Thursday, 31 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 26 Year 2

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

28 Sept 2014 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
29 Sept 2014 - Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels - Feast
30 Sept 2014 - Tuesday of Week 26 Year 2
1 Oct 2014 - Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin, Doctor - Feast
2 Oct 2014 - The Holy Guardian Angels
3 Oct 2014 - Friday of Week 26 Year 2

Friday of Week 26 Year 2

There are times in our life where may we have been guilty of saying too much. Sometimes, we think we know it all, and try to show how much we know or how clever we are by giving comments, advice, suggestions, or even criticism, even though these were not asked for in the first place. Sometimes, we say things out of ignorance and do not really know the full situation. Sometimes, we try to be helpful and say things, only to later discover that what we had said only made matters worse. Sometimes we just can't let things be (perhaps the mouth is too itchy) and add more fuel into the fire by saying things, only to be later burned by what we uttered. This is why we are reminded: "Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)" "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. (Proverbs 21:23)"

In today's reading, we are presented with God's response to Job's lamentation. Job had lamented why he was going through all sorts of sufferings and calamnities, and was trying to figure out where he had gone wrong. In response, God posed a number of rhetorical questions to Job, all of which are designed to show Job how small he is in relation to God's plan. In posing such questions to Job, God was reminding Job that His wisdom isn't like human wisdom; His ways are not human ways. Faced with such questioning, Job realised that he had said too much, perhaps he had overstep the line, and he said (possibly sheepishly): "My words have been frivolous: what can I reply? I had better lay my finger on my lips. I have spoken once... I will not speak again; more than once... I will add nothing."

What about us? Have we realised that there are times we have overstep the line? Have we realised that we said too much? Why do we have the urge to say things? Can't we be more cautious and control our tongue? Let us learn to know when to say things and when not to say. Let us also learn to be more humble and trusting in God's providence. After all, He knows what is best for us. We may not understand why things happen, but does it matter? Let us let God be God, and let Him guide and help us according to His plan.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Holy Guardian Angels

Each and everyone of us are precious to God. Sometimes some of us may feel as if we are being left alone or abandoned, but the fact is God loves us and wants us to be with Him. Our journey in life could be challenging, we may face uphill tasks, but God is always there to shepherd and guide us.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "The Lord says this: ‘I myself will send an angel before you to guard you as you go and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Give him reverence and listen to all that he says. Offer him no defiance; he would not pardon such a fault, for my name is in him. If you listen carefully to his voice and do all that I say, I shall be enemy to your enemies, foe to your foes. My angel will go before you.’" Each and every one of us is given a guardian angel to watch over us and protect us from harm and from evil. Sometimes we do naughty things thinking that no one is looking, but the fact is our guardian angel is present. Sometimes we may have experienced our conscience being pricked; perhaps our guardian angel is telling us to watch out, lest we fall into sin. Thus, let us be mindful of the counsel and guidance our guardian angel offers us, and strive towards building our relationship with God, walking humbly before Him and learning His ways.

O Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin, Doctor - Feast

As adults, we tend to try and do things on our own. We think that we can handle things. We do not seem to need any help, and we value our freedom. Some of us may not take too kindly if someone were to offer suggestions or advice. We think that we are capable or sufficiently knowledgeable to take care of ourselves. But sometimes, we really do need help but perhaps we feel reluctant or too proud to ask. We think we know the answers, only to find that what we thought we know may not be sufficient. This is especially true when it comes to our spiritual life. We may be praying or doing things or getting involved in church, but are we really growing closer to God? Are we changing to truly become a child of God, part of God's family?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Being like a little child does not mean being childish, but being child-like. Just like a child depends on its parents for guidance, do we depend on God and seek His help? Sometimes there are issues which we cannot resolve and when we are stuck with such issues, are we willing to humbly and earnestly turn to God? Do we realise that our abilities and strength are limited, and that God is all powerful and all-knowing (omnipotent and omniscient), and that God could help us if we turn to Him? Let us make every effort to be like little children, and let our loving God be our providence and guide.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 26 Year 2

When you are faced with problems, calamities, hardship, suffering, anxiety, stress, or depression, how would you respond? Some would give up and despair. Some would resort to abuse of substances, thinking that such things could alleviate the pain, only to fall into addiction and one could end up being worse off. Some would start blaming others for their condition, or even blame God. How many of us would bravely, resolutely and unwaveringly go through the situation, trusting God and knowing that God would help us?

In today's reading, we come across Job who had been inflicted with one catastrophe after another. His friends believed he was suffering for heavy crimes or sins he may have committed. His wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” Satan was trying to make him curse God for the situation he was in. Yet, Job did not curse God or despair. He cursed the day he was born instead, wishing that he had not been born. No where did he put the blame on anyone or God. He was expressing his feelings via figures of speech and exaggeration. Ultimately, Job still trusted in God to see him through his predicament.

If we are ever faced with a similar situation, let us be steadfast in faith. Let us not give in to the temptations of the evil one, and continue to trust in God's love and providence. Sometimes things happen to us for a reason, and God can transform our situation into something better or beautiful. Are we patient and humble enough to let God heal us in His time?

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels - Feast

There are many things in this world which we believe because we have experienced and seen these things. There are also many things in this world which we have not seen. Some things not seen we still believe; some things not seen and we do not believe. But regardless whether we have seen or not, there are things which we do not see, and yet they are there. Some of us subscribe to an empirical attitude, where something is based on, concerned with, or verifiable by observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic. But there are times empiricism or an empirical attitude fails us, and faith and trust is needed.

Few humans throughout history have had the privilege to see an archangel, let alone an angel. But throughout scripture, we see some examples where angels have made themselves present. Today we celebrate the Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels. The name Michael means "who is like God." In Scripture, it was St. Michael who long ago led the battle against Satan (Rev. 12:7-9) and his will is focused and driven toward accomplishing goodness: he is a protector of souls, and wields his sword of righteous justice against Satan. Gabriel means "God is my strength." In Scripture, He appears to Zechariah (Lk 1:13) and Mother Mary (Lk 1:27-28). Gabriel brought us God's message of strength in which we draw our hope: God Incarnate was soon to enter history for love of man. Raphael means "God is my health." Raphael is one of seven angels "who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord" (Tob 12:15). The meaning of Raphael's name reflects the fact that he touched Tobit's eyes in order to heal them of blindness.

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we read: "St. Augustine says: "'Angel' is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is 'spirit'; if you seek the name of their office, it is 'angel': from what they are, 'spirit', from what they do, 'angel.'" With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they "always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven" they are the "mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word" (CCC 329). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also reminds us: "From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession. "Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life." Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God" (No. 336). This tells us that the angels are always around: guiding, protecting and watching over us. We do not see them, yet they are there.

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us another example of not seeing but believing. In the Gospel, we read: "When Jesus saw Nathanael coming he said of him, ‘There is an Israelite who deserves the name, incapable of deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?’ said Nathanael ‘Before Philip came to call you,’ said Jesus ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathanael answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel.’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said: I saw you under the fig tree. so You will see greater things than that.’"

Do we still need to see with our eyes to believe? Sometimes we see or do not see because our eyes can deceive us. For example, we see water in a desert, we think that there really is water, but in actuality, it is merely a mirage. Let us open our hearts and minds, so that we may "see" through the "eyes" of our hearts, and through the "eyes" of faith.

Monday, 28 July 2014

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Some of us may have been attending Mass and activities in one parish community for years. Some of us seem to prefer to skip from parish to parish, going for Mass and activities as and when we please or where it is convenient to us. Some just go for Mass and do not get involved in any parish activities. There are some too who do not seem to value the Mass, or even being in a parish community, and only come occasionally. Which sort of person could you be?

People come or do not come for Mass and become part of a parish community due to a number of reasons. But whatever the reason may be, we need to ask ourselves honestly: Is our parish community united as brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we part of a parish community, or are we lone rangers (or "Sdn. Bhd" or "Pte. Ltd."), only intending to fulfil our Sunday obligation and nothing more? What have you done to be part of a parish community? Some of us actually don’t feel that we are part of a parish community. Perhaps, some think that the church is just a place to go and pray and attend Mass. Perhaps, some don’t have a real sense of belonging, coming and going like a "rolling stone." The Church becomes like a hypermarket or supermarket or convenience store where we come only to get what we need. When the church does not satisfy our needs, we complain, become angry, pout, feel frustrated, or feel resentment. But is that what being Church all about: for me, myself and I?

St. Paul in today's reading reminds us: "If our life in Christ means anything to you, if love can persuade at all, or the Spirit that we have in common, or any tenderness and sympathy, then be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. That is the one thing which would make me completely happy. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, So that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus." We call ourselves Christians or Catholics, but that is not enough. We come to church, but that is not enough. We say we are brothers and sisters in Christ, but that is not enough. We need to show and mean what we say through our actions. If we are only concerned about our own needs, then how can we say we are united as brothers and sisters in Christ?

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us a parable of two sons: one says he would go to the vineyard but only says this just to sound good and to please his father but did not go. The other said he would not go, but decided to go in the end. This parable reminds us that we need to walk to talk, talk is cheap, action is what matters. We say that we are one community, but just saying it is not enough. We need to prove it through our actions and by making effort to remain united as brothers and sisters in Christ. This means we must come out of our comfort zone; we must stop thinking only about ourselves and start thinking about others, about the community; we must learn to love happily, joyfully, willingly and meaningfully. It is only when we do our part and work together as one, united family, that we could truly become one family, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 25 Year 2

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

21 Sept 2014 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
22 Sept 2014 - Monday of Week 25 Year 2
23 Sept 2014 - Tuesday of Week 25 Year 2
24 Sept 2014 - Wednesday of Week 25 Year 2
25 Sept 2014 - Thursday of Week 25 Year 2
26 Sept 2014 - Friday of Week 25 Year 2

Friday of Week 25 Year 2

Some of us are very activity-centered or task-oriented. It seems as if we cannot sit down for a while, or slow down or wait. We must do this or that; go here or there; or complete this or that. Life can seem quite busy as a bee or hectic. On the other extreme hand, some of us could be procrastinating in our tasks. We sometimes hear complaints of something not being done, or not done properly, or not according to what was expected. What about you? Where do you fit in?

In today's reading, we are reminded that "There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven." We are also asked to ponder: "What does a man gain for the efforts that he makes? I contemplate the task that God gives mankind to labour at. All that he does is apt for its time; but though he has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end." Indeed, there is a time and place for everything. When we are doing too much, we may end up neglecting other things. When we are doing too little, the task or matter at hand would be delayed or stagnant. Perhaps we need to learn to strike a balance between being and doing. Sometimes we could gain better perception or ideas when we take a step back for a while and let God guide our actions and conduct.

Thursday of Week 25 Year 2

"Do I look alright?" "Hmm... My hair's in a mess. I need more hairspray." (Though the hair is actually already well groomed) "Better touch up my lips before we go, just in case." (Despite the fact that the person had already touched up the lips earlier) "I must buy this moisturiser. Why? I'm worth it!" (As if the moisturiser determines one's worth) "I've got more qualifications than that person! How come I am not getting the position?" "See those trophies? I am the greatest tennis player!" "Hey you! Get out of my way!" (a driver of a big, expensive vehicle intimidating a driver of a small sedan to move aside, by flashing his or her vehicle lights menacingly, or blaring the vehicle horn extensively, so that he or she can speed past) "I'm smarter than you are! See? I have a Doctorate. You are just a diploma holder. You better be good to me or else!" "They better toe the line! I have the support of the entire management!"  "I'm the greatest pianist. You're nowhere near my class!" "Listen pal! I'm older than you and I know better. Do as I tell you!"

Do these sound familiar? Perhaps at some point in our life, we may have heard someone say similar words. Perhaps we ourselves may have said such words. When we hear such words being uttered, how would we respond? Some of us may look at the person with indignation. Perhaps we may try to avoid such persons. But what if we are the ones who are saying such words? Have we ever thought about the consequences of speaking in this way?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Vanity of vanities, the Preacher says. Vanity of vanities. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?" Vanity is defined as having excessive pride in one's appearance, qualities, abilities, or achievements; being conceited; thinking that the world centres around oneself. Have we been vain or conceited in one form or another? What do we really gain by being so vain? All these things are temporary. Shouldn't we be striving more for that which is eternal?

Wednesday of Week 25 Year 2

If you were given a choice of being rich or being poor, which would you choose? Some of us may go for being rich, thinking that riches would help us be comfortable and happy. Also, some may say that riches enable them to be without worry. Others may choose to be poor, thinking that poverty enables them to live simple lives, going back to basics and perhaps living off the land. But regardless of whether we choose to be rich or poor, does it really help us spiritually?

In today's reading, we discover a choice which transcends or goes beyond the need to be rich or poor. In the reading: "keep falsehood and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches, grant me only my share of bread to eat, for fear that surrounded by plenty, I should fall away and say, 'the Lord – who is the Lord?' or else, in destitution, take to stealing and profane the name of my God." Seeking to be rich or seeking to be poor does not satisfy us completely, since either way, our desires will never be fulfilled. As the reading says: "grant me only my share of bread to eat." We also recite a similar request in the Lord's Prayer when we say: "Give us this day our daily bread." In this way, we are contend with what we have each day; there is no need for more or less.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 25 Year 2

Some people say that blood is thicker than water. They believe that your immediate family members are the ones you can mostly count on or depend on. To a certain extend, this may be true. As children, we depended on our parents for many things: food, shelter, love, education and guidance. When we grew up, we became less dependent on our immediate family members, but the familial bond is still there. However, is familial bond all that matters?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice." This shows that to Jesus, familial relationship is not all that matters. What really matters is we hear God's word and act on it. Jesus is reminding us that if we hear and do God's will, then we are part of a family relationship which goes beyond just blood-relationship. We become members of God's family, we become brothers and sisters in Christ. More importantly, we become closer to God our loving father. Do we only want to focus on our relationship here on earth, or are we making more effort to focus on a relationship which is eternal?

Monday of Week 25 Year 2

What sort of a person do we consider ourselves at this present time? Are we a loving, caring, generous, courteous, respectful, compassionate, or merciful person? Or have we become more and more cold towards others, even to the point of plotting against them? Sometimes, we could be just as guilty if we are indifferent, couldn't be bothered, aloof, over-demanding or rude towards others. We may not realise it ourselves, but sometimes a good, trustworthy and reliable friend could point out our abilities as well as our shortcomings to us, enabling us to become better people.

In today's reading, we are reminded to be good examples towards others. But being good examples is not sufficient. We also need to suppliment our being with doing. As some may say, we need to "walk the talk." Today's reading cautions us: "Do not emulate the man of violence, never model your conduct on his; for the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord, who confides only in honest men. The Lord’s curse lies on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the virtuous. He mocks those who mock, but accords his favour to the humble." Let us take a deep, honest look at ourselves. Are we people of peace, bringing love, joy, compassion or mercy to all? Or are we wilfully doing wrong, committing abhorrent or wicked things in one way or another, thinking only of ourselves and ultimately distancing ourselves from God?

Friday, 25 July 2014

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Is life fair? Throughout the day, we may have heard someone somewhere exclaiming: "It's not fair!" We may have heard children complaining: “I’m doing more work!” or “My chores are more difficult; that’s not fair.” Students at school may resent the extra attention given to a classmate... “that's the teacher’s favourite, the teacher's pet; that’s not fair!” A sibling thinks his or her portion of food appears to be smaller than his or her other sibling's... “That’s not fair!” We may have heard of employees who think their boss doesn’t appreciate their efforts or recognise their achievements, wondering: “that’s not fair!” Someone at work receives a raise in salary which causes another person to think: “I have seniority. I’ve been here longer; that’s not fair!” So, is life fair?

Some of us think that good work, seniority, experience, or talent should be rewarded. Some think that all should be treated equally: no discrimination, no favourites, no this, no that. But are we expecting equality and fairness in all situations, at all cost? Today's gospel puts us in a spot. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us of a landowner who hired workers at different times of the day to work in his vineyard. At the end of the day, regardless of how long one had worked, the landowner paid all equally, one denarius per person, as what had been agreed upon. Some of us may think: that land owner is not fair. Why should those who work longer hours be paid the same as those who worked fewer hours? Humanly speaking, that appears to be not fair and the landowner appears to have exploited the workers, especially those who worked longer hours. But consider this: the landowner had made an agreement of one denarius a day, no more, no less (not according to the number of hours worked, as some may have expected). He chose to be generous to all, regardless of the number of hours worked. So was the landowner really being fair? Certainly! He paid in full what had been agreed upon, and he chose to be generous. If that is the case, why do some complain about fairness and equality?

In the same way, some of us may feel that God is like the landowner. Some of us feel that God is not fair at times. But are we expecting God to be fair according to our terms? We assume that the way God deals with us ought to be the same as how we deal with each other. However, as the first reading reminds us; God’s ways are not like our ways; nor are God’s thoughts like ours. This realisation should lead us to rejoice in the fact that God transcends all human standards, not in fairness according to the way we perceive, but in love, mercy and compassion.

In today's responsorial psalm, we are reminded: "The Lord is kind and full of compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love. How good is the Lord to all, compassionate to all his creatures. The Lord is just in all his ways and loving in all his deeds. He is close to all who call him, who call on him from their hearts." Therefore, we should be thankful, grateful and celebrate, for God is fair to us according to His terms, not according to our terms.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 24 Year 2

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

14 Sept 2014 - Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
15 Sept 2014 - Our Lady of Sorrows, Memorial
16 Sept 2014 - Tuesday of Week 24 Year 2
17 Sept 2014 - Wednesday of Week 24 Year 2
18 Sept 2014 - Thursday of Week 24 Year 2
19 Sept 2014 - Friday of Week 24 Year 2

Friday of Week 24 Year 2

Some people live lives as if this life is all that matters. They try to accumulate titles, wealth, fame, and recognition, with the intention of winning admiration and respect from others. However, what these people have accumulated seems not enough, and they work even harder and try harder to gain more and more of such things. Some people may think that after this life is over and done with, that is it: we are finished, we are history. But is this what we Christians believe?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us that we Christians believe in the resurrection. He says: "Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless; indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life."

It seems as if there are some Christians who may have begun to doubt the resurrection of the dead. Even today, there are Christians who may have doubted this important teaching. However, we should note that if we doubt the resurrection of the dead, then we could be drifting away from our Christian belief. After all, we say that we believe in the resurrection of the dead, when we recite the Apostles Creed or even the Nicene Creed. Are we holding fast to our belief and trusting in God?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Thursday of Week 24 Year 2

What sort of attitude do we have towards others? Are we compassionate, loving, forgiving and caring? Or are we self-righteous, thinking that only we are ok and others are not ok? Do we treat people equally, or have we allowed pride and prejudice to creep into our attitude and behaviour towards others? Sometimes we come across discrimination, double-standards, or unfairness towards certain groups. Are we guilty in committing these in one way or another too?

In today's Gospel, we see two contrasting figures: Simon the Pharisee and the woman with a bad name. Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus to a meal, and yet his hospitality towards Jesus was minimal. The woman, on the other hand, "waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment." Here we see the judgemental attitude the Pharisee had towards the woman, and to a certain extend, towards Jesus. The woman, on the other hand, sought forgiveness and mercy, perhaps wanting to change or turn over a new leaf. Yet, Jesus showed care and mercy towards the woman, by saying: "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

God is ever merciful and loving to all of us. He gives us plenty of opportunities to change for the better, forgiving us for the many wrongdoings we may have committed, just as the woman had been forgiven. Are we too not bound to be just as merciful, compassionate and loving towards others?

Wednesday of Week 24 Year 2

There are times in life where we say things without thinking, only to regret what we said later. There are times where we say something just to make another person happy or to get the other person off our back, but we do not mean what we say. There are also times where we say something, perhaps intending to honour what we have said, but due to pressures and other distractions in life, we may have forgotten what we had said. What about you? Are you being honest with your words? Some people say that they have uttered white lies, perhaps to get out of a sticky or undesirable situation, but a lie is still a lie, regardless of what colour it is.

The same scenario can be applied to when we use the word "love." Do we really understand what "love" is? Sometimes we say we "love," but we actually mean we "like." In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us that: "Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes... In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love."

Seeing the many attributes and charactaristics of "love," do we really mean what we say when we say we love God? In the same way, do we really love others, just as God loves us? It is easy to misuse and abuse the word "love," but it is certainly not so simple to really love God and people. Does this mean that we can never love properly and truly? We are not perfect, we make mistakes, but if we do our best and continue to trust in God's help and providence, surely we will slowly be able to love meaningfully, truthfully and consistently.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 24 Year 2

Each and every one of us has got a purpose and role as a Christian. We are not the same, and we do not have the same responsibilities. Some of us may feel that we should be given more significant duties. But the question is: are we Christians after status and recognition? Or are we Christians with a mission, in different ways and capacities perhaps, but with one common goal, that is to proclaim the Good News?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink. Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its many parts. Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it." We may have different duties, responsibilities, or functions, but we are still brothers and sisters in Christ. We should do our duty with joy, enthusiasm and vigour, instead of trying to compare with others and feeling upset that we are not being given something better. After all, are we serving God, or are we serving ourselves? Be happy and committed in doing your part in building the Kingdom of God.

Our Lady of Sorrows, Memorial

Our lives are often filled with good times and bad times. We see all sorts of good and bad things happening around us. We see countries at war, famine at certain places, injustices around us, society crumbling or breaking apart and other issues which could make us feel down, frustrated and some may even despair. However, we also see situations which lift up our spirits: the birth of a child, the beauty of a rainbow, people helping people despite of the sufferings they may be facing, and other events which could help us have more faith and hope.

Mother Mary too had her share of good times and bad times, and in today's memorial, we see the ultimate sacrifice she endured. Her son, Jesus, was crucified and was dying on the cross. Surely, as a mother, she would have experienced tremendous pain and sorrow. Which mother could bear watching her son die? Some mothers would have hid away, but not Mother Mary. She went through the ordeal with courage. But was this the end? Would Mother Mary be left abandoned? No. We read in the Gospel: "Seeing his mother and the disciple he loved standing near her, Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son. Then to the disciple he said, ‘This is your mother.’ And from that moment the disciple made a place for her in his home." By doing this, Jesus was not only giving his mother to the disciple he loved, but also giving his mother to each and every one of us.

When we are faced with sorrow or difficulties, let us take heart that we have our loving Heavenly Mother watching over us. Our Heavenly Mother beckons us to offer our sorrows or difficulties to God as a fragrant offering, with trust and confidence that she will intercede for us and God will help and guide us. Oh Mother of Sorrows, pray for us, and guide us to your son Jesus.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

What is the meaning of the cross? Why do we celebrate this Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross? The Cross of Jesus Christ does not promise us success, fame, health, or pleasure. The Cross only promises us that Jesus will be with us, no matter how badly we suffer, no matter how difficult the situation we may face, and no matter how horribly we feel. Jesus said, “Behold I am with you always until the end of the age.” It is through His Cross that Jesus is with us.

God enters into the depth of human experience through Jesus’ crucifixion and death. This means that we are not alone. The Holy Cross means that God chose to suffer with us and for us, and to save us from our sins. In our churches, the only image that is explicitly required is a cross, depicting Christ crucified. How often do we struggle to believe in God when things are going well? How much more do we need to remember that God is with us, even in our sufferings?

The Holy Cross becomes a sign of hope. When we gaze upon the Holy Cross, we can believe that there is hope beyond our suffering, our trials and difficulties, our failures, and our loss. We can believe that there is hope because God will not abandon us. Jesus turned the Cross, an instrument of cruelty and shame, into a symbol of God’s love and glory. As He hung on that Cross, He transformed the world and transformed history. Let us always be thankful and grateful of the power and promise of the Cross, and willingly share its sign with the world.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 23 Year 2

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

7 Sept 2014 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
8 Sept 2014 - Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast
9 Sept 2014 - Tuesday of Week 23 Year 2
10 Sept 2014 - Wednesday of Week 23 Year 2
11 Sept 2014 - Thursday of Week 23 Year 2
12 Sept 2014 - Friday of Week 23 Year 2

Friday of Week 23 Year 2

Some people are very good at finding fault with others. Even the slightest mistake could be used as ammunition for such people to belittle or accuse another. Some people find fault because they think they themselves are faultless and blameless, and they think that that gives them the right to teach others to be like them. Some people find fault because they are trying to hide something about themselves, and by finding fault with others, they hope that their own shortcomings would not be noticed. Have you been finding fault with others in one way or another?

In today's Gospel, Jesus admonishes us: "Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, “Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,” when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye." When it seems so easy for us to find fault with others, are we being proud, conceited, arrogant or aloof towards others? Let us be reminded that we are not perfect and look honestly at ourselves, since there may be many areas of improvement which we could discover. Are we willing to change our attitude and behaviour, while admitting and addressing our failures and shortcomings?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Thursday of Week 23 Year 2

Sometimes people come up to me and ask: "Is it ok to eat food offered to ancestors?" Some, especially if they come from a Taoist background may also ask: "What about food offered to a deity or an idol? Is it ok to eat such food?" St Paul in today's reading reminds us: "we know that idols do not really exist in the world and that there is no god but the One. And even if there were things called gods, either in the sky or on earth – where there certainly seem to be ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ in plenty – still for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we exist." What this basically means is for us Christians, we believe that there is no other gods but one God the Father and one Lord Jesus Christ.

So, since Paul states that idols do not really exist in the world and there is one God, is it then ok to eat food offered to these idols? Here again Paul gives the answer: "Some people, however, do not have this knowledge. There are some who have been so long used to idols that they eat this food as though it really had been sacrificed to the idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled by it. In this way your knowledge could become the ruin of someone weak, of a brother for whom Christ died. By sinning in this way against your brothers, and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned. That is why, since food can be the occasion of my brother’s downfall, I shall never eat meat again in case I am the cause of a brother’s downfall." We know that the food being offered to an idol is not food being offered to a god, since we believe that there is no other god but one God. However, there are some who do not grasp this understanding or who are weak in their faith and they may be present with us. If we eat such food, we may be causing such persons who are weak in their faith to possibly become weaker or lose their faith altogether. So, given the circumstances, we should be mindful of who is with us when such food is served. Do we want to be the cause of a brother's downfall?

Wednesday of Week 23 Year 2

At some point in our life, we may have heard of the words: "don't go looking for trouble." In Malay, the approximate translation is "jangan cari pasal." What these words basically mean is we should not be reckless or trying to be a bravado. Instead, whatever we do and whatever state of life we may be in or we may be thinking of getting into, we should consider the consequences and weigh the costs. Some questions which may come to mind are: "Is this worthwhile?" "Do I want to be in this situation for the long term?" "Is this what I really want in life?"

In today's reading, St. Paul advises us: "About remaining celibate, I have no directions from the Lord but give my own opinion as one who, by the Lord’s mercy, has stayed faithful. Well then, I believe that in these present times of stress this is right: that it is good for a man to stay as he is. If you are tied to a wife, do not look for freedom; if you are free of a wife, then do not look for one. But if you marry, it is no sin, and it is not a sin for a young girl to get married. They will have their troubles, though, in their married life, and I should like to spare you that." What Paul is trying to tell us is basically this: be faithful, contend, responsible, dedicated, and committed to the way of life you are presently in or chosen and soon to be in. Don't go "looking for trouble" by trying to run away or shirk from your duties and responsibilities in whatever way of life you have chosen. In today's world where some people prefer to live in a "touch and go" or "use and throw" mentality, we should be witnesses by showing others that it is possible to stay in a particular state of life, whatever that may be.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 23 Year 2

As Christians, we sometimes come into conflict with a fellow brother or sister. Sometimes the conflict could be a small matter. Other times, it could be a serious matter. But whatever the matter may be, we should follow Jesus' advice as mentioned in last Sunday's Gospel, that our dealing with someone who has done something wrong should be done gradually. At first, alone with him or her, then get two or three witnesses, then get the community involved. This means that, as Christians, we should settle issues among ourselves, within our community.

However, some of us are still stubborn and insisting that we bring such matters, no matter how trivial it may be, to court, such as the local magistrate, or even high court. This is why St. Paul in today's reading admonishes us: "How dare one of your members take up a complaint against another in the law courts of the unjust instead of before the saints? As you know, it is the saints who are to ‘judge the world’; and if the world is to be judged by you, how can you be unfit to judge trifling cases? Since we are also to judge angels, it follows that we can judge matters of everyday life; but when you have had cases of that kind, the people you appointed to try them were not even respected in the Church. You should be ashamed: is there really not one reliable man among you to settle differences between brothers and so one brother brings a court case against another in front of unbelievers?"

The church has got a tribunal which has priests and lay people as judges and lawyers. People sometimes think that the tribunal is only for marriage cases, but it is much more than that. Cases between Catholics concerning an issue could also be heard. Why do we stubbornly and vehemently insist in getting unbelievers to judge our cases, as St. Paul questions us, when we have a tribunal which could do the same in a Christian way?

Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast

Each and every one of us has got a purpose and role in God's plan of salvation. Sometimes we do not know what our purpose and role is. Sometimes we are aware of our purpose and role, but we do not understand why we are in such a purpose and role. Whatever the circumstances may be, our purpose and role is significant and not something we take upon ourselves. It is God who chooses us to fulfil such a purpose and role, no matter how big or small it may be.

In today's Gospel, we see the genealogy of Jesus. Each of His "ancestors" in the genealogy had a purpose and role in God's salvific plan, and this geneology also includes women being mentioned. This shows that God's plan of salvation involves different sorts of people, regardless of gender. Though we may wonder how some of these people fitted in, seeing that some of them lived "colourful" lives, we should remember that God can make crooked lines straight, and what we think as unsuitable is suitable in His plan. Even Mary, whose birthday we celebrate today, was not exempted from questioning eyes among the Israelites. Yet, God found her suitable and even gave her the honour of being mother of His son Jesus Christ.

If we feel as if we are too incapable or too sinful to serve any purpose in building God's Kingdom, take heart and know that God has His ways. He can transform what may seem to be a bad reputation or situation to something beautiful. Are we humble and willing to let Him transform us?

Thursday, 17 July 2014

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Sometimes we come to a situation where we are upset or angry with another person because a wrong has be committed. When we are faced with such a situation, what do we do? Some of us may avoid talking to the person entirely and do not want to have anything to do with the person. Some of us may avoid talking to the person, but choose to talk about the person behind his or her back (which is basically gossiping). Some of us may choose to confront the person, but we may do so in a fierce or menacing way. How many of us are able to confront another with love, patience and compassion?

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us an example of how we should love others and how we should deal with them should a wrong have been committed. Jesus tells us: "If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector." Notice that our dealing with someone who has done something wrong should be done gradually. At first, alone with him or her, then get one or two witnesses, then get the community involved. We should never try to jump the gun and get others involved without dealing personally with the person first. After all, our objective is to deal with the wrong done and not to shame, belittle or embarrass the other person in the presence of other people.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading: “Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.”Love is not a feeling but a decision. We choose to have love, patience and compassion for others, and just as God loves us all, we too should love all. However, Love does not mean we give in to other peoples demands, but to be firm, patient and tough but kind. Let us be genuine in our love towards others, being firm and tough where necessary, and gentle at heart, just as God loves and guides us as His children.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 22 Year 2

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

31 Aug 2014 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
1 Sept 2014 - Monday of Week 22 Year 2
2 Sept 2014 - Tuesday of Week 22 Year 2
3 Sept 2014 - Wednesday of Week 22 Year 2
4 Sept 2014 - Thursday of Week 22 Year 2
5 Sept 2014 - Friday of Week 22 Year 2

Friday of Week 22 Year 2

Are you a trustworthy person? Can you keep secrets? Are you dependable? Do people have confidence in you? These are some of the many questions you may have heard from time to time, especially when an issue or matter of grave importance needs to be revealed. Sometimes, we may be reminded to keep certain things to ourselves, or that the matter should be "kept within the walls," or we may be required to "keep it under wraps."

As Christians, St Paul reminds us in the reading: "People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust." There are times when the trust placed upon us could be challenged by others. Would we be able to maintain trust, even to the point of persecution and the possibility of death? Also, the trust placed upon us means we should be humble and careful not to judge. St. Paul in the reading also reminds us: "There must be no passing of premature judgement. Leave that until the Lord comes; he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts." As stewards, our duty is to love and serve faithfully and with confidence, just as God loves all of us. Let us not divert from the trust placed upon us, and continue to walk faithfully and humbly in God's loving presence.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Thursday of Week 22 Year 2

Some of us make lots of effort to pursue academic qualifications here on earth. Perhaps we may start with a diploma or a certificate in some area of interest, then we may pursue a degree or an honours degree. Those of us who have the opportunity and the ability may go even higher and pursue a masters degree or even a doctorate in some area of specialisation. For some of us, the present qualifications we have may not be enough or we feel we can achieve more. However, are all these qualifications on earth all that matters? Can we know everything there is to be known about a particular area of specialisation? Certainly not. There are still so many things which are not known. Our minds are able to retain up till a certain amount, and then we may begin to forget other things. Can any of us honestly claim to be able to know and retain such knowledge indefinitely?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Make no mistake about it: if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he really can be wise. Why? Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. As scripture says: The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts: he knows how useless they are; or again: God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise. So there is nothing to boast about in anything human..." All the knowledge in this world only gives us a glimpse of the majesty and omnipotence of God. When we think we know much, some of us may begin to feel proud, thinking that we can go our own way without God. But as St. Paul says, the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. Whatever we learn and know is only temporary, and one day we may either forget, or something else may render what we know obsolete or useless. Instead, let us learn what God expects of us, since the knowledge we glean from Him will help us grow closer to Him. Are we willing and humble enough to learn from Him, and let Him be our guide?

Wednesday of Week 22 Year 2

In our churches and in our communities, we sometimes see people taking sides or factions. In some instances, a church activity, group or committee may have two or more leaders who are capable or charismatic. When this happens, there are those who may lend their support to their favourite leader, or flock to him or her because of a number of reasons. Sometimes, people do so because they think they can curry favour with the leader and gain some sort of favour or benefit from him or her. Sometimes, people are attracted to the leader's enthusiasm, personality and so called aura of authority. But is this what Christ expects of us as his disciples? Are we not supposed to be one united body of Christ, sons and daughters of God?

In today's reading, St. Paul admonishes us: "After all, what is Apollos and what is Paul? They are servants who brought the faith to you. Even the different ways in which they brought it were assigned to them by the Lord. I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow. Neither the planter nor the waterer matters: only God, who makes things grow. It is all one who does the planting and who does the watering, and each will duly be paid according to his share in the work. We are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm, God’s building." Each of us have our proper tasks and we should perform our duties as best we can, but at the end of the day, we are all fellow workers with God. We should not consider ourselves superior or greater than another, just because we have certain abilities or talents which others may not have. What matters, as St. Paul rightly reminds us, is God. Are we still insisting in being looked upon as some great or capable leader? Or have we learnt to humble ourselves to serve, not to be served?

Monday, 14 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 22 Year 2

Are some of us worldly in our ways? Are some of us spiritual in our ways? Or are there some among us who are leaning more towards worldly ways or spiritual ways? Life is a journey where we discover more and more about ourselves, and sometimes along the way especially while we are young, we may become more attracted to the ways of the world. As we grow older, some of us may begin to realise that the ways of the world is not as satisfying or fulfilling as we may have thought. There are people too who, even though they are getting older, are still clinging on to the ways of the world, thinking that they still have much more to discover and enjoy. What about you? Where are you in the story of your life?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us that "An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God: he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit. A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men." We choose and decide which path to take, whether it be spiritual or unspiritual. Some of us may have realised the path we are heading is not the destination we want, and we switch direction. Some may choose to stick to our guns and continue a particular path. Ultimately, let us be mindful of the path we make, for our eternal future is at stake.

Monday of Week 22 Year 2

We sometimes come across the statement "the truth hurts." When we hear something about ourselves which sounds difficult or unpleasant, we find it painful to accept. The same goes for other people we know. When we discover something about another person which is unexpected, we may also find it difficult to accept. Many relationships have been strained or broken when one party discovered something significant about another party. Our opinion, perspective, feelings or outlook about ourselves or another person may change when we come to know the real truth.

In today's Gospel (Luke 4:16-30), we read that "everyone in the synagogue was enraged" at what Jesus had said. Jesus had admonished them for their lack of faith in Him, and to a wider extent, their lack of faith in God. We read that Jesus gave examples of how foreigners or gentiles (such as the widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town, and the Syrian, Naaman) were helped by God instead of the Israelites receiving help, simply because the Israelites as a people had been very stubborn, wanting to do things on their own way and refusing to put their trust and dependence in God. When Jesus said such things, the people in the synagogue could not accept the truth about themselves. They refused to listen to Jesus and change their ways. Instead, we read how the people in the synagogue tried to get rid of Jesus by throwing him down the cliff.

How would you respond when you come to know the truth? Would you learn to accept hard facts about yourself or another person? Would you be willing to grow in faith in God and learn to depend on Him more. We can choose to progress in our spiritual life by accepting the truth and moving on, or we could choose to become stagnant in our faith by remaining stubborn and attached to our comfort zone, refusing to acknowledge the truth.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Some of us are fortunate to be living a life without much problems, worries, difficulties, broken relationships, physical or emotional pain, or some other form of suffering. When we are not facing such situations, some of us may begin to get quite comfortable in our present status, and may be reluctant to come out of our comfort zone, get involved, and be charitable towards others less fortunate than us. Some of us may just donate a certain sum, thinking that giving money would help and we have done our part. The question is: are we behaving like Christians in such situations, or are we just doing things just to get a person off our backs or to avoid getting too involved in a situation?

Being a Christian means we are being disciples of Christ. That means we should be constantly on a mission to bring the Good News to others, with words and actions. It also means we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. The cross reminds us of the standards of God: such as truth, love, compassion, forgiveness, humility, and self-sacrifice. Whereas we should not be influenced by the standards of the world: such as lies, selfishness, unforgiveness, violence, pride, prejudices and self-centeredness.

Throughout our lives on earth, we are constantly challenged to choose one of two paths. The first path is the easy path, where we are showered with wealth, riches, popularity and power. This path may appear to be wonderful, and some may become complacent and quite comfortable in staying on this path. But such a path could lead us away from God. What some of us think as a wise choice in following this path may one day discover too late that it is a foolish choice. The other path is winding, difficult, challenging, painful and we may face much persecution if we follow this path. But this is the path of the cross, the path that Christ beckons us, as it would lead us to God. Which path do we really want? Which path are we sincerely prepared to follow?

St. Paul in the second reading reminds us: "Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. This is the only way to discover the will of God and know what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do." Are we prepared to forgo temporary comfort and riches on earth and take up our cross, so that we could enjoy eternal comfort and riches with God?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 21 Year 2

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

24 Aug 2014 - 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
25 Aug 2014 - Monday of Week 21 Year 2
26 Aug 2014 - Tuesday of Week 21 Year 2
27 Aug 2014 - Wednesday of Week 21 Year 2
28 Aug 2014 - Thursday of Week 21 Year 2
29 Aug 2014 - Beheading of St. John the Baptist
30 Aug 2014 - Saturday of Week 21 Year 2

Saturday of Week 21 Year 2

Throughout human history, we have seen time and again God's choice being quite different from mankind's choice. In some instances, mankind had made the right choice, according to God's choice. But more often than not, mankind chooses according to what the world sees as good or desirable attributes. So how do we understand God's choice compared to our choice?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 1:26-31): "it was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak by human reckoning; those whom the world thinks common and contemptible are the ones that God has chosen – those who are nothing at all to show up those who are everything." It is clear to us that God's choice do not conform to mankind's choice, since God does not look at the externals like mankind does. God looks at the heart, which holds many secrets. A person can hide many things from others physically, but the person cannot hide from God spiritually. Let us discern carefully and listen to God's voice, so that we may choose according to His terms.

Beheading of St. John the Baptist

If you were to choose either to do what is popular or what is morally right, what would you do? Most of us may say that we would do what is morally right. But when a situation occurs where what is morally right could cause us to face persecution, to lose one's status or position, or even to face the possibility of being put to death, would we still stick to our principles and face any consequences with courage, knowing that God will care for us?

In today's Gospel, we see John’s great courage in condemning the marriage of Herod to Herod’s brother’s wife. This is a reminder to us that not everything that is allowed by law is morally right. Herod had John arrested and put in prison. John stood up for the truth and unfortunately like many who stand up for the truth today, he had to pay a price. John’s courage in upholding the dignity of marriage and condemning the adulterous relationship of Herod and Herodias was to result in his death by beheading in prison.

John’s courage in upholding the truth about marriage, and his subsequent beheading as a result, challenges us in a time when it is not popular to speak the truth or live by the truth. Some of us want to be accepted in society, in the world we live in, but there are times we need to choose: be popular in society and lose our relationship with God or vice versa. Let us choose wisely, for our eternal future.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Thursday of Week 21 Year 2

Throughout our lives, we are constantly reminded by our parents to take care of our bodies. We maintain personal hygiene, eat well, get sufficient sleep, and get involved in various activities to help us develop. But we are also reminded to pay attention to our spiritual life too. If we neglect our bodies, we may be stricken with illnesses that could lead us to suffer. If we neglect our spiritual life, our souls will suffer and we would be putting our eternal future in jeopardy. We do not know when we will die, so we should not slacken or take things for granted, and always be ready to meet the Lord at any time, at any moment.

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns us "Stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming... You too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." Are we staying awake in our spiritual life? Have we been making consistent effort to remain in good relationship with God? Let us not squander the many opportunities and time God has given us to prepare ourselves to meet Him.

Wednesday of Week 21 Year 2

One of the many dangers we may fall into which could lead us to even more serious sins is laziness. When we are lazy, we begin to put off what we could have completed or done in a short time. Sometimes we procrastinate until the last moment before we attempt to do anything, only to discover that it is too late and there is nothing further we can do. Laziness can come in many forms, but it is laziness in our prayer life, in our spiritual life and in our relationship with God which we need to watch out for. In fact, one of the seven deadly sins we would have learnt is called sloth, where one is guilty of being too lazy or slow in doing something.

In today's reading,  St Paul reminds us: "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to keep away from any of the brothers who refuses to work or to live according to the tradition we passed on to you. You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle when we were with you..." When we are lazy or idle, we begin to neglect many things, including our spiritual life. We think that we are ok, but the truth is we are not ok. We sometimes hear the saying: "an idle mind is a devil's workshop." When one has too much time in one's hands and does not utilise the time properly, one could begin to waste time doing frivolous things, some of which could lead one to commit even more serious sins. Are we guilty of being idle? Are we using time wisely?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 21 Year 2

Does anyone know precisely when we are going to die? Certainly not. What about when the world is going to end? Can anyone predict precisely when that would happen? Once again, no. It seems laughable that there are people who claim they know when the world would end, and they would use all sorts of tricks and so called predictions to support their claims. It is even more crazy that there are people so gullible to believe such claims. More often than not, these so called people who think "they are in the know" are merely tricksters, trying to scare others into giving up their property and wealth. Then when the so called predictions turn out to be a hoax, these people would conveniently make all sorts of excuses and new predictions, and some may just "disappear" with the loot.

In today's reading, St Paul reminds us: "To turn, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him: please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived. Never let anyone deceive you in this way." Instead of worrying too much about the end of the world, perhaps we should make more effort in remaining in good relationship with God. After all, if we are in good relationship with God, why should we be concerned about when the world would end? Don't we trust that God would be there to care for us and protect us from harm?

Monday of Week 21 Year 2

Some of us may have heard the expression "like a dog in a manger." This expression is meant to refer to someone who keeps something that they do not really want in order to prevent anyone else from having it. It could also mean the attitude of certain people who are a stumbling block to other people, preventing other people from gaining something just because they themselves are unable to gain it.

In today's Gospel, we see how Jesus was really giving it to the scribes and Pharisees. In a way, the scribes and Pharisees were being and behaving like "dogs in a manger." Jesus calls them blind guides and hypocrites, preventing others from truly and really understand and experience God's love and mercy. These scribes and Pharisees had become cold and hardened to God's ways and since they could not experience God's love and mercy themselves, they became indifferent towards others and created all sorts of rules and regulations to make it difficult or even impossible for others to do so.

What about us? Have we become stumbling blocks to others? Have we become "like a dog in a manger?" Let us look honestly at ourselves, especially our attitude and behaviour towards others, and humbly and earnestly seek God's help, lest we become just like the scribes and Pharisees.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

When a leader such as the pope, an abbot or a religious is chosen or selected after an extended process, we may sometimes question why such a person is selected. According to the ways of the world, such a person may have not even been considered, since the world often looks at a person's popularity, strength, intelligence, power and other worldly capabilities and attributes. But the interesting thing is, God's ways and choices are not our ways and choices. God looks at things which are often not noticeable or deep within which people tend to miss out, overlook or ignore. This is why, in the 2nd reading, St Paul reminds us: "How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?"

When such leaders are chosen, they sometimes have their names changed to another name, often a name of a saint. They put on a new identiy, and perhaps pray that they will be able live up to their new name and identity. In the Gospel, Simon was also given a new name. He was called Peter, which means "Rock." Throughout the Gospel, we see Peter falling and getting up, and we sometimes wonder if Peter had really lived up to his name and identity. We wonder if Jesus had made a mistake in choosing not only Peter, but the other apostles too. After all, these 12 men were a strange mix of people. At hindsight, we begin to appreciate and realise that, no, Jesus did not make a mistake. He could see potential in Peter, and also potential in the other apostles. What appeared to be weaknesses and limitations could be transformed by God to serve His purposes.

When we are chosen and given a new identity, it is God who chooses us. God chooses us in spite of our weaknesses and limitations. God chooses the weak to shame the strong, the foolish to shame the wise, the sinner to shame the righteous. God's choice may not necessarily be understood or appreciated. That is because our vision and expectations are sometimes coloured with the ways of the world. But one thing we can depend on, God's ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts, and sometimes His ways would turn out to be a better way in the long run. We just need to be patient and trust in Him, for He knows better than we ever could.

Housekeeping - Week 20 Year 2

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

17 Aug 2014 - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
18 Aug 2014 - Monday of Week 20 Year 2
19 Aug 2014 - Tuesday of Week 20 Year 2
20 Aug 2014 - Wednesday of Week 20 Year 2
21 Aug 2014 - Thursday of Week 20 Year 2
22 Aug 2014 - Our Lady, Mother and Queen

Our Lady, Mother and Queen

Being a mother is certainly not an easy thing. We sometimes come across articles of how some women go through great difficulty and sacrifices to bring up their children well. We also see stories on television on how some mothers go through great pain and suffering so that their children would have a better life. Some mothers also go through depression due to the strains of motherhood.

In today's Gospel, we come across Mary receiving news from Angel Gabriel that she would be the mother of Jesus. For an unmarried woman to become pregnant in those days, such a woman would have been persecuted and even put to death. Today in some cultures, such a woman may be shunned, obstracised, expelled from the village, or even put to death. Mary knew what she was getting herself into, and yet she was still willing to go ahead with God's plan. She trusted that God would make a way and that He would take care of things. With full of trust and confidence in God's providence, Mary willingly and wholeheartedly said: "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me."

What about us? If we are faced with a similar situation, would we trust God and say the same words as Mary said? If we were to rely on our own abilities and our own strength, we may find it difficult or even impossible. But if we rely on God's providence and care, nothing indeed is impossible to God.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Thursday of Week 20 Year 2

As children, some of us may have dreaded taking a bath. Some of us may have run away screaming or crying, not wanting to be given a good washing or scrubbing. Sometimes, our parents would find ways or means to trick us into having a bath. Eventually, as we grew older, we began to realise the importance and necessity of taking a bath. Some of us began to take baths more often, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day, sometimes more, so that we could keep clean and maintain good personal hygiene.

In today's reading, God gave His people a good cleaning and makeover: "I shall pour clean water over you and you will be cleansed; I shall cleanse you of all your defilement and all your idols. I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your bodies and give you a heart of flesh instead. I shall put my spirit in you, and make you keep my laws and sincerely respect my observances. You will live in the land which I gave your ancestors. You shall be my people and I will be your God." By doing so, God took the initiative to help His people move away from their uncleanness and shepherd them so that they would grow and prosper as His people. In the same way, God is also taking the initiative to help and guide us. The question is: are we willing to let Him shepherd us and help us?

Just as our bodies get dirty and need cleansing, our souls too get dirty when we sin and need cleansing. When we seek forgiveness earnestly and sincerely through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our souls are cleansed. God is inviting us to come closer to Him and be His people. He wants us to remain clean and happy, depending on His providence and care. Are we still stubbornly trying to run away and remain dirty?

Wednesday of Week 20 Year 2

In this world, we often expect to be rewarded according to our job performance. We expect better pay, better benefits, better bonuses and better working conditions, especially if we think we are performing well or better than others. When we don't get what we expect, some of us may become upset, angry, disillusioned or in some cases, even leave the present job in search of greener pastures. In other words, "whats in it for me" seems to be more important to us than "how can I be of service for a better world."

In today's Gospel, the landowner hired workers at different times of the day to work in his vineyard. What was agreed upon was one denarius a day, regardless of how long a worker has worked. When it came to payment time, the landowner honoured his part of the agreement by giving every worker the same amount of one denarius, regardless of whether they worked for one hour or several hours. Of course, some of the workers may have felt it was unfair, some may have felt they were cheated, but did they have a right to feel this way? The landowner had agreed to pay one denarius, and he chose to be generous and fair to all. He said: "My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why be envious because I am generous?"

God is like that landowner. He is generous to all. He lets the sun shine, the rain fall, crops grow, so that all peoples may grow and prosper. If God is generous to all, do we have a right to complain? Are we trying to tell God what to do, according to our perception or expectations?

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 20 Year 2

Some of us may have a lot of baggages in our lives. We carry our baggages wherever we go. These baggages may not necessarily be items or things, there are even baggages that others do not see, and to a certain extend, baggages that we ourselves do not see. When we have these baggages, we become encumbered, we are unable to move properly, we are unable to listen to God's voice, because these baggages are constantly distracting us, blocking our view, or even making us feel good about ourselves. We begin to think that we are self-sufficient, we do not need help, and we do not need God.

In today's Gospel: "Jesus said to his disciples, 'I tell you solemnly, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Yes, I tell you again, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.' When the disciples heard this they were astonished. 'Who can be saved, then?' they said. Jesus gazed at them. 'For men' he told them 'this is impossible; for God everything is possible.'" When a camel has a lot of baggages on its back, it becomes difficult for the camel to move easily, and it becomes even more difficult for the camel to pass through narrow gates. The baggages are a cumbersome hindrance and it is only when such baggages are removed that the camel can go through. In the same way, when we continue to cling on to our baggages, we too are unable to move on. We may feel as if our baggages are too difficult or too heavy, but God is inviting us to let go, trust in Him and depend on Him. God can make the impossible possible and make it possible for us to move on. The question is: are we willing and humble enough to let God help us detach ourselves from our baggages, so that we can grow closer to Him?

Monday of Week 20 Year 2

What is the stumbling block which is preventing us from truly loving God and becoming closer to Him? For some, it is pride, making them think that they are the greatest, smartest, or fastest. For some, it is anger or jealousy, being unable to control their temper and being jealous of other people's abilities or achievements, instead of being content with the gifts they have. What about you? Do you have a stumbling block which is creating barriers and making it tough for you to grow in relationship with God?

In today's Gospel, we come across a rich man who wanted to be closer to God. However, this rich man had a major stumbling block. At the beginning of the Gospel, we can see that he possessed great wealth, and he thought that he could find a way to possess eternal life, as the rich man said: "Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?" The rich man claimed to have kept the commandments, but Jesus then challenged him further. Jesus challenged the rich man to give up his wealth and follow him, so that he could learn and depend on God's providence, instead of depending on his wealth. But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. His wealth had become his stumbling block. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too, but one needs to choose: to remain attached to one's wealth, or willing to let go and follow Jesus. When we become attached to our wealth, our position, or our fame, we become more concerned about such things, and fail to listen to God's voice. Do we want that which is temporary in this world, or do we want that which is eternal?

Sunday, 6 July 2014

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Some people think that their race or ethnic group are superior or special. They think that others must give in or "kow tow" to their every whims and fancies. Even among people of the same race or ethnic group, we see segregation and discrimination. People treat others unfairly and with contempt, especially those whom they think are less capable or do not think or act like they do. Even in our churches, are we behaving lovingly and caringly like brothers and sisters in Christ, like sons and daughters of God? Sometimes we see people forming cliques or focusing only with people they are comfortable with, people who perhaps share the same age group, language, culture, interests, or ideas. Is this what we should be as children of God?

In the first reading, Isaiah reminds us: "Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest. Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain." Notice that here, all peoples who listen to God's will are part of God's fold. It does not matter who you are, whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, God treats you as His own, if you obey His commandments. St Paul in today's second reading also reminds us that He was sent to pagans as their apostle, and that "God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice." Our ancestors were once pagans and were saved through the grace of God. This shows that God’s salvation is given to all people without discrimination. God’s grace is not reserved for any particular race.

As Christians, we cannot have an attitude of isolation or think that we are better or superior to others. God reminds us to “have a care for justice and act with integrity” to all. It matters not who we are, what ethnic group we come from, what religion we profess, God loves all. We should not condemn others or belittle them just because they look, behave, act or think differently than us. We should always show respect to them and put aside our prejudices. We must allow our faith to transform our culture, attitudes and our history. In this way, we can become effective witnesses to all. Are we willing to take up the challenge and love and witness to all, as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of our loving God?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 19 Year 2

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

10 Aug 2014 - 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
11 Aug 2014 - Monday of Week 19 Year 2
12 Aug 2014 - Tuesday of Week 19 Year 2
13 Aug 2014 - Wednesday of Week 19 Year 2
14 Aug 2014 - Thursday of Week 19 Year 2
15 Aug 2014 - Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemnity

Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Life seems tough. We see people struggling day by day, some trying to make ends meet, some going through mental or physical pain, some worrying about what is going to happen in the future, some devastated by the recent lost of a loved one. So many things happening around us could cause some to feel down, and even cause some to give up or despair. But is this the end? Is there no hope left? No. There is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, there is a silver lining to every cloud.

In the first reading, we see a vision of a confrontation between two parties. We have the woman in labour, which symbolises powerlessness and weakness. We have the fearsome dragon towering over the woman. It appears as if dragon cannot be stopped. But God intervenes. God saves the woman and she brings a child into this world, a child who will rule the universe. At the moment when all appeared to be lost, when certain defeat was imminent, God gives victory to the weak and afflicted.

In the Gospel, Mary was aware of God's providence and benevolence, and she exclaimed this in the Magnificat, which is a beautiful song of praise to God. She sings of how God will defend and protect the weak and defeat the mighty: "He has shown the power of his arm, he has routed the proud of heart. He has pulled down princes from their thrones and exalted the lowly. The hungry he has filled with good things, the rich sent empty away."

Today, on this Solemnity of the Assumption, we are reminded that the power of God is much greater than any thing, any problem, any difficulty, that we might face. God gives us hope and strength to carry on. He will not abandon us, though at times we may have avoided Him or ignored His voice. God is our providence, our hope. Are we still living in fear or uncertainty? Or have we learned to walk humbly before our loving and caring God?

Friday, 4 July 2014

Thursday of Week 19 Year 2

Forgiveness is not something which should be taken lightly. When we pray the Our Father, we say, "forgive us our tresspasses, as we forgive those who tresspass against us." But do we realise the implications of receiving forgiveness? Do we understand what is forgiveness?

In today's Gospel, a master had a servant who owed him quite a lot of money. The master wanted to sell the servant, together with the servant's wife and children and all the servant's possessions, to meet the debt. The servant begged for more time to pay off his debt, and the master felt so sorry for him that he let him go and cancelled the debt. But did the servant appreciate the master's forgiveness? No. He thought he had been given a lucky break or lucky escape. This is shown by the way he treated another servant who owed him money. As a result, the servant was punished by the master for being unforgiving and ungrateful. The Gospel cautions us: "And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart." When we are forgiven for the wrong we have done, are we not bound to forgive others who have wronged us? Have we become so proud, conceited, or thick-skinned in expecting forgiveness, but so easily condemn others for even the slightest wrong?

Wednesday of Week 19 Year 2

Each of us at some point or another may have gotten into a misunderstanding with another person. Such a misunderstanding could be a small squabble, or an argument due to differences in opinion, or even a heated exchange of words. Sometimes the misunderstanding could also be due to some wrong doing committed by one party to another. When a person has done something wrong towards us, how do we respond? There are people who would ignore the person's wrongdoing and forgive him or her (sometimes due to the fact that such people do not want to make an issue out of the matter, no matter how serious it may be, but by doing so, the other person who has committed wrongdoing may not learn from their mistake and possibly think that he or she had had a lucky escape and may not appreciate the forgiveness given). There are people who get angry or upset or bear a grudge against the other person. There are also people who begin to shun the other person, especially if the wrongdoing was especially serious and hurting, and this could lead to prolonged feelings of anger and resentment. But what did Jesus teach us to do in such a situation?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said, "If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector." As you can see, dealing with another person who has done something wrong is not an easy or quick matter. It requires patience, persistence, firmness, compassion and mercy towards the other person. We ought to be against the wrongdoing, not the wrongdoer, and try to help the other person grow and change for the better. Have we been charitable and loving towards those who have wronged us?

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Tuesday of Week 19 Year 2

Some of us may think that to be great, we must have lots of money and property. With such wealth, we think we can buy respect and admiration from others. Some of us may think that to be great, we must be highly educated, thinking that people would treat us like a sage or a wise person. Some of us may think that to be great, we must have lots of titles and honours, thinking that we could be greeted and respected widely wherever we go. However, what is greatness really?

In today's Gospel, Jesus taught His disciples: "'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, 'I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" Little children learn to depend on their elders and parents for help and guidance. In the same way, like little children, we learn to be humble and depend on our Heavenly Father for His help, guidance and providence. We begin to realise that being great is not for ourselves, but for the glory of God. Are we still chasing after temporary greatness here on earth, or are we striving towards eternal greatness in heaven?

Monday of Week 19 Year 2

Are we willing to set aside certain rights and privileges, even though we may be entitled to them? Some of us seem to think that we have a right to something or we are entitled to certain privileges. When we have this sort of mentality, we may become more and more possessive of what is ours and what we ought to receive. But there are times where we could set aside certain rights as a form of showing good example or witnessing to others.

In today's Gospel, we see the collectors of the half-shekel questioning Peter on whether Jesus pays the half-shekel. This half-shekel is a temple tax which is meant for the upkeep of the temple (after all, even in those days, nothing comes free and persons and buildings still need to be maintained at cost). Jesus is actually exempted as the temple is the house of God and he is the Son of God. However, Jesus chose to forgo his right to be exempted and had the tax paid so that his exercising his right would not be a stumbling block to the temple collectors and others. He sent Peter fishing to demonstrate that he was in fact Lord over all creation, having the power to know which fish had a shekel in its mouth, just enough to pay the tax for the two of them. Moreover, Jesus' willingness to pay the tax shows his submission to the law of God. He told Peter to take the shekel and “give it to them for me and for you.” Here, we see that Jesus made a distinction between himself as the exempted son and Peter as the non-exempted subject, and yet still followed the law of God as an example to others.

What about us? Are we still demanding our rights? If Jesus, son of God, is willing to forgo His rights and pay the temple tax, would we be willing to do the same? Jesus, as son of God, could have easily exercised His rights, but as St. Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:6-8: "Though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross." We call ourselves Christians, followers of Christ, but are we humble and willing to follow Jesus' example?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Do you love God? Are you comfortable being in His presence? Or do you fear Him? To some cultures, God is a distant, strict, fierce and frightening being (don't play play with God, as some of these cultures may think). Some of these cultures think that God needs to be appeased with gifts and sacrifices such as fruits, food, candles, incense, prayers and even animal sacrifice (which, in some cultures may include human sacrifice), failing which such cultures fear that God may be swift to punish them or some sort of disaster may occur. But what about us? What is your impression of God? Are you afraid of God like some of these cultures?

In the first reading, Elijah encounters God not in the powerful forces of nature such as wind, earthquake and fire. God comes to Elijah in the form of a gentle breeze. God is not waiting to bring destruction to anyone as some may believe, but God comes close to us and invites us to enter into a relationship with Him. He comes in a gentle and peaceful way, beckoning us to come closer to Him. In the Gospel, the disciples were frightened to see Jesus walking on the water, and they thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus assures and comforts them by saying, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid!” It is Jesus who guides us throughout our ups and downs, and sustains us at all times.

Thus, we do not need to fear Jesus. Instead, we can approach Jesus with trust and love, because we know that He loves us and cares for us. In the same way, we can also approach God. We do not need to fear Him, for He is a gentle and loving Father, compassionate and merciful to all. In the same way, we too should follow Jesus' and God's example by being gentle, loving, compassionate and merciful to others around us. After all, we call ourselves sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. Are we able to let go of our pride, prejudices and preferences, and love others just as God loves us?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Housekeeping - Week 18 Year 2

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

3 Aug 2014 - 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
4 Aug 2014 - Monday of Week 18 Year 2
5 Aug 2014 - Tuesday of Week 18 Year 2
6 Aug 2014 - The Transfiguration of the Lord, Feast
7 Aug 2014 - Thursday of Week 18 Year 2
8 Aug 2014 - Friday of Week 18 Year 2

Friday of Week 18 Year 2

Some of us want to be somebody in this world. We work hard, and do our utmost best to climb the career ladder, hoping to become a VIP (Very Important Person) or a big shot in some way. Perhaps some may try to accomplish some extraordinary feat to become famous or successful. However, all these things we do or try to gain: are these things all that matters? In our efforts to make a name for ourselves or to gain recognition or power or prestige, we may in the process be losing our life, especially our spiritual future.

In today's Gospel, Jesus admonishes and reminds us: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?" We may be so engrossed with our temporal achievements, that we may neglect other things. For example, we may neglect our health, our family, and our friends, and one day we may find that we may have achieved what we desire, only to lose other things which are in actual fact more precious and important, but we failed to realise and appreciate these other things till it is too late. In the same way, we may lose our spiritual future and we may only realise our loss only when it is too late.

Are we aware of what is happening, or have we become engrossed only with ourselves? Let us be reminded what Jesus tells us: "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour." Have we been behaving ourselves for the benefit of our eternal future?