Sunday, 31 January 2016

Friday of Week 19 Year 2

If you find out that your husband or wife has been unfaithful and has prostituted himself or herself, all for the sake of money, would you forgive him or her? What if you find out your girlfriend has become pregnant because of her loose living which you discovered, would you forgive her? It seems easy to say that we forgive, and we recite such words when we pray the Our Father. But are we willing to put into action what we say by genuinely forgiving those who hurt us, just as God forgives us our trespasses?

In today's reading, we are reminded of how loving and forgiving God is: "The Lord says this: 'Jerusalem, I will treat you as you deserve, you who have despised your oath even to the extent of breaking a covenant, but I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last for ever... I am going to renew my covenant with you; and you will learn that I am the Lord, and so so remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done – it is the Lord who speaks.'" God is willing to forgive us, no matter how bad we have been. If God is willing to forgive us, should we not do the same towards others?

Thursday of Week 19 Year 2

How do we treat our family members and friends? What about our enemies? How do we treat them? Do we treat them as persons, to be loved, respected and with dignity; or do we treat them as things, to be used, abused, and discarded? Unfortunately, some of us treat different people differently according to who and what they are, even though we claim to be Christians. For example, we treat our family members well, but how do we treat the maid or servant in our homes? Do we treat them as persons, or do we make them work our monies worth?

In today's Gospel, the king initially treated the servant as a thing, and since the servant could not pay his debt, the king thought he had every right to sell of the servant and the servant's family, to repay the debt. The servant was just like any other thing or commodity, to be bought and sold at leisure. But when the servant pleaded to the king for mercy, the king had a change of heart and treated the servant as a person, with compassion and mercy. So the servant was given back some dignity, and he should have done the same for his fellow servant. But this servant was ungrateful, since the dignity restored to him was not shared with his fellow servant, and in the end, this servant ended up worse than before, for failing to treat his fellow servant with the same dignity his master had treated him.

What about us? Are we treating others with the same dignity that God treats us? Do we treat the people who serve us, who work in our homes as maids, who do many things to make our lives comfortable, with love and dignity? God treats all of us with love and dignity regardless of who we are or what sort of status we have in society; may we too learn to do the same.

Tuesday of Week 19 Year 2

What does it mean to be great? Some of us may think that to be great, we must have lots of money and property. Some of us may think that to be great, we must be highly educated. Some of us may think that to be great, we must have lots of titles and honours. But what is greatness really?

In today's Gospel, Jesus taught His disciples: "'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?' So he called a little child to him and set the child in front of them. Then he said, 'I tell you solemnly, unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" Like little children, when we learn to be humble and depend on our Heavenly Father for His help, guidance and providence, then we are learning what greatness really means. We begin to realise that being great is not for ourselves, but for the glory of God. May we strive to do God's will, and in all we do give God the glory.

Monday of Week 19 Year 2

It is easy for some of us to begin to demand certain rights and privileges, just because we think we are entitled to them. But there are times where we could set aside certain rights as a form of showing good example or witnessing to others.

In today's Gospel, we see the collectors of the half-shekel questioning Peter on whether Jesus pays the half-shekel. Jesus is actually exempted as the temple is the house of God and he is the Son of God. However, Jesus chose to forgo his right to be exempted and had the tax paid so that his exercising his right would not be a stumbling block to the temple collectors and others. He sent Peter fishing to demonstrate that he was in fact Lord over all creation, having the power to know which fish had a shekel in its mouth, just enough to pay the tax for the two of them. Moreover, Jesus' willingness to pay the tax shows his submission to the law of God. He told Peter to take the shekel and “give it to them for me and for you.” Here, we see that Jesus made a distinction between himself as the exempted son and Peter as the non-exempted subject, and yet still followed the law of God as an example to others.

What about us? Are we still demanding our rights? If Jesus, son of God, is willing to forgo His rights and pay the temple tax, would we be willing to do the same? May we do what is right, even if it involves forgoing certain rights, for the glory of God.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Friday of Week 18 Year 2

As children, we were encouraged to work hard so that we would do well in school. If we did well in school and attained good grades, then we may have opportunities to go to university. If we study hard and do well in university, we may graduate with honours or even go on to do a Masters degree or PhD. With such qualifications, we may be able to get a good job, with a good pay, and have a comfortable life. But notice that all these are geared only towards life here on earth. What have we been doing for our preparation towards eternal life? Are we preparing at all?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded: "What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?" We may get plenty of wealth, recognition, titles, fame and other things this world has to offer, but would these things be of any use if we ruin our eternal future? All that we have here on earth are only temporary things, and while it is necessary for us to survive in this world, we should also focus especially in our relationship with God. May we take the necessary measures to get back on track with our relationship with God, while we have time and opportunities to do so.

Thursday of Week 18 Year 2

It is not easy for some of us to forgive others, especially if these others have done something very serious or caused us great pain or harm. The easiest thing for some of us would be to seek retribution or revenge, since some of us think that we deserve justice and the person who has wronged us should get his or her just desserts. But how many of us are willing to forgive such persons, despite the amount of hurt and pain the person has caused us? Are we willing to forgive and move on? Or are we forgiving but still harbouring the hurt in us?

In today's reading, God is willing to forgive the Israelites their iniquity and never call their sin to mind. This means that God is not going to hold anything against the Israelites, and He is willing to guide them as His people. Likewise, God is willing to forgive us too for the many sins we may have committed against Him and against others. If God is willing to forgive and move on, why can''t we do the same? Are we too proud or egoistic to let go of the hurt and move on? When we forgive, we are not allowing the hurt to control us any longer, and we are freed from further hurt and pain. May we learn to forgive others, just as God forgives us, and let God help us become better persons.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Wednesday of Week 18 Year 2

Are you aware how much God loves you? Sometimes you may feel that God is not present or not helping, but actually He is there. He may not always grant our desires right away, but He knows when to give us help and care. After all, God was even willing to send us His own Son, Jesus, to redeem us and to save us from our sins. If God is so willing to do such things for us, then there is no reason for us to worry or fret or doubt His love.

In today's reading, we are reassured of God's love for us: "I have loved you with an everlasting love,
so I am constant in my affection for you." God's love for us is not just for a certain period or for a certain reason, but His love is unconditional and everlasting. Even though we may have run away from His love, even though we may have done wrong, God is still loving us and beckoning us to return to His love and care. Let us not be so stubborn or afraid, and come back to Him, so that we can find rest for our soul.

Tuesday of Week 18 Year 2

When a parent punishes a child, the parent may use harsh words or raise the voice. Some parents, especially those who come from an older or traditional background, may resort to giving a little smack. Those of us who are older may remember our parents using the cane or rod to give us a little whack for being naughty or mischievous. But generally, our parents said or did such things not because they hated or despised us, they did so because they loved us and those methods of disciplining were the only ways known to them at that time. After all, we were born without a user manual, and our parents did what they thought was best for us.

In the same way, in today's reading, God had been quite harsh to the Israelites because of their stubbornness, sin, iniquity and obstinate refusal to change. It took many punishments and suffering for the Israelites to learn their lesson, but God did so to help them realise that ultimately, He is the one and only God. Eventually, God even restored His people and said: "And you shall be my people, and I will be your God."

What about us? When God punishes us for something we have done wrong, when we are reprimanded for sinning, will be be humble and docile in accepting such correction? We may feel pain and suffering at first, but by going through such correction, we may become better persons. Let us not feel dejected, since God is our help and guide, and all He does for us is for our own good.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Monday of Week 18 Year 2

Being a prophet is not something which one takes upon himself or herself, and the message to be delivered is to be from God, regardless whether message is good or bad. Sometimes, we come across so-called prophets who curry-favour or win over people who crave for good news, with the intention of gaining popularity, wealth and fame. Such so-called prophets are what we call false prophets, misusing the word "prophet" for their own ends and purposes.

In today's reading, we come across an example of a false prophet named Hananiah. The reading warns us of the consequences of being a false prophet: "The prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah, 'Listen carefully, Hananiah: the Lord has not sent you; and thanks to you this people are now relying on what is false. Hence – the Lord says this, "I am going to throw you off the face of the earth: you are going to die this year since you have preached apostasy from the Lord."' The prophet Hananiah died the same year, in the seventh month." As we can see, a false prophet is asking for trouble, since such persons are not only deceiving others, but they would also face the wrath of God.

Are any among us behaving like a false prophet? Let us take heed of the warning the reading gives us. Let us stop our false ways and the nonsense we have been saying and doing, repent and return to God's ways, before it is too late.

Thursday of Week 17 Year 2

As children, some of us may have played with mud or clay before. We may have tried to make an object with mud or clay, so that we could use such an object to play perhaps with our friends or even imaginary friends. Sometimes we would try to make an object which could be used as a decorative item. When we are not too happy with what we made, we just roll the whole thing into a big ball of mess, and start over, until we are satisfied with what we have made.

In today's reading: "I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel." God constantly worked on the Israelites and tried to help them come back to Him. Likewise, God is also constantly working on us, inviting us to turn back to Him and depend on Him. Sometimes we are resistant to His moulding, and we may not turn out according to what He likes, but He is still willing to try again until we are moulded into something better. Are we willing to let God, like the potter, mould us into the best we can be?

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Wednesday of Week 17 Year 2

Some of us may have slacked in our faith or even gone astray at some point of our lives, due to various reasons. But even though we may have forgotten about God or church, God does not forget us. In fact, God is constantly calling out to us to come back to Him and walk in His ways. But God is not forcing us to come back, nor is He making us come back right away. He gives us time and many opportunities to come back. However, He is not going to wait for us indefinitely. At the end, we are accountable and responsible for coming back to Him or being away from Him.

In today's reading, God is inviting His people and us too, to come back to Him. He even assures us: "If you come back, I will take you back into my service; and if you utter noble, not despicable, thoughts, you shall be as my own mouth... I am with you to save you and to deliver you – it is the Lord who speaks. I mean to deliver you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the clutches of the violent." If God is so loving, so forgiving and so willing to take us back, what about us? Why do we delay in coming back to Him? Also, why do we delay in being loving and forgiving to others too? May we learn to be like our loving God, and remain in His love and providence.

Tuesday of Week 17 Year 2

When we are given a choice to do good or to do bad, what would we choose? We may say that the answer is obvious, that is, we would choose to do good. But sometimes we have people who persistently choose to do bad, despite being given much opportunities to change. Ultimately, our choices could lead to different consequences, some good, some bad.

Our spiritual life too are also full of choices. We could choose to grow faithfully, consistently and humbly closer to God, or we could choose to avoid God. In making effort to grow in relationship with God, we are allowing the good seed to be sown into our soul, as mentioned in today's Gospel. When we sin and neglect or refuse to go for Confession, we may be sowing darnel into our soul. At the end, what would happen to us would depend on what we sow, either wheat or darnel in our soul. Ultimately, we choose what the outcome would be, depending on the way we lived our lives. Therefore, let us be prudent and make a choice. Whether we choose to live a life with God, or away from God, we should be prepared to face the rewards or consequences.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Thursday of Week 16 Year 2

We sometimes take for granted what God has done for us. We may have received many blessings and gifts from God, but how many of us are truly grateful or thankful to God for His providence? When times are good, some of us may even begin to think that all the blessings and gifts we received are from our own effort. But when times are bad, then only some of us may turn to God and beg for His help. Why do we behave in this way? Do we not realise where all our blessing and gifts are really coming from?

In today's reading, the Israelites had become too full of themselves, even to the point of forgetting God. The reading tells us: "The priests have never asked, "Where is the Lord?". Those who administer the Law have no knowledge of me. The shepherds have rebelled against me; the prophets have prophesied in the name of Baal, following the things with no power in them." Even though the Lord had brought His people out of slavery into a fertile country to enjoy its produce and good things, they took it all for granted and even abandoned and rebelled against God who provided for them. Because of this, the Israelites eventually lost all these gifts and blessings, and ended up in exile.

In a way, we too could be in the same situation as the Israelites, if we take for granted God's blessings and gifts. Let us never forget that what God has given is could be lost or taken away, and let us always be grateful and thankful for His generosity and bounty.

Wednesday of Week 16 Year 2

The world that we live in today is full of different kinds of noise and attractions. People are being enticed with pleasure, fame, recognition, wealth, and many other things. This causes some nations to experience a drop in vocation, as fewer people are answering God's call to the priesthood or religious life. When so many distractions persist, it is indeed difficult to listen and recognise God's call. Sometimes, a person may have heard the call, but the person may feel inadequate or not worthy of answering the call.

This is where today's reading assures us. In the reading, the prophet Jeremiah felt inadequate and said: "Ah, Lord; look, I do not know how to speak: I am a child!" But God assured him by responding: "Do not say, “I am a child.” Go now to those to whom I send you and, say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to protect you – it is the Lord who speaks!" When you have God as your help and guide, there is no reason to feel inadequate or fearful, since God will take care of things. We just need to trust Him and let Him be our providence and strength. If God is calling you today, don't be afraid, since God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Tuesday of Week 16 Year 2

Some of us seem to think that "blood is thicker than water." What that means is family members are more important than others, and one should do all one can to bring happiness, peace and prosperity to one's immediate family. But what sort of attitude should us Christians have towards family? Of course we are reminded to honour our parents, as stipulated in the ten commandments. But is that all, or is there more to family?

In today's Gospel, Jesus shows us that there is more to family than what we think. To Jesus, being family means "Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother." This means that as Christians, being a member of God's family means doing God's will. The question is, are we really doing God's will? Are we loving and serving others with humility, for the glory of God? May we remain as part of God's family, and help others to do the same.

Monday of Week 16 Year 2

We live in a world where more and more unjust deeds are being committed in different ways. For example, we see discrimination in different forms happening, where certain groups get certain privileges, just because they claim to be the original settlers of the land, but in actual fact they are not. In some situations, we see people loving for a reason, sometimes for selfish reasons or personal gain. Once they have gotten what they wanted, these people may not love the same way as before, or even run away to seek other ways to achieve their ambitions and goals. Also, we see some folks behaving as if they are the smartest, brightest, cleverest, or even richest. Some of such folks proudly flaunt their abilities and wealth, thinking that no one can measure up to them. Sometimes, such folks even put others down, to prevent others from becoming like them. Are some of us guilty of doing such deeds?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God." All our wealth and achievements are merely illusions, temporary things that come and go. But what matters most is whether we are in right relationship with God and with others, and whether we are prepared to meet the Lord. May we not be caught off-guard, and make more effort to grow closer to Him.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Friday of Week 15 Year 2

The scribes and Pharisees were often described in negative or not so good ways throughout the Gospels. Often we hear Jesus mocking them, or scolding them, or telling them of their hypocrisy by showing them how wrong they were in their behaviour and conduct. But actually, the scribes and Pharisees were not entirely bad people or wicked people. They were misguided or extreme in their behaviour and conduct, but from time to time, we do hear of some scribes and Pharisees who were not that bad after all. So, in a nutshell, what was their problem?

The problem with the scribes and the Pharisees is that they were interpreting the Law according to their own terms. They thought that by following the letter of the Law to the minute detail, things would be ok. But what they failed to realise is that there is more to the Law than just the letter. In today's Gospel, Jesus further emphasised the need to follow the Law not so much according to the letter, but according to the Spirit. In the Gospel, Jesus reminded them: "What I want is mercy, not sacrifice." The scribes and Pharisees excelled in making sacrifices and making others do the same, but they failed in showing mercy.

What about us? Are we following God's laws just for the sake of being in His good books? Have we become like the scribes and Pharisees, focusing so much on following the Law so rigidly, that we have lost or misunderstood its meaning? May we learn to be loving and merciful, just as God is loving and merciful to all of us.

Thursday of Week 15 Year 2

How do you train a buffalo or lighten its load? By putting another buffalo next to it so that the other buffalo would help to drag the load, or to pull the cart, or to plow a field. If one buffalo were to do the task on its own, the task may be completed but it may take a longer time to do so. To enable a buffalo to do these tasks, the buffalo needs to be fitted with a device called a yoke. When we see a yoke designed with two openings to be placed on the shoulders of buffalos, then we would know that the yoke is meant for two buffalos, to enable the task to be done faster or more efficiently.

In today's Gospel, Jesus invites us to "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." The yoke that Jesus is speaking of obviously has two openings: one for us, and the other for Jesus to shoulder. Jesus is inviting us to join Him in carrying the yoke, so that we can learn how to be like Him and carry out His call to proclaim the Good News. Are we willing to be humble and docile, and let Jesus be our partner in shouldering the yoke? After all, two "buffalos" are better than one, and we have a "buffalo" who is patient and loving towards us.

Wednesday of Week 15 Year 2

Can a person make himself ot herself? Of course not, since each and every one of us are made by God, through the union of our parents. If the conditions were not right, and our parents had not united as one flesh, we would not have been conceived. So we really cannot make ourselves, and if some of us say we are "self-made," then perhaps we may be arrogant or too full of ourselves, forgetting that who we are, and where we are today, is a result of many persons and circumstances.

That is why today's reading questions us: "Does the axe claim more credit than the man who wields it, or the saw more strength than the man who handles it? It would be like the cudgel controlling the man who raises it, or the club moving what is not made of wood!" All that we are, all that we have come to be, is because of the help of many others and especially God's help. So let us not become to proud or conceited, but give thanks for the many help given to us by others, and especially God's help and providence. May we be thankful and grateful, and give God the glory.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Tuesday of Week 15 Year 2

It is certainly not easy remaining faithful as a Christian, especially when we are being tempted by the ways of the world, or we are facing some sort of trial or persecution. Some people take the easy way out and abandon their faith, preferring to save their skin. But time and again we have seen people who chose to persevere and suffer, even to the point of death. We venerate many of such persons as saints at different times throughout the liturgical calendar.

In today's reading, God tells Ahaz, king of Judah: "Pay attention, keep calm, have no fear, do not let your heart sink..." This is because Jerusalem was under siege, and king Ahaz was fearful of being defeated and destroyed. But God assured him that this would not happen. However, God also reminded the Israelies: "But if you do not stand by me, you will not stand at all." God can and will help us, just as He did for the Israelites, if we remain with Him, and let Him be our help and guide. Are we going to stand confident and steadfast, trusting in God's providence?

Monday of Week 15 Year 2

Sin and God are incompatible, that is, God will not tolerate any trace of sin within us. This means that as long as we have the stench of sin attached to our soul, no matter how small or trivial the sin may seem, we are in danger of drifting away from God. To cleanse us from our sin, Jesus died on the cross to save us and redeem us, but that is only part of the story. We too need to do our part by doing our best to avoid sin, and if we sin, we should not delay in going for confession, to seek forgiveness of our sins and to ask our loving God to help us not to sin again. Of course, this is easier said than done, given the fact that there are many temptations of this world which try to snare us and entice us to sin. This is why we must always remain in the Lord, and let Him guide our thoughts and actions.

In today's reading, the Lord is beckoning us to "wash, make yourselves clean. Take your wrong-doing out of my sight. Cease to do evil. Learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow." God is calling out to us to return to His ways. Are we willing to rid ourselves of our sins with His help and mercy?

Friday, 22 January 2016

Friday of Week 14 Year 2

When we sin, what happens? Our soul begins to get smeared with the filth of sin, and we slowly begin to lose our relationship with God. It may not be instant or so quick, but if we let the sin remain in us, its filth would eventually cover us in darkness, and our connection to God may end up disconnected. As an analogy, imagine if you drink hard liquor regularly without giving time for your body, especially your liver or other vital organs to rest. In time to come, such organs may fail and you may be stricken with severe health issues. Sin is like that, since its effects on us would have far reaching and devastating effects, especially to our eternal future.

That is why, in today's reading, God is constantly calling out to Israel, and to us too, to come back to Him. God is willing to heal our disloyalty and love us with all His heart. The problem is, some of us are still so proud and stubborn to change our ways and come back to Him. Some of us feel too ashamed or afraid, but if God is willing to take us back, why do we still feel this way? Do we not trust in God's promises and care? May we take every opportunity to walk in His ways, return to Him, and let Him be our help and guide.

Thursday of Week 14 Year 2

When we go for a vacation trip abroad, one of the things that concerns us is whether our luggage is too heavy, or whether we have packed too many things, or whether we really need so many things. We seem to fret over so many things concerning our trip, that we may end up becoming stressed or preoccupied with such things, and end up not really enjoying our trip after all. If this is the case, why do we go for the trip in the first place? We say that we go because we need a break or a vacation, but how are we going to have a proper vacation or break if we are fretting or getting stressed out?

In today's Gospel, Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: "As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you."

Jesus wanted us to be free from so many unnecessary worries and concerns, so that we would concentrate more on preaching the Good News. Just as we are advised to travel light and bring only essential things, so that we can enjoy our vacation trip, Jesus is inviting and encouraging us to learn to depend on our loving God, who will provide us with what we need. Do we not trust in God's generosity and providence?

Wednesday of Week 14 Year 2

As Christians, do we worship God alone? Some of you may think that this sounds like a silly question, but sometimes we come across Christians who appear to worship God, but they have become so attached to the ways of the world, that money, wealth, riches, and popularity have become more important than God, and some have made all these other things of equal importance with God. When we do such things, our hearts become divided and our focus may turn more and more towards other gods in the form of money, wealth, riches, and popularity, instead of the one, true God.

In today's reading, Hosea cautioned Israel that "their heart is a divided heart and they must pay for it." This is because the Israelites had focused more and more on other gods, and neglected or even abandoned the one, true God. Could we be in danger of having to pay for it, for abandoning or neglecting the one, true God? Are we risking our eternal future just for the sake of temporary success, wealth and power here on earth?

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Tuesday of Week 14 Year 2

God has given each and every one of us different gifts and talents. We do not have the exact same talent, since each talent is unique. But sometimes, we come across people who are not happy with their gift or talent, and they begin to get very jealous when other people seem to be better than them in a different way. When such people are jealous, they begin to say things or find ways to put other people down, but they sometimes do or say things which only end up making them look silly or stupid. Could some of us be guilty of such things?

In today's Gospel, we come across the Pharisees who were extremely jealous of Jesus, because of what he said and did. Just because Jesus had cured a dumb demoniac, the Pharisees tried to put Jesus down by saying: "It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils." Now if we consider for a moment: isn't such a statement stupid? Why would the devil cast out another devil? Surely the devil would join up with the other devil and the person would be worse off.

When we become jealous like the Pharisees, we may also end up like them by saying or doing silly or ridiculous things. May we take care not to become so incessantly jealous, since all gifts are from God, and we should rejoice when such gifts are used well for His glory.

Monday of Week 14 Year 2

Among the many sins a married couple may encounter, one of the most difficult to forgive is unfaithfulness or adultery. This is because the party who committed such a sin has lost the trust of the other party. The situation is even further aggravated if a pregnancy is involved, or if the party who sinned has contracted some disease as a result of such unfaithfulness. It takes a lot of courage, love, mercy and compassion for one to forgive the party who sinned. Forgiving the party that sinned is one thing, but rebuilding the trust that is lost is another thing altogether, and it may take quite some time before some trust is restored. Humanly speaking, it is not easy to rebuild the trust, but with time and with God's help, perhaps the trust may be somewhat restored.

But when it comes to God, He shows us what it means to forgive and rebuild trust. In the reading, the Israelites had been unfaithful to God, and had been seduced by Baal. But God had not given up on them or abandoned them. Despite their unfaithfulness, God is willing to take them back and make them His own. If God can be so loving, forgiving and merciful to such people, what about us when it comes to broken or unfaithful relationships? Are we willing to follow God's ways, forgive and rebuild trust? Are we willing to let bygones be bygones, pick up the pieces, and move on, especially if the party who sinned wants to come back to us and remain with us? Or are we going to allow the hurt, anger, pain and disappointment control us and even cause our marriage to fail?

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Friday of Week 13 Year 2

Some of us think that just because we have lots of property, wealth, power or political influence, we can do whatever we like. Because of this, some of us begin to differenciate ourselves from others, by considering ourselves as the "haves" compared to the "have nots." When this happens, some of us begin to find ways and means to maintain our status, and in the process, we begin to suppress others, trampling and controlling them, even cheating them or witholding what is due to them, all for the sake of protecting our interest, or to show them who is boss. But by doing so, are we aware of the consequence of our actions? Do we not realise that we are sinning and bringing about God's wrath?

In today's reading, the prophet Amos warned about trampling and cheating the poor and the lower class. He warned that this not only destroyed the bond and fabric of society, it also stirs up God's anger. God does hear the cry of the poor, and when we neglect, mistreat or abuse them, we are only going against God. Some of us may ask: "Where is the poor? Do we need to go to a certain place to find them?" Actually, we don't need to go far looking for the poor, since they are already in our midst. They could even be working for you, or serving you in different ways. We just need to open our eyes and identify them. May we come to realise what we are doing, and do what is right and just for the poor, so that we may grow closer in relationship with God.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Thursday of Week 13 Year 2

Most people do not like to hear or experience bad news. Those who do are often ridiculed and people would ask them whether they are crazy, or are "gluttons for punishment" which basically means to "willfully take on disagreeable or uncomfortable tasks." However, sometimes it is necessary for us to hear and experience bad news, since such bad news could help us learn to be humble, to learn from our mistakes and become better persons, to be more dependent on God, not to be complacent, and not to be too confident or proud of one's wealth, achievements and success.

In today's reading, the prophet Amos had been warning the Israelites of the impending doom which would happen to them if they did not change their ways and return to the Lord's path. But Amaziah the priest of Bethel, tried to curry favour with the king of Israel and tried to chase away the prophet Amos, saying that "this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple." By saying so, Amaziah thought that God would not allow the temple to be desecrated or destroyed, since he believed that God was present in the temple. But what Amaziah failed to realise is that God is not confined only to the temple, and that the prophet Amos had been sent by God to warn the Israelites. Sometimes, pride, as in the case of Amaziah, could lead persons to think that God is on their side, when in reality, that is not the case.

What about us? Could some of us have become like Amaziah, refusing to listen to God's warning? Are we fooling ourselves into thinking that nothing would happen to us? May we take heed and change our ways, and return to God's ways, before it is too late.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Tuesday of Week 13 Year 2

Some of us may have heard of or used early warning devices, so that in case there is a serious problem or disaster emerging, we would be prepared and ready to either make a run for it, or take action to deal with the problem before it happens. For example, when a fire is detected, the sprinkers would activate to put out the fire before it gets worse. Also, if you live in a flood prone area, and the weather is showing signs of getting worse, you would likely make preparations to flee before the floods come. However, sometimes we get people who refuse to take notice of such early warnings, and they do so at their peril.

In today's reading, the Israelites had an early warning system in the form of the prophets. In the reading, the prophet Amos had warned the Israelites to change their ways or face disaster, but the Israelites took no notice of the prophet Amos. As a result, the Israelites were in grave danger of being confronted with disaster and doom, as the prophet Amos said: "Israel, prepare to meet your God!"

What about us? Are we ignoring the signs around us? Have we allowed sin and the ways of the world to blind us and give us a false sense of security? May we not get caught off-guard when we are suddenly called to face the Lord, and risk losing our eternal reward.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Monday of Week 13 Year 2

It is interesting to observe how people behave when times are good and when times are bad. When people are experiencing prosperity, wealth, success, popularity, riches and many other seemingly good things the world has to offer, how many of such people would still be rooted or grounded with God in their lives? But when disaster strikes, when the going gets tough, when there is trouble and suffering, how many of such people will remain faithful to God, and how many would give in to other forms of help, only to find out that they have gotten into an even bigger mess?

In today's reading, God had a covenantal relationship between Israel and Himself. If the Israelites chose to break the covenantal relationship with God, they do so at their own peril, since God was not obligated to guide them or protect them. Throughout the Old Testament, we have seen how disaster had struck when the Israelites chose to turn their backs on God, and despite trying to find their own way and their own solutions, the Israelites ended up getting into even more serious trouble. The reading even reminds us that flight will not save even the swift, the strong man will find his strength useless, the mighty man will be powerless to save himself. In other words, without God, we are nothing and we cannot save ourselves.

So what does this mean to us today? It means that we must learn to constantly grow in relationship with God. We cannot depend on what the world offers, because what the world offers is only temporary. We too are temporary, we are weak, if we try to block God out of our lives. May we come to a realisation of what is really important, what really matters, and take measures to prepare for our eternal future, before it is too late.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Birthday of John the Baptist

Normally, we celebrate the feasts of saints on the day of their death, where they are born into eternal life. However, there are three birthdays which are important to us Catholics: Christmas, September 8 (the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary) and June 24 (the birth of St. John the Baptist). Christmas and mummy Mary's birthday we can understand more or less why we celebrate them. But John the Baptist? Celebrating his birthday clearly shows how important and vital John the Baptist's role is in God’s plan of salvation, since Jesus said: “I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John" (Lk 7:28).

John the Baptist's greatness is based on his faithful fulfilment of his role in introducing the Messiah and upholding the Truth. He showed this in three ways. The first is his humility. When asked by the people who he is, he replied: "I am not the Messiah. I am the voice crying out in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord!' He must increase and I must decrease." Here, John the Baptist shows that he is not the one people should go after. Secondly, he showed his fidelity to his mission, by living and dying as a prophet, faithfully pointing the way to the Messiah. Thirdly, he showed courage for the truth. He dared to challenge Herod for taking his brother's wife, Herodias, as his wife, reminding Herod that such an act was wrong, adulterous and sinful. As a result, John the Baptist was beheaded.

John the Baptist challenges all of us to be heralds of the Gospel, with conviction and courage to proclaim the Truth. The truth cannot be compromised, but proclaimed and defended, even if one experiences persecution or even death. May we learn to be like John the Baptist, upholding the truth, and pointing others to Jesus.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Thursday of Week 12 Year 2

When we do something wrong or displeasing towards our parents, what happens? Quite likely some of us may get a scolding, some of us may even get smacked. When we do something wrong or commit a traffic violation, what happens? We may be fined for the offence committed. But what if we do something wrong or sin against God? God may be merciful and patient with us, but some of us may have taken for granted God's mercy and patience, and sometimes we may be caught off-guard when we are called to face Him for judgement. Then what would happen to us then?

In today's reading, king Jehoiachin did what is displeasing to the Lord, just as his father had done. Already many of his ancestors had committed offences against God, and God had been so merciful and kind towards them. But king Jehoaichin failed to change his ways and make amends with God. Then what happened? Because of the infidelity of the Israelites, because of the continuous displeasing acts committed, king Jehoaichin and the Israelites ended up in exile, a humiliating and painful consequence of not taking action in making amends with God while they had plenty of opportunities to do so.

What about us? Some of us seem to think that we have plenty of time to change our ways and return to God's path. But we forget that God can call us any time to give an account of our lives. Are we going to jeopadise our eternal future through our own inaction and false sense of security?

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Wednesday of Week 12 Year 2

Every once in a while, we come across certain persons who claim to be preaching the Good News, but what they preach is more often than not their version or interpretation of the Good News. We see such persons making outrageous claims, such as being able to heal most persons in a crowd, and they even have the gall to say that if a person is not healed, then it is because the person did not put his or her faith in the so called healer. Sometimes such persons would encourage the crowd to give more of their wealth, so that they would get more wealth and success from God, making it sound as if God would do our bidding if we give more.

But let us consider a moment: who is actually doing the healing? God, isn't it? The preacher or healer is not the one that heals, but it is through God's grace and mercy that a person is healed. Also, since when God could be bribed or forced to give us wealth? The strange thing is, some people are so gullible into thinking that they can get what they want, be it healing and wealth, by following such persons. But quite often, such persons do such things only for their own benefit. Once they have reached a certain goal, or when they find that support is dwindling, such persons would quite likely disappear and go some other place to ply their trade.

That is why, in today's Gospel, we are warned: "Beware of false prophets who come to you disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves. You will be able to tell them by their fruits." Sometimes it does not take much to weed out a fake, and we should warn others about such persons, since such persons are there to try and create trouble and confusion for their own ends. Sometimes it may not be so easy to spot such persons, and this is where we need to watch carefully and be discerning as to whether such persons are genuine or not. Whatever it is, may we be diligent and careful, so that our Christian community would not be led astray or taken for a ride.

Tuesday of Week 12 Year 2

There are times in life where we are threatened by certain persons or groups who say that if we do not join them or follow their ways, we would be persecuted or even exterminated, and according to them, there is nothing we can do to stop them. They seem to be so confident that we would give in or kow tow to their demands, just because they think that they have the power and strength to carry out their evil designs. But as we recall in many instances in Scripture, God has helped and intervened, and such persons end up eating humble pie.

In today's reading, we come across one such person, the Assyrian king Sennacherib. He thought that, just because he had quite easily defeated the other nations, Jerusalem would have no chance to escape from imminent destruction at his hand. This is because Sennacherib thought that the God of the Israelites was worthless, just like the other gods who had failed to prevent other nations from being destroyed. But what Sennacherib failed to realise is that the other gods were idols, and that the God of the Israelites is the one, true God. In the end, it was Sennacherib who suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat, and the Israelites were saved, because the Israelites had put their faith and trust in God Almighty, the one true God.

What about us? Would we do the same as the Israelites did? Sometimes the situation seems hopeless and we appear to be on the verge of being wiped out. But let us not be disheartened or even despair, because God can help us if we trust Him and let Him do what is best. No matter what happens, may we remain steadfast and faithful to God, and give Him the glory.

Monday of Week 12 Year 2

What sort God do we believe in? Do we believe in a god that grants us all our wants and needs? Do we believe in a god that gives us lots of wealth? Do we believe in a god that will protect us from our enemies? Some of us may think that this seems to be a silly question, since some of us think that we believe in God Almighty. But if we believe in God Almighty, then we should be following His ways, keeping His commandments, and growing in His providence, care and friendship. But are we really doing these things? Or have some of us begun believing other gods, thinking that we would get what we want according to our whims and fancies?

In today's reading, the Israelites had a problem. What was their problem? They had gone astray. The reading tells us: "The Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, they followed the practices of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed for them." Even though the Lord had given Israel and Judah plenty of warnings through the prophets and the seers, the Israelites were still so stubborn and went against God. Because of this, the Israelites were conquered, captured and deported by the Assyrians.

What about us? Could we end up being deported as well? We could be deported from our eternal heritage, especially when we sin and refuse to seek forgiveness and reconciliation for our sins. We could be deported when we refuse to forgive and be forgiven. May we take caution and not end up being deported, since we have only ourselves to blame.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Friday of Week 11 Year 2

From a young age, we are taught to take care of our bodies. We learn about personal hygiene, and we are reminded to pay attention to certain parts of our bodies which would quite likely smell. We make effort to eat well, so that our bodies would get proper nutrition, and bathe once, twice or even three times a day. All these are good, since neglecting our bodies could lead to medical problems or even relational problems, since people would find it challenging being near to us because of the smell and to some extent, also because of our appearance. But what about our soul? How well do we keep our soul clean? Do we bother about our soul at all?

In today's Gospel, we are cautioned: "The lamp of the body is the eye. It follows that if your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light. But if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be all darkness. If then, the light inside you is darkness, what darkness that will be!" This eye refers to our soul, and when our soul is soiled with sin, our whole being will eventually be engulfed in darkness, causing us to lose contact with God. Are we going to allow ourselves to be consumed with the stench of sin, and tragically lose our eternal inheritance?

Thursday of Week 11 Year 2

If you observe the way young children play and interact, you would find that, in many cases, such children find it easier to forgive among themselves and move on. From time to time, such children may encounter wrongdoings or misbehaviour, but rather than holding a grudge or getting angry over words and deeds, sometimes for a certain period of time, we could notice that after a while, they would continue playing and having fun, as if nothing had happened. Why is this so? It is because of pride and ego. Such children have not yet developed the level of pride and ego which some of us adults may have.

Today we come across the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father in the Gospel. I suppose the hardest line to follow is: "And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us." Moreover, the Gospel cautions 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." If children can and are willing to forgive others quite easily, why do some of us find it so difficult to forgive? When we do wrong or said some unkind words, do we seek forgiveness too, or do we hold on to our pride and ego? Why do we allow our pride and ego to take control of us completely? May we come to realise that forgiveness is not just a one way street, where we expect to be forgiven but we refuse to forgive. Instead, may we learn to forgive others, and be humble enough to seek forgiveness from others. Like children, let us set aside our pride and ego, and learn to be more like our loving God.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Wednesday of Week 11 Year 2

When we do good things, what is the purpose of us doing so? Do we do good things to show how good we are, or how wonderful or kind we are? Do we do good things to win the admiration of others? Do we expect praise and honour for the good things we do? Or do we do good things to glorify God? What sort of attitude should we have as Christians, when it comes to doing good?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded: "Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice; by doing this you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven." Also, when we are doing good, we should do so in secret, since the Gospel tells us: "...and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you." By doing good deeds in secret, we are not bringing attention to ourselves, but giving God the glory. May we check our motives when doing good, and in all we do, may we give God the greater glory.

Tuesday of Week 11 Year 2

As Christians, we are often reminded to conduct ourselves or behave or do things in ways very different or totally the opposite of what the world does. For example, we have seen how some people of the world would find ways and means, by hook or by crook, to gain an advantage over others; but as Christians, our goal ought to be towards being with the Lord. Being somebody or successful in the world ought to be not our main concern, but growing in relationship with God is.

Another example of how we Christians ought to be different is when it comes to enemies. No matter how kind or caring we are, no matter how much we have done, we are bound to have people who are not happy with what we say or do, for one reason or another. Some of such persons may even go to the extent of becoming our enemy, bending in finding ways and means to put us down or belittle us. But how do we respond to such persons?

The answer can be found in today's Gospel: we are to love them just as God loves all of us, regardless of who we are and whether we have been good or bad. Not only that, we are also to pray for our enemies. Can you imagine loving and praying for them, especially when they have said and done so many nasty things towards us? Of course it is not easy, but Jesus is asking us to transcend from the ways of the world, where an eye for an eye and revenge is often used. Instead, we are to be loving, prayerful and merciful; just as God has been to us in many ways. May we learn to follow the ways of Christ, and love all just as God loves us all. Sometimes by doing so, we could cause our enemies to become friends, and show others what it really means to be a Christian.

Monday of Week 11 Year 2

Are we content with what we have or what we achieved? Or have we become accustomed to looking for more and more? When we want more and more, what happens? We begin to work hard to try and achieve or attain more and more. But what if what we want to achieve or attain is beyond our reach because it belongs to someone else and cannot be given away or sold? Some of us may just let it be, but some of us may resort to doing something unthinkable, even to the point of committing sin, to get what we want. Would you go to the extent of sinning to get what you want, come what may?

In today's reading, king Ahab wanted Naboth of Jezreel's vineyard. Naboth had no intention of giving away, or exchanging or selling his vineyard, since the vineyard was ancestral land. So what did Ahab do? He, with the help of his wife Jezebel, had Naboth killed, so that he could take possession of Naboth's vineyard. What do we see here? We see a classic example of several mortal sins being committed, such as: committing murder, coveting neighbour's goods, and bearing false witness. Is obtaining such land that important? To some of us, it may not be a big deal, but to Ahab, he had allowed his heart to become poisoned and enslaved with greed, envy, wrath, passion, pride, ego and many other vices.

What about us? Where do we stand? Could some of us already have become like Ahab? Do we value only what we can get or gain here on earth, at the expense of our eternal reward? Would we be in danger of gaining the whole world, but losing our soul?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Friday of Week 10 Year 2

We sometimes have the impression that just because God is Omnipotent (all-powerful) and Omniscient (all knowing), he should reveal Himself in a spectacular or powerful way. Some of us think that a good example of God being revealed is through natural events such as a strong wind like a tornado or typhoon; or an erupting volcano; or a deafening thunder followed with frightening lightning; or a tremendous earthquake; or through some other powerful means which could be scary or phenomenal. But how does God really reveal Himself?

In today's reading, we discover that God revealed Himself in a way least expected. He revealed Himself to Elijah in the sound of a gentle breeze. Just imagine, we have God who reveals to us not in a spectacular or powerful way according to what we expect, but in a calm and gentle way. This gives us some insight about God, that despite being Omnipotent and Omniscient, He has no need to show off or prove Himself. Likewise, we as children of God need not show off or prove ourselves, since we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of our qualifications, capabilities, strengths and abilities. May we learn from our Divine Master and providence, and remain humble and rooted in His love and care.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Thursday of Week 10 Year 2

It is very easy for some of us to become like the scribes and Pharisees. Some of you may say: "Yerr! This padre so bad one. Call us scribe and Pharisees." But if we think about it for a moment, we could somewhat agree that it is indeed easy and possible for some of us to become like the scribes and Pharisees. How so? How can? It's like this: What is the problem the scribes and Pharisees had? Firstly, they excelled in following the letter of the law. They even added numerous sub-laws to so-called compliment God's law, forgetting or ignoring that basically, God's law is not that complicated, since God's law is basically only two, that is to love God and to love neighbour. But all they were interested was to follow the letter of the law, and not the spirit or purpose of the law. Secondly, the scribes and Pharisees knew how to make other people feel bad, since they thought that they were ok and everyone else was not ok. Thirdly, the scribes and Pharisees were famous for not practising what they preach, as we have seen in many examples in the Gospel. Could some of us be like the scribes and Pharisees, looking at what sort of persons they were, and what sort of persons some of us are becoming or have become?

That is why, in today's Gospel, we are cautioned: "If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven." When we are so full of ourselves; when we think that everyone else is wrong and we are right; when we belittle others or put others down, just because they do not think, behave or act like we do; when we are self-righteous and condemn others; we may actually be like the scribes and Pharisees. One example I have observed is when a person comes for confession, but instead of confessing one's sins, the person begins to complain about or condemn other people, and when asked why they came to confession in the first place, such persons say that they have been wronged, they are ok or innocent, and they are angry or upset that other people or not treating them right or listening to them. Is that what confession is all about? Are such persons not behaving like the scribes and Pharisees?

Thus, let us ask ourselves. Are we learning to love God and neighbour sincerely and genuinely? Are we concerned about our relationship, especially with others, and are willing to be patient, persistent, firm but kind? Or are we cold or hard hearted, like the scribes and Pharisees, who thought that they were holy and faultless, and others are doomed?

Friday, 8 January 2016

Wednesday of Week 10 Year 2

God can sometimes have a very interesting sense of humour. When people try to worship idols and other so called gods, He would sometimes show how silly and futile such an activty could be, and in doing so, those involved would learn who is really the true God, and those who witness would be more convinced to return to His path.

In today's reading, we come across a confrontation between Elijah and 450 prophets of Baal. Mathematically speaking, Elijah did not seem to stand a chance against so many prophets of Baal, but what these phophets failed to realise is that God was supporting Elijah. In the end, the prophets of Baal ended up losing to Elijah, because God showed them that only He is the true God.

What does this mean to us? It means that we should take caution and not end up worshipping false gods. We should be worshipping only God. Sometimes we may fall into the trap of worshipping false gods, when we begin to focus our attention only to wealth, power, and things, which could become like gods to us. May we focus more on our relationship with God, knowing that only He can grant us eternal joy.

Tuesday of Week 10 Year 2

When we are having a problem or facing a crisis, what do we do? Perhaps we may pray and beseech God to help us through. But what if our prayers do not seem to be answered, even though we may have prayed fervently, then what do we do? Would we continue to pray, with patience and persistence, knowing and trusting that God would do what is best for us? Or would some of us begin to try looking for other means of help, only to find that those other means are really no help at all?

In today's reading, the woman from Zarephath was facing a crisis, since there was famine and she was at her wits end as to how to feed her son and herself, once the last bit of meal and oil is finished. To make matters worse, the woman was a widow, and widows in those days would have experienced much hardship, especially if they did not have much wealth or property left behind by their deceased spouse. Fortunately for this widow, her prayers were answered because she obeyed Elijah's instructions  "The woman went and did as Elijah told her and they ate the food, she, himself and her son. The jar of meal was not spent nor the jug of oil emptied, just as the Lord had foretold through Elijah." Because of her obedience and trust in God, the woman and her son were saved from imminent suffering and death.

What about us? Are we willing to have full trust and confidence in God, with patience and persistence? Sometimes, especially in today's world, we may be so used to getting things done quickly. But God's ways are not our ways, and if we are willing to wait and let Him do what is best for us, we may receive even more than what we hoped for.

Monday of Week 10 Year 2

Sometimes, we come across people who are so obstinate and stubborn, that we are unable to help them change right away. Such people may need to be left alone for a while, so that they may perhaps come to their senses or acknowledge their error, before they could be helped. One example of such a person is found in today's reading. In today's reading, we come across king Ahab, who had done wrong towards God, but had refused to admit it, or acknowledge his error. As a result, the prophet Elijah left the presence of Ahab, until such a time Ahab was ready to repent and return to God's ways.

What about us? Have we been so stubborn and obstinate and refused to mend our ways and right our relationship with God? Just as Ahab ended experiencing severe drought in his kingdom until such a time he made amends with God, we too may experience a severe drought in our soul, until we realise our folly and return to God's help and providence. May we come to realise our error and change our ways, before it becomes too late.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Sacred Heart of Jesus - 3

Can you see love? Of course we cannot see love, so we use a common symbol to represent it, a heart. When we say someone has a heart of gold, it means that the person is selfless and loving. When we have a heart-to-heart talk with a friend, we are expressing our deepest care and concern towards  someone we love. When we say, "have a heart," we are asking someone to be more considerate or caring. The heart can also be understood in various ways. Scientifically and medically speaking, it is a vital organ. If the heart stops completely, we die, simple as that. Psychologically speaking, the heart is seen as the center of emotions and feelings. Morally speaking, the heart is the seat of good or evil, because out of the heart flows our words and actions that tell us whether what is being said or done is good or bad.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Sacred Heart of Jesus that we see on pictures is a symbol reminding us of God’s divine love, the greatest love of all. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is aflame with love, radiant with love, wounded with love for each and every one of us. The image of the Heart of Jesus focuses on the self-sacrificing of Jesus Christ for us. It is this image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which reminds us that Jesus is our shepherd, who is constantly calling out to us, sinners, to return to Him.

Today's Gospel tells us that when sinners return to Jesus, "there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men who have no need of repentance." The Sacred Heart of Jesus is beckoning us to "have a heart" and come back to Jesus, so that we will live. May we strive to be closer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and let Jesus' heart heal us, and transform us, so that in all we say and do, we will glorify God.

Thursday of Week 9 Year 2

Life is such that we will face trials and challenges from time to time, and sometimes such challenges and trials could test our faith. When we are tested, we could respond in different ways: some of us would take the challenge and do our best in overcoming such tests; some of us would just sit and do nothing, thinking that such challenges will eventually go away and not bother us; or some of us could even give up and be overwhelmed by such challenges, even to the point of losing our faith. If you are in such a situation where you are facing a great challenge, how would you respond?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Do all you can to present yourself in front of God as a man who has come through his trials, and a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work and has kept a straight course with the message of the truth." The reading cautions us that we are to do all we can; not just sit idle; or give up. Are we taking on such challenges for the glory of God? Or have we become too complacent and forgotten our identity and mission as Christians?

Wednesday of Week 9 Year 2

God has called and chosen each and every one of us to be His witnesses and to proclaim the Gospel as best we can. Each of us are different, and how much or little we are able to do in proclaiming the Gospel is not important. What is important is we do our part, no matter how big or small that part may be. Some of us may be able to travel a lot to preach the Good News; some of us may not be able to do so due to some reason or another but can still offer prayers for others. But in all our efforts, our goal is to preach the Good News according to our ability and situation, with gusto and with power, love and self-control.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "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..." If we believe strongly in our faith, then why are some of us feeling small, timid or scared to preach the Good News? Sometimes we do not even have to say so many words, since even our attitude, behaviour and actions can be a form of preaching. May we take heed of what today's reading is telling us, and do our duty in preaching the Good News to all, so that all may know what it means to be a Christian.

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Feast

It is tempting for us to take complete credit when we receive praises for a task well done, or when we have accomplised something. After all, we worked hard and made much effort to ensure that the task was not only done properly, we also made sure that the task was completed according to the highest standards. But how many of us are humble and willing to also give credit to God for what we have done, instead of raking all the praises or admiration only to ourselves?

In today's Gospel, Elizabeth had plenty of praises for Mary, for it was Jesus in Mary's womb that caused Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Mary could have basked in the glory of listening to such praises from Elizabeth, but she did not do such a thing. Instead, she gave praise to God, saying: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exults in God my saviour; because he has looked upon his lowly handmaid." Mary acknowledged that the glory belongs to God, not to herself.

What about us? Are we willing to learn from Mary's example and give glory to God for all we do? After all, the inspiration that we received to accomplish the task could be through God's help, and we should be grateful to God for His providence and bounty. May we never grow so proud that we can do without God, and like Mary, give God the greater glory.

Monday of Week 9 Year 2

Christian faith in itself is meaningless if we do not show our faith. Christian faith is not something which we keep only to ourselves, or hide it in a closet, or sweep it under a rug. Christian faith must be shown, witnessed and lived, so that others would come to know what it really means to be a Christian, not by mere words, but by the example of our attitude, behaviour, conduct and our lives. So how do we show our faith? What do we need to do as Christians?

Today's reading gives us some ideas: "...you will have to do your utmost yourselves, adding goodness to the faith that you have, understanding to your goodness, self-control to your understanding, patience to your self-control, true devotion to your patience, kindness towards your fellow men to your devotion, and, to this kindness, love." If we say that we have faith, then we must show our goodness, our understanding, our self-control, our patience, true devotion, our kindness towards others, and ultimately, genuine love. Sounds like quite a lot is expected of us, isn't it? Well, nobody said that being a Christian is going to be easy, but let us be joyful and glad, since the benefits are out of this world.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Corpus Christi

Words are easy and cheap. People can say anything and everything under the sun or moon, but what they say would be mere words, if there is no action. For example, a person can say: "I love you." But does the person really mean what he or she says? After all, we hear the words "I love you" in so many places, such as in advertisements, on TV, in the cinemas, that the words seem to lose their meaning or significance. That is why, for many of us, we do not only want to hear such words, we want proof of action. Only through action can we come to believe or be convinced that someone really loves us.

Today we celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi. Today we remember Jesus' promise that He loves us. His promise is not merely words, but is shown in His action. Jesus proves His love for us by giving us His own body and blood, by sacrificing his own life for us to save us from our sins. Every time we come to receive the body of Jesus at Mass; every time we come to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we are acting out our belief that we are important, we are special, we are loved by God.

But sometimes, some of us may have taken for granted God's tremendous love for us. Some of us may have not prepared well for Mass, by going for confession, by observing the one hour fast prior to receiving Holy Communion, by spending time in prayer and reflection, by dressing in our Sunday best. Some of us just come to church and receive Holy Communion just like that, without ensuring that we are clean and well prepared, both physically and spiritually. If we go to meet a king or royalty or some VIP (Very Important Person) for an official dinner or an official function, surely we would prepare ourselves to make a good impression and to show that we have good manners and proper upbringing. What about Mass then? Do we do the same?

Today, let us be thankful and grateful that God loves us so much. God loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life. Jesus loves us so much that He offers us His Body and Blood, each and every time we receive Holy Communion at Mass. May we show our love, by being well prepared, and by being genuine in our love towards others.

Friday of Week 8 Year 2

Each and every one of us are unique. No two of us are exactly the same, even though we may appear to look alike, especially if we are twins. God has given each and every one of us different gifts, different talents, different capabilities. But what do we do with such gifts, talents or capabilities? Some of us may begin to think that we are great and we use our gifts, talents or capabilities to show off and to boost our ego, pride and to gain fame and popularity. Some of us even use our gifts, talents or capabilities to lord it over others, belittle others or put other people down, because we think that they are not able to measure up to us. But what sort of attitude and behaviour should a Christian have towards such gifts, talents or capabilities?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory, through Jesus Christ, since to him alone belong all glory and power for ever and ever. Amen." Ultimately, our gifts, talents or capabilities are meant to serve others with humility and sincerity, and to glorify God. Are using our gifts, talents or capabilities for our own glory? Or are we using them for the greater glory of God?

Thursday of Week 8 Year 2

Each and every day, we are surrounded with choices. Sometimes we make good choices, sometimes we make bad ones. When we make bad choices, what happens? Just as a stain can slowly ruin a shirt or pants, a stain of sin as a result of bad choices can slowly ruin our soul. When our soul is stained, what do we do? Ideally, we should go for confession as soon as possible. Surely we would not want a stain to remain on our soul for too long, just like we would quickly get the stain removed from our clothing. But the reality is, some of us seem to think that we have plenty of time to remove the stains of sin from our soul. Some of us seem to drag our feet, procrastinate, or put off going to confession. Some even go only once or twice a year. Are we forgetting the possible consequence of letting the stains of sin remain?

In today's reading, we are cautioned: "I urge you, my dear people, while you are visitors and pilgrims to keep yourselves free from the selfish passions that attack the soul.: When our soul is stained, we are causing ourselves to drift further away from God. We begin to think that we are self-sufficient, and that we can get by and prosper in this world. Perhaps we may be able to survive in this world for a while, but what is going to happen to us when we leave this world? Are we going to lose our lives in the afterlife, because of our neglect? May we come to realise that we are merely visitors and pilgrims on earth. Earth is not our permanent home, so let us make more effort to prepare for our permanent home. Where our permanent home may be, is up to us to decide.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Wednesday of Week 8 Year 2

Some people say they love, but their attitude and actions seem to say otherwise. We have come across people who say they love, but there is a reason why they love. For example, some people love another because the other person is smart, or handsome, or beautiful, or wealthy, or influential, or for some other reason. Some people love because they can get some sort of benefit or advantage in return. But how many of us can truly say we love without condition, without pretense?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart..." As Christians, we have experienced God's love. God loves us so much that He even sent His Son, Jesus, to guide us and save us from our sins. May we be humble and willing to love genuinely, just like God loves us each and every one unconditionally and sincerely.

Tuesday of Week 8 Year 2

Our minds can sometimes be so filled with thoughts of different kinds, that we become preoccupied with finding solutions to some of such thoughts. Sometimes we think too much, and stress ourselves out with so much anxiety, fear and worry. Our focus seem to lean more and more towards matters here on earth, that we forget that there is more to life than such earthly issues. As Christians, what should we do?

In today's reading, we are told: "Free your minds, then, of encumbrances; control them, and put your trust in nothing but the grace that will be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." When we put our trust in God and depend on His providence, there is nothing for us to worry or fear. There is a song by Don Moen titled: "God Will Make A Way." Indeed, God will make a way for us, even though we think that there seems to be no way. All we need to do is let Him be in control, and God's Grace is sufficient for us. He will take care of things, so let us do our best and lead good Christian lives, and let God do the rest.

Monday of Week 8 Year 2

Many of us are fortunate that we are not being severely tested in our faith and in our resolve to keep our faith. This is because we live in a somewhat peaceful environment. Of course, off and on, we may experience some form of persecution, but such persecution is still manageable, compared to some Christians in some countries where they are being tortured or butchered for refusing to denounce their faith. But what if, some day, we too experienced such torture and butchering? Would we be able to remain steadfast to our faith, even to the point of death?

In today's reading, we are comforted by the fact that our faith may be tested, but if we do not allow ourselves to falter and remain steadfast, we will have praise and glory and honour: "Through your faith, God’s power will guard you until the salvation which has been prepared is revealed at the end of time. This is a cause of great joy for you, even though you may for a short time have to bear being plagued by all sorts of trials; so that, when Jesus Christ is revealed, your faith will have been tested and proved like gold – only it is more precious than gold, which is corruptible even though it bears testing by fire – and then you will have praise and glory and honour." May we be ever ready to stand by our faith, knowing that our God will protect us and lead us to everlasting joy.

Trinity Sunday

Belief in the Trinity is the foundation of our Christian faith. This means that if a particular so-called Christian group claims to be Christian but rejects the Trinity, then that group is not Christian after all. But explaining the Trinity is certainly not easy. How can we explain that one is three and three is one? Seems impossible, especially from a mathematical or logical point of view. However, we can still gain some understanding of the Trinity and even experience the Trinity in terms of relationships.

Today’s readings gives us different images of God which helps us understand how God relates to us as a Trinity. In the first reading, we see the image of God the Father creating the world, and He created all things good. To believe in God the Father is to believe that everything happens for a reason, and that God wishes only good things for us. In the second reading, we see the image of Jesus, God the Son. Jesus revealed to us the three persons of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and himself, God the Son. Through Jesus, we come to know God as a personal God who loves us so much that he became a human person, one of us in all things except sin, to sacrifice his own life and save us from our sins. In the Gospel, we see the image of the Holy Spirit, who comes to live within us, to be our guide and help, and to lead us to the complete truth. At our baptism, we received the gift of the Holy Spirit and this gift is strengthened in us at Confirmation.

So what does this mean to us? It means that we experience and understand the Holy Trinity not as some theological mystery, but how God relates with us as individuals and as a community. God is the Holy Trinity because God is love; God is relationship; and God is community. Likewise, we too are called to follow God's example, and love others, not merely as individuals, but especially as a community. May we grow together as one family of God, embraced with the love of the Holy Trinity.

Friday of Week 7 Year 2

Some of us seem to be so quick in judging others, just because they think differently, or behave differently, or do things differently, or carry out instructions differently, from the way we think or expect. When we encounter such people, we may get angry, annoyed, upset, frustrated or even shun the person. But what we may fail to realise or perceive is that the person might be in agreement with us, or might be getting a task done, but not exactly as how we wanted. If you are encountering such a person, what would you do? How would you respond or manage such persons?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord; remember it is those who had endurance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the patience of Job, and understood the Lord’s purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate. Above all, my brothers, do not swear by heaven or by the earth, or use any oaths at all. If you mean ‘yes’, you must say ‘yes’; if you mean ‘no’, say ‘no.’ Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgement."

Perhaps the challenge that we face is to understand and appreciate the difference of methods or opinions, and engage the person or persons in question, so that we could strive together in one common goal, that is building the Kingdom of God. After all, we may have heard of the phrase "unity in diversity" before. Let us thus be thankful for the unity we experience, while appreciating the diversity of persons who make up God's children.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Thursday of Week 7 Year 2

Is it wrong for a person to be rich? No. Being rich is not wrong nor a sin. But how one acquired such riches and what one does with such riches could lead a person to sin. For example, a person could get rich by committing crime; or they gain wealth through corruption or other unsavoury means; or even get involved in illegal or black market trade; or through cheating, swindelling or abusing others for the sake of attaining wealth. Also, a person could misuse one's riches to pervert the course of justice; or bribe certain officials for favours or benefits; or even use money lavishly for personal glory, fame, to boost one's ego or personal gratification. When people do such things, the person could be sinning in many different ways.

In today's reading, the rich who misuse their wealth or gain wealth through evil ways are warned: "Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body... Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance."

Could some of us be guilty of gaining wealth through evil ways and misusing wealth? Let us take caution and not be lured into a false sense of security, since our riches here on earth will not last. Instead, let us make more effort in building "riches" in heaven, riches that will last for all eternity.

Wednesday of Week 7 Year 2

I believe that many of us are making effort to avoid sin and live good Christian lives. But sometimes, we do things knowing fully well that what we are doing is not right. For example, some of us feel that we are entitled to something, but we do not get what we think we are entitled to. Then what happens? Some of us may begin to scheme and find ways and means, by hook or by crook, to get what we want. But once we have gotten what we want, are we truly satisfied or happy? Or could some of us begin to desire even more?

Today's reading cautions us: "You never know what will happen tomorrow: you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’ But how proud and sure of yourselves you are now! Pride of this kind is always wicked. Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn’t do it commits a sin." When we know what is the right thing to do, but do otherwise to satisfy our pride, our ego and to gain some personal gratification, surely we are sinning. Sometimes what we do may appear to be right, but in actuality, we are not doing the right thing for the right reasons. May we discern carefully what we do, and do what is right, for the greater glory of God.

Tuesday of Week 7 Year 2

It is easy for some of us to get caught up with the ways of the world. Some of us strive for fame, popularity, titles, property, wealth, honour, and many other things that the world has to offer. Sometimes we end up doing things to put others down or to belittle others, in an effort to show how valuable or useful we are, in an effort to gain the attention of those who could reward us with worldly rewards. But let us ask ourselves honestly: How long will such rewards last? Can we bring such rewards with us in the afterlife? Would such rewards mean anything or is of any use when we die? Surely many of us know the answer to these questions, but how many of us are humble and willing to change our ways?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy... God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you... Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up." God is ever so patient to us and gives us plenty of opportunities to grow closer to Him. He is offering us eternal life, not eternal damnation, but we have a choice: God does not force us to be with Him. We can choose to remain in Him, or we can choose to be away from Him. Of course, this does not mean that we should neglect worldly matters completely, since we still need to survive in the world while we are living. But what it means is we should get our priorities right, and strive towards what is eternal, instead of only being concerned about that which is temporary.

Monday of Week 7 Year 2

Have you ever wondered why some people serve in church or hold some important office or function in church? Some may be doing so because they want to be generous in helping the church to grow, and to build God's Kingdom. Such people do things for the benefit of the church, and we can see their humility and genuineness through their words and actions. But it is also interesting to see how some other people behave, what sort of attitude they have, when they hold some position in church. We have seen examples of arrogance, pride, and ego in some persons, who do things for show or to attract attention to themselves.

This is why today's reading reminds us: "If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions." The reading also cautions us: "Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it." Are we living good lives, with humility and wisdom in our actions? Or have we become partial or hypocritical in our lives?