Tuesday, 31 March 2015

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Family members these days seem to be getting busier and busier with their own thing. Parents are busy with work, socialising with their friends, doing all sorts of errands, and other matters to attend to. Children are busy with school, college or university, socialising with their friends, doing errands entrusted to them, and other matters that crop up. Work, study and personal interests have become more and more important, at the expense of family life, family bonding and couple bonding. If left unchecked, family relationships suffer. We hear of more and more cases of couples divorcing, children developing social problems, and when these children grow up, they move away and abandon their aging parents, or even become misfits in society. The reason for these problems is that family members just do not seem to have time for each other, they have lost that bonding or loving feeling, they drift apart.

When it comes to our relationship with God, we too could be drifting away from Him when we pray less, when we seldom come to church, when we don’t hear His word in the bible, when we do not spend much time listening to Him in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and when we do not get involved in the various church activities. We become more and more engrossed with the ways of the world, while becoming less and less connected to God. We begin to lose our ability to listen to His voice, until one day, we may find that we have become alienated from Him. Why? Because we have, through our actions, attitude and behaviour, chosen to abandon Him, even though we may not always realise it until it is too late. On the other hand, God has not abandoned us. In fact, He is constantly looking out for us, earnestly and tenderly calling us to return to Him, but we have neglected or have become less and less sensitive to listen to His voice.

In today’s gospel reading, we see how the apostles themselves were so enthusiastically caught up with their work that they had forgotten the need to spend time with one another and with Jesus. Work is good and important, but spending time with one another and with God in prayer and reflection is more important. We sometimes forget that we are not superman or superwoman, since without prayer, we will not have the spiritual strength, stamina and energy to face the many challenges of life which come our way. We will soon experience burnout, fatigue and frustration.

In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah has issued a stern warning to all of us, clergy, religious and laity alike: "Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered... You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them. Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds..." Each and every one of us have been called and chosen to be shepherds in our own situations, and we have been entrusted to the moral, educational and spiritual development of not only ourselves, but also of those under our care. If we fail or neglect to take care of the pastoral needs of all under our care, then God will "raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them." We will face the consequences of our neglect. Are we aware of this? Have we taken the necessary steps to address this before it is too late?

Being a shepherd caring for God's flock is certainly no easy task. Moreover, the shepherd is not only the clergy, since each and every one of us are called to be shepherds in our own way and in our own circumstances. We must follow the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, but if we have been so caught up with our own busy schedule that we have no time for God, for our families or others, then how are we going to be effective shepherds and effective witnesses of the Gospel? No. We cannot nourish others if we ourselves are malnourished or stressed out. That is why we must heed Jesus' voice, beckoning us in today’s Gospel to "come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while." Let us not take lightly or play play with Jesus' invitation. Rather, let us seize the opportunity to rest a while with the Lord and with each other, so that we will be rejuvenated and recharged to become effective shepherds in our different situations, following after the example of Jesus, our loving and Good Shepherd.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Housekeeping - Week 15 Year 1

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

12 July 2015 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
13 July 2015 - Monday of Week 15 Year 1
14 July 2015 - Tuesday of Week 15 Year 1
15 July 2015 - Wednesday of Week 15 Year 1
16 July 2015 - Thursday of Week 15 Year 1
17 July 2015 - Friday of Week 15 Year 1

Friday of Week 15 Year 1

Every once in a while, we come across people who are extreme in their religious views. Such people seem to believe that only their view of a particular religion is the correct or accepted view, and everyone else is deviant or heretical. Some of these people may even go to extremes by committing acts of violence to try and force others to adhere to their views. We have seen countries torn apart by such extremists, who have no qualms of executing or exterminating even people who share the same faith, but hold a different view of the faith they profess.

In today's Gospel, we come across a group of people who are extreme in their religious views. We call these people the scribes and the Pharisees, who have become so extreme in their interpretation of the law or torah. When it comes to the sabbath, these scribes and Pharisees have gone to the extreme in ruling that no work whatsoever can be done. Even doing a good deed, or caring for someone, or helping someone, is forbidden to them during the sabbath. But Jesus reminded them: "And if you had understood the meaning of the words: What I want is mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the blameless." It is pointless to keep the sabbath by only showing the external practices just as the scribes and Pharisees did, but our attitude, behaviour and conduct is unbecoming of a Christian. May we take heed of what Jesus said, and observe the sabbath with the right intentions, so that in all we say and do, God is glorified.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Thursday of Week 15 Year 1

Throughout our lives, we may have been putting on or taking on many different roles and responsibilities. Sometimes these roles and responsibilities could turn out to be quite difficult and burdensome, especially after carrying and performing such roles and responsibilities for an extended period of time. Some of us may feel tired, worn out, or even burned out as we bear the heavy weight of the yoke of such roles and responsibilities. Some may feel tempted to call it quits, or to seek other forms of comfort to lessen or dull the pain. But what should we as Christians do when we are experiencing such a condition?

In today's Gospel, Jesus is comforting us and assuring us when He said: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light." When we have Jesus helping us and guiding us, we are no longer encumbered by the weight of the yoke we are carrying, since we are not alone in the situation we are in. May we be willing to let Jesus care for us throughout our lives, and let Him be our constant guide.

Wednesday of Week 15 Year 1

Each and every one of us have been called in one way or another to serve God in different ways. Sometimes God could be calling us in a spectacular way, sometimes the call may not seem that out of the ordinary, but when God calls us, are we able to identify His voice and respond? Are we willing to respond to God's call or would we try to ignore it, or make all sorts of excuses to try and escape from doing His will?

In today's reading, we come across the call of Moses, who was called by God to bring His people out of Egypt. Moses was already living quite a comfortable life looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. Moses would have been quite reluctant to leave his present life and he even said to God, "Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"But God did not let Moses off the hook: "'I shall be with you,' was the answer 'and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you... After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.'" So Moses went, especially since God's call was so persistent and constant, that it would have been quite difficult to say no.

Today, God may be calling you to serve Him in a particular vocation. His call may be just as persistent as what Moses had experienced. May we be humble and docile enough to respond to His call and do His will for His glory.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Tuesday of Week 15 Year 1

Sometimes we come across people who seem to be not bothered about many things, especially if it does not seem to affect them directly. They only are concerned about themselves, or how wealthy or financially secure they can become, or how popular they can become. But when it comes to others, such people are indifferent towards them (in Malay, it is known as "tidak apa" or :tidak peduli" attitude, or don't care or don't want to know or don't want to get involved attitude). We sometimes see such indifferent attitude when it comes to, for example, parking a vehicle, where some people think the road belongs to them or that any place can be used to park their vehicle, and they park indiscriminately, causing congestion and a dangerous situation for other people and vehicles. It is only when such people are slapped with a traffic summons, or their vehicle is damaged, that they begin to take notice and work up a big fuss, even though they are obviously in the wrong but they choose to be arrogant and refuse to admit it.

In today's reading, we come across the mother of Moses who could have been indifferent towards Moses and send him to his fate. But she did not allow such a thing to happen, and even managed to rescue him by letting him be adopted by Pharoah's daughter. Then, Moses as an adult could have enjoyed his life and live a good life as a prince of Egypt and not bother about his countrymen. But Moses did not do such a thing. He did not look away or was indifferent to the violence an Egyptian inflicted on his countryman and even killed the Egyptian to save and protect his countryman.

What about us? Have some of us become so indifferent towards the sufferings and needs of others? Have some of us become self-centered, only thinking about our needs and wants? May we realise that the world is to be shared and cared for by all, and that as witnesses of the Good News, we should show our faith by helping and caring for others, just as God does for all.

Monday of Week 15 Year 1

Some people say that blood is thicker than water, and that we should make every effort to remain in good relationship or good ties with our parents and siblings. Even the 4th Commandment reminds us to honour our parents and treat them well. In some cultures, filial piety plays an important role in ensuring that our parents are well cared for, since it was they who cared for us and nourished us when we were young.

But let us consider for a moment: Supposing we come to a scenario where our parents or siblings demand that we perform something or carry out an act which would keep the family honour, but goes against God's commandments? For example, in some traditional cultures, a child which is born with a serious defect is seen as an omen, or even a curse to the family, and if we are told by our parents to get rid of it; would we do such a deed to appease our parents?

This is where we face a dilemma. Jesus in today's Gospel warns us: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it."

As Christians, we are reminded to obey and keep God's commandments. But if we obey and keep God's commandments, we would be going against our parents' demands. Likewise, if we obey and submit to our parents' demands, we would be going against God's commandments. Should we be stricken with such a difficult choice, what would we choose? God over our family or our family over God? Ultimately, may we choose wisely and prudently what is right and just, for the betterment of our eternal future.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

From time to time, we come across people who do not seem to have an ultimate direction or purpose in life. Some of these people think that this life is all there is to it, and they try to live this live to the fullest and try to enjoy this life as much as possible, with the view that once this life is over, they would be finished, cease to exist, as they believe that there is nothing to look forward to after this life. But what about us Christians? What do we really believe in? What is our true purpose in life?

In today's second reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in his presence, determining that we should become his adopted sons, through Jesus Christ for his own kind purposes, to make us praise the glory of his grace, his free gift to us in the Beloved, in whom, through his blood, we gain our freedom, the forgiveness of our sins." What does this reading mean to us? It means that we have been chosen for God’s own purpose which is; to be holy and spotless; to live in love; to be His adopted children; and to praise the glory of His grace.

We have been chosen for God’s own purpose to be holy and spotless. This does not mean that we must be perfect or have certain qualifications. In today's first reading, the prophet Amos tells Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, that he is only a humble shepherd and one who looked after sycamore trees, and that he was just an ordinary man whom God had chosen for his purposes. Holiness, therefore, means depending on God's care and grace. This is why in today’s gospel, Jesus sent out the twelve apostles and tells them to carry nothing with them: no money, no extra clothing. They are to depend on God's providence. We have been chosen for God’s own purpose to live in love. Life without love is meaningless and that is why we must not make hatred, resentment, success, riches and power as our life goals. Instead, we should make love our goal, since we make God present when we love. We have been chosen for God’s own purpose to be His adopted children. This means we should behave like his children by living in the light: our lives must be marked by honesty, love, and purity. Finally, we have been chosen for God’s own purpose to praise the glory of His grace. This means that each of us has been given a mission to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God and to speak of His love by telling others that God loves them too.

What do all of these mean? It means that we have an ultimate direction or purpose in life. We have been chosen for God’s own purpose and to be cared and loved by Him. By knowing how precious and important we are in God's eyes, we should celebrate and give thanks for His providence, and share this wonderful news with others, and invite and encourage them to join us to do the same.

Housekeeping - Week 14 Year 1

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

5 July 2015 - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
6 July 2015 - Monday of Week 14 Year 1
7 July 2015 - Tuesday of Week 14 Year 1
8 July 2015 - Wednesday of Week 14 Year 1
9 July 2015 - Thursday of Week 14 Year 1
10 July 2015 - Friday of Week 14 Year 1

Friday of Week 14 Year 1

How many of us are able to withstand pain? For some of us, just a little pain could cause us to whine and complain, some even begin to have all sorts of strange thoughts. Then after all the drama, and the pain is gone, we carry on as if nothing happened. Some of us are able to withstand a great deal of pain without complaining, and we are able to carry on with our lives by managing the pain as best we can. But what about persecution? How many of us are able to withstand persecution, even to the point of death? Would we try to save our skin or would we be willing to stick to our beliefs and principles, come what may?

In today's Gospel, we read: "Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: 'Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves. Beware of men: they will hand you over to sanhedrins and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the pagans. 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. 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.'"

If we were persecuted for our faith today, would we be willing to suffer and even die for our faith? Some of us may have gotten so used to peace and prosperity in this world, that we may have become complacent of what it means to be a Christian. May we choose to do what is right and just in God's eyes, and "be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves" as Jesus instructed us, while being courageous and steadfast in witnessing to the Gospel for the glory of God.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Thursday of Week 14 Year 1

Over the years, we may have come across a difficult or bad situation which we thought would end up bad or disastrous, only to be surprised that something good could come out of such a situation. We may wonder how it could turn out to be good, especially when we had experienced so much hurt, trouble or problems upfront. Yet, God works in mysterious ways and through His intervention. we have seen throughout the history of mankind how bad situations have had a good ending.

In today's reading, "Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?' His brothers could not answer him, they were so dismayed at the sight of him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come closer to me.' When they had come closer to him he said, 'I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.'" Who would have thought that Joseph, sold to slavery in Egypt, would one day end up rescuing his family and Israel as a whole, from famine? But that is exactly what happened. God indeed had a plan from the beginning, and we came to know of the surprising outcome only at a later time.

What does this tell us? We may face problems or difficult situations, but we should not give up or think that all hope is lost. If God can transform something which seemed bad into something good at the end, what more He could do for us? Are we willing to be humble and patient, and let God help us and do what is best for us according to His time and for His glory?

Wednesday of Week 14 Year 1

Some of us may be quite enthusiastic or gung-ho about going forth to preach the Good News. We may have made great plans to go to other countries on a mission to preach to people we think have not heard the Good News, and we may have dreamed about converting huge numbers to Christianity. But if we consider for a moment: what about the very people in our community, our own backyard, our own housing area, who may have not heard about the Good News? It may sound surprising, but you would never know unless you reach out and find out, and you may find people nearby who are potential to be converted, and yet no one has actually made the effort to reach out to them.

In today's Gospel, we read: "These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: 'Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.' Upfront, we may be wondering why Jesus gave such strange instructions, since so many other people could have received the Good News and be converted. But if we consider for a moment what Jesus is telling us, we could realise that basically, He is reminding us that charity begins at home. Before we make big plans trying to preach the Good News to others, we should be reaching out to our own families and friends first. Some of us may have taken the easy way out by going elsewhere to preach the Good News, only to neglect or ignore our very own people. Perhaps we may be doing this because we find it easier to talk to strangers, or we think that our own people are too difficult or stubborn to talk to, but are we preaching the Good News selectively, thinking only of achieving a great success rate? Or are we preaching the Good News for the glory of God, regardless whether we are successful or not? May we learn from our loving Saviour and go forth and preach the Good News to all, especially to those near to us, and then to others as well.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Tuesday of Week 14 Year 1

In ministry, we cannot please everybody. No matter how hard we try, we are bound to encounter people who appreciate what we do, some will be jealous or unhappy with us no matter what we do, and others could not care less or are not bothered with what we do, possibly because they are more interested in themselves or in matters which interest or benefit them. In different situations, those who like us may become annoyed with us and those who were annoyed with us may like us. Such is the kind of people we encounter and minister to.

That is why, if we look in the Gospel, we can see how the people and the Pharisees had some sort of love-hate relationship with Jesus. In the Gospel, we read: "A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel' they said. But the Pharisees said, 'It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.'" The people loved Jesus for what He said, the healing He did and the casting out of devils he did. The Pharisees were constantly at loggerheads with Jesus, as they were jealous with His increasing popularity and the words He said hit them hard and pricked their conscience, but they refused to change and risk losing their status and position.

What about us? Are we still trying to please everybody and water down the faith to accommodate certain people, or are we willing to be bold and not be affected with what others think of us? Jesus was not the least bit concerned about His popularity or position, since He was more interested in loving and serving the people, as the Gospel tells us: "Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness." May we follow the example of our loving saviour, and be happy, determined and loving bearers of the Good News to all the ends of the earth.

Monday of Week 14 Year 1

There are times in life some of us may have felt as if God has abandoned us. Some of us may be feeling this way because of constant illness which seems to have no cure; or perhaps we may be suffering from some form of persecution, depression or grief; or some of us may be suffering from some kind of substance abuse which we may be finding difficult to come out of. Whatever the situation may be, how should a Christian respond?

In today's reading, God assured Jacob: "Be sure that I am with you; I will keep you safe wherever you go, and bring you back to this land, for I will not desert you before I have done all that I have promised you." Not only that, today's Gospel reassures us that God will not abandon us when He cured the woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years, and brought the official's daughter back to life. What is important to note here is we need to have constant, unwavering faith in God, and trust that He will do what is best for us. God can help us according to His time and for His glory. It is a question of whether we are willing to be humble and patient in waiting for His help.

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

How many of us are willing to speak the truth, even if it is difficult to accept or swallow? Some of us try to say things as nicely as possible, some of us try to beat around the bush, hoping that the other party would somehow get our message, but at the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves: as Christians, are we supposed to tell the truth, no matter how painful or difficult it may sound? Or are we supposed to keep the peace and make people happy, even if it means diluting the truth quite a bit. Some of you may be wondering: isn't it obvious that the truth must prevail? And yet, we still come across Christians who are unwilling to say it as it is; or they may say that the matter is not their concern or their business, and they rather not get involved; or they do not want to be the bad guy or bad girl. But is this what being a Christian is all about?

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are reminded: "the faithful, who by Baptism are incorporated into Christ and integrated into the People of God, are made sharers in their particular way in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly office of Christ, and have their own part to play in the mission of the whole Christian people in the Church and in the World. (CCC 897)" Being in the prophetic office means that we are required to preach the Good News and to be witnesses to the truth. This means that if we are speaking the truth in love and for the sake of God, we should not be afraid of criticism or insults from others. St. Paul in today’s second reading reminds us that he is able to speak so eloquently only because of his confidence in God and not in himself, and he writes of God and of himself in this way: "My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.... that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong."

Being in the prophetic office also means the person of the prophet is not what matters. The prophet may be weak, a failure or may have various faults and limitations, but all these do not matter. What matters is the message which needs to be delivered. If God wishes to use a prophet to deliver his message, he will surely give grace to his chosen one to perform the task. Moreover, it does not matter whether the other person or persons listen or not. The Lord reassured Ezekiel of this in the first reading: "Whether they listen or not, this set of rebels shall know there is a prophet among them." Others may choose not to listen, but eventually the truth will prevail. We must leave it in the hands of God, the effect of the word spoken.

Ultimately, being in the prophetic office means a prophet and his message is never popular. The message is hard and the truth is painful to accept. There are people who do not like to hear the truth about themselves and they are resistent to change, since quite often such truth requires a change and conversion of heart. Such people prefer to remain as they are, keeping the status quo, or they only want to hear what is pleasing, not the truth. Sometimes, even the people from your own home town or people who think they know you well enough are among those most resistent to or are against the prophet and his message. This is the situation that Jesus went through in today's Gospel, where He was rejected by his own country men and relations.

At the end of the day, being in the prophetic office means the prophet needs to check oneself and ensure that the truth is spoken with love. We cannot speak the truth out of anger and revenge as that is not being prophetic. Such words uttered out of anger and revenge merely destroy rather than heal. Love is at the heart of being in the prophetic office.

Today, let us wake up to the fact that there are some of us perhaps who have neglected our role as prophets. We are called to be proclaimers of the Gospel, and that includes saying the truth, even to those we hold so dear. We cannot be followers of Christ and please everyone, and we should be prepared to face ridicule, persecution, or even be shunned by others, for the glory of God and to promote truth and justice.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Housekeeping - Week 13 Year 1

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

28 June 2015 - 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
29 June 2015 - Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles
30 June 2015 - Tuesday of Week 13 Year 1
1 July 2015 - Wednesday of Week 13 Year 1
2 July 2015 - Thursday of Week 13 Year 1
3 July 2015 - Saint Thomas, Apostle - Feast

Saint Thomas, Apostle - Feast

As baptised Christians, we are sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Christ. But sometimes some of us forget our identity. Our behaviour, attitude and way of life seems to be in contrast with our identity as Christians. At church, we appear to be good and holy, some seem generous with their offerings; but when we are sent forth to love and serve the Lord after the Sunday Mass is concluded, are we just as good and holy as we were in church?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "You are no longer aliens or foreign visitors: you are citizens like all the saints, and part of God’s household. You are part of a building that has the apostles and prophets for its foundations, and Christ Jesus himself for its main cornerstone." Since we are citizens, then we should be mindful of our conduct, as the way we behave and act could turn out to be counter-witnessing to the Gospel. Of course, this does not mean that we should follow blindly everything that we are taught. We should also seek clarification and ask questions, so that we would be crystal clear about what is required. St. Thomas, whose feast we celebrate today, is a great example of how we should clarify and question, not so much because we do not believe or have no faith, but more that we would be better informed and our faith strengthened.

Today, let us not forget who we are and act accordingly. Let us be true witnesses of the Gospel, firmly rooted in faith and understanding, and humbly and joyfully go forth to share the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Thursday of Week 13 Year 1

Among the many sicknesses and diseases people are fearful of, one which ranks quite high is paralysis. When a person is paralysed, the person is unable to do anything on his or her own, and has to depend on family and friends for practically everything. The person's freedom is non-existent, as his or her life or death is totally dependent on the love and generosity of others. Moreover, depending on the reason why a person had become a paralytic, there may be no cure and the person would have no choice but to live in paralysis till death.

In today's Gospel, Jesus came to his own town. Then some people appeared, bringing Him a paralytic stretched out on a bed. Jesus was impressed with the faith of these people, who had confidence and trust that He would heal the paralytic, and that is exactly what He did. The man was able to get up on his own and went home. Jesus had given back the man his freedom.

Perhaps another form of paralysis should be seriously considered here, and that is the paralysing effects of sin. Sin paralyses us slowly, until we come to a point we are no longer able to care for ourselves. We may even become indifferent towards God and towards others, as the sins we have committed engulfs us in a poisonous cloud, and blocks all our senses, preventing us from hearing God's voice. This is why we must never allow sin to continue to remain in our soul, since its stain would eventually ruin our relationship with God. Instead, we should make every effort to go for confession, and let God heal us and cleanse us from our sins. If we value our eternal future, let us not procrastinate or take things for granted, for our time here on earth is short, and God is constantly inviting and reminding to come back to Him.

Wednesday of Week 13 Year 1

What does it mean to be possessed by an evil spirit? Some people think that a person behaving strangely or displaying weird antics is crazy or even possessed by an evil spirit. Some people think that they have the so-called power and authority to drive away such evil spirits from others. What these people often fail to realise is that not every person behaving strangely or displaying weird antics is necessarily possessed by some evil spirit, since sometimes the person could be suffering from some sickness or mental condition which could cause such behaviour. Also, if a person is suspected to be possessed, not just any Tom, Dick or Sally can attempt to drive the evil spirit out, since what we could be dealing with here is not just any ordinary thing. In other words, don't play play when it comes to evil spirits.

In today's Gospel, Jesus drove away devils from two demoniacs with little resistance. It is interesting to note that the devils actually pleaded with Jesus to be cast out into a herd of pigs instead of Jesus casting them out and sending them to a fate far worse. Jesus was merciful enough to grant them their request. Jesus is God and He can easily drive devils away. But for the rest of us, we should not straight away jump into conclusions that a person is possessed, since there are certain procedures to be followed and one should consult the bishop of the diocese to determine the next course of action. Casting out devils and evil spirits is not a task which anyone can do, since it requires extensive preparations, including much prayer and fasting. If we are not properly disposed, prepared and ready, it is best we refrain from attempting such things, since we ourselves could be possessed, or cause more complications to others and even to ourselves, or some could be quite badly injured, or even face the possibility of death. Ultimately, let us check our intentions. Are we casting out evil spirits to show how great we are, for our personal gratification, or to feed our ego? Or are we truly, humbly and cautiously doing so for the greater glory of God?

Tuesday of Week 13 Year 1

If God were to ask you to do something, would you do it? Or would you find ways and means to try and avoid doing what God wants of you? Some of us say that we will do what God wants us to, but some may not be saying so wholeheartedly. Are we willing to do God's will and have complete trust in Him, or have some of us doubted God and tried to look back or go back to our previous ways?

In today's reading, the angels urged Lot: "Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town... Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed." Lot managed to convince the angels to allow his family and he to escape to a town called Zoar. However, "the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt." Why did she do so? The reading does not tell us specifically. Perhaps Lot's wife had become too attached to her old life, and she looked back in regret for what she was losing. Perhaps she was curious and wanted to see whether everything would be totally destroyed. But whatever the reason may be, she had disobeyed God and suffered the consequences. As Jesus cautions us: "It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it." (Luke 17:28-33).

What about us? When we were baptised, we were supposed to have died to our old selves and put on a new self, becoming children of God and maintaining a good relationship with Him. But some of us, perhaps, may have been tempted to "look back" or doubted whether God would really provide for us. Let us not be fooled into thinking that God does not care for us or has abandoned us. Rather, let us continue to trust Him, knowing that He knows what is best for us and will provide for us according to His time and for His glory.

Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles

Peter and Paul are two great apostles who showed us what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Each of them were martyred for the faith, and they show us two very different approaches or styles to discipleship. Peter was a slow learner in the faith. He made a lot of mistakes, sometimes very big mistakes. He loved Jesus and yet denied that he even knew Him. Still Jesus never failed to offer Peter compassion and mercy, and always the opportunity to begin again. Paul, on the other hand, came to faith in Christ in almost an instant. Although he’s often pictured as being knocked off a horse on the road to Damascus, scripture only tells us that he was struck down by a great light. But three days later Paul turned away from persecuting the Church to become a voice of the gospel for the nations, bringing Christ's message to the Gentiles.

If we look at Peter and Paul, we could actually see, to a certain extent, two distinct styles of discipleship. Each style has got its purpose and we could call one as the Peter Style and the other as the Paul Style. The Peter Style seems to be those who try to do the right things, but who make mistakes; those who mean well, but don’t always seem to follow through; those who try to understand but who don’t always get it and when they do get it, they sometimes don’t get it right; those who fail, who repent, who get discouraged when they fail yet again, and who keep coming back, to try again. Those who have the Paul Style, are gung-ho, convinced, and are not hesitant or afraid to say it out loud. They make big demands on others as well as on themselves. They say things that are hard or difficult to say, and aren’t afraid to say it. They preach fearlessly and without reservation. The Paul style does fail too from time to time, but when they do and admit it, they move ahead stronger than ever. The Paul style can sometimes be quite annoying.

When we consider these two styles of discipleship, some of us are like the Peter style, some of us are like the Paul style, and some of us are of both styles at different times, places and situations in our lives. If we are aware of which style we are in, we can then learn to understand and appreciate the other style, and learn how to work together for the glory of God.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Before we begin a task or make a trip for a holiday, many of us like to plan ahead and make the necessary preparations and arrangements, so that the task could be completed successfully, or we would be able to reach our destination safely and enjoy the holiday without problems. We would scrutinise our options and some of us would go through the details over and over again, with the hope that whatever we have planned would be smooth sailing. Some of us would even come up with contingency plans should our original plan be ridden with sudden surprises or other issues which may crop up along the way. However, life is such that even the best plans we make could sometimes turn out quite differently than what we had expected. We may eventually get what we hope to achieve, or to where we want, but not quite the way we want.

In today's Gospel, we read of how Jesus' plans were diverted by two different individuals who were in need. In the Gospel, Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, and He was about to begin preaching, teaching and healing, when He was interrupted by Jairus, the synagogue official, who pleaded with him to see his daughter who was "desperately sick." Before we go further, just imagine you were in Jesus' shoes... How would you have responded, especially with the crowd waiting eagerly and expectantly for you? Some of us may have said: "I am a little tied up with these folks at the moment. Could I come later?" Perhaps some of us may have said: "Just look at this crowd! I can't just leave them here. Maybe next time?" But did Jesus respond to Jairus in any of these ways? No. Instead, Jesus got up without hesitation and followed Jairus to his house.

Then, while Jesus was making his way to Jairus' house, a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years touched His cloak. Jesus was immediately aware that power had gone out from him, turned round in the crowd and said, 'Who touched my clothes?' Of course, anyone could have touched Jesus as the crowd was so big and was pressing round Him, but Jesus continued to look all round to see who had done it. Once again Jesus was distracted from His plan to go to Jairus' house, and was kind and gave encouragement to the woman, when she came forward to admit the truth. Before Jesus could make His way to Jairus' house after sending the woman off in peace, news came from Jairus' house that his daughter had died. Some of us may have thought that it is too late, and we may have said "why put the Master to any further trouble?" But as far as God is concerned, it is never too late. Jesus still went on, reached Jairus' house, raised the girl from the dead and returned her to her family.

What do these stories mean to us? These stories tell us that God always has time for us. God is never too busy to hear and notice the prayers and plea of every single person even when everyone else does not seem to notice, or are not bothered, or are too busy or preoccupied with their own matters. God is not so inflexible that he does not make changes at times in order to help us and guide us.

What about us? Are we able and willing to follow God's example and make ourselves available to others who need our time and our help? Or have we become so individualistic, calculative and selfish with our time, that our needs and wants take precedence over others? God gives life; not causes death. He is our comforter and healer; not the cause of our suffering and pain. May we too be life-giving and bring comfort and healing to others, as we grow in relationship with God and with our fellow pilgrims here on earth.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Housekeeping - Week 12 Year 1

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

21 June 2015 - 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
22 June 2015 - Monday of Week 12 Year 1
23 June 2015 - Tuesday of Week 12 Year 1
24 June 2015 - Birthday of John the Baptist
25 June 2015 - Thursday of Week 12 Year 1
26 June 2015 - Friday of Week 12 Year 1

Friday of Week 12 Year 1

When we are sick or having some sort of trouble, we would try to find help from the various options available in modern medicine. Different doctors may give us different prognosis and suggest different kinds of treatment, some cheap, some quite expensive. In our efforts to be cured, what if, after all the different medical procedures have been attempted, we are still not well? How would we respond to such a predicament?

In today's Gospel, the leper had suffered much, since at that time, lepers were ostracised from society and had to live on their own or within a leper community, as they were considered unclean. There seemed to be no cure and the leper, in desperation and with hope, dared to venture towards Jesus, bowed low in front of Him, and pleaded to Jesus for a cure. Even then, the leper did not force Jesus to cure him, as he merely said: "Sir, if you want to, you can cure me." The leper had placed his full confidence and trust in Jesus, and as a result, he was cured.

How many of us are like that leper in today's Gospel, willing to have full confidence and trust in God? Sometimes in our efforts to find a cure, we may have forgotten or neglected to seek God's help, thinking that we can find a solution or a cure on our own. But let us not forget that God can and will heal us, if we are willing to be patient and place our trust in Him. Are we willing to be humble and let God care for us according to His time and for His glory?

Friday, 13 March 2015

Thursday of Week 12 Year 1

There are some people who seem to think that they can get by as Christians by doing the barest minimum. Some of these people know how to talk, know how to make lots of suggestions, know how to complain and grumble when things are not in their favour, but that seems to be all they know. When they are asked to help improve on the situation, or offer their services to make things right, these people would begin to make lots of excuses or distance themselves, refusing to get involved and do their part.

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." It is easy for people to talk, but not so easy for them to do things, especially when it comes to doing God's will. Are we Christians only in name, preferring to be complacent and remain in our comfort zone, refusing to do our part for the glory of God?

Birthday of John the Baptist

Who is John the Baptist? Why are we celebrating His birthday? What is so significant about him? John the Baptist is the last of the Old Testament prophets. At the same time, his ministry begins the New Testament period. Therefore, he is the link between the Old and the New Testament. But is this reason enough to celebrate the feast of his birthday? There is actually more than meets the eye, and we shall soon discover other significant points concerning why we celebrate his birthday.

We celebrate the feast of his birth because we are also called to share in his ministry as a prophet. Each of us is also called by God to his ministry even before we were born, as the prophet Isaiah in the first reading writes: “the Lord called me before I was born, from my mother’s womb he pronounced my name.” This means that we are not the result of some accident, but we are part of God's plan and have a purpose and a mission in life. Also, we have been called to preach the Good News of God’s salvation. The prophet Isaiah reminds us that God has made our mouth a sharp sword or a sharpened arrow. This means that we cannot remain silent and remain hidden in our comfort zone.

Besides that, as God’s servant and prophet, we must remember that our reward comes from the Lord, and we should not expect any other earthly reward or payment for what we do. This means that we must not compromise the truth or allow ourselves to be bribed into diluting the truth, even though there will be people who will not like what we say. Moreover, our role is to bring a message of healing and reconciliation to all, just as John the Baptist preached a message of repentance and reconciliation, and called the people to turn back to God by turning away from their evil ways to prepare for the coming of the Lord.

Ultimately, we are to point the way to Jesus. We must decrease as Jesus increases. Our message and our ministry does not point to ourselves; and we must lead others to Christ, not to ourselves. All these points mentioned are precisely what John the Baptist did, and we are called to do the same by giving glory to God.

Today, as we celebrate the feast of the birthday of John the Baptist, let us learn from his example, for his example is precisely the model of Christian discipleship. May we, like John the Baptist, bear witness to the Light, and prepare others for the Lord.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Tuesday of Week 12 Year 1

Many of us like to get things done as easily and as quickly as possible. We do not like to be stuck in a task or a situation for too long, and would try to find ways and means to get it done and get it over with. For example, when we are on the road and we notice a traffic jam coming up ahead, we would try to look for an alternative road to avoid the jam, so that we could reach our destination sooner. Many of us would use the highway to get to our destination quickly, since the highway usually has more lanes and is supposingly easier and faster to drive on. But if we consider for a moment, taking the highway or the alternative road may seem easier and faster to drive on, but it may not necessarily be safer. The alternative road may have much larger vehicles using it, and attempting to overtake such vehicles could be dangerous or even fatal, since it could be harder for us to see other incoming vehicles. The highway could tempt some of us to speed, and we may be at risk of getting a speeding ticket or even get into an accident.

In today's Gospel, Jesus cautions us: "Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Just as taking the highway or the alternative road may not be good for us, taking the wide and spacious road may lead us to perdition. This is because we sometimes try to cut corners and look for shortcuts in our spiritual life and in our relationship with God. We forget, fail to realise or refuse to admit that the alternative road or the highway seems easy and convenient, but we may become complacent, become distracted with other things, or slack in our concentration towards consistently and faithfully maintaining a good and healthy relationship with God. May we take heed and be alert of what sort of road we are using, and change course accordingly, lest the road we take leads us to our doom.

Monday of Week 12 Year 1

It is easy for us to look at other people with coloured vision. Some of us see only the good in others, and fail to take notice of their not so good points. This may sometimes happen when, for example, a person is deeply or crazily in love and is not in a rational state of mind, and the person longs or pines for the other, even though the other person may not necessarily be a suitable partner. Some of us see only the bad in others, and we may pick on every minute detail, every imperfection the other has, and make it seem as if it is a big deal. But how many of us are humble enough or willing to accept a person for who he or she is, without looking at the other through our own filtered or coloured vision?

In today's Gospel, Jesus admonishes us: "Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye." We sometimes find fault with others because we are trying to make them change according to our standards. Sometimes we find fault because we are unwilling to admit our own shortcomings and project our shortcomings on another person. But let us be reminded that all of us are not perfect, all of us are made differently, and sometimes what we think are imperfections are actually perfectly imperfect. Thus, let us be mindful not to allow our filters or coloured vision to take control of us, and let the Lord guide us, so that we would truly be thankful and appreciate others for who they are.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Life sometimes throws us a hurdle or a difficult situation which seems to have no solution or no way out. Some may feel as if their lives are crumbling to dust, or everything seems to be falling apart. Some feel as if they are in a boat which is being bombarded by waves at all sides, that it is close to being ripped apart or to the point of sinking; or some feel as if they are in a airplane being swayed dangerously around, to the point of almost stalling and falling from the sky. When we are in such a predicament, some of us may begin to question whether God really takes notice or cares. There are some of us who turn to God only at the moment of our need, when we are stuck in a rut or in a hopeless situation, but we may have forgotten about Him at other times, especially when times are good or when we are ok. On the other hand, some of us may be so overwhelmed by our problems that we have forgotten about God and we blame Him for deserting us. We accuse Him of doing nothing to help us and we are angry with Him because He does not seem to be helping us out according to our terms and our expectations. But the question is: is God answerable to us? Does He have to quickly rush to our aid without delay?

In today's readings, we are reminded that no matter how big the problem, no matter how great the obstacle, no matter how hopeless the situation may seem, we will not be overwhelmed by it. This is because, as the second reading reminds us: "The love of Christ overwhelms us when we reflect that if one man has died for all, then all men should be dead; and the reason he died for all was so that living men should live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised to life for them." When we have Christ's overwhelming love, we no longer need to fear or be overwhelmed by other matters, since our lives are under His care and benevolence. Likewise, in the Gospel, Jesus admonishes us just as He admonished His disciples: “Why are you so frightened? How is it that you have no faith?” Jesus is the Lord of the storm and the seas; and the Lord of every problem, obstacle or situation that we may encounter, and He can help us if we allow him to be our Lord.

When we are faced with a problem or a difficult situation, we must allow Jesus to be our Lord and let Him give direction to our lives. The problem is: it is never easy for us to give up control, we want to take charge, we are reluctant or refuse to let go and let God take over. We continue to want to have control over the boat of our lives, even though we know that our efforts would not work out or even lead to disaster. But the fact of the matter is: do we want to remain in a vicious cycle, where we remain stubborn and try to face the situation or problem on our own, expecting God to get us out of our mess, only to end up angry and disappointed when it seems as if He is not helping? Or are we willing to let Jesus to take control, since it is He who must give directions and lead us according to His terms and for His glory; not we who give Him directions on what to do?

Sometimes the problem may seem to worsen, or we may have to live with the problem for the rest of our lives. But whatever the outcome may be, we must trust that God will take care of everything and provide us with what we need. Ultimately, it is His will be done, not our will be done. And if we are willing to accept God's will and let Him be our guide and help, then there is no need for us to be disappointed, angry or fearful, since we can depend on God to do what is best for us. Are we willing and prepared to let God be God, and be comforted and cared for in His loving embrace?

Monday, 9 March 2015

Housekeeping - Week 11 Year 1

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

14 June 2015 - 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
15 June 2015 - Monday of Week 11 Year 1
16 June 2015 - Tuesday of Week 11 Year 1
17 June 2015 - Wednesday of Week 11 Year 1
18 June 2015 - Thursday of Week 11 Year 1
19 June 2015 - Friday of Week 11 Year 1

Friday of Week 11 Year 1

As Christians, we are often tempted to be attracted to wealth, riches and property. The advertisements that we see on television or hear on the radio, the various posters and billboards that we see next to the road, all seem to bombard us with the message that wealth ought to be our ultimate purpose and goal in life. How do we survive and avoid such constant attacks and temptations?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, "Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Jesus reminds us that all the wealth, riches and property in the world are temporary, can be corrupted, can be stolen, and merely illusions. Such riches do not satisfy or bring us happiness, since we will never have enough of it. Instead, we should be focusing more on building a good relationship with God, since being with Him should be our ultimate goal. The question is: are we merely looking for that which is temporary, or are we looking for that which is eternal?

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Thursday of Week 11 Year 1

Whenever we do something wrong, it seems easy for us to ask God for forgiveness. After all, we do not actually see God, but we trust that God would be loving and merciful to us, and forgive us. But forgiveness is not just a one way street or one-sided. The forgiveness we ask from God has got a clause in the fineprint, something which some of us may overlook, ignore or fail to observe.

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us... 'Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.'" We ask for forgiveness from God, but some of us find it so difficult or so hard to forgive others, due to our pride, prejudice, ego, or even our arrogance. Let us be humble and willing to forgive others, since God is loving and forgiving to all of us, regardless of who or what we are.

Wednesday of Week 11 Year 1

Every once in a while, we come across people who are quite tight fisted or stingy or calculative with their wealth and time. Such people expect the church to give them all kinds of things, but they themselves are quite reluctant to give in return. Some even put on a monkey face or sour face when giving, as if they are having their teeth pulled or they are undergoing some sort of extremely painful procedure. I recall with amusement a person asking for a tax-exemption receipt for a small donation, even though the sum donated was quite small and most people would have been embarrassed to ask for such a receipt in the first place.

In today's reading, St. Paul cautions us: "Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works."

Are we giving because we are being pressured or forced or coerced to? Or are we giving happily and willingly? Are we giving because we want to show off how wealthy, supposingly generous or how great we are? Or are we giving to glorify God? Let us be reminded that God is generous to each and every one of us by being our providence and guide, and what He grants us is far more substantial than what we could ever give.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Tuesday of Week 11 Year 1

As humans, we like to receive affection and assurance from others. When a person says nice things to us or praises us for something we had done, we feel good and feel happy. But if we consider for a moment, people who say nice things and praise us are often our friends or people who like us. What about those people who are our enemies, or have got something against us, or just plain dislike us for one reason or another? How do we respond to such people?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike. For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit? Even the tax collectors do as much, do they not? And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do as much, do they not? You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect."

If we are loving and good only to those who like us or who are our friends, then we are no different from others who do the same. As Christians, we are challenged to go beyond this and be loving and good to all, regardless of whether they like us or are friendly to us or otherwise. Who knows, by being good and loving to all, we may be helping our enemies and others who dislike us to have a change of heart, for God works in mysterious ways and can do wonders for us. May we continue to glorify God in all we do, and trust in His love and providence.

Monday of Week 11 Year 1

What sort of people are we? Are we followers of Christ? Or have some of us begun to be more and more worldly in our attitude, behaviour and conduct? Calling ourselves followers of Christ is fine and good, but what matters more is that we show that we really are followers, not just in words, but especially in deeds.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "We prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything."

Ultimately, all that we do, all that we say, is for the glory of God. Being a follower of Christ and a servant of God means there is no place for personal glory or personal gratification. If we are faithful and glorify God in all we do, we can find joy and confidence in His love and care.

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Many of us have experienced problems in one form or another. We often fail to view problems from the proper perspective and thus fail to come up with solutions, because we are either too close to the problem, are ourselves involved and muddled in it or we are the problem. In dealing with our problems, our perspective can be widened if we realise that God has intervened and helped resolve problems throughout human history. This way, we can view things from God's perspective.

In today's Gospel, we read about the Parables of the Growing Seed and the Mustard Seed. The first tells us that the Reign of God will definitely come about as its seed grows to maturity, while the second teaches that God’s Reign, though of humble beginnings, is destined for greatness. God's Reign is one of truth, justice, love, and peace. But what we often see and experience in life is the opposite. Everything seems to have a price, including truth and justice. Whose truth eventually prevails, in the media or the courts, is sometimes based on who paid more or who has the power or political clout. Justice seems to favour the rich and powerful. Love? There is so much hatred between husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, neighbours, different groups and peoples. This begs the question: Does peace really and truly exist?

There is one thing though about God's Reign that we should be conscious of: it is already here but at the same time, not quite yet. It is already here because Christ had established it with His coming. Not quite yet, because truth, justice, love, and peace have yet to spread completely throughout all aspects of human life. God is continually at work and in due time His Reign will be established in its fullness. But we should not think that we can rest on our laurels or be complacent, since we too have our part to play in establishing God's Reign, since we are God's cooperators in His work. If we want truth to prevail, we need to plant the seed of truth. We want justice and love, we also need to plant their seeds. But once planted, we must water and fertilise them as well as clear them of weeds. If there is truth, justice and love, then peace is not too far away since these three are connected. In short, we must first live and practise the values of the Kingdom before we can convincingly ask others to do the same. Moreover, God wants us to have patience. We cannot expect that just because we have set ourselves to do God's work, because we have planted the seeds of truth, justice, love and peace, then the world will change immediately and automatically. Like a seed, things take time to grow and need to be nurtured. There will be pains, challenges, difficulties and sorrows. But like God, we must be patient before the harvest.

All this points to the fact that we have indeed a big and substantial task ahead of us. But we must do our part and start somewhere: at home, in school, at our workplace, in our community. As we do our part, let us be patient. In His own time, God will bring our work, His work, to fruition.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Housekeeping - Corpus Christi & Week 10 Year 1

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

7 June 2015 - Corpus Christi
8 June 2015 - Monday of Week 10 Year 1
9 June 2015 - Tuesday of Week 10 Year 1
10 June 2015 - Wednesday of Week 10 Year 1
11 June 2015 - Saint Barnabas, Apostle
12 June 2015 - The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Solemnity

Sacred Heart of Jesus - 2

Among the many organs in our body, the heart is among the more important organs. Your brain and other organs may fail, but you would be able to continue surviving as long as your heart is pumping and distributing blood to other parts of your body. Once your heart stops, you will die. The heart is also commonly used as a symbol of love. But the kind of love we profess to each other is imperfect, compared to the kind of love God has for us.

In today's first reading, we come across a God who loves Israel so much and poured so much affection on them, even though they had not appreciated God's love. Even though God had been angry with Israel's conduct, He relented and did not destroy Israel, as the reading tells us about God: "I will not give rein to my fierce anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again, for I am God, not man: I am the Holy One in your midst and have no wish to destroy." Such is the magnitude and immensity of God's love. Likewise, the second reading tells us of God's tremendous love for us, that He sent His Son Jesus to save us and strengthen us: "Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God." Moreover, in the Gospel, we are reminded of God's love when Jesus was crucified and died to save us from our sins.

If God loves us so much and even sent His only Son to save us, then how are we showing such love to others around us? Notice that God did not send His Son only to a certain group, and He did not love only a certain group; God loves everyone, regardless whether they are good or bad. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a reminder to us that God's love has no limits or bounds, and that He loves all of us, and we are encouraged, not forced, to return to His friendship and build a close relationship with Him. May we open our hearts and let the Sacred Heart of Jesus guide us, so that we too can love others the way Jesus loves us, and together grow as brothers and sisters in Christ, one family of God.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Saint Barnabas, Apostle

It is not easy when people that we know and have come to love and appreciate need to part ways and be transferred elsewhere. We try to cling on to them, since we have already become familiar with their habits and idiosyncrasies. Eventually, the person would need to move on, as is usually the case for priests and religious. As priests and religious, we are given responsibility to care for a community only for a certain period of time, and once the time is up, we move on to other places where we would be needed. "This is the story of our lives," as one elderly padre quipped ("and we will drink to that" is the response, as the same elderly padre also remarked).

In today's reading, we are told: "the Holy Spirit said, 'I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.' So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off." God requires us to be ever ready and willing to move to different places at different times to serve different communities. Our being in a place is merely transient, and sometimes moving off could be a good thing, since it offers us opportunities to grow and mature. May we be humble and joyful in moving on when the time comes, and continue to do the will of God for His greater glory.

Wednesday of Week 10 Year 1

From time to time, we come across people who claim to have received some great revelation from God and they begin to preach their own version of the Good News. Quite often, such people would preach the Good News to their advantage or benefit, and we have seen several instances where such people would embezzle wealth and property, and then make a disapperance after they have gotten what they wanted.

In today's Gospel: "Jesus said to his disciples, 'Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.'" This shows that Jesus was not changing or customising the Law or the Prophets by offering new material. Rather, Jesus was helping his disciples and us too to return to the original meaning of the Law and the Prophets, since the original meaning had been diluted and interpreted to suit the scribes and the Pharisees. In the same way, we too are reminded to faithful in preaching the Good News by teaching what Jesus taught, and not bring in our own interpretation or opinion.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Tuesday of Week 10 Year 1

Throughout our lives, we would have used the words "yes" and "no" several times. Sometimes both words are used quite a bit in a day. We may say "yes" when the circumstances befits us or provides us with some benefit or advantage. However, saying "yes" does not necessarily mean we are in agreement or we are happy, because sometimes we say "yes" out of peer pressure, or to save one's skin, or to fit in with the crowd. Thus, our "yes" may not always bring us peace and happiness.

However, there is a "yes" which is more satisfying and uplifting which we can never find on earth. That "yes" is from God and in God. Today's reading tells us: "with Him (Jesus) it was always Yes, and however many the promises God made, the Yes to them all is in him. That is why it is ‘through him’ that we answer Amen to the praise of God. Remember it is God himself who assures us all, and you, of our standing in Christ, and has anointed us, marking us with his seal and giving us the pledge, the Spirit, that we carry in our hearts." At our baptism, we said "YES" to Jesus, and we received the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us throughout our lives. As we continue to say "YES" to Jesus, we are assured by Him and there is no need for us worry or fear of anything else. Let us thus joyfully, consistently and confidently say "YES" to Jesus, for it is in Him that we can find true joy, happiness and peace.

Monday of Week 10 Year 1

Whenever we are faced with difficulties, challenges in life, or even persecution, what do we do? Some may try to isolate themselves and lick their wounds, some may think that God has abandoned them and allow such things to take place. But if we consider for a moment, what should a Christian response be in the face of such difficulties, challenges or persecution?

In today's Gospel, our response to difficulties, challenges and persecution should be one of happiness. Some may wonder, are we being crazy or weird for being happy in such matters? Actually, it is a matter of perspective and purpose. Being happy, as described in the Gospel, is not because we are being gratified or exalted or even having an ego boost. Instead, being happy is when we have the opportunity to glorify God in all we do, including when we are facing difficulties, challenges and persecution, since we are being witnesses to the Good News. Let us therefore take courage, knowing that our happiness is in the Lord, and He will guide us and reward us for our faithfulness and love.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Corpus Christi

Why do we attend Mass? Some do so because they supposingly want to be closer to God and be part of a community of believers; but sometimes their actions and attitude seem to show that they are only concerned about themselves or their families and friends. There are people who come to church for Mass, and find that the church parking space is getting congested, then what do they do? Some just park indiscriminately and enter the church. Then when others affected by such indiscriminate parking find that they are unable to move their vehicle, tempers begin to flare and people who call themselves so called brothers and sisters in Christ, end up screaming and shouting at each other. There also are some who, upon entering the church, find that many of the seats have already been booked or "chope" by others who only want their family members or friends to seat together (a common tactic theses people use is to place a bag, handbag or some personal item on the seat). When we do these kind of things, are we really coming to church for the right reasons? What has happened to our being brothers and sisters in Christ?

When we celebrate the Mass, Jesus extends hospitality to all of us. He does not extend hospitality only to those who are thought to be good and holy, but also to strangers, lukewarm Christians, and sinners. The Mass is not confined only a few select people, but all are welcomed to be nourished and cared for. Also, we sometimes come across Christian communities who have broken into factions. There are factions between the rich and the poor. There are those who think themselves holier than others. There are those who support a certain leader and others who support another leader. But in the Mass, there can be no room for factions. All are united in the Body of Christ, and we should die to ourselves, die to our selfishness, our pride and prejudice, our suspicion of others.

Perhaps we should take a good look at ourselves and be honest: why do we come for Mass? Do we really come as a community of brothers and sisters in Christ? Or have we become individualistic and indifferent towards others? Every Mass is meant to be an occasion and a great opportunity for each and every one of us to extend hospitality to others, especially strangers, migrants, the weak, the elderly, little children and those who seem to be alone. We should not think that such a task is meant only for the hospitality ministers or the parish priest, but each and every one of us are expected to do our part, if we call ourselves Christians, the body of Christ, a member of God's family, brothers and sisters in Christ. After all, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. As Christians, followers of Christ, are we not to do the same?

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Housekeeping - Trinity Sunday & Week 9 Year 1

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

31 May 2015 - Pentecost - Mass of the Day
1 June 2015 - Monday of Week 9 Year 1
2 June 2015 - Tuesday of Week 9 Year 1
3 June 2015 - Wednesday of Week 9 Year 1
4 June 2015 - Thursday of Week 9 Year 1
5 June 2015 - Friday of Week 9 Year 1

Friday of Week 9 Year 1

Do you believe that miracles can happen? Have you experienced a miracle before in your life? There are some who do not seem to believe that miracles happen, since they seem to take on a worldly view that science could give an answer and if it doesn't, then they would accept the fact that their fate is sealed. The funny thing is, such people sometimes experience a miracle and become believers. Such is the power of our loving God, who does wonders for us, though at times we may not realise it or experience it directly.

In today's reading, we see a series of miracles happening. In the reading, Anna was so full of joy of being able to see her son again that she exclaimed: "Now I can die. I have seen you again." We must remember that the Jews were in exile in Nineveh at that time and they were facing persecution, and for a Jew to leave Nineveh safely and return safely was indeed a miracle. Tobias used the fish gall on his father's eyes as medicine and as a result, Tobit was able to see again. Once again, another miracle had happened. Who would have thought that fish gall could be used to make a blind man see, but that was exactly what happened. Then, to top up the series of miracles, Tobias was able to bring Sarah his wife home. Sarah, in case some of you may not know, had been given in marriage seven times, and that Asmodeus, that worst of demons, had killed her bridegrooms one after another before ever they had slept with her as man with wife. But this time, God had intervened and the angel Raphael had chased the demon Asmodeus away, so that Sarah and Tobias could be together in peace.

Indeed, miracles do happen. Sometimes we realise it and give thanks to God. At other times, we may not realise it. But perhaps one miracle which we experience each day but we may of taken for granted, is the miracle of life. The fact that each of us is able to wake up every morning is already a miracle. Are we thankful for the gift and miracle of life that God has granted us each day?