Friday, 11 May 2018

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Why do some of us blame others when something goes wrong? Some blame others because they desire to be recognised, appreciated and respected. Some do so because they want to appear good in the eyes of others. Some do so because they think that they are above mistakes, faults and sins. Some do so because they want to hide their true selves which they are afraid to reveal. In reality, when we blame others we are looking for a scapegoat whom we burden with our guilt. This is exactly what happened in the first reading where Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent.

In today's Gospel, Jesus was teaching the people. He was told that His mother and relatives were looking for Him, and Jesus said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother." This tells us what discipleship is all about, namely, the hearing and doing the will of God. Some people seem to think that Jesus showed lack of respect for Mary by replying in this way. But that is farthest from the mind of Jesus. To Jesus, family ties are not what matters. Mary’s motherhood was important and necessary and therefore she was to be blest for it. But what really matters is to hear and do the will of God. Thus they are the ones who are blest.

By blessing those who hear the word of God and do it, Jesus has put an end to the vicious cycle of blaming. He has placed responsibility where it belongs: on our shoulders. When we allow God to enter our life, when we discover God in the hearing and doing of His will, we also discover ourselves in the process. We discover that before God, we are naked and transparent. We discover that blaming others is a form of pride and others suffer for our mistakes, faults and sins. We discover that there is nothing we can hide from Him and thus we have to be responsible for our acts. Why so? Because hearing and doing God’s will is something between God and us. He not only sees our acts but our motives, too. Blaming others does not take away the guilt from us. We may fool people but we cannot fool God. There is nothing we can hide from God. Moreover, in hearing and doing God’s will, we also discover that others, like us, are also building a relationship with God. Since we share the same goal with everyone else, we are to help instead of blaming others, so that ultimately, we are doing God’s will. Then we do not only become responsible for our acts, we also become responsible for each other, and in doing so, we become true disciples of Jesus.

How do we begin true discipleship? The beginning of discipleship is conversion: "Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand." To repent and to be forgiven - to be converted - is to begin our journey to God which consists in first accepting and then doing something about our self-centredness and our sins and then letting God take over. When we accept our faults and sins and be sorry for them, we are reconciling with God which leads to reconciliation with others. It is when we embrace reconciliation with God and with others, we begin to be true disciples.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Our Lady, Mother of the Church - Memorial

What does it mean to be a church? Is a church merely a building? Of course not! A church is more than a building, since the early Christians did not even have proper buildings which we call churches today. Instead, a church is the faithful; the people of God; the community and body of Christ; united as one in love, charity, faith and prayer. There is no room for individualistic attitudes or personal agenda, since as church we are sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters in Christ.

In our church communities, we have one person who has been guiding us and praying for us and with us since the early times of Christianity. That one person is our Lady, Mother Mary. In the Gospel, when Jesus was dying on the cross, He gave Mary to the beloved disciple, and in doing so, gave Mary to us, His disciples. In the reading, we see Mary with the apostles, joined in continuous prayer. Mary did not stay aloof or keep to herself, but was there praying for and with the apostles, after Jesus was taken up into heaven. The readings show us that Mary is also our mother, and that is why we celebrate "Our Lady, Mother of the Church" today.

With Mary as our mother, let us continue to trust in her love and care, and follow her example in reaching out to others in love and prayer. Let us offer our presence as she did, to all in need, especially the sick, the aged, the destitute, the downtrodden, and many more, so that in all we do, God may be glorified.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Thursday of Week 13 Year 2

In today's reading, the prophet Amos kept 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, influenced the king of Israel into thinking that the prophet Amos was a fraud, a fake and a troublemaker. Not only that, Amaziah dared to challenge and chase away the prophet Amos, by saying: "Go away, seer; get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple." By saying so, Amaziah was convinced that God would not allow anything to happen to the nation and to the temple, since he believed that God was with the nation and resided in the temple. But what Amaziah failed to realise is that it was God who had sent the prophet Amos to warn the Israelites, and that God was not confined only to the temple.

What can be learn from this? When we are proud and egoistic, we fail to listen and take heed of God's voice and warning. We begin to think that we are ok and nothing will happen to us. But we may realise when it is too late, that we had been only fooling ourselves into complacency and a false sense of security. May we learn to walk humbly in God's ways, take heed of His promptings, and let Him be our guide.

Wednesday of Week 13 Year 2

In today’s gospel two men from the country of the Gadarenes were healed at the expense of some pigs. Jesus allowed the devils who had possessed the two men to leave the men, and enter into a large herd of pigs some distance away. As a result, "the pigs charged down the cliff into the lake and perished in the water."

When the townspeople heard what had happened, what did they do? Instead of rejoicing and being grateful to Jesus, the townspeople implored Jesus to leave. Instead of appreciating the healing and saving power of Jesus, they did not welcome Jesus into their town. Why did they respond in this way? Perhaps it may be because, the townspeople were more concerned about the loss of the pigs and the potential profits to be made. The townspeople seemed to value more about material wealth and possession, instead of Jesus' presence and salvation.

What about us? Do we value God more than our material possessions? Are we going to welcome Jesus in our lives or let Him go? Some of us may say that we value God more, but do we really mean what we say, or are we just putting on a show, while we continue to cling on to our wealth and possessions, instead of giving glory to God? May we come to realise what is more important, more valuable, and more lasting, and change our ways, while we have the opportunity and time to do so.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Wednesday of Week 10 Year 2

Just imagine for a moment you are in a room full of so-called priests who believe that their god is true and all-powerful, how would you feel and respond? Some of us would feel quite uncomfortable and may even begin to wonder whether we are in the "wrong crowd" so to speak. Some of us may fear for our lives, and some may even go to the extent of joining those so-called priests, just to save their skin. How many of us would stick to our guns, stay committed and steadfast to our faith, and let God deal with the situation, even if it means that we may face persecution, ridicule, or even death?

In today's reading, the prophet Elijah faced a precarious situation where he was confronted with 450 priests of Baal. Even though Elijah was clearly outnumbered, he also knew that he had God on his side. With confidence and trust, he challenged the priests of Baal to implore their so-called god to send down fire to burn the holocaust. In the end, it was the priests of Baal who lost the battle and had to eat humble pie, as the bull they prepared was left untouched, whereas on Elijah's side, "the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the holocaust and wood and licked up the water in the trench. When all the people saw this they fell on their faces. ‘The Lord is God,’ they cried, ‘the Lord is God.’"

What about us? Would we become so easily disheartened or worried when we seem to face incredible odds? Or would we be like Elijah, knowing and trusting in God's providence? May we not let ourselves falter from our faith, remain steadfast, and know that God would help us according to His terms and for His glory.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Tuesday of Week 9 Year 2

When we want something, we would go all out to get it, hopefully in a legal, fair, just and proper way. For example, if we want to win a marathon, we would train our bodies by putting lots of practice in running marathons; we would go to the gym often to tone our muscles; we would eat nutritious food so that we would build energy; we would ensure we get enough rest; and we would not give up no matter how long it takes. All these efforts are made to achieve something in this life. But what about our spiritual life? Do we take as much effort or go all out to grow in relationship with God, and prepare ourselves for that which is more permanent?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "You should be living holy and saintly lives while you wait and long for the Day of God to come... So then, my friends, while you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that he will find you at peace. Think of our Lord’s patience as your opportunity to be saved. You have been warned about this, my friends; be careful not to get carried away by the errors of unprincipled people, from the firm ground that you are standing on. Instead, go on growing in the grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ."

What we achieve here on earth is only temporary, and may one day be forgotten or become irrelevant. But God is patiently beckoning us to come closer to Him and to walk in His ways, and attain that which is premanent or eternal. May we open our eyes and come to realise what really matters in the end, and do our best to live lives without spot or stain, so that the Lord would find us at peace and ready to meet Him, when He calls.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Saturday of Week 14 Year 2

I sometimes wonder whether we are living in an era where people are becoming more and more complacent or taking things for granted when it comes to sin. For example, when it comes to Lent and Advent, the number of faithful who come for the Sacrament of Reconciliation seems to depend on when and where confession takes place. At the beginning of Lent or Advent, the number of faithful who come for confession seem so few, so much so that at times, it seems as if the number of priests who have come to listen to confession are more than the faithful present. Yet, towards the end of Lent or Advent, the numbers seem to swell up tremendously, and the priests present find it difficult to cope. Some faithful even take their sweet time to come, sometimes quite late at night, and expect the priests to still be there.

In contrast to the way some faithful are when it comes to sin, today's reading tells us of the prophet Isaiah who had a mystical vision of the holiness of God. The prophet confessed his sinfulness, and subsequently he was cleansed and healed of his sinfulness, because he experienced the overwhelming glory of God. Not only that, the mystical experience also made him readily and willingly respond to God's call to be His messenger.

If we realise, just as the prophet Isaiah did, the magnitude of God's holiness, and how incompatible sin is to God, then surely we should make every effort to go for confession more often, instead of just waiting for Lent or Advent to come by. Have some of us become so lax or have a "tidak apa" attitude or "don't care" attitude when it comes to sin? Or have some of us have the misguided notion that sin should be accumulated into one lump sum before seeking confession? Let us not be caught off guard or unprepared, and make more effort to seek confession when possible, as our eternal future may be at stake.