Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tuesday of Week 25 Year 1

Action speaks louder than words. We have heard many words and speeches throughout our lives, but all this talk is merely hot air, if nothing is done or carried out after that. Sometimes, we come across some politicians who would promise the sky during an election campaign. But after the elections are over and the politician has won, how many of them would actually keep their promises for the good of the people? The same thing goes for many other professions: it is pointless to talk a lot and sound good, without doing what you say.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice." We can claim to be related to Jesus, since we are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ. But if we only know how to talk but don't do anything, then what sort of brothers and sisters are we? Are we only Christians in name, without action, without making effort to love and care for others? Or are we putting into practice what Jesus has taught us, so that others would know that we ae Christians by our love?

Monday, 30 May 2016

Monday of Week 25 Year 1

We sometimes wonder whether God would help us or answer our prayers, especially when we do not seem to be getting any answers or solutions. When this happens, what do we do? Some of us may give up and think that God is not going to answer anyhow. Some may try other forms of help, only to discover that these other forms are not really much of a help after all. Some may begin to despair, thinking that there is no hope left. But how many of us are willing to wait, with patience and perseverance, knowing that God would do what is best for us, in His time and for His glory?

In today's reading, the Jews were in exile in the foreign land of Babylon and they had been in exile for 70 years. That sure is a long time, but God did not abandon His people. Instead, all of a sudden, He roused the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia to let the Jews go back to their homeland and even offered to help them rebuild the Temple. 70 years of darkness, uncertainty and hopelessness gave way to the long-awaited light.

What does this mean to us? It means that we should not doubt God. We should be patient, persevere and be persistent, knowing and trusting that God would do what is best for us, in His time and for His glory. We should not give up or even despair, since if God could do such things for the Jews, He could do great things for us too. We just need to let God be in control, and let Him be our providence, help and guide.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Friday of Week 24 Year 1

It is interesting to note that some people seem to think that they can pay their way to heaven, sort of like "cheap grace" where the more they contribute, the better the chances for them to reach heaven. Also, some so called Christian pastors seem to be focused in ensuring that their faithful pay up every month, even to the point of checking on their pay slip or income status, and even publishing on the notice board, the names of so called "offenders" who have not been able to contribute, though there may be good and valid reasons why they may be unable to do so. Has our church and even some of us begun to have such thoughts and attitudes?

In today's reading, St. Paul warns us: "This is what you are to teach the brothers to believe and persuade them to do. Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit – with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse and wicked mistrust of one another; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a profit. Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that."

Are we a church only for the money? In some churches, we seem to get the impression that the leadership is focusing only for the money, where the rich, influential and wealthy are well treated, but the poor, the marginalised, those who are not so well-off or even those who are struggling to make ends meet are given little or minimal attention. If our focus is only for the money, then why are we church in the first place? Are we followers of our own ego, pride and gratification, or are we truly and sincerely following Jesus and His teachings?

Friday, 27 May 2016

Wednesday of Week 24 Year 1

We sometimes come across people who say things that hurt, but what they say is the truth and makes sense. Some of such persons are called prophets, since what they are saying is to bring us back to our senses and help us realign ourselves with what is actual church teaching. However, those of us who say such things may not be appreciated or accepted by those who do not want to face the truth or accept the facts. Such persons would go to great lengths to try and discredit the prophet, in an attempt to safeguard the status quo or to maintain their interpretation of what they claim the church teaches, no matter how distorted or diverted the so called teaching may be.

In today's Gospel, the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees and Jesus were in constant conflict, as the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees had their own interpretation of religion and its practices, which was constantly challenged by Jesus.The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees tried to make Jesus dance to their tune but He wouldn't and He even said of them: "We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn't dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn't cry." Because Jesus and John the Baptist didn't conform, the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees labelled them as "possessed" and "glutton and drunkard." But as we know, it is the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees who had become "possessed" and "glutton and drunkard," since they were the ones who had interpreted God's laws according to their whims and fancies, instead of what is true.

What about us? Are we just as guilty like the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees, coming up with our own interpretations just because what the church teaches is not to our liking? May we come to realise what is true, and teach the truth accordingly, not what what we like or what suits us.

Tuesday of Week 24 Year 1

What does it mean to do noble work? For some, it means doing some sort of charitable task, or to carry out some form of social work or to volunteer for a good cause. But sometimes, people perform noble work for a reason. Some do so because they want to gain a tax exemption or recognition from the government. Some do so because they want others to look up to them or to gain admiration or praise from their friends and peers. But what is a Christian understanding of noble work?

Noble work, from a Christian perspective, is not so much what a person does, but the kind of person he or she is, that is the person's character. Today's reading gives us some important clues about the kind of character a person should have, which in a nutshell should be respectable and impeccable. The work or ministry that a person would be doing could only be noble when the person in question is of noble character. That is why, when it comes to clergy and persons who would be entrusted to positions of authority in the church, it is necessary to examine and scrutinise the person's character prior to ordination or appointment. May we be found to be of noble character, in our efforts to preach the good news to all.

Monday of Week 24 Year 1

Many of us find it easy to pray for someone we care about or love. We pray for such persons, so that they would have happy lives, or they would remain strong and healthy, or for some other reason. But how many of us truly and genuinely pray for others, especially those we do not know, or we do not like, or those who have been hurtful towards us? Do we keep everyone in our prayers, or do we pick and choose?

In today's reading, we are told: "My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth." When we pray for everyone, we are praying not for our own needs or wants, but for the good of all and for the glory of God. May we remember all around us in our prayers, with hope that there would be peace on earth.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Some of us may have experienced tremendous hurt or pain due to betrayal from those who were supposed to be close and trusting to us, such as our friends, our brother or sister, our husband or wife, our children, or even our parents. When we experience such hurt or pain, would we still be able to forgive the person or persons who have betrayed us? As Christians we are reminded that we are asked to fogive those who trespass against us, just as we ask God to forgive us our trespasses. But how do we forgive, especially when the hurt seems so great?

Some people think that forgiveness means forgetting, but this is not true. We are asked to forgive, not forget, since if we try to forget the memories, they will not be healed. To bring about healing, we must remember, since forgiveness is a healing of that memory which we must remember. Also, some seem to think that forgiveness will take away the anger and the hurt feelings, but that too is not necessarily true. Forgiveness is not about taking away the anger and the hurt feelings, but it is a decision to let go of the hurts, and to refuse to allow our hurts to control us. Should we wait till those hurt feelings disappear entirely before we are ready to forgive? Of course not! Forgiveness can and should begin even when we continue to feel hurt.

Moreover, forgiveness is not a single event, since it is a process and it takes time. When we decide to forgive, it does not happen all at once, or instantly, like some sort of hokus pokus, since we decide to keep on forgiving, and we will never stop forgiving till the day we die. As Jesus told his disciples in the Gospel, we are to forgive “Not seven, I tell you, but seventy-seven times.” That is a lifetime of forgiving indeed! Beside, we need to remember that forgiving others becomes easier when we realise that we too need forgiveness, since we too have made mistakes, betrayed others, hurt and gossiped about others, and are in need of forgiveness. God our Father readily forgives us for the many times that we’ve sinned, and we are challenged to do the same. Ultimately, we must learn to forgive ourselves, even though it may seem hard. Why do we need to forgive ourselves? Because if you cannot forgive yourself, you would also find it hard to forgive others, and you are doubting God’s compassion and mercy.

In today's first reading, we are reminded that "Resentment and anger, these are foul things, and both are found with the sinner. He who exacts vengeance will experience the vengeance of the Lord, who keeps strict account of sin. Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven. If a man nurses anger against another, can he then demand compassion from the Lord?" May we make every effort to begin by forgiving now, instead of putting it off till tomorrow, or next month, or the year after. At the end of our life, may we look back with joy and thanksgiving that our life was well lived and marked by forgiveness and reconciliation, instead of unforgiveness, bitterness and sorrow.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Wednesday of Week 23 Year 1

From the moment we were baptised, our lives should have been totally transformed from our old ways and put on the ways of Christ, as we make much effort to love God and neighbour, not just with words, but also through our actions. But are we really living a Christian life, or are we only Christians in name, but living worldly lives and doing worldly things like everyone else?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand... That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life... You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator..."

Living a true Christian life may seem difficult or even impossible, but to God, nothing is impossible. We will stumble and fall along the way, but we should get up and strive on, making steady progress in becoming more and more like Christ, while depending on His Grace and providence.

Tuesday of Week 23 Year 1

Every once in a while, we come across someone who seems to be teaching Christian faith and values. People become attracted to such persons since many of them have got the gift of the gab, and they become quite popular. But if we observe such persons carefully, we could discover that such persons are not really teaching Christian values and faith, but a warped or distorted view of Christian faith and values. There is a hidden intention of such persons in preaching in such a way, and once such persons have achieved their goals, they may just disappear or commit heinous acts, and their followers end up in a lurch or in dire straits.

That is why, in today's reading, St. Paul cautions us: "Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some second-hand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ." Instead of becoming influenced by such individuals, we should be clear about what we Christians believe in, and make every effort to remain clear and committed to the true Christan faith and values. May we not be so gullible or foolish into being led astray, and help others to be vigilant and do the same.

Monday of Week 23 Year 1

The institution of the Lord's Day is meant to help everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives. However, some of us seem to be taking the Lord's Day as an opportunity to make a profit, especially since the Lord's Day is usually a non-working day, and more people could be around shopping. On the other hand, some people take advantage of rhe Lord's Day to avoid any form of work, even if the task is a charitable, merciful or compassionate one. Such persons fail to realise that, ultimately, the Lord's Day is meant for all to rest and to give glory to God in our worship and in the good that we do.

In today's Gospel, the scribes and the Pharisees had extreme views about the Sabbath. These folks were so extreme and stubborn that not a single thing could be done during the Sabbath. Even charitable, merciful or compassionate acts were forbidden to these scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus was amazed with their attitude, and He still went ahead to cure the man with the withered hand. As a result, these scribes and the Pharisees began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus, since what Jesus did was illegal or wrong in their distorted minds, and something needed to be done to stop Him from embarassing them further.

Sometimes we too could be like the scribes and the Pharisees. We fail to realise that at the end of the day, the Lord's Day is for us to grow in relationship with God and with others, while giving glory to God. Some of us have forgotten that what God wants is "mercy, not sacrifice." May we come to realise the real meaning and purpose of the Lord's Day, and give God the greater glory in our words and deeds.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Thursday of Week 22 Year 1

Among the many sins a person may commit, one which is quite serious is the sin of despair. What does it mean to despair? To despair basically means one has had a complete loss of hope, as if there is no longer any way out or one has given up completely. When this happens, some may resort to substance abuse, drugs, or alcoholism to try and numb the pain. Some may even resort to suicide as a way out of despair. But how should a Christian respond when he or she feels as if there is hardly any hope left?

In today's reading, St. Paul encourages us not to despair but to have hope in God: "You will have in you the strength, based on his own glorious power, never to give in, but to bear anything joyfully, thanking the Father who has made it possible for you to join the saints and with them to inherit the light." No matter how difficult or dangerous the situation we may be in, God will help us if we remain steadfast in hope and trust in Him. May we never despair or lose hope, and let God be our providence and guide.

Wednesday of Week 22 Year 1

Priests and religious are becoming fewer in number in some places these days, as there seems to be a drop in new intakes due to lack of vocations. Sometimes this could be because families are having fewer chuldren, and some parents are reluctant to let their children go. In some cases, the children themselves are less interested in answering God's call, due to other attractions in the world. Thus, when a priest or religious is to be transferred, some of us would try to get them to remain with us, and some may go so far as to even write to the bishop or superior petitioning that they stay, but ultimately, they may still need to go elsewhere to serve.

In today's Gospel, the crowds went to look for Jesus, "and when they had caught up with him they wanted to prevent him leaving them, but he answered, 'I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.' And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea."

Jesus chose to do the will of God by going to other places to teach and heal, since He was sent to proclaim the Good News to many places, not just remain in one. In the same way, we too should realise that when a priest or religious is transferred to another place, he or she does so to do the will of God. Thus, let us be thankful for the gift of the priest or religious for having been with us for all these years, and continue to pray for him or her, so that he or she would remain faithful to his or her duty and vocation.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Tuesday of Week 22 Year 1

It is very easy for many of us to get carried away with different tasks and different interests. When we are busy with something, we may end up neglecting other things, just to focus on what we are doing. But the danger with such an approach is that we may get the task done, but at the expense of other things. For example, we may be so engrossed with a certain task, that we neglect our family relationships, and as a result, we may lose such relationships. Some of us may even neglect our health, and end up with hefty medical bills or prolonged sickness. When we neglect our relationship with God, we may find ourselves drifting away from God and becoming attached to the ways of the world, at the expense of our eternal future.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "But it is not as if you live in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day: we do not belong to the night or to darkness, so we should not go on sleeping, as everyone else does, but stay wide awake and sober. God never meant us to experience the Retribution, but to win salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, alive or dead, we should still live united to him. So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already."

What does it mean to stay wide awake and sober? It basically means we stay well-rounded in our tasks on earth, while consistently making effort to remain in good terms with the Lord and growing in our spiritual life. It also means that we are placing more emphasis in preparing to meet the Lord, while encouraging others to do the same. May we not be caught off-guard when the Lord calls us, so that we should still live united to him.

Monday of Week 22 Year 1

What sort of attitude do we have towards death? For some, death is the end, and they believe that once a person dies, the person ceases to exist. For some, death is like a door way to a different dimension, where the person believes that he or she would continue living the life he or she is used to while on earth. This is why we notice some ancient civilisations where their rulers and important persons were buried with their treasures and other things which they believe would be useful when they are in the supposingly next world. But how should a Christian respond to death? What sort of attitude should a Christian have towards death?

In today's reading, St. Paul tells us: "We want you to be quite certain, brothers, about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and that it will be the same for those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with him." As Christians, we need to have died in Jesus, by letting ourselves go through a conversion process where we let go of our old selves and put on a new self with Jesus as our help and guide. If we have been faithful and consistent in building a good relationship with Jesus, then we have no reason to worry or fear about death, for God will bring us to Him. Have we been taking the necessary steps to prepare spiritually for our death?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Friday of Week 21 Year 1

For many of us, our lives are often filled with hectic schedules and we are busy most of the time. We seem to think that to do well or succeed in life, one has to work hard and play hard. But the irony is that sometimes, playing too hard and working too hard leads to stress, and we may end up in worse shape than before. Also, when we play too hard and work too hard, we may neglect in other areas in our lives, such as our relationships with others, our health, or even our relationship with God. What happens when we neglect something? We will face the consequences of our neglect later on, and by then it may be too late.

In today's Gospel, we come across ten bridesmaids: five were foolish, five were sensible. All ten were supposed to meet the bridegroom, but the foolish ones only brought their lamps without bringing extra oil, whereas the sensible ones brought both. The bridegroom was late and the lamps of the foolish bridesmaids were running out of oil. So these foolish bridesmaids had to go and buy more oil, and in their absence, the bridegroom came. As a result, the foolish bridesmaids ended up being locked out of the wedding hall.

Have some of us become like the foolish bridesmaids who ended up being locked out? Have we neglected our relationship with God until it is too late? God has given plenty of chances for us to grow closer to Him, and it is up to us to be sensible enough to do our part. So let us not procrastinate any more but stay awake, because we do not know either the day or the hour.

Thursday of Week 21 Year 1

As children, many of us would have been told to excel in life. We would be reminded to study hard, get good grades, get into a prestigeous university and graduate, and then get a good job, so that we could make living and live comfortable lives. Some of us may have chosen to become entrepreneurs or even start a business, with hope of becoming a success. All these efforts are good, but how many of us are ready to meet the Lord, should He call you now?

In today's Gospel, Jesus is cautioning us: "Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect." While it is necessary for us to grow and prosper in the world, we should also not neglect our spiritual life. All our achievements and successes in the world are only temporary, but what happens to us when we die is just as important. Our bodies will return to the earth, but our soul will live on. Is our soul in good shape and ready to meet the Lord? Have we been making effort to remain in good relationship with God? Let us not find ourselves "weeping and grinding of teeth" due to our neglect.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Wednesday of Week 21 Year 1

We sometimes hear the saying: "Don't judge a book by its cover." What that basically means is that one should not jump into conclusions about persons, without carefully evaluating them for a while. When we observe a person, especially when we do not know the person at all, or know very little about the person, we could be tricked or fooled into thinking that the person is friendly, good, prayerful or holy. But if we were to take time to observe a person for a while, we may soon discover that the person is not quite what he or she seems..

In today's Gospel, we are once again reminded with an example of why we should not judge a book by its cover. The scribes and the Pharisees were being condemned by Jesus, because of their attitude, behaviour, the amount of pretense at the way they portrayed themselves, and much more. The scribes and the Pharisees chose to obstinately remain as they are, and throughout the Gospel, we can clearly see what sort of people they have become, even though Jesus had many times reminded them of their hypocrisy and tried to help them change.

What about us? Have some of us fallen into the same trap as the scribes and the Pharisees, when we choose to remain stubborn and prefer to do things our way, while lording it over others? Or are we willing to let Jesus change us into something better?

Monday of Week 21 Year 1

We sometimes do not realise how much influence we have towards others. Sometimes the influence could be good or bad, depending on our attitude and behaviour. What we say and do could cause others to have a good or bad impression towards us, and could cause others to imitate us, for better or for worse. For example, a child observes the father smoking and drinking quite heavily. Observing such a habit and possibly addiction could one day cause the child to become a smoker and drinker also, especially if the child kept on imitating the father's actions and was left unchecked.

In today's Gospel, Jesus gave us an example in the form of the scribes and Pharisees, of how others could be affected by our bad influence. He said: "Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to. Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are." Such words seem harsh, but they remind and caution us of the devastating power and influence that we can have over others.

So what does this mean to us? It means that we should be careful of our words and actions. We should use our words and actions to help and influence others to grow closer to God. May we be good examples to others, and in all we do, give God the glory.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Friday of Week 20 Year 1

Among the many things that we long for, one that seems to stand out is security. We can have good food, sufficient clothing, and other things, but when we do not feel secure, all these other things may not matter. Some of us even go to the extent of investing in a guard dog, or install an alarm system, or install some form of CCTV, to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our property from intruders. Some of us even move to a different area which seems more secure, such as a gated and guarded area, or where the neighbourhood seems pleasant and peaceful.

In today's reading, we come across Ruth who could have followed her sister-in-law and return to her own people. Even Naomi her mother-in-law encouraged her to do so, since Ruth's husband, who is Naomi's son, had died, and Naomi and Ruth no longer had any source of income and security in the household. Instead of going back to her own people, Ruth chose to give herself to follow her mother-in-law to go to a foreign land, and gave up her sense of belonging and security. By giving up herself and giving herself to Naomi, God blessed her and her name is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus.

What about us? Would we be willing to give ourselves up to Jesus? What about giving ourselves up to the needs of others? Would we be willing to let go of our security and let God be in control? It is when we give our heart and soul and mind to God, we will be secure and at peace.


Wednesday of Week 20 Year 1

Are we a generous people? Or are we an envious people? If we are a generous people then we should rejoice in the success and good fortune of others. The blessings that they receive reveal God’s goodness and generosity. If we are an envious people, then our hearts have become restricted and cold, so that it cannot rejoice in the good of others, much less, give to them. The envious person constantly compares himself or herself to others, forever worrying that somehow, somewhere, someone is receiving more than he or she.

In today's Gospel, the landowner is confronted by envious workers who accused him of being unfair because he made the last ones, who worked only one hour, equal to them, by giving all of them egual wages. But what is the real purpose of this parable? Its real purpose is to emphasise the truth that we have a God who is compassionate, merciful and generous. His actions go beyond the human understanding of fairness and justice. God gives us His blessings not because we merit them but they are absolutely His free gift to us.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we grateful for the many gifts that God has given us, and are willing to be generous and loving to others, just as God is to us? Or do we have envy and jealously in our hearts, always expecting to receive more and more, and yet reluctant or unwilling to give? May we learn to be like our loving God, ever so generous and loving to all.

Monday of Week 20 Year 1

Why do many of us continually persist in committing sin? Some say that it is due to human weakness. Some say that it is because we want to feed our pride and ego. Many reasons can be put forth, but one reason that seems pertinent or reoccuring is that we want to satisfy a desire, a craving, or a yearning for something which we long for, and yet for one reason or another, we are unable to satisfy it. So when such desires, cravings, or yearnings are not met, some of us may resort to evil, wicked or crooked ways to get what we want, and by doing so, we may end up committing sin.

In today's reading, the Israelites were experiencing a recurring problem, that is, they turned to and worshipped idols, and did what displeased the Lord. Why did the Israelites commit such a sin? It is because of the kind of idols that they were continuously turning to, or in other words, the supposingly type of powers and abilities that such idols were thought to have, that caused the Israelites to persist in sinning against God. Who were these idols? They were Baal who was chief of the Canaanite pantheon and worshipped as the source of life and fertility, mightiest hero and lord of war; and Astarte who was worshipped as the beautiful goddess of fertility and sexual love. The Israelites persisted in worshipping them, in an effort to satisfy their desires, cravings, or yearnings for power, might, wealth, sex and the freedom from moral obligations. But did these idols really satisfy their desires, cravings, or yearnings? Of course not, since these idols do not have any power, and the desires, cravings, or yearnings of the Israelites could never be satisfied by such so called idols. But God offered the Israelites many opportunites to return to Him, even though at times He punished them for their iniquity, and even sent judges to try and help them. God never gave up on the Israelites, despite their constant turning away from God, and eventually the Israelites came to realise that it is only in God that their desires, cravings, or yearnings could ever be satisfied.

What about us? Are we still turning away from God to try and satisfy our desires, cravings, or yearnings through other ways or means? Let us remember that God offers us peace and joy that no amount of money can buy. It is up to us to accept God's offer, and let Him be our true provider.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Friday of Week 19 Year 1

Throughout my ministry, I sometimes come across couples who do not seem to understand the implications of getting married and staying married. Getting married seems the easy part, but staying married is where the challenge lies. As the years go by, the married couple would face many kinds of conflict, difficulties and challenges. But such conflict, difficulties and challenges could be seen as opportunities for the couple to grow and stay strong together, especially if they practice "oneness" in thier married life. What is this "oneness" all about?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminded the Pharisees and reminds us too: "Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide." This is precisely the "oneness" that couples need to practice, that is, "the two become one body." When couples stick together in working out conflict, difficulties and challenges, then their "oneness" would enable them to find solutions to such conflict, difficulties and challenges. May our couples remain stuck to each other through thick and through thin, through good times and bad, with help from our lovimg God.

Thursday of Week 19 Year 1

Do we know the meaning of the words "mercy and compassion"? Some of us say we know the meaning of such words, but we do not put them to practice. We ask for mercy and compassion when we are in trouble or when we have done something wrong, but how many of us actually, wholeheartedly and willingly practice mercy and compassion towards others?

In today's Gospel, the first servant had had his debt cancelled and he was allowed to go free. But this servant obviously did not appreciate the generosity of his master. He did not know the meaning of the words "mercy and compassion" and thought that he had been given a lucky break. Instead of learning from his master and showing mercy and compassion towards his fellow servant by cancelling his fellow servant's debt, he became mean, arrogant and nasty towards his fellow servant, and  even had his fellow servant thrown into prison. In the end, this first servant ended up in prison himself, and his master in anger and disgust "handed him over to the torturers till he should pay all his debt."

When we are in trouble and have done something wrong, we ask God for mercy and compassion, but do we do the same towards others just as God has done to us? May we not end up in prison just like that unforgiving servant, as Jesus cautions us: "And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart."

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Wednesday of Week 19 Year 1

Once in a while, we come into conflict or have an issue with another person. The conflict or issue could be a small one or even a big one, but when we are faced with such conflict or issue, what do we do? Do we deal with the confilct or issue in an amicable manner? Or do we begin to gossip about the other person or belittle the person behind his or her back? Do we speak to the person first, and try to resolve the conflict or issue among the parties affected? Or do we allow our pride and ego to take control, and go straight to the person's superior or leader, hoping to get some gratification by seeing the person being disciplined by the superior or leader?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded about how we should deal with people, especially when there is a conflict or issue at hand. In the Gospel, Jesus tells us: "If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector."

What does the Gospel tells us? It tells us that when it comes to dealing with conflict or issues, we should do so in a gradual manner, step-by-step. We should do our utmost to resolve the matter among the parties affected first, and go to a higher authority only after all avenues in dealing with the conflict or issue privately have been exhausted. If we really and truly value our relationships, let us be mindful of how we treat others, since we too would want to be treated fairly, justly and with proper dignity.

Monday of Week 19 Year 1

In many religions, the followers are taught certain laws and customs which enable them to live peacefully, happily and with love and care. These laws and customs focus on right living, so that the followers would be seen as faithful not only to the deity they believe in, but also a good example and someone to look up to in society. If every follower of their respective religion were to be faithful and consistent in observing such laws and customs, then perhaps this world would become a better place. But the reality is, we are still far from making this world a better place, since we still encounter people who are extreme or refuse to follow such laws and customs for the common good.

In today's reading, Moses said to the people: "Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you? Only this: to fear the Lord your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and laws of the Lord that for your good I lay down for you today." The people were told to fear the Lord, not some irrational fear, but a fear of respect and reverence. The people were also told to follow, love and serve the Lord. By doing so, they were also to love and serve others, especially by keeping God's commanments and laws.

As Christians, are we also fearing our God? Or have we begun to treat other things as more important, so much so that these other things may have replaced God? Do we follow His ways, love Him and serve Him, as well as being loving and offering service to others? It is easy for us to call ourselves Christians, but are we Christians only in name? May we always be mindful of what is asked of us as Christians, and do all we can to love and serve the Lord.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Friday of Week 18 Year 1

What does it mean to obey? In today's reading we are presented with what seems to be a simplistic understanding of the meaning of obedience. In a nutshell, the reading is telling us that to obey means to keep the laws and the commandments of God, and by doing so we will prosper, live long and be happy. The reading also cautions us that if we disobey God, then we lose everything and be ruined.

But Jesus in the Gospel gives us a deeper and different meaning of obedience. In the Gospel, Jesus tells that if we want to be His disciples, then we would have to renounce everything and take up our cross. What Jesus is trying to tell us is that when we let go, we gain, or if we were to put it in a different way: We should let go, and let God. Obedience to God is not about gaining world riches. Rather, obedience to God is the realisation that eternal riches is far more precious, far more valuable. So the question is: Why do we obey? What do we ultimately seek?

Wednesday of Week 18 Year 1

If a person makes a promise to you, would you believe him or her? If the person is someone you have trusted all this while, then it may be a no brainer to believe. But supposing the person is not someone close, would you still believe? Supposing the promise is made by a politician, would you believe? Or would you remain skeptical and think that such promises are just mere words, meant to be broken when necessary? How then would you trust and believe, when a promise is made?

In today's reading, God told Moses to send a reconnaissance team to the land of Canaan which He was giving to the sons of Israel. This team was made up of the leaders of each tribe of Israel, and they were to give a report of the land that God had promised to give to Israel after 40 days of reconnaissance. When they came back, they showed the people the produce of the land and indeed it was a good and fertile land, a land flowing with milk and honey. But they also said that the people in that land were a powerful people, that they were no match against them, and they began to disparage the land. The people raised their voices, cried aloud and wailed in despair, forgetting that it was a land that the Lord had promised them. The people forgot that what the Lord had promised, He will deliver, and they didn't want to believe in the promises God made to them. God did not break His promise; instead it was the people who broke faith in God.

What about us? If God were to make a promise to you, would you still remain skeptical? Sometimes we just need to have a little more faith and trust that God would fulfil His promise in His time and for His glory.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Tuesday of Week 18 Year 1

Why do people become envious or jealous? Some become so because they covet what someone else owns. Some become so because they feel the other person seems more talented or capable than them. Some become so because they feel inferior or have low self-esteem. What happens when we are jealous and envious? We become critical and judgemental towards ourselves and towards others. We forget that each and every one of us is precious to God, and we are made in a unique way. We want to be someone else or we want something which we don't have or lack. But what do we really gain from being jealous and envious? Are we living in truth, or are we living a lie?

In today's reading, we hear of how Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses in connection with the Cushite woman. But the issue here is not so much the Cushite woman, but that they were envious and jealous of Moses, and they used a trivial matter to express it. So what they said merely expressed what was really eating away in their hearts. Because of such envy and jealousy, Miriam ended becoming a leper and Aaorn begged Moses to intercede for them and cure Miriam of her leprosy.

What about us? Have we become lepers because of our envy and jealousy? We may not necessarily be stricken with the disease of leprosy, but the poison of envy and jealousy causes us to become like lepers, where our envy and jealousy eats away our being bit by bit, until we become monsters, filled with resentment, anger, or even rage. May we come to our senses and remove the envy and jealousy in our hearts, and learn to be content and happy with the Lord.

Monday of Week 18 Year 1

One of the many challenges parents face when feeding their children is when their children are fussy over food. Some children are so fussy and difficult to please, so much so that some parents just give in to their demands, and spoil the child. Some parents resort to walking away in frustration, and let the child be without giving the child the kind of food desired. Some parents even resort to punishment, including a smacking or a scolding, to try and get the child to eat up what is on the plate.

In today's reading, we hear how the Israelites began to be fussy, not because they were hungry but because they were tired of eating manna, day in day out. God had already provided manna to sustain His people, but the Israelites were still fussing for the food they had in Egypt, even though the manna was actually more than enough to meet their needs. This caused the Lord's anger to flare out, and greatly worried Moses. But instead of causing the Israelites to face the Lord's wrath, Moses complained to the Lord and tried to intercede for them, begging the Lord to be merciful and generous to them.

What about us? Have we been fussy over many things, and yet neglecting in the essentials? How many of us have been fussy about going for Mass more often, or even fussy about going for confession to keep our souls clean? Are we fussing about things here on earth, or have we made effort to fuss about our eternal future?

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Friday of Week 17 Year 1

What would you do if one day, your parish has a new parish priest or a new religious sister, and the new person is actually a son or daughter of the parish, that is, someone whose origins are from the parish he or she is now being posted to. Would you accept the person and work with him or her to help the parish grow? Or would you reject the person, because you think that you know the person well enough?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "'A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house', and he did not work many miracles there because of their lack of faith." The people did not accept Jesus because the people thought they knew Him too well, and they already had preconceived opinions and ideas about Him. Their hearts were closed and they did not think Jesus had anything to offer them. As a result, they had rejected Jesus upfront, without even giving Him a chance to help and guide them.

Some of us too may have this attitude problem. Some of us allow our preconceived ideas and opinions to surface and rear their ugly heads, making it difficult for some to accept a familiar face. The question is: are we willing and docile enough to change our attitude and work with the son or daughter of the parish? Who knows, he or she may turn out to be an amazing and loving shepherd and guide. Are we willing to give him or her a chance?

Thursday of Week 17 Year 1

Whenever we go fishing, most of us would use a fishing rod to try and catch fish. But if one is making a living as a fisherman, quite likely the person would use some sort of net to catch as many things as possible, so that there would be more choices to sell. Once the catch has been made, then the fisherman and his companions would go through things caught in the net, to determine which can be sold, and which is of no use. If the fisherman used a dragnet, then there is a possibility that even things found on the ocean floor would be caught in the net.

In today's Gospel, we read: "Jesus said to the crowds, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea that brings in a haul of all kinds. When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore; then, sitting down, they collect the good ones in a basket and throw away those that are no use. This is how it will be at the end of time: the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.'" Just as a dragnet is used to catch all kinds of things, the church is also something like a dragnet, catching persons of many different attitudes, behaviour and background. But instead of separating what is good and what is of no use, the church is where we have many opportunities to grow closer to God, especially by attending Mass and by going for confession consistently and regularly. Let us seize every opportunity given to us to grow closer to God and keep our souls clean, while we prepare to meet the Lord.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Wednesday of Week 17 Year 1

Do we ever see radiance emitting from certain persons? When a bride is walking the aisle during the wedding, we see the bride's face radiant and exuberant, as she is experiencing one of the many happy moments in her life. When a penitent has made a good confession, we see his or her face radiant, because a heavy load of sin has been swept away. When a woman finds out she is pregnant, her face shows radiance, as she is excited and joyful of the possibility of becoming a mother. So, we see many situations in life where radiance can be seen on our face.

In today's reading, Moses' face was radiant after speaking with the Lord. When we come for Mass, our faces ought to be radiant after we have "spoken" with and listened to the Lord. But is this the case in church? Do we emit radiance after Mass, or do we remain as we are and some of us even put on a sour face or monkey face as we leave the church, due to some reason or another? May we come to realise the presence of the Lord, and like Moses, let our radiance shine for all to see and give Him the greater glory.

Tuesday of Week 17 Year 1

Each day we are presented with many choices, some good, some not so good, some bad. Some of you may say that the choice is quite obvious, that is, to do good. But sometimes, what seems good may not necessarily be so, and the choices we make would lead to certain consequences. As the years go by, we gather more and more of the consequences of the choices we make. Eventually, we take a stand, on whether to do good or to do evil, and the stand we take is called a fundamental option (in other words, an ultimate, no return, no change, option).

In today's Gospel, Jesus cautioned us: "Just as the darnel is gathered up and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of time. The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that provoke offences and all who do evil, and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth. Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!"  Jesus is cautioning us that if our choice is to do evil, then we would need to be prepared to face the consequences. It may seem surprising, but we have seen many examples of evil being done by people over the years, since God does not force us to be good. May we be cautious and discern carefully about the choices we make, since our eternal future is at stake.

Monday of Week 17 Year 1

Being impatient and feeling insecure could sometimes lead us to committing an offence or even causing us to sin. For example, we are waiting for the traffic light to turn green, and due to a heavy volume of traffic, the light has not changed for quite some time. Some of us begin to become quite impatient or even irritated, and some may even drive forward, thinking that the traffic light is not functioning properly. But the traffic light is actually working, and eventually changes to green. But because we had moved on without waiting for the light to change, we may end up with a traffic summons, or even cause an accident as a consequence of trying to beat the light. When we feel insecure, we may begin to find ways to preserve and satisfy our wants and needs. Could some of us be impatient and feeling insecure, and end up doing things irrationally?

In today's reading, we come across the sons of Israel who were impatient and insecure. Just because Moses was not around for a moment, the sons of Israel thought that Moses and even God had abandoned them and they became increasingly worried and insecure. This made them make a gold calf to be their god to go at their head. Of course, their idolatry was inexcusable, and Moses had to plead with God on their behalf, and yet, God was still merciful and continued to guide them.

Sometimes we may have been impatient and felt insecure especially when we are experiencing difficulties, persecution or even the possibility of death. Some of us may begin to doubt, just like the sons of Israel did, on whether God still cares. But let us be reminded that God can and will help us. We just need to be patient and to have full trust in God, knowing that He would take care of us, according to His time and for His glory.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Friday of Week 16 Year 1

Why do we come for Mass on Sunday? Some of us do so to fulfil the Sunday obligation. Some of us do so because we want to receive Holy Communion and be nourished by Jesus. How many of us come because we want to listen to God's Word, listen to the homily, and also receive Holy Communion? Do we pay attention while the readings are being read, the Gospel is being proclaimed and the homily is being preached? Do we recall what was the homily preached last Sunday? Or have we been day-dreaming, reading some Catholic publication, looking at the church bulletin, looking at our handphone (cellphone), getting distracted by some other thing, or doing something else while the Liturgy of the Word is being proclaimed?

In today's Gospel, we come across the parable of the sower, where the seed is the Word of God. What happens to the seed depends on how we have allowed it to be sown. Have we allowed the seed to be sown in rich soil, and let it grow in our hearts and in our soul? Or have we allowed other factors to distract us, and cause the seed to be lost, or taken away, or unable to grow? May we come to realise the importance of both the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and give our utmost attention to both, so that we may be like the one "who received the seed in rich soil and yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty."

Thursday of Week 16 Year 1

When we are invited to a banquet by the king or sultan or some VIP (Very Important Person), we would surely make extensive preparations. We would make sure that we have decent and clean clothes to wear, we would bathe and use perfume to ensure our bodies do not release any odour, and we would rehearse any necessary protocol so that we would know how to speak and behave in front of such persons.

In today's reading, God told Moses that He is coming to His people, and Moses was told what were the necessary preparations. The people were to wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because God will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of the people. On the third day, there were peals of thunder and lightning flashes, a dense cloud, and a loud trumpet blast, and inside the camp all the people trembled. There was smoke and fire and the mountain shook violently as God came to His people. The people experienced God, but it was an experience that required preparation on the part of the people.

What about us? What sort of preparation have we made should God decide to come to our midst? Would we be ready for Him should He come? Have we observed the necessary preparations, such as keeping our souls clean? Or have we been procrastinating, thinking that we have plenty of time to get ready? May we not be caught off-guard, and be ready to meet our loving God at all times.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Wednesday of Week 16 Year 1

Every once in a while, we hear of people migrating from one place to another, because they have heard wonderful stories about the other place, and they think that they would benefit much from the other place. Some even migrate from one country to another, because they think that the other country would offer better opportunities for them. People migrate in this way because they think that "the grass is always greener on the other side." But the reality is, the other side is not always as wonderful as it seems.

In today's reading, the Israelites had their freedom from slavery in Egypt. But now out in the wilderness, they began to complain about hunger and the lack of food, and they were saying that slavery in Egypt was better than freedom in the wilderness.But is slavery really better? God brought the Israelites out from Egypt after they had endured much suffering and hardship, and now that the Israelites were free, they were still complaining about what they lacked. But despite how difficult, obstinate and stubborn the Israelites were, God did not give up on them. He gave them food even though they were ungrateful. Even though the Israelites still had much to learn about God's love and generosity, God was patient with them.

What about us? Do we still think that "the grass is always greener on the other side." May we not be so easily duped by what others say or what we read, because sometimes, the other side may not be so wonderful after all. Sometimes the other side may lead us to slavery, while we may have some or even much more freedom at where we are. May we come to discover how loving and patient God is to us, and let Him be our help and guide.

Monday of Week 16 Year 1

A man was trapped on the roof of his house and all around there were flood waters. A helicopter came and beckoned the man to climb up the ladder into the helicopter to safety, but the man said: "I trust that God will give me a sign that He will rescue me. I shall wait for the sign." The helicopter left, as it was dangerous to remain hovering in the area for too long. A speed boat came by and beckoned the man to hop onto the boat to safety, but the man said: "I trust that God will give me a sign that He will rescue me. I shall wait for the sign." Eventually, the flood waters rose up to the roof and the man drowned. When the man appeared before God, he complained: "Lord! Why didn't you give me a sign that you would rescue me?" God replied: "My dear son. I gave you 2 signs: the helicopter and the speed boat. Why didn't you recognise the signs?"

In today's Gospel, the scribes and Pharisees knew who Jesus was, but they were so stubborn and refused to admit who Jesus was, and still asked for a sign from Jesus. Jesus responded with harsh words: "It is an evil and unfaithful generation that asks for a sign!" When we are stubborn, obstinate, proud, conceited and egoistic, no matter how many signs are given to us, we would still refuse to accept the signs. May we come to realise our attitude and behaviour, and change our ways while we have opportunities to do so.