Sunday, 24 August 2014

Housekeeping - Week 31 Year 2

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

1 Nov 2014 - All Saints Day
2 Nov 2014 - All Souls Day
3 Nov 2014 - Monday of Week 31 Year 2
4 Nov 2014 - Tuesday of Week 31 Year 2
5 Nov 2014 - Wednesday of Week 31 Year 2
6 Nov 2014 - Thurssday of Week 31 Year 2
7 Nov 2014 - Friday of Week 31 Year 2

Friday of Week 31 Year 2

From the time we were born, till the moment we are about to leave this earth, we would have journeyed to many different places. Few people remain in the same location all their lives. Today's situation and employment prospects often causes people to move from one place to another, as they try to make a living. But wherever we are presently located, is this our true home? Are we truly happy? What would be our ideal home? Could we ever find an ideal home here on earth?

As Christians, St. Paul in today's reading reminds us that our home on earth is only temporary. He tells us: "For us, our homeland is in heaven, and from heaven comes the saviour we are waiting for, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body. He will do that by the same power with which he can subdue the whole universe. So then, my brothers and dear friends, do not give way but remain faithful in the Lord." Are we preparing ourselves to return to our true homeland? In our quest for happiness, we may have invested much time and effort in building our temporary home here on earth. Perhaps we should consider our priorities and not neglect in preparing to return to our permanent home.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Thursday of Week 31 Year 2

There are some people in this world who are quite self-righteous. They think that they are holy, ok, faultless and have no qualms about putting others down or complaining about the weaknesses or sins of others. Sometimes even at confession, these people would go into a tirade of what other people did instead of confessing what they did. When confronted and asked about why they are coming to confession, they would try to avoid the question and continue condemning others. The scribes and Pharisees in today's Gospel are examples of such people. Instead of having compassion and mercy towards others, they complained about Jesus: "'This man' they said 'welcomes sinners and eats with them.'"

Instead of going into a heated discussion with these scribes and Pharisees, Jesus chose to expose their hypocrisy and folly through parables. He gave two parables, one concerning the lost sheep, the other concerning the lost drachma. People would usually not have bothered about losing one sheep when they had another 99. In the same way, people would usually not be too concerned about losing one drachma when they still have another 9. But to the people in today's Gospel, every sheep and every drachma was extremely valuable. The man who lost a sheep and the woman who lost a drachma were possibly quite poor, and losing even one could be disastrous. This is why they took so much effort and trouble to find that one lost sheep and drachma.

In the same way, God treats every one of us as extremely precious. He does not want any one of us to be lost. If we do get lost from time to time, God would come looking for us. When we are repentent and seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we have an opportunity to clean our souls and grow in relationship with God. When we do so, there would be "rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner," as Jesus said in today's Gospel. Are we willing to admit our sins, and seek forgiveness at confession, so that we could grow closer to God? Or have we become more and more self-righteous like the scribes and Pharisees, only condemning others and refusing to admit or acknowedge our guilt until it is too late?

Friday, 22 August 2014

Wednesday of Week 31 Year 2

Are we assured a place in heaven when we die? Some people think that just because they are baptised and go to church but do nothing else, they still automatically qualify for heaven. There are people who think no matter how good or bad they may have been, they are already assured heaven. Some think that nothing they say or do will have any effect on getting to heaven, since it is through the grace of God that we would be with Him. But is this really the case for Chrstians?

St. Paul in today's reading tells us: "continue to do as I tell you, as you always have; not only as you did when I was there with you, but even more now that I am no longer there; and work for your salvation 'in fear and trembling.' It is God, for his own loving purpose, who puts both the will and the action into you. Do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhand brood, and you will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life." When we are working for our salvation 'in fear and trembling,' we are actually showing that our faith in God is genuine and real. Our works are not decisive in our salvation. They are evidence of God’s saving work in us. James in his epistle reinforces this need to show our faith as we are reminded: "What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James 2:14-17).

So, let us not be idle or indifferent in our faith. If we say we have faith, then we should show our faith through our actions, so that all may see and give glory to God.

Tuesday of Week 31 Year 2

In this world, people often look for recognition, riches, fame, titles, and popularity. There are people who would go through great effort to become a somebody and avoid ending up as a nobody. We see how some people may even resort to underhanded tactics to get what they one. The self becomes more important and sometimes others are used, abused and discarded to achieve one's own purpose. The question is: how long can we dance in this charade? How long would such popularity and fame last? All of us will grow old and leave this world one day. What would become of us then?

In today's reading, St. Paul tells us about Jesus: "His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross." Even though Jesus was God, he chose humility and to serve others, even to the extend of being put to death. Despite of Him being omnipotent (all powerful) and omniscience (all knowing), He did not use and abuse His divinity, rather He chose to become one of us to save us. Would we be humble and willing to learn from our Servant King, and grow to be more like Him?

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Monday of Week 31 Year 2

In this world, we are often encouraged by our family, teachers, lecturers and peers to be the best we can be. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with being the best you can be, the danger is we could become self-centered, proud, conceited or ruthless in our efforts. Instead of giving glory to God during the process of being the best one could be, a person may instead begin to glorify oneself, thinking that he or she achieved without any outside help, or as some may say, the person begins to think that he or she is self-made.

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind... 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." What St. Paul tells us is in contrast with the ways of the world, where me, myself and I is more important. When we only think of our needs, we begin to pursue only that which is for our success and happiness, and eventually there is no place for others, even no place for God in our lives. In the end, we may be building our own kingdom, instead of God's Kingdom.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

All Souls Day

Do you know what happens to you when you die? Do you know what will happen to your body? What about your soul? We know that our bodies will decay over time, unless it is for the glory of God that our body remains uncorrupted, like what has happened to the bodies of certain saints. But for most of us, our bodies "were made from dust, and to dust we will return (Gen 3:19)." But what about our soul? Have we considered what would happen to our soul?

Death is inevitable. We can try ways and means to prolong our lives, but eventually and inevitably, we will die. Some of us may begin to worry about what would happen to us and our loved ones when we die. We wonder whether we would be with God in heaven, or whether we might be condemned to hell. We wonder whether we may end up in purgatory for a while. But all these unnecessary questions are based on unnecessary anxiety. Why do we allow ourselves to be occupied or crippled with anxiety? After all, we should note what St Paul in the second reading reminds us: "Hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us... but what proves that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Having died to make us righteous, is it likely that he would now fail to save us from God’s anger?" 

We must remember that our loved ones are now in the hands of God. We believe that God will care for them. Therefore we should place our trust and our hope in the promise of God. Instead of worrying or fretting, let us do our part and try to live lives according to the values of the Gospel, and leave our lives and the lives of those who have gone before us in God's care.

All Saints Day

What is a saint? Some people think that a saint is a person who has super powers, with abilities above and beyond mere mortals. Some people think that a saint is an extremely holy or pious person, always praying and preaching the Gospel. Some people think that a saint never makes mistakes or rarely sins. Others think that a saint is someone who has done heroic deeds or lived and died in a heroic way. But are saints made up of only certain qualities, attributes, capabilities or strengths? Are there other factors which could be considered in the equation?

Today's Gospel tells us that one can be happy despite all sorts of difficulties, problems, or persecution we may face. It may seem extremely difficult or impossible for most of us mere mortals to be happy in such circumstances, but this is where our happiness differs from what the world thinks of as happiness. According to worldly view, happiness is for oneself, or perhaps for one's family, loved ones and friends. But from a Christian view, our happiness is rooted in the fact that, God unconditionally loves all of us and that nothing – sickness, failure, emotional distress, oppression, war or even death – can take that love away. So, one aspect of saintliness is to be humbly aware of God's love for us, and His love is not meant only for ourselves, but to be diligently, enthusiastically and warmly shared with all.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we are beloved children of God, and that is our true identity, our source of joy and strength. The second reading also tells us that we have hope of being with God and seeing Him as He really is, and so we must purify ourselves and must try to be as pure as Christ. So, another aspect for saintliness is to be joyful and hopeful, even in the midst of trials and sufferings, like the martyrs whose robes were washed clean by the blood of persecution, as the first reading tells us. This joy and hope is not meant to kept within ourselves, but for all to witness, so that glory is given to God.

If we look at some of the aspects of saintliness mentioned, we can begin to realise that it is not difficult or impossible to be a saint. What is important is we learn to grow in humility and dependence in God's love, care and providence, and learn to love others just as God love us unconditionally. We cannot grow in holiness and closer to God overnight. It takes time, patience, lots of effort, and plenty of humility and cheerfulness. Ultimately, we depend on God's grace, strength and loving power to transform us, for His greater glory.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Housekeeping - Week 30 Year 2

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

26 Oct 2014 - 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
27 Oct 2014 - Monday of Week 30 Year 2
28 Oct 2014 - Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles - Feast
29 Oct 2014 - Wednesday of Week 30 Year 2
30 Oct 2014 - Thurssday of Week 30 Year 2
31 Oct 2014 - Friday of Week 30 Year 2

Friday of Week 30 Year 2

Stubborn people are often difficult to change. Such people are often fixed in their mindset, that other ideas or possibilities would not be able to get into their heads. Even though other ideas or possibilities may turn out to be a better way, or a more efficient way of doing things, or a more meaningful approach, such people would stick to their guns and refuse to listen. Some of them would rather see the project or task die or be shoddily completed or completed late, as long as their way of getting done is used and unchallenged. This, of course, is a form of pride, and a wastage of talent, resources and abilities.

In today's Gospel, we see the stubbornness of the Pharisees who insisted that absolutely no work can be done during the Sabbath. Jesus challenged them by healing a man with dropsy, and then questioning their stubbornness and motives when he said: "Which of you here, if his son falls into a well, or his ox, will not pull him out on a sabbath day without hesitation?" Naturally, the Pharisees could find no answer to Jesus' accusation. Instead of reconsidering their position, or even having a tinge of mercy, love or care for others, the Pharisees chose to remain stubborn or obstinate.

What about us? Have we been stubborn at times? Some of us may be extremely stubborn, refusing to accept anything other than our own ideas, our own views, our own perceptions or our own ways. When we allow ourselves to become like that, we are only nurturing our pride and we may be shutting ourselves out of God's guidance. Let us look honestly at ourselves, and rid ourselves of such stubbornness, so that we would to live humbly and happily in God's guidance and providence.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Thursday of Week 30 Year 2

There are many things in this world we need to deal with and watch out for. We need to be diligent in our relationship with others; we need to take care of ourselves and our families; we need to be loving and compassionate; so many things which occupy our time. But no matter how busy we are or what needs to be done, we need to be extra careful and cautious when it comes to our efforts in building and maintaining a good relationship with God. This is because evil exists, and evil will find ways and means to distract us and tempt us to sin. Some of us may think that we are capable and strong enough to resist temptation, but let us remember that the evil one knows our weaknesses and would use our weaknesses against us.

This is why, in today's reading, St. Paul advises us: "Grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground." Not only do we need to put on God's armour and depend on His care and providence, we also need to be consistent, committed and diligent in our prayer life. St. Paul also reminds us: "Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints..." Sometimes we may feel tired, or we feel as if our prayers are not working or seem to be unheard; but let us remember that God is listening; He may not answer our prayers straightaway, but He will not abandon us. Let us choose to put on His armour and continue to pray, knowing that God will guide us and protect us from evil.

Wednesday of Week 30 Year 2

What does it mean to obey? Obedience, in a Christian context, is to hear, trust, submit and surrender to God, letting Him be our providence and guide. This is in contrast with a worldly concept of obedience, where in some cases, people are not really obeying, but are simply complying to the instructions or demands of their superiors or leaders. People comply due to a number of reasons: some do so because it is in their best interest or advantage; some out of fear; some because of peer pressure; some for family, job or personal security. But how many of us are wholeheartedly, willingly, humbly, happily and faithfully obeying?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord – that is your duty... And parents, never drive your children to resentment but in bringing them up correct them and guide them as the Lord does. Slaves, be obedient to the men who are called your masters in this world, with deep respect and sincere loyalty, as you are obedient to Christ: not only when you are under their eye, as if you had only to please men, but because you are slaves of Christ and wholeheartedly do the will of God. Work hard and willingly, but do it for the sake of the Lord and not for the sake of men... And those of you who are employers, treat your slaves in the same spirit; do without threats, remembering that they and you have the same Master in heaven and he is not impressed by one person more than by another." Do you see a pattern here? Ultimately, we obey our parents, superiors or masters because by doing so, we are obeying God and doing things for the sake of the Lord. Our motivation is not to please our earthly masters or leaders, with the possible hope of gaining fame, status or recognition; instead we should be doing what is pleasing to God.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles - Feast

There comes a time in life where we need to make important decisions. Sometimes such decisions could determine our future vocation, way of life, financial happiness, the man or woman we may marry, our family happiness, and many other things which we need to consider carefully here on earth. Some decisions could also determine our relationship with God. We do not want to end up making foolish or rash decisions, only to regret later. So what do we do? How do we find the wisdom, strength and inspiration to make a right and good decision?

In today's Gospel, we are told that Jesus went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God. It was only after spending a substantial amount of time praying and listening to God that Jesus was able to choose twelve from His disciples, and he called them 'apostles.' Jesus took His time in praying, and listening attentively to God, before He made His choice. In the same way, we too should not treat decisions lightly. We should follow Jesus' example in praying earnestly, and taking time to listen to God. Sometimes we can get inspiration and ideas when we humbly and patiently seek God's help and providence through prayer. Are we willing to be patient and committed in prayer, listening to God's promptings, and letting Him help us? Or do we still insist in doing things our way, only to regret our decision later?

Monday of Week 30 Year 2

How many of us prefer brightness? How many of us prefer darkness? It may sound or seem strange, but there are people who prefer to be in the dark. Out in the light, many things are exposed or revealed, and some people may behave themselves to avoid being exposed or caught red-handed, for fear of retribution or punishment. Some people prefer to remain in the dark, since they can do hanky-panky things, thinking that they would less likely get caught. But as Christians, are some of us in the light? Or have some of us chosen to remain in the dark?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Be friends with one another, and kind, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ. Try, then, to imitate God as children of his that he loves and follow Christ loving as he loved you, giving himself up in our place as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God." As children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, we should strive to remain in good relationship with God and with others. We cannot be in good relationship if we choose to be in the dark. This is where St. Paul also reminds us: "Do not let anyone deceive you with empty arguments: it is for this loose living that God’s anger comes down on those who rebel against him. Make sure that you are not included with them. You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light." As Christians, we are supposed to be like children of light. But let us ask ourselves honestly: are we really like children of light? Or have some of us stubbornly and vehemently chosen to remain in the dark?

Friday, 15 August 2014

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Do you really know and understand what love means? We use the word "love" so often, but how many of us really love? In life, our love is often divided. We have our family and relatives, our friends, our colleagues, our church members. But how much do we really love these? Do we love these more than God or vice versa? To add to the equation, do we love others who are not in this circle: such as our competitors, those who are angry with us, our enemies, those who are strangers to us, those who we think are unlovable? It seems quite an uphill task to truly and genuinely love, since it seems easier to love those around us whom we know or trust. But as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ, members of God's family, how do we love; how should we love?

 In the first reading, the Lord said to Moses to tell the sons of Israel: "You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans. If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him. If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset." Here, the Israelites were being reminded that loving God and people of their own kind is not enough. They are also reminded to love all others, just as God had loved all. Moreover, the Israelites were reminded to love with right conduct and right action.

Likewise, the Gospel reminds us: "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself." When we are willing to love God totally, then our love for all others should also flow from our total love for God. We cannot possibly love without God's help, since our love is often incomplete. This is why couples getting and staying married are often encouraged and reminded to have God in their lives, so that their love for each other and for others draws strength and dependence on God's love.

Love is not just a feeling, it is a commitment. In a world where commitment and responsibility towards others is being compromised in different ways, we as Christians need to learn to give our all to God, and by letting God be in control, we can then share His love with all others. When we love God totally, then we will begin thinking of the needs of the others and the needs of the community before thinking of our own needs. Let our love for God be total and complete, and let Him guide us in all we say and do.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Housekeeping - Week 29 Year 2

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

19 Oct 2014 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
20 Oct 2014 - Monday of Week 29 Year 2
21 Oct 2014 - Tuesday of Week 29 Year 2
22 Oct 2014 - Wednesday of Week 29 Year 2
23 Oct 2014 - Thurssday of Week 29 Year 2
24 Oct 2014 - Friday of Week 29 Year 2

Friday of Week 29 Year 2

What sort of lives are we really living in this world? Are we living the values of the Gospel? Or are we living the values of the world? Some of us may be actually living lives in contrary to the Gospel. We may appear to be holy, friendly or helpful, but there are dark and hidden secrets which we are too proud of or ashamed to mention or reveal and seek help. Are we content with the way we are living? Have we become complacent or not bothered, carrying on as we wish?

In today's reading, St. Paul implores us: "I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called." Are we really living lives worthy of our vocation as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we really love others charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience, just as God loves us all and treats all of us as His children? Let us not be hypocrites in the way we live, but be genuine and true to our vocation.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Thursday of Week 29 Year 2

How do you pray? Some of us pray through praise and worship. Some pray by reciting the rosary and meditating upon the various mysteries of each day. Some pray using the divine office (where, in some churches, the morning and/or evening prayer is prayed). Some dwell into Christian meditation. So many ways which we can employ to pray to God.

However, how many of us pray especially for others? Some of us pray for ourselves, and perhaps for our family members or friends. But what about for those whom we do not have any family ties, or friendship, or any connection in one way or another? Do we pray for our enemies, those who hurt or persecute us? Do we pray for God's glory, for His Kingdom come and Will be done? Perhaps we need to look closely at how and why we pray, because sometimes our prayers may be only focusing on ourselves and on our circle of friends.

Perhaps a good way to pray is shared with us by St. Paul in today's reading: "Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. Glory be to him whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine; glory be to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen." Ultimately, our prayers should be for His glory, and this prayer by St. Paul is a great example of asking God to strengthen us and use us for His glory.

Wednesday of Week 29 Year 2

Each and every one of us is given different roles and responsibilities. Sometimes these roles and responsibilities come with a certain amount of authority. Not all of us are called to be in a position of authority, but when we are selected, we are expected to do our duty with integrity and impartiality. There are times where we may be tempted with riches, titles and other forms of attractions (including practises of corruption), but are we able to avoid all these temptations and be faithful in what has been entrusted to us?

In today's Gospel, Jesus cautions us: "You too must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." If we are suddenly called by God to give an account of what we have done, would we be ready to do so? Have we been diligent and faithful in our roles and responsibilities entrusted to us? When we were given roles and responsibilities, a great amount of burden of trust and confidence was placed upon us to carry out these roles and responsibilities as consistent and as best we can. Jesus reminds us of such a burden: "When a man has had a great deal given him, a great deal will be demanded of him; when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him." Humanly speaking, it would be difficult for us to do our duty properly or faithfully. This is where we need to continuously depend on God's help and providence, so that we would not falter or give up. Let us always set our eyes upon Jesus, and let Him guide us in all we do.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Tuesday of Week 29 Year 2

Some of us feel as if we have little to offer to God. Some think that they are not talented, or gifted, or capable. Some may get the impression that their abilities are being sidelined or not utilised. However, we should not forget who we are. We may not be doing lots of things, but it does not mean that we are any less important or significant than those who appear to be doing lots of things. After all, there are times we need to be like Martha, actively involved in many things, and there are also times we need to be like Mary, contemplating, listening to God's voice, and learning from Him. The trick is to know how to strike a good balance, when to be what we are supposed to be, and how long we should be in a particular state.

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "So you are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone. As every structure is aligned on him, all grow into one holy temple in the Lord; and you too, in him, are being built into a house where God lives, in the Spirit." We are all part of God's plan, no matter how great or small our part may be. We are being nurtured as part of God's household, and it does not matter whether we are doing lots or little. What matters is we are open and humble to let God guide us and help us grow in relationship with Him. Let us not be too concerned about only doing but also focus on being, and "grow into one holy temple in the Lord."

Monday of Week 29 Year 2

How much is enough for you? Would you ever be satisfied or content with what you have? Or would you continue to seek more and more? Some people are never fully satisfied with what they have. They cannot stand it when others have got the latest gadget or gizmo, or the latest set of wheels, or the latest home design, or the latest fashion or clothing. Even after getting all these things, some people still want bigger, faster, trendier, or better. It is a vicious circle, because what was relevant or the in-thing yesterday or today, could be obsolete or irrelevant tomorrow. Some people even begin to hoard things, because they are unable to let go or give away, even though many things they have are hardly used or not used at all. In the end, what happens? Our lives become cluttered and suffocated with temporal matter, but what happens to our efforts for the eternal matter?

In today's Gospel, Jesus cautions us: "Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs." When we are so occupied with things here on earth, we may become complacent and ignore things that really matter. We begin to neglect the state of our soul. We think we still have plenty of time on earth to ensure our soul is kept spick and span, but Jesus warns us in the Gospel: "Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?." Are we guilty in one way or another, as Jesus says: "So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God." Are we going to continue to not bother, carry on doing things in our own merry way and procrastinate until it is too late?

So does this mean we should become paranoid or obsessive compulsive in our efforts in our spiritual growth? No. What this means is we need to be diligent, consistent and committed in growing in relationship with God. Rome wasn't built in a day, and it takes time to nurture our spiritual life, but we should not have a false sense of security, thinking that we can slack or neglect in our efforts. Let us humbly, cheerfully and faithfully do our part, for our eternal betterment.

Monday, 11 August 2014

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Some of us may be actually living with split or different personalities (similar to the story of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"). Some of us behave quite differently according to the situation or circumstances. For example, in the office, we may behave like a good, helpful and hardworking person in front of the boss or superior; but when it comes to other colleagues, we may begin to pick on a few who we think are a threat to our survival and advancement; or we may pick on those who we think are weaker or less capable, just to gratify ourselves. With friends, we may be jovial and cheerful, but when we are with family, our dark and discriminating side may emerge. In church, we may appear to be holy, prayerful and helpful, especially when the priest or bishop is present, but the moment we step out of church, our behavior and attitude towards our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ may change: some may even fight, quarrel, gossip, compete or belittle other parishioners.

In today's Gospel, Jesus said: "Give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God." Is Jesus telling us to have different standards, attitudes, or behaviour for God and others? No. Jesus is not giving us an excuse for us to behave one way with God and another way with others. Does anything really belong to Caesar? Does anything really belong to us? No. Everything belongs to God, and we are merely stewards entrusted to the care of such things. So, whatever we do, whatever we have, whatever we supposingly own or have been given the privilege to use, are meant for us to glorify God; not for our own personal gain, gratification or glory.

In the same way, today's first reading reminds us that everything ultimately belongs to God. In the reading, Cyrus was chosen "to subdue nations before God, and strip the loins of kings, to force gateways before Him, that their gates be closed no more." God also reminds Cyrus: "Though you do not know me, I arm you that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that, apart from me, all is nothing." Indeed, this shows that we really do not own anything and should not be too proud or conceited with our achievements and things. Instead, we should remind ourselves that we are merely servants, entrusted with things, responsibilities and titles for the greater glory of God.

Therefore, no matter where we are, no matter who we are with, we should act and behave as children of God. Our life in church, with family, at the working place, in school, in the restaurant or among friends should not have any distinction or difference, especially in what we say or do. What is the point if we go to church behaving like angels, and then in other situations or settings, we become like "hantu" or devils? Are we being genuine, loving, or true to our identity as children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ? Or are we merely playing games, thinking that we can get away with our nastiness, meanness or aloofness? Let us remember: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Gal 6:7-8)."

At the end of our lives, we would have nothing but our lives to give back to God. What sort of lives have we lived when we return our lives to God? Are we giving a life full of honesty, compassion, love and respect; or are we giving a life full of dishonesty, selfishness and sin? Let us choose wisely, for our eternal future.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Housekeeping - Week 28 Year 2

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

12 Oct 2014 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
13 Oct 2014 - Monday of Week 28 Year 2
14 Oct 2014 - Tuesday of Week 28 Year 2
15 Oct 2014 - Wednesday of Week 28 Year 2
16 Oct 2014 - Thurssday of Week 28 Year 2
17 Oct 2014 - Friday of Week 28 Year 2

Friday of Week 28 Year 2

Hypocrisy is defined as a pretense of having a virtuous character, moral or religious beliefs or principles, etc., that one does not really possess; or a pretense of having some desirable or publicly approved attitude. People are hypocrites when they are not being real, they put on a show but in actuality are not who or what they really are, and do not practise what they preach. 

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us to "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees – that is, their hypocrisy. Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear." We can try to appear to be holy, or religious, or humble, but our pretense or masquerade could be exposed. Instead, we need to be truthful and honest about ourselves: are we really being who we are? Are we saying and doing things for our own benefit and glory, or just to sound good or look good, or just to please others? Are we being blind guides and causing others to stray? We may think we can run, but we cannot hide forever. One day we would need to give an account of our attitude, behaviour and conduct. When that happens, what would the consequences be?

As Jesus cautions us in the Gospel: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell." Let us thus be true, be real, be genuine in what we say and do, and make every effort and without pretense to walk humbly in God's presence, learning to love all, while trusting and depending on Him.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Thursday of Week 28 Year 2

When a person does something wrong, how the person would respond to the wrongdoing very much depends on the person's value system, morality code, conscience, or attitude towards life and the hereafter. Some people choose to keep the wrongdoing under wraps, or pretend that it never happened, or sweep it under the carpet, thinking and hoping that no one would notice or investigate or interrogate further. Some people would try to find a scapegoat to put the blame on, refusing to take any responsibility for what had happened. Some people would manipulate others or create a ruckus or a distraction, hoping that others would become preoccupied with other issues and forget or ignore the issue at hand. How many are truly, humbly or willingly able to admit the wrongdoing, seek forgiveness and make amends where possible, and move on?

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus exposing the many wrongdoings and nonsenses that the scribes and Pharisees had been guilty of. However, these scribes and Pharisees refused to admit or acknowledge their guilt. Instead, they reacted towards Jesus' accusation in this way: "...began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say." When we are proud, conceited or self-righteous, we may be behaving just like the scribes and Pharisees by refusing to change our ways. However, we should remember: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Gal. 6:7-8)" Are we setting ourselves up for eternal ruin and condemnation?

Wednesday of Week 28 Year 2

As we journey on in this life, we are often surrounded with all sorts of worldly attractions. Some of us may be tempted by these world attractions, which St. Paul in today's reading calls self-indulgence. As a consequence of self-indulgence, we may fall into: "fornication, gross indecency and sexual irresponsibility; idolatry and sorcery; feuds and wrangling, jealousy, bad temper and quarrels; disagreements, factions, envy; drunkenness, orgies and similar things." All these things, as St. Paul warned us, would lead us away from God, where he said: "I warn you now, as I warned you before: those who behave like this will not inherit the kingdom of God."

Instead, we should be focusing more and more on what St. Paul describes as being "led by the Spirit." St. Paul reminds us: "What the Spirit brings is very different: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control. There can be no law against things like that, of course. You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desires.
Since the Spirit is our life, let us be directed by the Spirit." The question is: are we making conscious and consistent efforts to be led by the Spirit, or have we allowed ourselves to be stricken with self-indulgence?

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Tuesday of Week 28 Year 2

When we were baptised, we became a new creation, a child of God. We became a loved and valued member of God's family. But sometimes, we forget that we are supposed to change from old ways to God's ways. Some of us go back to old habits, attitudes, ways of doing things or behaviours which contradict how a Christian should live. For example, there are people who may have consulted witch doctors, feng shui, divinations or medicine men in the past. When these people became Christians, they should have abandoned such practises and had more trust and dependence on God. However, some still go back to such practises, especially when their prayers are not answered or when they do not get what they wish. But do these other practises really help? Or are these practises merely taking us for a ride or straining our relationship with God and with others?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Christians are told by the Spirit to look to faith for those rewards that righteousness hopes for, since in Christ Jesus whether you are circumcised or not makes no difference – what matters is faith that makes its power felt through love." How much faith and love do we really have for God and for others? Is our faith and love genuine, for the greater glory of God? Or are we still clinging on to our own selfish needs, trying to do things our way whatever the cost may be?

Monday of Week 28 Year 2

Are we a free people? Or are we an enslaved people? We may think that we are free, since there are many things we can do without let or hindrance. We may think that we are free, since we live in a rather peaceful environment (though this may not necessarily be the case for some in certain places). But are we really free? Some of us may be addicted or dependent on substances, such as certain drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. Some of us are entrapped in various forms of personal gratification, abusing our minds and bodies. Some are snared in certain habits or attitudes, making it difficult for us to truly love, forgive and reconcile. Are we really free?

In today's reading St. Paul reminds us: "When Christ freed us, he meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery." We were freed and made sons and daughters of God, but perhaps some of us do not understand, appreciate or value the freedom won for us. Let us consider carefully the freedom given to us: are we going to maintain our freedom and remain in good relationship with God? Or are we squandering our freedom, only to ruin our eternal future?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Do you know what heaven is like? Have you seen heaven? Perhaps our imagination of heaven could have been influenced by what we see in the movies or television. We imagine that heaven would be up there above somewhere in the clouds where everyone has wings and are dressed in white robes and perhaps holding a harp. But is heaven really like that? No. We do not know what heaven is really like, since no one has gone there and come back to tell us exactly what heaven is like. But we do know heaven is in a state of being with God, being in His presence. Other than that, heaven is a mystery, just as God is also a mystery.

However, today's readings give us some glimpses or ideas of heaven. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah gives us an image of heaven where there would be a banquet of rich food; no more mourning as death will be destroyed; every tear will be wiped away as there is no longer any pain or suffering.We would also be able to see God face to face, and not just have some vague idea of what He may be like. In the Gospel, we are once again presented with the image of the banquet through the parable of the wedding feast. What is interesting is that all are welcomed to the wedding feast. In the Gospel, we read that "The servants went out to the crossroads of the town and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike.” However, people are not forced to enter. God chooses to invite all to be with Him, but we can choose not to enter or respond.

One may ask: why would anyone in their right mind not want to be in heaven with God? It may sound crazy or illogical, but there are people who refuse heaven. There are several reasons why people refuse heaven. One could be because some people feel they are not worthy or too sinful to be with God. They feel naked and ashamed, and prefer to hide from God, just as Adam and Eve tried to hide from God after eating the forbidden fruit. This could be the reason concerning the man mentioned in the gospel who was found to be without a wedding garment. The man, by not wearing a wedding garment, by not being prepared and ready to be with God, possibly due to feeling ashamed, and choosing to remain silent, had condemned himself.

Another reason why people refuse heaven is because these people are full of resentment, hatred and unforgiveness. They are unable to love, forgive, reconcile, have compassion and mercy towards others. Heaven is a state of harmonious and loving relationship between others with God. When people are filled with resentment and unforgiveness, they are unable to dwell in a state of harmonious and loving relationship between others with God. Because of this, these people are experiencing hell; and they choose hell because they refuse to love, forgive and reconcile.

What about us? Are we longing for heaven? Or are we refusing heaven? Ultimately, we are given a choice. This choice is for keeps, it is an eternal choice, it is what is called a fundamental option. God does not force us to be with Him; we choose to condemn ourselves by refusing His love, forgiveness, care and providence. We condemn ourselves when we stubbornly choose to remain as we are, thinking only about ourselves and refusing to love, forgive and be reconciled with others. Let us consider carefully the consequences of our choice for there is no turning back.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Housekeeping - Week 27 Year 2

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

5 Oct 2014 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
6 Oct 2014 - Monday of Week 27 Year 2
7 Oct 2014 - Our Lady of the Rosary, Memorial
8 Oct 2014 - Wednesday of Week 27 Year 2
9 Oct 2014 - Thurssday of Week 27 Year 2
10 Oct 2014 - Friday of Week 27 Year 2

Friday of Week 27 Year 2

When people are jealous or envious of another person's abilities, talents or achievements, some may begin to find ways and means to belittle the other person or put the other person down. Sometimes a person may go to the extend of committing character assassination on another person just to eliminate what they perceive is a threat to their prestige, power or position. There have also been cases of people actually going to the extend of committing murder. Pride could lead some people to committing hideous sins just to protect their interests or status.

In today's Gospel, we see how some of the people were jealous when Jesus had cast out a devil, and they tried to belittle Jesus by saying "It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils." Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven. By trying to belittle Jesus, these people were actually making a fool of themselves. They were talking rubbish or nonsense, as their jealousy had clouded their minds and made them unable to think or argue logically or sensibly. Moreover, Jesus began to "go to town" giving these people a good lecture or reprimand for making such silly comments or accusations.

What about us? Have we been quite jealous of other people, that we may have made similar comments? Have we allowed pride to take control of us? Let us be cautious and not allow ourselves to be consumed with jealousy and pride, as these would only lead us to our ruin. Let us learn to be humble and thankful for our gifts, abilities and talents, as well as the gifts, abilities and talents of others. God made each and every one of us unique and special in different ways. Why should we be jealous and proud?

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Thursday of Week 27 Year 2

Nowadays we tend to expect things to be done quite quickly. For example, we have instant coffee, instant tea, instant milo, or instant noodles. We also have ATM machines which enable us to withdraw money without having to wait for too long. We have machines to deposit money or a cheque, which also enables us to do our banking transactions quite easily. The internet too has made it easy for us to get instant news or latest updates of certain issues.

However, there are things in this world which are not so instant. For instance, when we pray and ask God for something, we do not always get our prayers answered instantly. Sometimes our prayers get answered much later, sometimes not at all. When our prayers do not get answered, what do we do? Some may begin to feel that God does not care and they give up or despair. Some may turn to other sources such as medicine men, witch doctors or fortune tellers, hoping that these other sources could help them, only to find that these other sources do not really help. Some pray to God but in their mind, they are already thinking that God would probably not help them or answer their prayers. But what about us? As Christians, what should be our attitude towards prayer?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us that we should be persistent in our prayer. Sometimes we need to persistently, patiently and repeatedly pray for God's help, and be convinced that God would help us in His time and according to His plan. Have we been praying with sincerity, conviction and for His greater glory?

Wednesday of Week 27 Year 2

When a person does something wrong, how would we respond? Supposing the person is a VIP (Very Important Person) or some high ranking official. Would we be daring or brave enough to tell the person that he or she is wrong (in a brotherly or sisterly manner perhaps)? But what if the person is somebody we happen to meet or know in our community, in our neighbourhood, or perhaps at church. Would we be willing to tell the person that he or she is wrong? Some of us may feel quite reluctant to tell a VIP or some high ranking official that he or she is wrong, but perhaps we may have no qualms to tell other persons of less importance or status. Why is this so? Are we being good examples by being fair and just to all?

In today's reading, we see St. Paul being bold and willing to tell St. Peter off in his face. Even though St. Peter was an apostle and a VIP in those days, St. Paul was impartial in his counsel. St. Peter had done something wrong by suddenly changing his attitude towards eating with pagans, just because a certain group of friends of James arrived. St. Peter may have been unwilling to create tension or issues with those group of friends of James, but his conduct was unbecoming of an apostle, who is supposed to be loving and fair to all, without fear or favour. Because of this, St. Paul gave St. Peter a piece of his mind: he told him off!

What about us? As Christians, we should be fair and loving to all, regardless of status, rank, or importance. We should not discriminate in our praises or criticism. Are we one, united, brothers and sisters in Christ, children of God? Or have we become divisive and selective in our conduct and attitude towards people, imitating the ways of the world instead, when it comes to praises or criticism?

Saturday, 2 August 2014

Our Lady of the Rosary, Memorial

Throughout her life on earth, Mary said yes to God. We read of many instances of Mary saying yes. In today's Gospel, the angel Gabriel brought news that she would become the mother of God, Jesus Christ. Though she knew the consequences of this news, she still said yes. When she went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, she said yes to God's greatness in the Magnificat. At the wedding in Cana, once again we hear of Mary saying yes, by letting God take care of things, when she said: "Do whatever He tells you."

Today, we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary. The rosary and the mysteries we meditate on reminds us of the many yesses that Mary had said to God. When we pray the rosary, we are not praying to Mary, as some may believe. We are praying with Mary, and asking her to pray for us. When we pray the rosary, we are not only reminded of Mary's yesses, but we are also reminded of our own yesses. Have we truly, like Mary, said yes to God? Are we willing to be humble and learn from Him, and depend on His providence and love, just as Mary did?

Monday of Week 27 Year 2

Every once in a while, we come across a preacher who seems to be sharing the Good News quite different from what we have heard. For example, we may heard about some so called preachers who claim that we will receive greater rewards from God if we are more generous in our contributions or love offerings. Some are so easily taken in by such easy access to God's grace and providence, that they are duped into parting with their cash and even property, thinking that they can so conveniently and so easily buy their way to heaven. More often than not, such so called preaching is only meant to enrich the preacher.

In today's reading, St. Paul warns us: "if anyone preaches a version of the Good News different from the one you have already heard, he is to be condemned. So now whom am I trying to please – man, or God? Would you say it is men’s approval I am looking for? If I still wanted that, I should not be what I am – a servant of Christ. The fact is, brothers, and I want you to realise this, the Good News I preached is not a human message that I was given by men, it is something I learnt only through a revelation of Jesus Christ." St. Paul is cautioning us to be vigilant, because many preachers claiming to proclaim the Good News could emerge and give us false teaching. We could notice such preachers in their motives and in their fruits; whether what they are doing is for the glory of God, or for their own glory while lining their pockets. Let us not be so easily taken for a ride, and adhere to true and proper preaching, for the good of our eternal future.

Friday, 1 August 2014

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

As we journey through life, we begin to accumulate a lot of things. Some of us accumulate wealth, property and riches. Some of us accumulate friends and acquaintances. Some of us get married and have children. Some of us accumulate educational and dignitary titles and honours. Some accumulate all sorts of odds and ends which we may not use or need. When we accumulate these things or people, some of us begin to think that we own them. We think that we are entitled to have power and authority over them. We begin to control, manipulate, or jealousy cling on to them, thinking that no one else but we can have them. We become quite possessive towards them.

But do we really own these things and people? Are these things and people our sole property, to be used and possibly abused as we see fit? No. We do not own these things and people, simply because these things and people are only temporary. The tenants in today's Gospel thought that the vineyard belonged to them and they attempted to completely take over the vineyard from the owner by beating up the owner’s servants and ultimately by killing his son. But what the tenants failed to realise is that the vineyard is not theirs, they were merely staying there for a time, and one day they would need to move on.

When we think we possess or own something, or when we think that the thing or person is only for us, we may actually be hurting others in our desire to hold on tightly. For example, some of us have children. Our children are God's gifts and they were given to us "on loan" or "on trust" so that we could learn to care, feed, love and share our faith with them. There will come a time we would need to let go, and let them fly away so that they could live independent and fruitful lives. But when we are so possessive towards our children, we become a stumbling block towards their growth, freedom and happiness. We begin to interfere with almost every aspect of their lives, only to make matters worse and create unnecessary anger, resentment, tension and hurt.

In the same way, when we become possessive towards our husband or wife, we are actually hurting them. We begin to get suspicious of our husband or wife, even for the smallest reason such as having friends. Is it wrong for your husband or wife to have friends? Just because he or she occasionally goes out for a bite or to watch a movie (especially with their friends of the same gender) does not mean he or she is being unfaithful or will leave you. We need to learn to trust and not be so possessive, suspicious or jealous, because we only create further resentment or tension if we behave this way. It is unfortunate that some men resort to violence to control their wives and prevent them from living a decent life. In the same way, it is equally unfortunate that some women begin to get extremely jealous, cautious, suspicious and possessive towards their husbands, to the extend of nagging, throwing tantrums, or even hen-pecking them for the slightest issue.

At church, some of us think that without us, the church would collapse or fall apart, or a particular church ministry would go bust. What we forget is that the church or church ministry does not belong to us. We should remember that we are merely servants and we should treat involvement in church and church ministry as a temporary thing. We should make effort to train and encourage others, especially the younger generation, so that one day they will be able to replace us and continue working for the Lord. It is when we refuse to let go, when we stubbornly insist in holding on to a particular ministry or office, we could be actually stifling the growth of the church. By doing so, we could be building our own kingdom, instead of God's Kingdom.

Ultimately, we need to remember that we are all pilgrims here on earth. Our time on earth is short, and instead of bickering or being possessive towards something or someone, we should be humble and willing to be detached, to let go, to love just as God loves us. We should be reminded, as St. Paul advises us in the second reading: "There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, fill your minds with everything that is true, everything that is noble, everything that is good and pure, everything that we love and honour, and everything that can be thought virtuous or worthy of praise." Let us use our time here on earth wisely to give glory to God in all we do, and be genuine, respectful, loving, forgiving and caring towards all.