Sunday, 30 November 2014

Tuesday of Week 4 Year 1

Each day, we are faced with all sorts of trials, tribulations and challenges in life. Some of us would trudge on and do the best we can, while there are some who would find life quite unbearable and may resort to substances or other ways to ease the pain. Some may even give up and despair, thinking that there is little hope in going on. However, as Christians, we should have faith and confidence in God. We know that God would help us according to His terms, and we are reminded to continue to trust in His love and providence.

Today's reading reinforces our need to depend on the Lord for help. The reading encourages us by stating: "With so many witnesses in a great cloud on every side of us, we too, then, should throw off everything that hinders us, especially the sin that clings so easily, and keep running steadily in the race we have started. Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection..." The saints hsve gone through much persecution during their lifetime but they persevered till the end. We ought to follow their example "and keep running steadily in the race we have started." Also, we are not in this journey alone, for we have Jesus to guide us and transform us into something better. Are we willing to be humble before God and walk in His ways, knowing that He will save us and lead us to Him?

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Presentation of the Lord

Malaysia is a melting-pot of different ethnic groups. Even within some ethnic groups, there is a further breakdown according to language dialect and place of origin. For example, among the Chinese, we have different language dialects which are spoken such as Hokkien, Hakka, Teochew and Cantonese, though the written word among these dialects is about the same. Even among people who for example call themselves Hokkien or Hakka, there are differences in traditions, customs and practices which have been passed down from one generation to the next and many Chinese children would have been taught from a young age on how to observe and keep alive such traditions, customs and practices.

The Gospel today also tells us about keeping traditions, and in this case, Jewish traditions. Mary and Joseph kept the traditions of the Law of the Lord. They took Jesus up to Jerusalem to consecrate Jesus to the Lord since He was their firstborn, and also for the purpose of purification. By doing so, we are then introduced to Simeon and Anna, who had waited long until they finally set eyes on the Christ of the Lord, the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

We too have an obligation to keep the tradition of the Law of the Lord. In our case, that tradition is the Sunday Mass. Keeping our tradition by coming for Mass every Sunday may not be always exciting and inspiring, but it is necessary and beneficial for us, as we are being nourished both physically and spiritually by the Eucharist. Are we willing to be faithful and consistent in keeping our tradition of the Law of the Lord, so that we could grow closer to Him and He could nourish and care for us?

Friday, 28 November 2014

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

In ancient times, we read of emperors and kings who claim to have a mandate or the authority from heaven to rule their subjects. Some of these emperors and kings even believed that they were actually divine, or that they were descendents of the divine (even if they believed they were somewhat divine was good enough for them), or that they had received a divine message or confirmation to support their right and privileges as a ruler. Few people questioned whether these emperors and kings were genuine in their claims, but in hindsight, we could discover that such claims are questionable.

But what do we mean when we speak of authority? When we speak about authority, we are talking about the power a person has received, usually through a voting process, though at times, such powers could have been seized with the support of the military or through some other means. Such persons would then have the power to determine the actions of another person or a group of people. Society creates laws to protect its citizen and then gives authority to certain people such as the police or in some cases the military to enforce these laws. In general, authority is intimately connected with its source and such authority is temporary and subject to review and possible change or even to be discarded when it no longer serves its purpose.

However, today's Gospel tells us of a different kind of authority. Such authority comes from God, since we believe Jesus is the Son of God. In today’s Gospel, the people were amazed because they had never experienced someone speaking with such authority. This authority would never be removed from Jesus because Jesus was intimately united to His Father, the source of the authority. Likewise, we share in the authority of the Lord if we are united to the source of this authority. God can remove this authority if we refuse to stay intimately united to him. God has entrusted us with his authority only to the extent that we allow him into our lives. This is why, in today's reading, we are warned: "The man who does not listen to my words that he speaks in my name, shall be held answerable to me for it. But the prophet who presumes to say in my name a thing I have not commanded him to say, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die." In other words, we should not play play with the authority God has given us, for such authority is not meant for our personal gratification or benefit, but to do His will and to glorify His name.

Today, as we look back at our history, we are reminded of the many instances where authority has been misused or abused. We are also reminded of the many examples of proper use of authority. Have we who have been given authority, either from sources on earth, or from the divine, used such authority wisely and justly for the benefit of all and for the greater glory of God?

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Housekeeping - Week 3 Year 1

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

25 January 2015 - 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
26 January 2015 - SS. Timothy & Titus, Bishops - Memorial
27 January 2015 - Tuesday of Week 3 Year1
28 January 2015 - Wednesday of Week 3 Year1
29 January 2015 - Thursday of Week 3 Year1
30 January 2015 - Friday of Week 3 Year 1

SS. Timothy & Titus, Bishops - Memorial

What does it mean to be a Christian? Are we only Christians in name, or do we consider being a Christian to be more than just a title? In the past, there have been people who became Christians because it was beneficial or advantageous for them to do so. For example, in some places, a person who became a Christian could get better education or a better position or status. It was "fashionable" as some may say, to be a Christian. But is Christianity merely a tool or a convenience for some of us to use and take advantage of?

As Christians, Jesus has commissioned us to go forth and proclaim the Good News. This is not merely a request, but a command, an order, a duty. We should not be shy or timid in fulfilling our duty, as St. Paul in today's reading reminds us: "That is why I am reminding you now to fan into a flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you. God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy." Moreover, today's Gospel reminds us about the urgency and importance in preaching the Good News. The Gospel tells us: "Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you."

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we all fired up, full of energy and gusto to go forth and preach the Good News? Or have we become complacent and fearful of ruffling feathers or rocking the boat? Do we not value our faith and consider it so exciting and so important that it must be shared with others, or do we think that only certain people such as clergy and religious are meant to preach the Good News? No! All of us are called, chosen and sent forth, not just a select few. We may not be able to go everywhere to preach the Good News, but we can do so with conviction within our family, our friends, and even our community. Let us not slacken or become "domesticated" in our faith, but fulfil our destiny in bringing Jesus' message to all.

Friday of Week 3 Year 1

Whenever we face troubles or persecution because of our faith, some of us may be tempted to give up or give in. The lures and temptations of riches, wealth, status and power are certainly a challenge for us to keep at bay. But we need to truthfully ask ourselves: are we looking for temporary gratification here on earth, or do we seek that which is eternal? Our persecutors could use all sorts of dirty tricks, ways and means to try and make us fall, but are we willing to be steadfast, firm and hold on to our faith at all costs?

Today's reading gives us some words of encouragement to hold on and persevere: "Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised. Only a little while now, a very little while, and the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay. The righteous man will live by faith, but if he draws back, my soul will take no pleasure in him. You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved." If we believe in the promises of Jesus, we should not waver or cheapen ourselves into submitting to what this world can offer, but fight on and be on our guard against all forms of temptation, knowing that what we would gain in the end is far more precious and valuable than what we could ever attain in this temporary life.

Thursday of Week 3 Year 1

Owning a vehicle such as a car or a motorcycle is a great timesaver and a great convenience for many of us. With such a vehicle, we could go to different places quickly and safely. Also, we could go to places where there may not be any public transport easily or cheaply available. However, owning such a vehicle also means we need to maintain it regularly. It is no point owning such a vehicle, only for it to breakdown or be rendered unusable, due to our neglect in sending it for proper repairs and maintenance. We are responsible for the upkeep of the vehicle, if we want to continue using it.

In the same way, we are also responsible for the upkeep of our faith and relationship with God. We cannot call ourselves Christians and do nothing, thinking we could just sit idle and care only for ourselves. The reading today reminds us of the need for us to be together in faith as a community in communion with God: "let us be sincere in heart and filled with faith, our minds sprinkled and free from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is faithful. Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works. Do not stay away from the meetings of the community, as some do, but encourage each other to go; the more so as you see the Day drawing near." Also, we are reminded in today's Gospel that we need to do our part in faith, and be generous and diligent in our conduct and efforts. The Gospel tells us: "Take notice of what you are hearing. The amount you measure out is the amount you will be given – and more besides; for the man who has will be given more; from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away."

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we doing proper repairs and maintenance to our lives as Christians, just as a vehicle requires proper repairs and maintenance? Or have we become complacent and lazy? Let us do what is necessary to avoid a "breakdown" in our faith and in our relationship with our loving God.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Wednesday of Week 3 Year 1

Some of us often like to think of ourselves as good Christians. Some think that we are good because we have been regular in coming for Mass and other church activities. Others think that we are good because we have been generous with our contributions. But if we consider for a moment, how many of us truly have the Word of God embedded in our hearts and minds? Do we listen to God's Word and then transform it into action? Or do we just hear God's Word and then carry on doing things in our own merry way? Some of us may think that so long as we are not doing something bad or hurting others, we should be okay. But is that really the case?

In today's Gospel, we read about the parable of the sower. If we ponder a while, we may begin to realise what sort of Christian we have become. We may appear to be good Christians, but God's Word may have gotten lost in our lives, or as some may say, "gotten lost in translation." How many of us could truly and sincerely say that we come under the category of "those who have received the seed in rich soil: they hear the word and accept it and yield a harvest, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." Let us not despair or give up should we discover that we have not really measured up to arrive in this category. Instead, let us be more diligent and double our efforts, so that God's Word could truly live in us and transform us into the best He wants us to be.

Tuesday of Week 3 Year 1

Some people try to take credit for the success of others. For example, we have heard of people who say: "I discovered that person and brought him or her to where he or she is today." But these people fail to realise that the success of the person is not necessarily dependent on them, but it is because the person had worked hard, or had used his or her God-given talents and abilities to become where he or she is. We sometimes also come across parents or family members who begin to think that they have an exclusive right or access to a person, using blood-relationship as an excuse to gain preference or favours from the person. But what did Jesus say today which shattered such attitude?

In today's Gospel, Jesus teaches us that relationship with Him is not confined to family alone or even to mere words we utter. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us: "'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking round at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.'" If we claim to relate to Jesus, then our relationship should be one of action, that is to do the will of God. It is not enough to just say that we know Jesus or we are related to Him, even when it comes to blood-relationship. What is more important is that through our actions in doing God's will, others may be inspired to do the same for the greater glory of God.

Monday of Week 3 Year 1

Have you ever been jealous of someone? Some of us may have experienced some form of jealousy in life, but have you ever experienced immense jealously towards another person? When we experience immense jealousy, some may begin to find ways and means to get the better of the other person, or some may find ways and means to put the other person down, or some may even go to the extend of committing heinous acts to appease oneself. Some have been known to become insane with jealousy, and only after a grave or despicable act has been committed, that the person may come to realise one's folly or the person may try to cover one's tracks, hoping that what they have committed would not be exposed or brought to light.

In today's Gospel, the scribes who had come down from Jerusalem had such immense jealousy, that they began to talk nonsense when they said about Jesus: "'Beelzebul is in him' and, 'It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.'" Jesus really went to town with these scribes and made fun of them, saying: "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him." These scribes show us how unwise we could become when we are immensely jealous, even to the point of uttering contradicting statements. May we be on our guard against such immense jealousy, and always remember that in all we do, we are to glorify God..

Sunday, 23 November 2014

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Life here on earth is quite unpredictable. Today we may seem healthy and content, but we do not know what could happen tomorrow. Many of us may be quite uncomfortable to talk about death, and there are some who consider it a taboo topic. However, the fact of the matter is, all of us will die one day. It does not matter whether we are young or old, sick or healthy, death can come at any time. This is why we are always reminded that life is short and we should set our priorities right. We should not be spending too much time in less important things, while disregarding or procrastinating on the more important ones, the ones that really matter.

This is what the readings today are trying to remind us. In today's Gospel, Jesus begins His message of Good News by telling us: "The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News." Jesus is telling us that now is the time to change our ways, to make God our priority, to let God take control of our lives. We cannot wait till tomorrow, or next month, or even next year; we must decide now, because tomorrow may never come. The Ninevites in today's first reading got the idea of how urgent it was to change their ways. They did not wait or waste time, instead, "the people of Nineveh believed in God; they proclaimed a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least." As a result, "God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour. And God relented: He did not inflict on them the disaster which He had threatened." Even St. Paul in today's second reading cautions us with the same message: "Brothers: our time is growing short. Those who have wives should live as though they had none, and those who mourn should live as though they had nothing to mourn for; those who are enjoying life should live as though there were nothing to laugh about; those whose life is buying things should live as though they had nothing of their own; and those who have to deal with the world should not become engrossed in it. I say this because the world as we know it is passing away."

Some of us may be wondering why we are talking about death and repentance at the beginning of the year. Some may think that we are being too pessimistic or too cautious, and that we should continue living life to the fullest. But the point is: death can come suddenly, and all our plans for the year, no matter how grand or wonderful they may be, will no longer matter. What matters is our relationship with God. Is our relationship with God healthy? Have we let God be the master of our lives? If the answer is still "no," then we need to do something about it. We need to seize every opportunity to grow closer to God, and repent and believe in His Good News. Why wait till it's too late?

We call ourselves Christians, but are we prepared to follow Christ completely, with no ifs or buts, no terms or conditions? Are we willing to change our ways and let God take control? Are we prepared to "leave our nets and follow him”? Saying that we are willing to do so is easy, but what we say could be merely words, empty words. Let us make the decision today, and let God reign in our hearts.

Housekeeping - Week 2 Year 1

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

18 January 2015 - 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
19 January 2015 - Monday of Week 2 Year1
20 January 2015 - Tuesday of Week 2 Year1
21 January 2015 - Wednesday of Week 2 Year1
22 January 2015 - Thursday of Week 2 Year1
23 January 2015 - Friday of Week 2 Year 1

Friday of Week 2 Year 1

When we are involved in a church ministry, we may sometimes wonder why a particular person is chosen to be the leader. Sometimes the leader was voted in, sometimes the leader could have taken it upon himself or herself to be the leader, sometimes the leader was appointed by the parish priest, but whatever the circumstances is, the persons in leadership are supposed to be leaders for a purpose and not for show or for their personal gratification.

The 12 appointed by Jesus in today's Gospel too had a purpose and perhaps we could learn how Jesus appointed them. From the Gospel, we read that:
  1. Jesus summoned those he wanted.
    • He did not call just anybody, but those He wanted.
  2. They came to him and he appointed twelve.
    • Notice that they came to Jesus and not Jesus going looking for them. This shows that there is a primary authority to be approached and that primary authority is Jesus.
    • Notice also that Jesus appointed them, and not they voting who would be chosen, or taking the appointment upon themselves.
  3. They were to be his companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils.
    • These are the purposes of their appointment: to be his companions, to be sent out to preach, and to cast out devils.
Let us examine our involvement in church today and how we have been appointing leaders. Have we been appointing leaders because we like them, or because they are popular, or because we just want to get the task done and over with? Remember that leaders are there not to lord it over others, but to serve others for the greater glory of God.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Thursday of Week 2 Year 1

Many of us turn to Jesus for so many reasons. We seek Him for help, for things, for wants or needs to be granted, for comfort, for advice, for so many different reasons indeed. In our zeal to ask Jesus for this or that, we may inadvertently fall into a consumerism mentality. We may begin to behave as if Jesus is like some sort of vending machine or like Santa Claus, where we constantly seek Him and pester Him to give us what we want or need.

Whatever Jesus may grant us, many of us may ask for more and more, and we may even almost crush Him in order to get what we want from Him. As we read in today's Gospel, Jesus even had to get onto a boat to keep Himself from being crushed, so that He could continue to heal the people. But some questions we need to ask ourselves are: Are we grateful and thankful to Jesus for the things He has done for us? Or have we become accustomed in expecting Jesus to grant all of our desires, and when He has not yet done so, we begin to throw a tantrum, complain, get angry, pout or go elsewhere for help? What have we done for Jesus in return?

Today's reading reminds us that "the power of Jesus to save is utterly certain, since he is living for ever to intercede for all who come to God through him." While Jesus is there for us to care for us and to save us from our sins, perhaps we should take an honest look at ourselves: How are we bringing Jesus' message of love and compassion to others? What are we willing to give up and offer to Him as a loving sacrifice?

Wednesday of Week 2 Year 1

Sometimes we come across certain people who have become so hardened and set with their way of thinking or their way of doing things, so much so that everything else is irrelevant or a threat to them. Such people have perhaps allowed pride and arrogance to take control of their lives, and we may not be able change their hearts and minds so easily. When faced with such persons, how would you respond? How should a Christian respond to such persons?

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus continuously facing such people among the Pharisees. Even though He knew that they were so obstinate and so determined to kill Him or destroy Him in one way or another, He did not give up on them. Instead, He tried to show them what ought to be the right thing to do when He said: "Is it against the law on the sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?" Even then, the Pharisees proved to be really hard nuts to crack, and they were still determined to get rid of Jesus. But Jesus kept on finding ways and means to try and help them, and we see some examples of Pharisees such as Nicodemus who did change, though in secret.

If we are facing such people today, let us not so easily give up and give in. We cannot change everybody or everything, but whatever we are able to do, we do it for the greater glory of God. Ultimately, we offer such persons to God. God can do wonders in His time, so let us be steadfast and consistent in our prayer and efforts, and let God take care of the rest.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tuesday of Week 2 Year 1

When one plans to compete in a marathon, one would make effort to eat well, exercise regularly, have enough rest and make other necessary changes to one's lifestyle so that the marathon could be completed successfully. For some, it does not matter what position one achieves, since it is the completion that matters. For others, they would try to win a medal or a prize. But whatever one's motivation is to participate in the marathon, perseverance and persistence is needed.

The same principle applies when preaching the Good News and serving others. We need to be prepared, persevere and be persistent in our efforts, for what we are doing is not for our own selves, but for the glory of God. There are times where our efforts seem to be not as fruitful as we wanted, but what matters is not how effective or efficient we have been, what matters is how earnest and diligent we are in performing our tasks. As today's reading reminds us: "God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done, the love that you have for his name or the services you have done, and are still doing, for the saints. Our one desire is that every one of you should go on showing the same earnestness to the end, to the perfect fulfilment of our hopes, never growing careless, but imitating those who have the faith and the perseverance to inherit the promises." We cannot do everything and we cannot change everyone, but let us not grow careless or complacent in our efforts, but be faithful and consistent, for the rewards are certainly out of this world.

Monday of Week 2 Year 1

As children, we were often taught and reminded to obey our parents, our teachers and other persons in authority. We knew the consequences of not obeying and most of us would do our best to toe the line or to be in our best behaviour. But as we grew older, some of us may have become rebellious in one way or another. Some of us think that we know it all, or that we can take care of ourselves, but by doing so, some of us may end up in greater trouble.

Perhaps an excellent example of obedience can be found in today's reading concerning Jesus. The reading tells us: "During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation and was acclaimed by God with the title of high priest of the order of Melchizedek." Jesus showed us what it means to obey and submit to God, and by doing so, He became a source of eternal salvation to all of us. It is actually liberating and advantageous to obey, since by being docile and humble enough to hear and obey God's voice, we have no reason and no need to fear, for God will be our providence and guide. Let us offer ourselves in obedience to God, so that we can be like new wine in new skins, and be His witnesses to all.

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Have you ever wondered why you are here on earth? What is your purpose? Who are you, really? What are you to become? Sometimes we go through life without thinking much about such questions, but there comes a time where we would need to take stock of where we came from, where we are now, and where we are going. Life here on earth is short, and it is good for us to be firmly rooted in knowing our purpose and to live life to the fullest.

When we ask such questions about our lives, some of us may begin to think that it is all about doing and doing as much as possible. But Christianity is not just about doing, what is more important is our identity; who we are, so to speak. Therefore, our actions or what we do ought to flow from who we are. And who are we? Today's second reading gives us the answer: "Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property; you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God." We are, as the reading reminds us, not our own property, for we belong to God.

If we realise who we are, then we can begin to understand that Jesus in today's Gospel was not asking the two disciples what they wanted materially. Instead, He is asking them, and He is asking us too: What do you want to become? Jesus was trying to challenge these first disciples, and us too, to look deeper into our lives and to ask ourselves: Who am I? What is my purpose in this life? What does God want me to become? Thus, we must learn to listen carefully to God's voice while we pray. We must learn to discern His voice and distinguish His voice from others. We must learn to listen the way Samuel in today's first reading listened and say, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening."

Today, Jesus is inviting us to become His followers. Jesus is inviting us to "come and see", to journey with him, to discover His plan for us, to shoulder His yoke and learn from Him. Let us open our hearts and minds, so that Jesus could transform us and use us for the greater glory of God.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Housekeeping - Baptism of the Lord & Week 1 Year 1

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

11 January 2015 - Baptism of the Lord
12 January 2015 - Monday of Week 1 Year 1
13 January 2015 - Tuesday of Week 1 Year 1
14 January 2015 - Wednesday of Week 1 Year 1
15 January 2015 - Thursday of Week 1 Year 1
16 January 2015 - Friday of Week 1 Year 1

Friday of Week 1 Year 1

Nowadays, disabilities, diseases and illnesses are usually attributed to some sort of genetic matter, or due to viruses, bacteria or some other cause. Advances in medicine and other forms of therapy and healing have enabled us to reduce or even remove the effects of some of these disabilities, diseases and illnesses. However, in ancient times, disabilities, diseases and illnesses were often connected with sin, be it personal sin or the sin of an earlier generation. This could lead those afflicted with such disabilities, diseases and illnesses to dwell in their own guilt and unforgiveness. They could not forgive themselves for being in the situation they are in, and in some cases, they could not forgive their parents or ancestors who may have sinned and caused them to be in such a state.

The paralytic man in today's Gospel could have been experiencing these feelings and thoughts. This is why Jesus said to him: "My child, your sins are forgiven." To hear such words from Jesus would have been uplifting and gratifying for the paralytic man. What Jesus was doing was basically to help the paralytic man be released from his mindset where disabilities, diseases and illnesses were thought to be a result of sin; and at the same time to heal the man. However, those around Jesus were still stuck in such a mindset and that is why they thought to themselves, "How can this man talk like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God?" But what did Jesus do? He challenged all around Him to open their minds and hearts and be free from such pre-conceived thoughts, and proved to them that He had the authority not only to forgive sins, but also to heal the man completely. What an experience these people had! They were so astounded and taken aback with what they witnessed, and praised God saying, "We have never seen anything like this."

What about us? Are some of us having such a mindset, especially when it seems as if modern medicine does not seem to be helping? Are we still dwelling in our feelings and thoughts of worthlessness, anger, fear or even despair. Let us be reminded that just as Jesus healed the paralytic man, He can heal us too. Are we willing to be humble and patient and put our trust and confidence in Him, knowing that He would do what is best for us?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Thursday of Week 1 Year 1

It is unfortunate and tragic when we come across people who decide to abandon their faith and belief in God over some matter or situation. But that is what could possibly happen, especially when a person has become so engrossed in the ways of the world and begin to think that they are self-sufficient, self-made and can do without God. This is something which we, as a Christian community should watch out for, as we shall see in today's reading.

In today's reading, we are cautioned: "Take care, brothers, that there is not in any one of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God. Every day, as long as this ‘today’ lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin, because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end." When a person seems to be doing well or having it good in life, the person may be tempted to enjoy life and seek out more ways and means to remain as they are, and they may forget themselves, forget others, and may ultimately even forget God.

Let us not forget that our life here on earth is only temporary, and we are merely pilgrims. What we enjoy is also temporary and when the fun ends, we will never be satisfied and become restless, until we find satisfaction and rest, as St. Augustine reminds us, in the Lord.

Wednesday of Week 1 Year 1

Every once in a while, we hear of priests or religious being transferred from one community to another or from one parish to another or even from one role to another. There are many reasons why priests or religious are transferred, and one reason can be found in today's Gospel.

In the Gospel, we read: "In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils."

Jesus could have easily decided to settle down in one place, make Himself comfortable, and carry out His mission there. But as we can see from the Gospel, His mission was not only for one place indefinitely; He also went to other places to preach and cast out devils. By doing so, Jesus set an example for us to follow. Some of us may have become too used to a place, and we should be enthusiastic to go forth and preach the Good News, not stay put and take things easy or for granted. If some day we are asked to move on, let us humbly and joyfully do so, for the greater glory of God.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tuesday of Week 1 Year 1

What does it mean to have authority? The word "authority" can be used to mean power given by the state (in the form of government, judges, police officers, etc.) or by academic knowledge of an area (someone can be an authority on a subject). However, these forms of authority do not last forever and do not always command the respect and voluntary obedience of others. Also, we have seen many instances of people who have been granted such authority turning out to be arrogant, conceited, corrupted or misusing their position for their own purposes. These people may have so called political or intellectual authority, but they may not necessarily have moral or spiritual authority.

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus whose "teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority." Also, the Gospel tells us: "The people were so astonished that they started asking each other what it all meant. 'Here is a teaching that is new' they said 'and with authority behind it: he gives orders even to unclean spirits and they obey him.'" How was Jesus different from the scribes, and what sort of authority did He hold? Jesus was different because He had moral and spiritual authority, as He was one with the Father. Jesus shows us that His authority stems from the fact that what He is teaching and doing is not for His own personal gratification or benefit, but for the greater glory of God. Jesus is inviting us to follow His example and grow in our moral and spiritual authority by maintaining a good relationship with God. Are we willing to nurture this form of authority, or are we still wandering around seeking for temporary authority?

Monday of Week 1 Year 1

What sort of leader do we look for in church? Some of us look for a leader who can speak well or have good eloquence or has as some may say, the gift of the gab. Some of us may look for someone who could be a good organiser or a capable peacemaker. Some of us may look for someone who is charismatic and able to rile up the crowd into action. But how did Jesus choose leaders? Did he look for leaders the way some of us do?

In today's Gospel, Jesus simply saw and called out to Simon and his brother Andrew, as well as James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Jesus did not make any grand or elaborate speech about following Him, but merely said: "Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men." We do not have much details about whether these men had previously encountered Jesus, since the Gospel does not tell us everything, but Jesus must have been quite an extraordinary person in the minds and hearts of these men to enable them to just leave everything and follow Him.

An interesting observation we could gather from today's Gospel is this: When other leaders rein in their supporters, they are actually gathering supporters and followers for their own benefit. They call on people to follow them so that they would have the support or clout to accomplish their goals. But what we see here in Jesus is different. He called these men to follow Him so that He could form them and make them into fishers of men. By doing so, Jesus was preparing these men not for his own political or personal benefit, but for mission for the greater glory of God.

As Christians, some of us may be called into certain leadership positions in church. Let us follow the example of Jesus, and help our fellow brothers and sisters to become fishers of men, so that we as a people of God could grow in relationship with Him and help others do the same.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Baptism of the Lord

There are many things in life which some of us long for. Some of us long for sufficient wealth, some long for job or financial security, some long for titles and recognition, some long for a good family (especially a good and loving husband or wife), some long for good health and being free from major illnesses, some even long for a better quality of life. But among all these things we may long for, the one thing which perhaps we long for the most is happiness. Some of us try to gain happiness in one of the many ways and things we long for, only to find that these do not really grant us happiness, since happiness is not something we can buy or achieve.

Happiness, as today's readings show us, is a precious gift from God. In the first reading, Isaiah tells us: "Why spend money on what is not bread, your wages on what fails to satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy. Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live." When we accept God's gift of happiness, come to Him and listen to Him, we will be cared for and be satisfied. This understanding of happiness was also experienced by Jesus at his baptism where God the Father said to Him: "This is my Son, the Beloved, my favour rests on him." Even though Jesus experienced much persecution and rejection, He knew that what mattered most is that God loved Him and nothing, not even death on the cross, could change that.

God is inviting each and every one of us today to be happy and satisfied in Him. He is calling out to us, treating us as His beloved and His precious. We do not need to prove ourselves to God, and there is no need for us to run around in circles looking elsewhere for happiness and satisfaction. Let us seize this free opportunity to experience true happiness and true satisfaction in God, and let Him be our loving guide.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Housekeeping - Epiphany

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

4 January 2015 - Epiphany
5 January 2015 - Monday after Epiphany
6 January 2015 - Tuesday after Epiphany
7 January 2015 - Wednesday after Epiphany
8 January 2015 - Thursday after Epiphany
9 January 2015 - Friday after Epiphany

Friday after Epiphany

Some of us seem to have lots of things to do each day, and sometimes our involvement in doing so many things could lead some us to a crisis. On the one hand, we need to be active in ministry, but when we become too engrossed in active ministry, we face the danger of being worn out, tired and in some cases, burned out. On the other hand, when we begin to live a passive life and not do anything, we may lose touch of our ministry and in some cases, even our purpose as Christians. Both extremes certainly are not good for our well-being. So what do we do?

In today's Gospel, we can learn from Jesus on how to be balanced in our ministry. The Gospel tells us: "His reputation continued to grow, and large crowds would gather to hear him and to have their sickness cured, but he would always go off to some place where he could be alone and pray." Notice that Jesus was not always teaching and helping people. He also took time off to be alone and pray. We must remember that we are not superman or superwoman; we can only do so much. What we can do, we do our best, and the rest, let us leave it in the hands of the Lord. God will take care of the rest in His time. Are we willing, patient and humble enough to let God be God?

Thursday after Epiphany

The world that we live in can sometimes be quite an unloving place for some of us. There are people who live lives as if only they mattered and everyone else is insignificant or useful only where it suits them. There are people who love, but their love is often attached with some term or condition. There are also people who are genuine and selfless in their love, but such people are not always so easy or apparent to find, as more and more people become individualistic and materialistic. What sort of person have you become at this stage of your life?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "We are to love, because God loved us first. Anyone who says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother that he can see cannot love God, whom he has never seen. So this is the commandment that he has given us, that anyone who loves God must also love his brother." The reading also tells us that God's commandments are not difficult. We make the commandments difficult and complicate our lives and the lives of others because of our pride and prejudice, our ego, our self-interests and also because we have been stubborn and refused to be honest, genuine and true in our love. Are we willing to change our ways and attitudes, so that with God's grace, we can learn to love the way He loves us all?

Wednesday after Epiphany

At some point of our lives, we may have experienced difficult or challenging situations. These situations are like storms or facing a headwind. When we are facing such moments, how do we respond? Some choose to brave the storm or winds, and try to move on. Some begin to feel low in the doldrums, and may resort to other distractions to try and escape from the situation at hand. But how do we, as Christians respond to such a situation?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: "Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid." Jesus did not just say these words to calm his disciples down, but He also got into the boat with them. When we are facing difficult or challenging situations, Jesus is echoing the same words to us: "Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid." He is not abandoning us, but He is also getting into the boat of our difficulties, so that He can be with us and help us weather out the storm. Are we willing to trust Him and let Him take control of the situation?

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tuesday after Epiphany

It is often easy to say that we love another person, but how many of us truly mean what we say? Some of us say we love a person, but what we really mean is we merely like the person. Some say that we love a person, but we have reasons, terms and conditions attached to our so called love. How many of us are able to love truly, completely, selflessly, happily and constantly without condition; without any strings attached?

In today's reading, we are reminded to "love one another since love comes from God and everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God." The reading also shows us how great and selfless God's love is where He "sent into the world his only Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away, so that we could have life through him." Would we be willing and able to love others thoroughly, even those who are challenging or difficult to love, just like the way God loves us all?

Monday after Epiphany

Whenever we come across someone who claims to have received a message from God, or perhaps a testimony which sounds quite extraordinary, how would you respond? Some may be quite easily taken in by such messages or testimonies, and take the person's word for it, thinking that the Holy Spirit has touched or spoken to the person. Some may be quite skeptical or doubtful about such messages or testimonies. But how should we as Christians respond to such messages or testimonies?

In today's reading, John cautions us: "It is not every spirit, my dear people, that you can trust; test them, to see if they come from God, there are many false prophets, now, in the world. You can tell the spirits that come from God by this: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus the Christ has come in the flesh is from God; but any spirit which will not say this of Jesus is not from God, but is the spirit of Antichrist, whose coming you were warned about." While there are instances of genuine messages from God, we should not be so easily accepting of just any message. It may be wise and prudent, as the reading tells us, to "test them" thoroughly, cautiously and diligently, so as not to be duped or taken in by those whose intention may be to lead others astray.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Epiphany

Do you recognise Jesus? Do you know if Jesus is standing in front of you right now? Some of us claim to have seen Jesus. Some claim to have felt His presence. Some call Jesus their friend, saviour, redeemer, and many other titles. But do you really know and recognise Him? Do you know what Jesus really expects of us?

In today's Gospel, we come across different kinds of people who had some involvement with Jesus. We have King Herod who was known as Herod the Great, because he held a large territory. King Herod was called Great, but he was merely a puppet of the Roman empire and had to "kow tow" or pay homage to the Romans, for his power was dependent on their benevolence. King Herod was constantly living in fear and paranoia, since his power could be taken away from him at any time, at the whims and fancies of the Romans. King Herod had heard about Jesus, but did not know Him. All he knew was that Jesus was a threat to his attempt at holding on to power. Herod did not see Jesus as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy and did not recognise Jesus as the promised one long awaited by his people. He saw Jesus as a threat to be gotten rid of, but as we later discover, King Herod failed to get rid of Jesus, instead he himself was gotten rid of in the end.

We have the wise men from the East who followed the star and were searching for Jesus. These wise men may not have known Jesus well, but when they finally found Him in a stable, they did pay homage to the baby Jesus and by doing so acknowledged him as the King of kings. Another group of people who recognised Jesus were the shepherds. These shepherds were the poorest of the poor and were considered ritually unclean due to the kind of work they did. But unlike the other Jews, these shepherds recognised Jesus and even, as the Gospel tells us, "hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told."

Today, Jesus has revealed himself to all of us. Many of us take for granted that we know and recognise Him, but do we really and honestly recognise him? Have we been blinded by our pride and prejudice, our ambitions, our power, our riches, so much so that we think we recognise Jesus but according to our own terms? Are we prepared to humble ourselves like the shepherds and the wise men from the East, and recognise Jesus among the poor, the weak, the lowly, and even those thought to be insignificant? Let us open our eyes and hearts, so that we may truly recognise Jesus in others, and let us bring His love and care to all.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Housekeeping - Holy Family, Christmas Season & New Year

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

28 December 2014 - Holy Family
29 December 2014 - 5th day within the octave of Christmas
30 December 2014 - 6th day within the octave of Christmas
31 December 2014 - 7th day within the octave of Christmas
1 January 2015 - Mary, Mother of God - Solemnity
2 January 2015 - 2 January

2 January

What sort of behaviour or attitude do we have when it comes to preaching the Good News? Some of us may think that we are doing really well in our ministry and that our ways or methods should be adopted by others. Some may feel proud or conceited about themselves, since they appear to have produced much fruit in ministry. But what sort of attitude or behaviour should a Christian have towards preaching the Good News?

In today's Gospel, John the Baptist shows us a good example of what being a disciple is all about. When questioned whether he was the Christ or Elijah, he replied that he was not. Instead, he said: "I am, as Isaiah prophesied: a voice that cries in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord." Moreover, John knew his place and was humble enough to acknowledge that he was merely a servant and not the master. He tells us: "I baptise with water; but there stands among you – unknown to you – the one who is coming after me; and I am not fit to undo his sandal-strap."

Being a disciple of Christ means that we are carrying out His command in preaching the Good News to all nations. It means that we are servants and are merely doing our duty. We are doing this not for our personal gratification or to show how capable we are, but for the greater glory of God. May we remain with the Lord and be willing and humble to let Him use us as His instruments.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Mary, Mother of God - Solemnity

Have you ever paused for a while to ponder what sort of life you are living? A great philosopher, Socrates, once said: "The unexamined life is not worth living." When we do not take time to take a step back and look at our lives, some of us may begin to find life mundane and some of us may even repeat the same mistakes made by others or even by ourselves, mistakes which could have been avoided if we had properly reflected and noted what has happened.

Today we are given the example of Mary, Mother of God, who as the Gospel tells us, “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.” In our frantic and frenzied efforts to celebrate this New Year with a bang, we sometimes forget to follow the example of Mary to treasure and give thanks for all the things we have received in the past year and to ponder on where God is leading us. We need to reflect on one’s life because it is only through reflection and prayer that we will understand God’s plan for us. God is our constant guide who continually speaks to us, and if we do not take time to pray and reflect, we may find ourselves moving from one activity to another, possibly aimlessly and without purpose. It is only with prayer and reflection that we can come to recognise God's presence in many different life's situations.

As we celebrate this New Year, let us cast off our old ways, our bad habits, our selfishness, and put on the ways of Christ. Some of us like to make New Year resolutions, but making such New Year resolutions is pointless, if we do not evaluate from time to time how far we have progressed, and seek God's guidance to help us get back onto the right track. Change can come into our lives and in the lives of the community around us, if we are willing to imitate Mary and take time to treasure all these things and ponder them in our hearts. Are we willing to make the change happen this year?

7th day within the octave of Christmas

How many of us really do have a sense of belonging? Do we consider ourselves as belonging to this world, or do we consider ourselves belonging to God? Some of us may say that we belong to God and look forward with hope of one day returning to be with God, but are we living consistent lives which show that we belong to God? Sometimes, even those who appear to belong to God may have hidden agendas and we need to discern and be diligent and cautious not to fall into their trap and be led astray.

In today's reading we are told: "Those rivals of Christ came out of our own number, but they had never really belonged; if they had belonged, they would have stayed with us; but they left us, to prove that not one of them ever belonged to us. But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and have all received the knowledge. It is not because you do not know the truth that I am writing to you but rather because you know it already and know that no lie can come from the truth." Belonging to Christ means that we stay with Him even when we are facing difficulties and persecution. It is tempting for some to leave or switch sides when trouble comes, but if we persevere and trust in Christ, He will guide us and help us weather out the storm. Also, belonging to Christ means we live a life of truth: no lies; no fakes; no pretenses; being genuine in our love to all. The question is: are we really belonging to Christ, or have we drifted away and become more tuned to the ways of the world?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

6th day within the octave of Christmas

What are you looking for in life? Some people look for riches, property and wealth, thinking that these would bring happiness in their lives. Some people look for titles, positions, power and prestige, thinking that people would look up to them and give them the respect or honour they desire. Some people look for recognition and acceptance from their peers and from others, and would bend backwards trying to attain such recognition. But all these things that some look for, are they all that matter? Will these things really bring us happiness? How long will these things last anyway?

In today's reading, John cautions us: "You must not love this passing world or anything that is in the world. The love of the Father cannot be in any man who loves the world, because nothing the world has to offer – the sensual body, the lustful eye, pride in possessions – could ever come from the Father but only from the world; and the world, with all it craves for, is coming to an end; but anyone who does the will of God remains for ever." As we become more and more enticed and focused in the ways of the world, we may begin to lose our focus in God. We begin to think more and more only of ourselves and our needs, and perhaps the needs of our loved ones. Some of us may begin to set God aside in the pursuit of earthly happiness. But can we really find satisfaction and happiness in this world? More often than not, the happiness we experience is only temporary, and then we go off looking elsewhere to bring us back to that temporary high.

Instead of spending so much time, effort and energy in seeking that which is temporary, perhaps we should strive towards that which is eternal. Let us not be so easily deceived into thinking that we can satisfy our cravings here on earth, as St. Augustine reminds us: "Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in God."

5th day within the octave of Christmas

It seems very easy for us to say things in our daily lives. There are times where we say one thing, but mean another. There are times where we say something just to sound good or to sound pleasing or accommodating. But saying without action is meaningless. Time and again we are reminded that "action speaks louder than words" and that we may be hypocritical if we do not mean what we say (or "cakap tak serupa bikin" in the Malay language).

In today's reading, St. John reminds us: "We can be sure that we know God only by keeping his commandments. Anyone who says, ‘I know him’, and does not keep his commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him. We can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life as Christ lived." It is easy to say that we are Christians, but are we behaving like Christians? Do our actions and way of life show that we are Christians? Jesus taught us two commandments: love God and love neighbour, and yet even these two commandments seem quite difficult to keep for some. Some find it easier to love God whom they cannot see, touch or come face to face, compared to loving others, some of which could be quite difficult or a challenge to love. And yet, this is what is required of us. We are only deceiving ourselves and others if we do not truly love God and neighbour, since keeping God's commandments means keeping all of His commandments and not what we wish to pick and choose.

Let us be truthful and genuine in living in Christ, letting Him guide us in our actions. Let us also make every effort to not just call ourselves Christians, but to show that we are Christians by our love. Are we willing to change our ways, come out of our comfort zones and be real in our love to all?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Holy Family

There was a time in the past where a family usually consisted of a father, a mother, some children (people in those days used to have many children), and possibly extended family members such as grandparents, uncles, aunties, cousins and other members. Many such families lived in one big house, which we used to call ancestral homes, since several generations lived in them. As the years went by, some members may leave to look for a better life elsewhere, and would return whenever possible to celebrate important events such as Chinese New Year, Christmas, or a birthday, or perhaps the birth of a new member. In those days, this may have been a "usual" or "normal" setup of a family.

Situations change, people move on, cost of living has escalated, and people become more and more anxious about finding better work as well as better living opportunities elsewhere. This has resulted in families dispersing and living in smaller setups. Rarely do we see or hear of families staying in one big house any more. Even such big houses have become rare, as many have been sold and demolished to make way for development.

As people struggle to make ends meet, the relationship between husband and wife, with the children, and even with extended family members may become strained. People begin to concentrate on their careers more and more, sometimes at the expense of family time and proper care of the children. We begin to see more and more families disintegrating or breaking up, divorces happening at an alarming rate, and the number of single parents arising due to one reason or another. The family, it appears, may have become more and more dysfuntional or "abnormal", in contrast with what was "normal" in the past. As a Christian family, what do we do about this situation that some may be in?

Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. When we look at the Holy Family, we can discover that the Holy Family does not quite seem to fit what a normal family is perceived to be. Joseph was not Jesus' real father, though he was married to Mary. Mary conceived Jesus in an extraordinary way, not quite the way a woman usually conceived. Mary appears to have been widowed at a young age as there is no longer any mention of Joseph after the first few chapters of the Gospel. Mary may have been a single mother who had to single-handedly raise Jesus all on her own. All these make the Holy Family appear to be "abnormal."

But though the Holy Family appeared to be "abnormal," the Holy Family also gives us a picture of hope and a model to look to. Why is this so? The Holy Family shows us what it means to put our trust and dependence in God, and to put God in the center of our lives. Joseph put his trust in God and married Mary, even though she was with child and the child was not his as the child was conceived through the Holy Spirit. Mary put her trust and confidence in God when she said: "I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let what you have said be done to me." If God is at the center of our family life, then no matter how big or difficult the problem may be, no matter how serious the hurts one experiences, no matter how distant people have become due to one reason or another, God has overcome all because he has been through it all in the person of Jesus.

Today, we give thanks to God for the many families around us. Each family is a precious gift of God, and must never be taken for granted. Let us offer each family to God, and as one big family of God, strive to bring His message of love and peace to all.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Housekeeping - 4th Week of Advent & Christmas

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

21 December 2014 - 4th Sunday of Advent Year B
22 December 2014 - 22 December - Season of Advent
23 December 2014 - 23 December - Season of Advent
24 December 2014 - Christmas Eve - Midnight Mass
25 December 2014 - Christmas Day - Mass During the Day
26 December 2014 - Dec 26 - Saint Stephen, the first Martyr - Feast

Dec 26 - Saint Stephen, the first Martyr - Feast

Is there anyone here on earth we can trust? Some of us may say that we can trust our parents. Some say that we can trust our siblings. Others say that we can trust a spouse or a close friend. But the question is: how much can we trust these people? 100%? Most of the time? Or do some of us have a tinge of doubt about these people, even if it is a very tiny tinge?

In today's Gospel, we are told that there is a possibility that "brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved." This could happen when it comes to faith and members of the family are of different faith. It could even happen though members of the family are Christians. Why so? Because people could be coerced or bribed with money, power, position, fame and authority, or some other form of enticement, to commit such a despicable deed.

But all is not lost. Jesus reassures us in the Gospel: "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you." When we trust in God and offer our lives completely to Him, we are under His care and protection. There is no need to worry, or fear, or fret. God will be our guide. St. Stephen, whose feast we celebrate today, trusted in God and let God take control. Certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, but he was confident in God's help and as a result: "They found they could not get the better of him because of his wisdom, and because it was the Spirit that prompted what he said. They were infuriated when they heard this, and ground their teeth at him."

Ultimately, our trust is in the Lord. He is faithful to us even though we may be unfaithful to Him at times. Let us make every effort to grow closer to Him, and place our confidence in Him, knowing that He will not fail us.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Christmas Day - Mass During the Day

Many of us like to receive presents. When we receive a present, we become quite excited and can't wait for the earliest opportunity to open the present. Sometimes the present comes with instructions not to open it until a certain date, time or event occurs. When this is the case, some of us may become quite curious and tempted to try and find ways and means to take a peek. However, when we finally get the chance to open the present, what happens? Some of us may be quite happy since we have gotten what we wanted. Some of us may feel disappointed because we did not quite get what we wanted. But if we step aside for a while and ponder... what we are getting here are things which are temporary and won't last forever. But today, we are offered a present which is the greatest present of all. What present is this? It is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.

God loves all of us so much that he gave us His own Son Jesus as a present to save us from our sins and to guide us to Him. Could we ever find a present greater than or more valuable or more special than Jesus? Surely not! But, like every present that we receive, we are free to choose to accept it or to reject it. If we choose to reject this special present, then as today's Gospel tells us: "He was in the world that had its being through him, and the world did not know him. He came to his own domain and his own people did not accept him." It seems strange or tragic that people would choose to reject Jesus, but there are times where such people have become so engulfed with the ways of the world, with power, with money, with position and power, and with so many other things, that Jesus and ultimately God has no place in their hearts and minds. When we put other things or persons first in our lives, then we are rejecting Jesus, the Word of God.

But if we accept this special present, then as the Gospel tells us: "But to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to all who believe in the name of him who was born not out of human stock or urge of the flesh or will of man but of God himself." If we are willing and prepared to open and accept this special present, then we will share in Jesus' glory and our lives will be transformed. We will no longer be orphans or strangers but become children of God. We will have the privilege to hear God speaking to us through His Son, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading: "At various times in the past and in various different ways, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets; but in our own time, the last days, he has spoken to us through his Son, the Son that he has appointed to inherit everything and through whom he made everything there is."

Let us open our hearts and minds, and accept Jesus as the greatest gift of all. Let us let Jesus be in control and guide us throughout our lives. If we truly value and appreciate this special gift from God, then we do not need or want anything else. Let us consistently and happily accept this gift of Jesus this Christmas and every Christmas.

Christmas Eve - Midnight Mass

Fear is an unpleasant emotion or thought that you have when you are frightened or worried by something dangerous, painful, or bad that is happening or might happen. People are fearful for so many reasons: some are fearful of the dark; some are fearful of creepy-crawlies like certain insects, certain lizards (such as the "cicak" or house gecko), snakes or spiders; some are fearful of the unknown or the future; some are fearful of the consequences of past events, especially if they had directly or indirectly been involved in such events; some are even fearful of death. When we are fearful, how would we respond? Some respond by trying to run away and hide, thinking that the fear would eventually go away, but more often than not, the fear remains and may be triggered due to some situation or circumstances. Some may try to substitute fear with substances or other forms of distractions, but this may lead to addiction or abuse of such substitutions. Some may even despair and may give up on themselves. As Christians, how do we respond to fear?

In the first reading, Isaiah tells us: "The people that walked in darkness has seen a great light; on those who live in a land of deep shadow a light has shone." In the Gospel, the angel of the Lord appeared and said, ‘Do not be afraid. Listen, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole people. Today in the town of David a saviour has been born to you." Who is this great light that Isaiah spoke of? Who is this saviour which the angels appeared and proclaimed? He is Christ the Lord! Do not be afraid, "for there is a child born for us, a son given to us and dominion is laid on his shoulders; and this is the name they give him: Wonder-Counsellor, Mighty-God, Eternal-Father, Prince-of-Peace."

We who had walked in the darkness of our fears, our insecurities, our sins, our worries, have now seen Jesus, our great light. St. Paul in today's second reading reminds us: "He sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good." With Jesus our great light, there is no reason for us to fear any longer. So what should we do? What must we do? St. Paul in the second reading gives us the answer. He tells us: "God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us that what we have to do is to give up everything that does not lead to God, and all our worldly ambitions; we must be self-restrained and live good and religious lives here in this present world."

This is what Christmas is all about to us Christians. It is not about the gifts or food or merry-making. It is about being prepared as best we can and living the values of the Gospel, "while we are waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the Appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Christ Jesus." Let us be afraid no longer, but put our confidence and trust in Jesus our great light, knowing that He is our saviour and He will lead us to our true home.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

23 December - Season of Advent

When a person comes to us with an important message, some of us may think that the person is lying or joking. Not many of us would take the person's word for it and some of us may brush it off as nonsense. But what if an angel of the Lord were to come and give us a message? Perhaps some of us would take heed of what the angel tells us, but not everyone would do so. One such person who did not entirely believe in the angel's message was Zechariah. Poor Zechariah... He was an old man, and his wife Elizabeth too was getting old. Perhaps he was not fully aware of who he was talking to, perhaps he was quite taken aback by the message from the angel Gabriel and did not quite understand, comprehend or know what to make of such a startling message. After all, humanly speaking, Zechariah may have thought that it was impossible for old people to conceive. But as we now know from hindsight, angels don't just simply come to you to have a chat. When they come with a message, it is not something to be taken lightly and is certainly no laughing matter, what more if the message is from the angel Gabriel. And because of his apparent hesitance in believing the message of the angel Gabriel, Zechariah ended up being silenced till John the Baptist was born.

In today's Gospel, John the Baptist was born. A miracle had happened. Even old people could conceive, as nothing is impossible to God. When it came to naming the child, his mother insisted in naming him John. This prompted Zechariah with the opportunity to redeem himself, so to speak, by affirming and insisting that the child be named John. And when he did so, "his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God."

Sometimes our disbelief and doubts could get us into trouble, just as what had happened to Zechariah. Of course, this does not mean that we should start believing every Tom, Dick or Sally who comes to us with a message. But if we are aware of the presence of God's angel coming to us with a message, let us not doubt or be hesitant, but believe and give thanks to God for the message given to us. And let us seriously take heed of the message, with trust and confidence in God's providence.

22 December - Season of Advent

For some of us, it may be difficult to let go of persons or things which are dear or significant to us. We try to hold on to such things or persons as much or as long as possible. This is especially apparent when it comes to certain persons who have been part of our lives for a long time. However, as with all things and persons here on earth, there comes a time when the person will need to leave. Even things that we own have got a lifespan and we would not be able to have them forever. But what should be our attitude be as Christians? Are we continuing to cling on, or are we willing to let go?

In today's reading, Hannah had been granted a son whom she named Samuel. Naturally, as a mother, she would have been extremely grateful and happy to have had a son granted to her by God, after being unable to conceive for so long. However, Hannah had made a vow to offer her son to God should she conceive. She could have been hesitant or selfish, and keep Samuel with her, since it had been quite difficult for her to become a mother. But she chose to fulfil her vow when she said: "This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord." Hannah was willing to let go of the child she treasured, knowing and trusting in God's providence.

What about us? If God were to ask us to let go of something, would we be able to do so? Are we willing to have confidence and trust in God like Hannah did? Let us always remember that we are merely pilgrims here on earth, and place our lives in God's hands, knowing that He will care for us.