November 2013 - Friday of Week 32 Year 1

Friday of Week 32 Year 1

If you were told that tomorrow would be the end of the world, how would you respond? For some people, they may try to stack up food, water, medicine and other items to survive, and then go into hiding in a place they think is safe, because to them, the end of civilisation as we know it is the end of the world. Some people may begin to try patching up relationships with their loved ones, for fear that they may never see their loved ones again. Others may try to accumulate other forms of wealth like gold, silver or other precious metals to be used to barter for necessities, thinking that if the world's economy collapses, that would be the end of the world as the present forms of currency (paper and coins) would be useless.

However, are we ready spiritually if the end of the world comes? Today's Gospel reminds us that "Anyone who tries to preserve his life will lose it; and anyone who loses it will keep it safe." In our efforts to secure temporary things, we neglect to prepare for things which are eternal. When the time comes, the Gospel tells us that "one will be taken, the other left." Could we be the one left behind, regretting when it is too late that we had failed to maintain a good and close relationship with our loving God? Let us take heed, and as some may say, don't play play with our eternal future.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Thursday of Week 32 Year 1

Some people can be very gullible. They can be easily taken for a ride or cheated. For example, we see how some people rush to attend healing rallies or prayer conventions without checking carefully whether the person or persons conducting such events are for real or are con persons. Later when they discover that they have not been healed or their prayers not answered, they may think that they have done something wrong which is causing God to not heal them or refusing to answer their prayers. Some may even blame God for not being fair to them. By the time they realise they have been conned (that is, if they ever realise at all), it is too late. The culprits have made their getaway.

The same issue also applies to some so called folks who claim to know when the end of the world is coming. They use different tactics to scare people into giving away wealth, possessions, etc., and often, these con persons are only after your wealth and property. Once they get a tidy sum, they make a run for it, or they offer all sorts of excuses when the so called date and time the world will end does not happen.

Today's Gospel reminds us that "The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation... They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit..." Are we going to be so easily influenced by others in such matters and start worrying and fretting? Or are we going to continue to trust in our loving God and build our relationship with Him, knowing that He will care for us no matter what happens?

Wednesday of Week 32 Year 1

Those of us who hold important posts, who hold positions of power, are public figures, who are leaders in different ministries, etc. have got a great burden of responsibility and accountability. Such responsibility and accountability is certainly not an easy or simple matter, and to be true and faithful in our conduct is not something we can accomplish on our own.We need to continuously depend on God's help for strength and perserverence.

However, for those in power who abuse their positions, who think that we can do as we please, today's reading is a serious warning to all of us. The reading warns that "power is a gift to you from the Lord, sovereignty is from the Most High; he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions." The reading also warns us: "If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly; nor observed the law, nor behaved as God would have you behave, he will fall on you swiftly and terribly. Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty; the lowly will be compassionately pardoned, the mighty will be mightily punished."

Such warnings ought to be taken as a jarring wake up call to all of us, and remind us that we are to serve and not lord it over others. The question is: are we making efforts in humility to remain loyal, faithful and dependent on the Lord, or have we allowed ourselves to go astray? Are we aware and careful of the consequences of our actions, or have we become blind and deaf, refusing to admit any guilt or wrongdoing? Indeed, it is easier to be a follower than a leader, but we can do all things if we remain faithful and rely and trust in God's love and providence.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Tuesday of Week 32 Year 1

What sort of attitude do you have towards work, position, status, etc.? Some people may think that they are indispensible, and without them, the company would collapse. Some people may become so full of themselves with pride and arrogance, especially when they have reached a certain level and status in their workplace and in society. Some people may even look at others with disdain, especially when they think that they are more capable or intelligent. Such attitude could also be seen in churches, where there are certain faithful who begin to think that they "own" a particular office or ministry, and they may go through great lengths to ensure the status quo remains. The irony is that some of these people may lament that no new blood is forthcoming, but at the same time, they seem to be holding on with an iron fist.

However, today's Gospel admonishes us: "So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, 'We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.'” In whatever we do, are we merely serving ourselves, or are we really serving the Lord? There is always the danger that we may say that we are serving the Lord, but in reality, we are merely exalting ourselves. Thus, we should continuously remind ourselves as we pray the Our Father: "Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done"; NOT "My Kingdom come, My will be done."

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Monday of Week 32 Year 1

What are you looking for in life? Often we hear people spending a lot of time and effort in building their career, their wealth, their families, etc. But how many of us truly strive to build our relationship with God? Today's reading reminds us that we should "love virtue, let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord, seek him in simplicity of heart; since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test, he shows himself to those who do not distrust him." Have we allowed ourselves to go astray in pursuing only that which is temporary? Or are we being more balanced by also progressing spiritually as we pursue that which is eternal?

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

As humans, we all experience some form of suffering in our lives. Some mothers suffer throughout their pregnancy due to cramps, morning sickness, and even at childbirth. Babies often suffer growing pains as they move from infant, to toddler, to beyond. There are people who constantly suffer migraine, depression, and other ailments which do not seem to go away. When these sufferings occur, some of us may begin to question: why is this happening? Is God punishing us?

We begin to think that good people enjoy life and bad people suffer. Along with this thought, we begin to think that we must have said or done something wrong or bad to have caused us to suffer. However, today's first reading tells us that this is not true. The seven brothers suffered terribly even though they were good people. Why did God allow them to suffer? Why didn't God rescue them?

Trying to find an answer to why suffering occurs is not easy. We try to explain it away, only to find that the answer is not complete, not satisfactory, not acceptable. Many learned people have in the past tried to find a good answer, only to discover that there is really no suitable answer. Just as God is a mystery, suffering is also a mystery, and a mystery is something which is slowly being revealed and points us to a greater truth.

However, we Catholics have faith in the resurrection and that helps us understand that suffering is not permanent and death is not the end. We trust that God promises life and not death, and we believe that He will care for us and raise us up. Thus, let us continue to place our hope and trust in our loving God, for as the Gospel reminds us: "He is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to Him all men are in fact alive."

Friday, 1 November 2013

Friday of Week 31 Year 1

Some of us are blessed with money and possessions, but are we making good use of these temporary things for our spiritual benefit? In today's Gospel, Jesus praised a steward who misused his master's money. The dishonest steward is praised not for mishandling his master's wealth, but for his shrewdness and foresight in avoiding personal disaster while securing his future livelihood. However, Jesus is not trying to teach us how to prevent a financial or economic crisis. Instead, He is more concerned that we use our shrewdness and foresight to prevent a spiritual and moral crisis. If only we would make much effort in spiritual matters which have eternal consequences, just as we make much effort in earthly matters which have temporary consequences, we would be better off in this life and in the next.