Friday, 31 October 2014

4th Sunday of Advent Year B

Many of us like to give and receive gifts. Sometimes the gift could be something big, or something small, or something expensive, or something cheap, or something valuable or precious, or even something useful to us or we think is useful to the person receiving the gift. As we are approaching Christmas, some of us may begin to scurry about frantically looking for different gifts for different people, some of us may begin shopping for new clothing, some of us may even begin stocking up different types of food, fruits, drinks and other delicacies, so that we would be well prepared for the upcoming celebrations. But if we consider for a moment... when we are choosing a gift or purchasing something, are we choosing something that we like and we think that the other person would like as well? Or are we choosing something which the other person really likes?

In the first reading, we come across King David who thought he ought to build a temple to house the ark of the Covenant. Perhaps King David felt guilty that God had done so much for him and he had not done anything or had not done enough in response. Perhaps King David felt uncomfortable and thought that it was improper or not dignified enough for the ark of God to dwell in a tent while he lived in a house of cedar. But instead of gifting God a temple, King David received a greater gift from God. God blessed King David and promised him a dynasty that will last forever, and also make him great in the midst of all nations.

Some of us think that we owe God something in return for the many things God has given us. Some of us may subscribe to a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" mentality, thinking that we can get more blessings or favours from God through our gifts (as though we could bribe God). But God cannot be bribed. Everything we have comes from Him and is actually a gift from Him to us. God chooses to give us many gifts, and we must learn to receive and accept from God whatever he wishes to give us. This is an attitude or quality which Mary displayed in the Gospel. She had nothing to give God, for she had no power, no possession; nothing. And yet, God chose her as the mother of His Son Jesus. God blessed her with such a gift because Mary was willing to receive and accept God's gift; she was willing and humble enough to listen to God's will when she said: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me."

When we gift something to others, we are in control, since we decide what we give. On the other hand, when we receive something, we have no power or control over what we receive. When God gives us something, we cannot dictate what we want to receive from Him; God chooses what is best for us, and we can decide to accept or reject the gift. For some, not having control over the gift which we may receive could be a scary situation. But why should we be afraid? Are we not confident or trusting enough in God's choice? Let us be willing and humble enough to let God take control of our lives and receive the many blessings and gifts He bestows on us.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Housekeeping - 3rd Week of Advent

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

14 December 2014 - 3rd Sunday of Advent Year B
15 December 2014 - Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent
16 December 2014 - Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent
17 December 2014 - 17 December - Season of Advent
18 December 2014 - 18 December - Season of Advent
19 December 2014 - 19 December - Season of Advent

19 December - Season of Advent

For some couples, a pregnancy is a joyful and hopeful experience. People enthusiastically and excitedly begin to make plans and preparations to welcome a new member of the family. Some people begin to make changes to their life style, hoping that their efforts would enable their newborn to be healthy and grow well. Advances in medicine have improved the mortality rate of foetuses and infants and the journey from pregnancy to birth has become less difficult or stressful for many.

However, not all couples are fortunate. Some, for some reason or another, have been found to be infertile. The word used in today's reading and Gospel is "barren." Nowadays, being barren in many societies is no longer a stigma or issue. People in these societies have moved on in their thinking and adoption is a possible and acceptable alternative. However, there are still some societies that view being barren as a great embarrasment or a punishment from the divine. Being barren in such societies was seen as grounds for a divorce (such societies usually put the blame on the woman), and in some cases, the woman was badly treated, shunned or became a source of ridicule and gossip. In some situations, to protect the family honour or to ensure a continuation of the family linage, the woman could be expelled from the house or even from the village; and the man is free and even encouraged to look for another wife.

In today's reading, we come across Manoah and his wife who was barren. In today's Gospel, we also come across Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth who was barren. Even though these couples had suffered much due to being barren; even though they suffered much embarrasment and were a source of gossip and ridicule; they chose to stayed on with each other, bore the burden together, and were faithful to each other. God did not abandon them and gave them a precious gift of two babies, Samson and John the Baptist, who later carried out great deeds for the greater glory of God.

If God can do wonders for these couples and cast away their shame, just imagine what He can do for us today. Let us not feel down or embarrassed but remain faithful and hopeful, knowing that God will help us and not abandon us.

18 December - Season of Advent

We sometimes hear the saying: "Home is where the heart is" and many of us long to be home with our family and loved ones. In many countries where people are dispersed or on the run due to war, disease or some other matter, the longing to be home weighs heavily in their hearts. Even for many of us, when there is a long holiday break or some religious festival, we would take the opportunity to "balik kampung" or "go back home" to enjoy the break with our loved ones. Though we may face long traveling time and horrible traffic jams, the excitement and joy of being with loved ones makes the journey home worth the hassle.

In today's reading, we are told that the Lord would lead His people home to live in their own soil. The reading says: "So, then, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when people will no longer say, “As the Lord lives who brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt!” but, “As the Lord lives who led back and brought home the descendants of the House of Israel out of the land of the North and from all the countries to which he had dispersed them, to live on their own soil."" Just as the Lord led His people home, He is also beckoning us to come home to Him. We are all pilgrims dispersed in different places, but our being here is only temporary, for our true home is to be with the Lord. Are we excited and enthusiastic in our preparations to come home to the Lord? Are we doing our part in preparing to come home, or have we become quite comfortable in this temporary home?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

17 December - Season of Advent

Among the many types and choices of food in Malaysia, one delicacy which is quite popular among the many ethnic groups in Malaysia is rojak. Rojak is a mixture of ingredients with sauce and other condiments or spices similar to salad in the West, but it has quite a different taste and texture compared to what the West considers as salad. Moreover, each ethnic group in Malaysia would have a different form and taste of rojak. The rojak made by the Malay ethnic group is quite different compared to that made by the Chinese or Indian ethnic groups, but regardless of which ethnic group one belongs to, rojak is loved by all (especially if the ingredients in the rojak can be consumed by all without any religious prohibition specific to certain ethnic groups).

In today's Gospel, we see the geneology or ancestry of Jesus. At a glance, we see all sorts of people, some good, some not so good, some rich, some poor, some powerful, some who are peasants, a sort of big bowl of rojak, so to speak. But regardless of who and what sort of person mentioned, one thing is clear: God uses all sorts of people to work wonders and to show His saving love for us. The Gospel reminds us that each and every one of us are like different ingredients or flavours in a rojak bowl (making the rojak yummylicious and shockalingamly tasty), and we have a role to play in God's plan of salvation, no matter how big, small, important or insignificant that role may be. May we be humble, open and willing enough to be mixed in God's rojak bowl, so that we can do our part for His greater glory.

Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Advent

When our parents give us some chores or some task, would we do it willingly, or would we do it grudgingly, or would we pretend to not hear and not do the chore or task? What if God were to give us some chore or task, what would our response be? Sometimes, we come across people who do a task because they expect to gain something out of it. How many of us would do a chore or task without expecting anything in return? How many of us would do a chore or task simply to glorify God?

In today's Gospel, we come across two brothers who were asked by their father to go and work in the vineyard. The first boy was at first reluctant to go, but later chose to go. The second boy perhaps tried to sound good and please his father by saying that he would go, but he may have said it thinking that it would make his father happy with his response, but in his heart, he had no intention whatsoever of going. Which of these two brothers would we identify with?

Ultimately, saying is one thing, but doing is a different matter altogether. Words are easy and cheap but meaningless if no action is taken. Let us consider the words we utter, and be genuine not only in what we say, but also in carrying out what we say for the greater glory of God.

Monday of the 3rd Week of Advent

Every once in a while, we hear of people putting their foot in their mouth by trying to act smart and end up saying something foolish or stupid. When we are so full of ourselves, when we think we know it all, when we look down at others, we may sometimes try to show off our so-called superiority, only to be shot down or humbled, especially when we are cornered with a response which we are unable to counter. Some are even so thick-skinned that even when they have been proven wrong, their minds have been so conditioned to think that they are still right and everyone else is wrong, no matter how silly or absurd their arguments may be.

Today's Gospel gives us an example of some people who have put their foot in their mouth. These people who are known as the chief priests and elders of the people knew very well who Jesus was and also who John the Baptist was, but they were unable and unwilling to admit and change their ways. Instead, they had the gall to ask Jesus: "What authority have you for acting like this? And who gave you this authority?" As a result, Jesus shot back a question to them which left them cornered and unable to answer. They knew what the answer was, since they could still "argue it out this way among themselves", but pride had infested into them and they were stubbornly refusing to admit the truth.

In some cases, we too may have inadvertently put our foot in our mouth, especially when we lack humility and a willingness to admit our mistakes. At the end, we may only cause ourselves to look foolish, and we may even lose our status or credibility. Are we willing and able to walk humbly before our God, and let Him change our lives, our behaviour and our attitudes, or are we still stubborn and adamant in remaining as we are?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent Year B

How much joy is there in our hearts? Are we a joyful people, or have we become so preoccupied with so many things that we have become less and less joyful? Sometimes the way we have lived our lives or the circumstances around us, either through our own doing, or through other factors, could cause us to become weary and our joy may be diminished. But as Christians, how do we remain joyful? How do we continue to radiate joy and hope in the Lord?

Today's readings remind us of the joy we should continuously radiate. From the first reading, we are reminded that "The spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for the Lord has anointed me." When you have the spirit of the Lord, there is no reason to fear, to be anxious, or to be insecure. Instead, we should be joyful, as the reading tells us: "I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me in the garments of salvation, he has wrapped me in the cloak of integrity." Likewise, the second reading echoes the need for us to remain joyful: "Be happy at all times; pray constantly; and for all things give thanks to God, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus." Why should we continue to be joyful? Because, as the reading assures us, "God has called you and he will not fail you."

Our life here is too short to be tainted or saddled with worries or fear. God has assured us of His love and care, if we are willing to open our minds and hearts and let Him take control. Let us hold on to what is good and avoid every form of evil, and let us share the joy God has given us to all.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Housekeeping - 2nd Week of Advent

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

7 December 2014 - 2nd Sunday of Advent Year B
8 December 2014 - The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Solemnity
9 December 2014 - Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Advent
10 December 2014 - Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent
11 December 2014 - Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent
12 December 2014 - Friday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Friday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Growing in relationship with God requires us to be in tune with the will of God. We need to get involved and do our part. Some of us may have thought that we could become closer to God by praying all the time, but we neglect in being loving and charitable to others. On the other hand, some do a lot of charitable deeds, but they do not pray or spend time listening to God's promptings. These people may appear to be good and generous in what they do, but sometimes it may be done for personal gratification and not to glorify God. In other words, we need to learn to dance to God's tune by doing His will, not ours.

In today's Gospel, we read of Jesus commenting that the people of His generation knows how to criticise John the Baptist and Himself, but they wouldn't dance to pipes nor mourn to dirges. They were not wise enough to see that John the Baptist and Jesus were trying to teach them a tune for their salvation. This is because these people wanted to dance to their own tune, instead of dancing to God's tune by doing His will. Some of us may be like that: we want to grow in relationship with God, but we want to do it our way. We try to dance to our own tune and when others don't join in, we criticise them for being stubborn or resistant to change. The problem is, it is actually us who are being stubborn or resistant to change, since we are adamant or insistent that our way is the better way or the only way. Are we willing to let our Lord of the dance guide us and teach us better "dancing techniques" for His glory?

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Some people are quite fearful of different things. Some are fearful of what is going to happen to their future, some are fearful of their health or family situation, some are fearful of being lonely and abandoned, some are even fearful of unnessary things. But as Christians, what should be our attitude towards fear? Should we be fearful in the first place?

In today's reading, we are assured of God's love and care: "I, the Lord, your God, I am holding you by the right hand; I tell you, ‘Do not be afraid, I will help you.’" When we have trust and confidence in God's help and providence, there is no reason to be fearful. God will take care of things in His time. Are we willing to let God be in control and let Him keep us in His loving embrace?

Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Every once in a while, some of us may be suffering from some form of burnout or tiredness, depending on how severe our situation has become. This is why we are constantly advised not to overdo things and not to try to be a hero. We are called to glorify God, but we should also learn to take care of ourselves, not only physically, but also spiritually, so that we can serve the Lord with joy and vigour. There needs to be time for mission, time for rest and relaxation, and even time for updating oneself.

Naturally, we cannot rely only on our own strength to preach the message of the Gospel to others. Today's reading tells us: "The Lord is an everlasting God, he created the boundaries of the earth. He does not grow tired or weary, his understanding is beyond fathoming. He gives strength to the wearied, he strengthens the powerless. Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble, but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire." When we hope in the Lord and depend on Him, we would be able to accomplish many things for His glory. At the same time too, we ought to rest in His care, so that He can heal us and help us grow. Let us make every effort to let God guide our lives and actions, so that in all we do, may He be glorified.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

How many of us actually bother about the small things or the small stuff? Sometimes we hear people tell us, "don't sweat the small stuff," or "look at the bigger picture," or even "think big." When we have plenty, would we still look out for one small item or thing which has been lost? Some of us may not bother and let it be, but others may go hunting high and low for that small item or thing. Somethings, the small item or thing may turn out to be just as precious as the bigger ones.

In today's Gospel, we see a man who chose to go after that one sheep that was lost, even though he had another ninety-nine. For some of us, losing one sheep may not have been a big deal; but for that man, each sheep was extremely precious, and he had no qualms about searching for that lost sheep till it was found. God is very much like that man. The Gospel tells us that "it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost." Even if we have done a lot of bad or nasty things, God is always looking for us and beckoning us to come home with Him. Are we going to stubbornly run away and hide, and choose to remain lost?

The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Solemnity

Do we make it a practice to do the will of God, or are we doing our own will? Sometimes we say we are doing God's will, but in actuality, we are doing our own thing. It seems easier to do things we are comfortable with, and to avoid those things which are less desirable or unpleasant.

In today's readings, we see a contrast between the response of Adam and Eve, and the response of Mother Mary. Adam disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit, and hid in fear and shame. On the other hand, Mary responded to God's promptings and said "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me."

Mary said yes to the angel, knowing fully well of the unknown future ahead of her and trusting that God would take care of things. Sometimes we fear the unknown and we prefer to have some amount of certainty, but how many of us are willing to follow Mary's example and confidently and trustingly say Yes to the many things God bestows on us? Let us look toward Mary as our example and reflect on our own response to God’s call. God invites us to dwell in His loving care, let us fear no more and remain in Him.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

2nd Sunday of Advent Year B

If you were given a choice to drive from one place to another, either by using the old road, or by using the highway, which would you choose? Some of us may not be so keen to use the highway, since the highway may impose hefty toll charges. But supposing the highway had no or minimal toll charges, would you still use the old road? Quite likely more people would use the highway, especially if the highway has more straightened roads which makes it easier and possibly faster to drive, enabling us to arrive at our destination earlier; compared to the old road which could be winding and narrow, making it a difficult and dangerous drive.

The prophet Isaiah in today’s first reading tells us of a highway: “Make a straight highway for our God across the desert. Let every valley be filled in, every mountain and hill be laid low, let every cliff become a plain, and the ridges a valley. ” What sort of highway is the prophet Isaiah talking about? This highway is the highway of our lives. Over the years, our highway may have become bogged down with diversions, winding paths, narrow roads and sharp corners, as we in one way or another have become more and more immersed in the ways of the world and more and more distant from God. Our behaviour, attitudes and way of life may have contributed to the condition of the highway of our lives. Isaiah's call in the first reading is a call for us to make a radical and consistent change to the landscape of the highway of our lives. It is not just a cosmetic change such as repairing potholes or resurfacing the road here and there, but a total change, so that the highway of our lives would be straightened and God would have easier access to us. John the Baptist in today's Gospel echoes this call of Isaiah where he says: "Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight."

When we were baptised, we began a journey of transforming our highway into one which is straight and easily accessible. Our journey requires repentance, a turning away from our sins, and a rejection of our old way of life. We cannot expect others to change for us; we must change ourselves. If we think we are already ok and others are not; if we claim that there is no need for repentance or conversion on our part; then we may begin to think that we are already perfect. If we are perfect, then we do not need God.

Change is difficult, and can be painful; but change is necessary for us to grow closer to God. Let us put aside our stubbornness, our pride, our sinfulness and any obstacles which we may have placed, so that God can straighten us and transform us into something beautiful. Are we willing, humble and docile enough to let God straighten us, so that we would remain in His loving embrace?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Housekeeping - 1st Week of Advent

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

30 November 2014 - 1st Sunday of Advent Year B
1 December 2014 - Monday of the 1st Week of Advent
2 December 2014 - Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent
3 December 2014 - Saint Francis Xavier, Priest - Patron of Missions - Feast
4 December 2014 - Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent
5 December 2014 - Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

How much faith do we really have in God? Some of us say we have faith but at the back of our mind some may be doubting whether God really listens to our prayers or cares for us. Some look for other sources for help, thinking that it is better to have a backup plan, in case they do not get any response from God. Some may have given up on God altogether. What about you? What sort of faith do you have in God? Is your faith a convenient faith, where you pick and choose when to trust in God's providence?

In today's Gospel. two blind men followed Jesus shouting, "Take pity on us, Son of David." These blind men did not just sit around and expect Jesus to heal them, they took effort to follow Jesus till He reached the house. They had total faith that Jesus would heal them and due to their faith in Him, their sight was returned to them. From this Gospel reading, we too can learn from these blind men. Our faith cannot be an armchair or stagnant one. We need to show our faith earnestly, with hope that God would grant our requests. Let us remain in faith in God, for He knows what is best for us and would help and guide us in His time.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

Words can sometimes be empty or useless, if such words are uttered without conviction and action. For example, we can say to our partner, spouse, loved ones or friends "I love you," but if we do not do anything, then we may be guilty of not meaning what we say. Sometimes we come across people who say things just to curry favour others, or just to flatter them, or just to sound good, but these people do not "walk the talk" or in Bahasa Malaysia: "cakap tak serupa bikin" (which is roughly translated as "saying one thing, but doing another (if one is doing anything at all)." Basically, action speaks louder than words.

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: "It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven." Here Jesus is emphasising that one not only needs to listens to these words of His, but also needs to act on them. When we look at our lives, are we merely wasting our words frivolously? Are we people of integrity, meaning what we say? Let us examine ourselves closely and say what we mean, for the betterment of our eternal future.

Saint Francis Xavier, Priest - Patron of Missions - Feast

In most jobs or forms of employment, people expect to receive some form of remuneration, salary, wages or pay. It is unlikely that people would work for free, as generally we need to make a living and survive in this world. Moreover, some people who have achieved a particular position or status in their employment may begin to feel proud of their success and some may begin to demand more benefits, more perks, or even a higher salary. But what about preaching the Good News? Is it a job, or is it something else?

In today's reading, St. Paul tells us that preaching the Good News is a duty which has been laid on him. He adds that he should be punished if he did not preach it, and that it is a responsibility which has been put into his hands. He continues to say that preaching the Good News is offered freely and that he made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and he does this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings. When we look closely at what St. Paul has told us, we can begin to realise that preaching the Good News is a duty, a vocation and ought to be a joyful effort. We do it not for our personal gain or gratification, but for the glory of God.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent

What does it mean to be childish? What does it mean to childlike? To be childish is "to be like a child" or "to be silly and immature." To be childlike, on the other hand, is "to have the good qualities, such as innocence, associated with a child." Some people may think themselves as adults or mature, but in some situations or circumstances, such persons may be quite childish in their attitude or behaviour. Likewise, there are people who have learnt to be humble and dependent on God's providence, being childlike in their relationship with God. What sort of person have you become?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded that there are things which are revealed to mere children and not to the learned or clever. This is not to imply that God is being unfair or discriminating towards the learned or clever. But what is happening here is that there are the learned or clever who have become quite full of themselves, thinking that they know it all. Such persons are unable to listen to the promptings of God, because they are unable to be childlike and depend on God's care and providence. Pride, prejudice and a bloated ego are some obstacles which prevent some of these learned or clever from becoming closer to God.

What about us? Are we making effort to be more childlike in our relationship with God? God is prompting and inviting us to learn from Him. It is up to us to change our attitude and behaviour, nd open ourselves to His care.

Monday of the 1st Week of Advent

Every once in a while, we come across people demonstrating great faith despite facing great odds or great difficulties. Some of these people may be in your neighbourhood or even within your family and relations. When we are facing similar difficulties, problems or dangers, would we have great faith that God would help us?

In today's Gospel, we come across a centurion in Capernaum who came up and pleaded with Jesus to heal his paralysed servant. Romans citizens and Roman officers such as centurions do not normally have anything to do with Jews, especially when it comes to what some may consider an itinerant preacher or rabbi like Jesus. But this centurion not only went to see Jesus, he even pleaded with Him for help. What is even more astonishing is the humility and complete confidence of the centurion in Jesus, so much so that he had full trust that all Jesus needed to do was to issue the order, and his servant would be healed. Such trust, such confidence, such faith this centurion had on Jesus!

What about us? Some of us say we trust and have faith in Jesus, but do we mean what we say or are we going to start looking elsewhere when we are faced with problems, persecution, or difficulties which seem quite unbearable? Let us take after the example of this centurion, and with full faith and confidence let Jesus be our help and guide.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

1st Sunday of Advent Year B

Throughout our lives, we may have been concentrating on building a better life here on earth. As children, we studied hard, hoping to do well in school, in exams and striving to get into a good university. Then we spend much effort earning our Bachelor's degree and perhaps going on to a Master's degree or even a Doctorate. We may then look for work either in academic circles or in the corporate world, hoping to make a decent living and perhaps make a name for ourselves. All these things and efforts are certainly not wrong, since we do need to survive and prosper in this world. However, as we may have noticed, all these things and efforts only refer to life here on earth. As Christians, we believe that there is life after our time here on earth ceases. What would happen to us after we leave this life here on earth? Would we be with God? Would we be away from God?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, "Be on your guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come." What does Jesus mean by "stay awake?" In this season of Advent, we are not only preparing ourselves to celebrate Christmas, we ought to also be preparing ourselves for the eventuality of death where we would meet the Lord, and also for His second coming, which is the end of the world. Death and the second coming of Jesus could be frightening to some, because of the unknown before us. Many passages in scripture have painted us fearful images of death and the second coming of Christ, but todays readings give us a different image.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Lord’s Day as a day of happiness and expectation. The Lord is our redeemer and He “would tear the heavens open and come down.” For those of us who have prepared for death and His second coming, there would be no need to fear, since the Lord would be like a father to us. There would be no need for us to be anxious or frightened, if we have allowed ourselves to be formed by the Lord, as we are the clay and God is the potter. But if we are not prepared, if we have been neglecting our spiritual life and our relationship with God, if we have refused to change our ways, then we would have every reason to fear. We could be awake physically, but asleep spiritually, and we could be caught off guard or unaware or unprepared. In the Gospel, Jesus warns us to "stay awake, because you do not know when the master of the house is coming, evening, midnight, cockcrow, dawn; if he comes unexpectedly, he must not find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake!’

Are we spiritually awake, or are we spiritually in slumber. Over the years, we may have slackened or neglected our spiritual life. The attractions of this world, the choices and priorities we make and our attitudes towards sin, confession, and repentance are some factors which could have contributed to our spiritual slumber. Instead of making excuses; instead of pointing the blame towards others; instead of stubbornly continuing as we are; instead of procrastinating until it is too late; let us ponder the consequences of our actions. Do we want to be joyful and at peace with the Lord? If we do, then let us stay awake, and be prepared and ready at all times.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Housekeeping - Week 34 Year 2

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

23 Nov 2014 - Christ the King Year A
24 Nov 2014 - Monday of Week 34 Year 2
25 Nov 2014 - Tuesday of Week 34 Year 2
26 Nov 2014 - Wednesday of Week 34 Year 2
27 Nov 2014 - Thursday of Week 34 Year 2
28 Nov 2014 - Friday of Week 34 Year 2

Friday of Week 34 Year 2

If God were to call you today to give an account of your life, where would you stand? Would you find yourself in the book of life? Would you be able to be with Him for eternity? What sort of life have you been living up to this point of time?

In today's reading, John had a vision where he "saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of his throne, while the book of life was opened, and other books opened which were the record of what they had done in their lives, by which the dead were judged." John also saw in his vision a burning lake which is the second death "and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was thrown into the burning lake."

While we should not become too paranoid and fearful with the contents of this reading, we should also not neglect our relationship with God. In life, we may have focused much on worldly matters, at the expense of growing closer in relationship with God. Perhaps we should consider what really is important to us, and change our lives for the betterment of our eternal future.

Thursday of Week 34 Year 2

What do you fear most? Some people are afraid of the dark. When they are in a dark place, their imagination starts to run wild and they try to get to a lighted place as quickly as possible. Some people are afraid of thunder and lightning. Some people are afraid of dying, and they go through great lengths in caring for their health, hoping to prolong their lives as much as possible. As Christians, should we be fearful or should we be trusting and hopeful?

In today's Gospel, Jesus paints us a picture of troubles and dangers to come when He says: "There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken." For those who have let fear taken over their lives, such a message may seem like we are doomed. But Jesus did not stop there. He continues: "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand." Instead of being fearful of problems, calamnities and persecution in this world, we should be hopeful and confident that God will protect us and liberate us. Let us continue to remain in His friendship, knowing that with Him by our side, who can be against us.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Wednesday of Week 34 Year 2

Patience and perseverance are two attributes which perhaps some of us need to nurture as we journey through this life. Some of us may have become so used to getting things done quickly, or some may have become so used to getting results instantly, that we may have forgotten the meaning of being patient and to persevere. When we do not achieve or get things done quickly the way some of us are used to, some of us may feel frustrated and some may even give up. But life is not just about doing things quickly, life is not just about instant this or instant that, life is especially about building relationship with God and with others, and building a relationship is never an instant effort. It takes time and dedication to be closer to God and with others.

In today's Gospel, we are reminded that we "will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives." When we are faced with such trials and tribulations, let us strive to be patient and persevere in remaining in good relationship with God, for all these trials and tribulations are only temporary. Are we willing to endure patiently, with perseverance, and joyfully, even to the point of being put to death, for the greater glory of God?

Tuesday of Week 34 Year 2

Does anyone of us know when we will die? Surely not. We do not know exactly when we would die. All we know is that some day, we will die. Many factors could contribute to how long we would be on this earth, but ultimately, only God knows when it would be time for us to leave this life. Likewise, we would not know when the world would end. Sometimes we come across folks who claim to know when the world would end, but we should not be so easily duped by such folks. Some of these folks would use various scare tactics or so called bible passages to sound convincing with the intention to make us give up our wealth and possessions. The irony is, if the world is "really" going to end, shouldn't these folks be preparing themselves spiritually and helping others to prepare themselves spiritually too, instead of fleecing others and then making a run for it? Just as only God knows when we would die, the same principle applies to when the world would end.

This is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon." If we have trust and confidence in God, then there is no reason for us to worry or fret. What is more important is that we make every effort to remain in good relationship with God and with others. Regardless of what happens, God will care for us, if we place our trust in Him and continue to walk in His ways.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Monday of Week 34 Year 2

Some of us say that we trust in God. The question is: do we have full and complete trust, or selective trust, or partial trust? Some of us say we trust in God, but we have doubts whether God would really help us. Some of these people may go to other sources such as mediums, feng shui, bomohs, medicine men, or some other means, thinking that if God does not really help them, they think at least they have a backup plan. But do these other sources really help, or are they merely harming us in one way or another? How many of us are willing to have full and complete trust in God's providence?

In today's Gospel, we see the generosity of the poverty-stricken widow who was willing to put in from the little she had, all she had to live on. Others put in what they could spare, or what was convenient to them, but this poverty-stricken widow had full and complete trust in God's providence and surrendered all that she had.

What about us? How generous are we in giving our time and wealth to God? Are we willing to have full and complete trust in God's providence, and just like the poverty-stricken widow, give all that we have to God? Or have we become more and more concerned about safe-guarding or increasing our wealth and abilities for ourselves, and become more and more calculative towards giving to God and to others? Sometimes we come across people who expect the church to do a lot of things for them, but they refuse or are reluctant or are unwilling to do things for the church, or they do as little as possible. God is generous towards all of us and loves all of us abundantly. Are we willing to be just as generous in return?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Christ the King Year A

What sort of lives have we been living thoughout this year? Have we been living only for ourselves and perhaps for our immediate family members? Or have we been living a life of compassion and love towards our neighbour, especially the poor, the destitude, the needy, etc.? Do we know who is our neighbour? When the Son of Man comes in his glory as mentioned in today's Gospel, would we be among those to whom He says: "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me."?

Our faith cannot be kept under wraps or only for ourselves. Our faith should lead to good works, so that all may see and give praise to God. Jesus is our King, but He is not the sort of king who only cares for himself and for his inner circle, He cares for each and every one of us. He has shown us the kind of faith that we ought to live and we are encouraged to follow His example. We hope that one day, we would hear Him say to us: “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

As we come to the end of this liturgical or church year, let us reflect on how we have been and the kind of life we have lived. Let us also strive to give our all to Jesus, and let Him be our help and guide, so that He, our God may be all in all.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Housekeeping - Week 33 Year 2

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

16 Nov 2014 - 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
17 Nov 2014 - Monday of Week 33 Year 2
18 Nov 2014 - Tuesday of Week 33 Year 2
19 Nov 2014 - Wednesday of Week 33 Year 2
20 Nov 2014 - Thursday of Week 33 Year 2
21 Nov 2014 - Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

There are several words, practices or beliefs in our Christian faith which cannot be explicitly found in the Bible. For example, the word "Trinity" is not specifically mentioned anywhere in the Bible, but Christians still believe that our God is a Trinitarian God or a Trinity. Likewise, the word "Christmas" is not found anywhere in the Bible, but many Christians celebrate Christmas to remind us of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Just because a word is not found in the Bible, does that mean it is not true? No. This is because many of these words, practices or beliefs are what we call "Sacred Tradition" which Christians have accepted from the earliest times.

The Memorial of the presentation of Mary in the Temple is another belief among Catholics which is not found in the Bible but from sources other than the Bible. It is found in an extra-biblical source called the Infancy Narrative of James. According to that text, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne had been childless, but then they received a message from heaven that they would have a child. In thanksgiving, they brought the child Mary to the Temple to consecrate her to the Lord. It is believed that Mary remained in the Temple to be formed and prepared for her role as the Mother of God. This feast shows that even in her childhood Mary was completely dedicated to God. It is from this account that arose the Memorial of Mary's Presentation.

From this Memorial, we are reminded of our presentation, dedication and consecration to God when we were baptised. We were transformed from an old self to a new self, to be God's chosen children. As God's children, our duty is to go forth to preach the Good News and to present our lives as an offering that is pleasing to God. Just as Mary fulfilled her mission to bring Jesus Christ into the world, we too are called, chosen and sent to fulfil our mission in bringing His message into the world. Are we following Mary's example and doing our part earnestly, diligently and joyfully?

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Thursday of Week 33 Year 2

Opportunities come and go. We can choose to seize such opportunities, or we can choose to ignore them and let them go by. Some have become so used to certain ways, habits or behaviours that they are resistant to change. Such people refuse to accept good opportunities to enhance themselves or to change for the better, preferring to remain as status quo. But how long can such people remain as they are? There may come a time they would be replaced or retired, so that new ways and new blood could be introduced. In our faith journey, we may also become stagnant if we refuse to change. God gives us many opportunities to grow closer in relationship with Him, and it is up to us to seize such opportunities, or end up being left behind.

In today's Gospel, Jesus had every reason to shed tears over Jerusalem. The Jews had heard the message of Jesus but His message of peace did not sink into their hearts. The Jews did not heed the signs that God gave them because of their stubbornness and refusal to change. As a result, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and the Jews who attempted to revolt against the Romans were destroyed and crushed. We too may suffer a similar fate, if we procrastinate or remain obstinate in our ways. God is patient and loving to all of us, and He gives us many opportunities to build a deeper and closer relationship with Him. We can choose to walk humbly in His ways, or choose to do things our way. Let us be mindful of the consequences of our actions.

Wednesday of Week 33 Year 2

Eash and every one of us has been given gifts, talents and capabilities which are meant to be put to good use and ultimately to glorify God. Some of us make use of our gifts, talents and capabilities as intended, but there are some who do not do so. Some make all sorts of excuses, saying that they are not good enough, or not skilful enough, or they are too busy with other things to offer their gifts, talents and capabilities at church or at a parish ministry. The point is, do we consider our gifts, talents and capabilities as our own, to be used as we please, and perhaps to glorify ourselves? Or are we using such gifts, talents and capabilities for the greater glory of God?

In today's Gospel, we read of a man of noble birth who gave ten servants one pound each to do business with. Most of the servants used their gifts, talents and capabilities to make more money for their master, and they were amply rewarded. But one servant, knowing fully well what sort of person his master was, still had the gall to hand back the one pound to his master without doing anything to it. Such arrogance and refusal to use his gifts, talents and capabilities for the benefit of his master only led him to be condemned.

What about us? Are we using our gifts, talents and capabilities wisely for the greater glory of God? Or have we become selfish, complacent or arrogant, like that one servant, refusing to use our gifts, talents and capabilities in a righful way? Just as that one servant lost his one pound and was condemned, we too may lose our gifts, talents and capabilities if we are not careful.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Tuesday of Week 33 Year 2

What sort of state or condition are you in today in life? Are you happy, well-off, healthy, feeling peaceful, feeling loved and accepted; or are you feeling destitute, rejected, feeling depressed, struggling to make ends meet? What sort of state is your soul in today in life? Are you consistently making effort to grow closer to God; or have you become lukewarm, paying more attention to what this world has to offer and losing focus in your faith and dependence in God's providence?

In today's reading, the church in Sardis was once eager in faith for God but over time, it became more dead than alive in relationship with God. The reading also speaks of the church in Laodecia which was neither cold or hot in its zeal for God, but instead had become lukewarm in faith. How did these churches end up in such a state? Complacency, lack of focus, falling into the temptations of the world and becoming less humble and dependent on God are some possible reasons why these churches in Sardis and Laodecia had become like this. These churches in Sardis and Laodecia were warned by the Lord to wake up and change their ways and return to the Lord's fold.

What about us? Have we become more dead than alive in our relationship with God? Have we become lukewarm in faith? God is inviting us to repent and turn back to Him, and dwell in His love and presence. Life is unpredictable and short, for we do not know the day or time we would need to face the Lord. We are given many opportunities to let Him guide us and care for us. It is up to us to take the initiative and make effort to change, open the door to our heart and soul, and let Him in.

Monday of Week 33 Year 2

Every once in a while, we are faced with some difficulty or challenges or issues. When we are faced with such things, some of us may expect instant or quick resolution. When such quick resolution is not forthcoming, some may begin to pray earnestly to God, beseeching Him to help them. But what if we still do not get any help or response from God? Some may begin to feel angry or upset, some may think God has abandoned them, some may even give up or despair. But what about us? Are we expecting our issues or challenges to go away as quickly as possible? Or are we able to be patient and persistent in prayer, knowing that God will do what is best for us?

In today's Gospel,  we see how the blind man was patient, persistent and persevering in asking Jesus to have pity on him. Even though the crowds thought he was a nuisance and scolded him, he refused to give up or be cowed by the crowd. Eventually, the blind man was able to come up to Jesus and because of his faith and perseverance, he got back his sight. What about us? Are we able to be like the blind man, being patient, persistent and persevering? In a world where we have become more and more used to fast results, perhaps we could learn from the blind man. We know that God will help us according to His terms and His time. It is a matter of whether we are willing and humble enough to have faith and trust in His providence.

Friday, 3 October 2014

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Each and every one of us have talents and abilities unique to us. No two persons are exactly the same. Some people, unfortunately, go through life without living or realising their full potential. Some people are satisfied with doing only the barest minimum, and they often remark: "Why should we do too much? Why do more when we can get by by doing less?" The point is, God created us to live life to the fullest, not to live only a fraction or a small portion of our lives. If the way we are living is only 5% of what we are capable of, then we are wasting the other 95%. We are often reminded not to waste food, not to waste time frivolously, or not to waste our talents, but perhaps we should also remind ourselves not to waste our lives.

We should always be ready to meet the Lord at any time, and being ready means we should be giving glory to God in all we do. We may not be able to do everything, or get things done well, or achieve all our hopes and aspirations; but what matters is not the amount of things we have done, what matters is we have done our best for the glory of God.

In the first reading, we see the example of a perfect wife as a great example of what it means to be a Christian disciple. A perfect wife knows that “charm is deceitful and beauty empty.” What is important is that she is able to fulfil her roles and responsibilities, bringing “advantage and not hurt to her husband all the days of her life.” The perfect wife reminds us that we are made for the glory of God and not to bring hurt to Him or to others. Likewise, the gospel tells us the story of three servants who received different amount of talents from their master. The amount that they received is not important, as what matters is how they used what they received to benefit their master. Sometimes we may feel that we are receiving less than others and we may feel this is unfair. Why are we receiving less? We do not know, no one except God knows, but we ought to know that the more we receive, the more is expected of us. Whatever we receive ought to be used for the good of others and for the glory of God. If we just whine or complain that we do not have enough, if we do not bother to do anything with the little that we have, then even what we have will be taken away.

Are we making the best use of our lives? Are we living life to the fullest? Or are we living a life of mediocrity, thinking that we are not good, not capable, not talented, when the fact is we actually are? Remember that God has given us talents and gifts not for our personal gratification or to exalt ourselves (in Malay, not to "syiok sendiri"); God has given us talents and gifts for His greater glory. Let us not hesitate or procrastinate in our efforts to live life to the fullest or the best we can, since as St. Paul in the second reading reminds us: "But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober."