Saturday, 29 July 2017

Saturday of Week 17 Year 1

Does it really matter to us what other people think about us? Some of us may have learnt not to let other people's thoughts or opinions affect us. However, there are some of us who crave attention or good feedback, and what others think or say about us may affect us tremendously. When we crave such attention, we may be doing so to feed our ego and inflate our pride. When we do not get the attention or good feedback we crave, we may become despondent, paranoid or insecure.

In today's Gospel, we come across King Herod who cared more about his reputation and the opinions of others, instead of doing what is morally right and just. As a result, John the Baptist lost his head, so that King Herod could "save face." What about us? If our reputation is at stake, would we continue to remain steadfast in doing what is right and just? Or would we become self-centered, and care only about ourselves and our reputation?

Saturday of Week 18 Year 1

Do we have faith? Or do we doubt? An author of unknown origin once quipped: "Doubt sees the obstacles; Faith sees the way. Doubt sees the darkest night; Faith sees the day. Doubt dreads to take a step; Faith soars on high. Doubt questions 'who believes?';  Faith answers, 'I.' Indeed, when we have faith, nothing would be impossible.

But what has happened to the disciples in today's Gospel? Why were they unable to cure the boy who was a lunatic and in a wretched state? The reason could be because the disciples had let their ability to heal go to their heads. They began to think that they are the ones doing the healing rather than God. In their pride and ego, they began to think that "it is me!" doing it, instead of acknowledging that the source of healing power is God Himself. Because of this, Jesus admonished them, saying: "Because you have little faith. I tell you solemnly, if your faith were the size of a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it would move; nothing would be impossible for you."

What about us? Have some of us become like the disciples in today's Gospel? Or have we learnt to remain humble and remain steadfast in faith in the Lord? May we always remember that all that we are and capable of comes from God, and give Him the greater glory.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Wednesday of Week 16 Year 1

The Word of God is like soil, special nourishment which enables our soul to grow so that we could bear good fruit. But for us to benefit from the Word of God, we need to examine ourselves and change our ways, so that we would benefit from such special nourishment. Today's Gospel speaks about seeds falling on different types of environments with different soil conditions. Each environment could be linked to our condition and the condition of our soul.

The first environment (edge of the path) is like people who are not the least bit interested in the Word of God. They come late for Mass, or sometimes come only for certain major occasions like Christmas and Easter. These people seem more interested in other things and come to church just to fulfil the Sunday obligation (with great difficulty at times). The second environment (patches of rock with little soil) is like people who have superficial or shallow faith. They select only bits and pieces of the Word of God which suit them, while avoiding or ignoring those parts which are unpleasant or that which they think are not relevant to them. When some challenge occurs or when they face some difficulty, their faith withers away.

The third environment (among thorns) is like people who listen and accept the Word of God, but so many other things, worries, pressures and distractions cause them to lose focus. As a result, they feel as if God has abandoned them and they fall away, when in actuality, it is they who have abandoned God. They lack trust, perseverance and patience to press on and finish the race. I suppose many of us hope and pray that we will be like the fourth environment, where we gain access to rich soil. People who are in this fourth environment thrive and flourish, producing good fruit and giving glory to God.

So which environment are we presently in? Are we stuck in a particular environment? With God's Grace and providence, we can make effort and do our part to make a change and begin producing good fruit. Let us not delay or procrastinate any longer. and let the rich soil God transform us into something better, for His glory.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Saturday of Week 14 Year 1

Some people can be devious in their dealings with others. For example, they say they have put aside their differences with certain others, but in their hearts, they still hold a grudge or have not really forgiven or reconciled with the other. When opportunity strikes, they conveniently bring forth what had happened in the past to ridicule, condemn or even persecute the other, especially when the other is in an unfavourable or difficult situation. Could some of us be having such an attitude?

In today's reading, we are told: "Seeing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, ‘What if Joseph intends to treat us as enemies and repay us in full for all the wrong we did him?’ So they sent this message to Joseph: ‘Before your father died he gave us this order: “You must say to Joseph: Oh forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.” Now therefore, we beg you, forgive the crime of the servants of your father’s God.’ Joseph wept at the message they sent to him. His brothers came themselves and fell down before him. ‘We present ourselves before you’ they said ‘as your slaves.’ But Joseph answered them, ‘Do not be afraid; is it for me to put myself in God’s place? The evil you planned to do me has by God’s design been turned to good, that he might bring about, as indeed he has, the deliverance of a numerous people. So you need not be afraid; I myself will provide for you and your dependants.’ In this way he reassured them with words that touched their hearts."

Joseph's brothers were worried that Joseph would use the past as an excuse to hit back at them or to have his revenge after what they had done to him, now that their father Jacob is dead. But as we can see from the reading, Joseph chose to forgive, reconcile and be merciful towards his brothers, instead of holding a grudge or looking for an opportunity to exact revenge. If we were in Joseph's shoes, if we were in his situation, would we be humble and willing to do the same, or would we still insist in an eye for an eye? Are we able to put to practice what we say: "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us?"

Friday, 7 July 2017

Saturday of Week 13 Year 1

In some cultures, the male firstborn or older male sibling is often favoured upon and given better privileges and blessings. This is because the male firstborn was thought to be the leader and heir to the throne or family estate. We see many examples around us where the male firstborn is given special treatment and education, with the expectation that he would eventually take over from his father as patriach, leader of the tribe, or even king.

However, when it comes to God, the firstborn is not necessarily His choice to lead His people. One example of this could be found in today's reading, where Jacob, using wile and conniving ways, managed to trick his father into getting the inheritance and special blessing supposingly reserved for the firstborn. It certainly doesn’t seem fair that Jacob would get away with such trickery but he does, although the blessing certainly included a lot of suffering: He had to flee Esau who was bitter and vengeful, as a consequence of what he had done; He got married and ended up with a father-in-law who was just as bad or even worse a trickster than he was; He had to eventually face Esau. Yet, God works in mysterious ways, and even helped Jacob. Esau was the firstborn but he seemed to have no concern for spiritual matters, whereas Jacob was sneaky and a cheat, but God knew that he had within him what it took to be the leader of his people. The culture of the time said that Esau was the chosen one, but God chose Jacob instead.

This does not mean that God is encouraging any of us to become wile, crafty or tricky to achieve our ends, since His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts, and what He had allowed to take place is eventually for His purposes and His glory. May we surrender ourselves to God' plan, and let Him use our talents and abilities for His greater glory.