Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Thursday of Week 31 Year 1

Some of us may think that losing something which seems small or insignificant may not be a big thing, especially when we have plenty to spare and we find that it is not worth worrying or fretting about such a lost. However, sometimes what seems small and insignificant could be just as important or serious. For instance, a small lump may seem insignificant, but if we are not careful and see a doctor for diagnosis and quick treatment if necessary, we may be in big trouble as that small lump may turn out to be malignant.

Today's Gospel shows us that, when it comes to saving us, God takes everything seriously, even what seems small and insignificant. He wants each and every one of us to be with Him, even if it is one sheep, or one drachma, or one whatever. Each and every one of us is important to God, and when we confess our sins and make more effort to return to His ways, "there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner." May we follow God's example and treat all things, big and small, with love and care, so that none would be lost.

Monday of Week 31 Year 1

In life, some of us like to do things or favours for others, with the hope that others would do the same for us. For example, in business, some of us may take a client out for a nice meal, with hope and expectation that the client would buy more things from us, or even consider us as a long-term supplier. Some of us do this because we follow a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" principle, where we hope to receive what we give, and help each other benefit. But how many of us are willing to give, without expecting to receive anything in return?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

What Jesus is telling us is that we should give freely, generously and happily, without expecting anything in return. By doing so, our giving would be sincere, without strings attached, without any terms or conditions, not for our own benefit, not to boost our popularity or ego, and not for our glory, but for the glory of God.

Wednesday of Week 30 Year 1

A man was riding his motorcycle along the highway, when all of a sudden, he lost control of his motorcycle and met with an accident, which left him near dead. He ended up in a hospital in a coma, in a vegetative state. He had a girlfriend whom he had planned to marry, and despite the doctor's advice that the man may eventually die, the girlfriend chose to give up her job and her time to nurse him, with hope that he would some day recover. For several months, there seemed to be no response from the man, but the girlfriend did not give up. Slowly, some signs began to appear, as the man gradually was able to move his eyes, then he began to try to speak, and after much care and love, he was able to walk. It was a miraculous and joyful moment, when the man was eventually united with his girlfriend in marriage.

What the girlfriend went through and did for the man, is what the spirit would do for us in today's reading. In the reading, "The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God." Even though the situation initially seemed helpless and hopeless, the man was able to make a reasonably good recovery with tremendous help from his girlfriend. Likewise, even though we may have experienced some sort of helpless and hopeless situation, the Spirit would help us recover and move on. Are we willing to have much trust and faith in the Spirit, and let Him be our help and guide?

Friday, 12 July 2019

Saturday of Week 29 Year 1

What sort of achievements are we looking for in life? Are some of us only looking for money, wealth, fame, property, recognition, higher status and so on? How long can we really hold on to such things? Perhaps some of us may be able to hold on till old age, but the reality is that all these things will be lost, or end up being taken by others, when we return to the Lord. Then what would happen to us? Would we be with the Lord, or would we end up away from the Lord?

In today's reading, we are cautioned: "The unspiritual are interested only in what is unspiritual, but the spiritual are interested in spiritual things. It is death to limit oneself to what is unspiritual; life and peace can only come with concern for the spiritual. That is because to limit oneself to what is unspiritual is to be at enmity with God: such a limitation never could and never does submit to God’s law. People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God."

The question is: are we still going after unspiritual things here on earth, thinking that such things would benefit us for the long term? Or have we made more effort to strive for more spiritual pursuits, to grow closer to God? May we come to realise what is really important in the end, and strive more towards what is spiritual, for our eternal good.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Saturday of Week 28 Year 1

In today's gospel, Jesus says, "Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." What is this sin that could not be forgiven? This unforgivable sin is our attitude when we say, "There is no hope, God cannot forgive me." When we have such an attitude, we are commiting the grave sin of despair, where we say that God cannot or is incapable of forgiving us. It is as if the Holy Spirit cannot do anything to change us or help us, and that we are doomed. This is blasphemy, since it denies the very core of God's being: His love and mercy.

So what should we do? We should remember of God's immense mercy and not have any thought of despair, since God shows His love to us even if we are sinners, His mercy is without end and greater than our sinfulness. May we not doubt God's mercy towards us, and grow closer to Him with confidence, knowing that we have a loving and merciful God, who will care and provide for us.

Wednesday of Week 28 Year 1

Every once in a while, I get someone coming to me for confession, but all they are saying is what others have done wrong, and they seem blameless. But are such persons really faultless, or are such persons merely being self-righteous and judgemental towards others? Some of us still fail to realise that all of us are human, and we may not know the full facts or details. Thus, why do we still insist in looking at or judging others with coloured eyes?

In today's reading, St. Paul warns us: "No matter who you are, if you pass judgement you have no excuse. In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know that God condemns that sort of behaviour impartially: and when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgement? Or are you abusing his abundant goodness, patience and toleration, not realising that this goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance?"

When we judge others, even though we may have at some point of time done the same thing as what others have done, we are merely being hypocrites. May we be humble enough to admit our own failings, and learn to be compassionate and encouraging towards others, instead of trying to be self-righteous and judgmental.

Saturday of Week 27 Year 1

I sometimes come across persons who like to make lots of suggestions or complaints, but when they are asked whether they would be willing to get involved and improve things, they begin to make lots of excuses and dare not commit themselves. They prefer to remain as keyboard warriors or only talk or complain, but are unwilling to offer themselves to bring about change and progress. I recall several people asking when a building complex would eventually be built, to provide more classrooms, meeting rooms, and facilities for the parish. When asked whether such persons would be willing to be part of the building committee, and work towards gathering funds so that such a building complex may eventually be realised, such persons would quickly excuse themselves from being involved, or even try to change the topic altogether.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!" It is fine and good to hear the word of God, but just hearing the word of God won't mean anything, if we do not internalise it, ponder upon it, and share it with others. In other words, we should not just talk or hear without action. May we not keep the word of God to ourselves, but go forth and preach the Good News, just as what Jesus commanded us to do.

Wednesday of Week 27 Year 1

It is easy for many of us to seek forgiveness from God, especially when we have committed sin or wrong doing. Some of us make it a point to go for confession, asking God to forgive our sins and we have trust and confidence that He would do so. But what about when it comes to others who have sinned against us? Are we just as forgiving towards others, just as we ask God to be forgiving towards us? Do we expect forgiveness only from God, and remain vengeful towards others or even shun them?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded: "and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us." This means that forgiveness is not a one way street, where we expect forgiveness from God, but we can ignore others, or remain vengeful, or dwell in hurt towards others. Forgiveness, rather, works both ways, where we are expected to forgive others, just as we expect God's forgiveness. Are we willing to make forgiving a habit, and forgive others just as God forgives us?

Sunday, 7 July 2019

Saturday of Week 26 Year 1

Are we being tempted to go astray from God's ways to the ways of the world? The ways of the world have many attractions and benefits which try to lure us into alienating ourselves from God, and that is why we need to take courage and try hard to avoid going astray. When we fall into temptation, it is not the end yet, since God gives us many opportunities to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, change our ways, and remain in God's path.

In today's reading, the prophet Baruch gives us a message of hope: "Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy." Baruch reminds us not to give up or give in to despair, but to keep on trusting in God and walk in His ways, trusting and knowing that He will help us. Are we willing to be humble and patient in our journey towards eternal joy with Him?

Friday of Week 26 Year 1

How many of us are willing to take responsibility for what has happened, especially if something bad has happened? Some of us may do so, and learn from our mistakes and move on, but there are also those who refuse to admit they have done wrong and try to play the blame game and put the blame on others, or even find a scapegoat to take the blame, because they are more concerned about their pride and ego, instead of what is just and right.

In today's reading, Baruch reflected upon the disastrous events that had happened to the Israelites, especially the destruction of Jerusalem, and exile in Babylon. He came to a conclusion: "To us, the look of shame we wear today, we have sinned in the sight of the Lord, we have disobeyed Him, we had not listened to the voice of the Lord our God."

Everything that went wrong and all the disastrous events that happened, Baruch pointed the finger at himself and his people, instead of trying to put the blame on others. Are we willing to be humble and admit our mistakes, seek forgiveness from God and from others, while being willing to forgive others too, when they have wronged us? Are we willing to learn from our mistakes and wrongdoings, and let the Lord guide us so that we would become better?

Thursday of Week 26 Year 1

As Christians, we should never forget who we are and what God has done for us. When we forget who we are, we may end up doing and saying things which offend God and hurt others. That is why we need to be reminded as often as possible, especially through the reading of the scriptures, who we are and how we are supposed to live. When we read the scriptures, or when we hear it being read, are we moved with what we hear? Or have we begun taking the scriptures for granted; or even ignored its message and succumbed to distractions and attractions of the ways of world?

In today's reading, Ezra gathered the men, and women, and children, and read to them from the Torah. He stood, on a raised platform in the rebuilt Temple, and from morning until midday read the Torah, from beginning to end. The men, women, and children listened to their story, their family history, the laws which God had given them; and they discovered who they were. They raised their hands in the air, and proclaimed, “Amen, Amen” and they wept for joy. Why were they so moved?  Because they understood who they were and who God had called them to be.

What about us? Do we really understand who we are? Have we read the scriptures and finally understood what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ? May we begin to understand and appreciate the significance of who we are, who we are called to be, and let the Lord be our help, providence and guide.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Tuesday of Week 26 Year 1

How do we Christians bring the Good News to others? Do we expect others to accept the Good News from us immediately or quickly? What if such persons are resistant or slow to accept the Good News, then what do we do? Do we begin to use coercion, threats or force on such persons? The reality is that we cannot expect others to accept the Good News according to our agenda or schedule, since ultimately the gift of faith is from God. Are we willing to be patient and persistent in our efforts, with hope that others may accept the Good News according to God's time?

In today's Gospel, the brothers James and John said to Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” This is because the people of the Samaritan village did not receive them well. But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village. Jesus showed His disciples, and us too, that using coercion, force or threats is not the way to preach the Good News. What is required of us is to do our part with Christian love, concern and care, then leave the rest in the hands of the Lord.

Monday of Week 26 Year 1

Some of us like to feel proud or great about our achievements. Though there is inherently nothing wrong about feeling proud and great about our achievements, especially when it concerns self-esteem or self-worth, the problem that some of us may fall into is when we allow pride to get over our heads; when we begin to become arrogant, egoistic or look down on others; or when healthy, humble delight in one's accomplishments have easily transformed into unhealthy, arrogant over-valuing of oneself.

In today's Gospel, we are told: "An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.'"

A little child is great because the child is docile and dependent on his or her parents, instead of trying to boost one's ego; or developing a proud, unhealthy, arrogant over-valuing of oneself. We too can be great, when we learn to humble ourselves and be dependent on God's help and providence. We are also being great when all we do is for the glory of God, and not for our personal gratification. May we set aside any unhealthy, arrogant over-valuing of oneself, and strive to walk more in God's ways.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Saturday of Week 25 Year 1

What sort of security do you seek in life? Some of us seek plenty of wealth and property as a form of security. Some seek fame, popularity and recognition as a form of security. Some seek knowledge and power as a form of security. But the reality is that these forms of security are only temporary and one day, we will lose them. How many of us are truly and consistently seeking God as our security, instead of all these temporary forms of security?

In today's reading, the prophet Zechariah, in a vision, said that Jerusalem was to remain unwalled. The reading assures us that God would be the wall of fire for her all round her, and He will be her glory in the midst of her. Jerusalem, by remaining unwalled, reminds us that, instead of relying on human forms of security, we should rely more on God for our security. Are we willing to let go of or be detached from any form of of temporary security, and let God be our true and permanent security?

Monday of Week 25 Year 1

Have some of us ever doubted whether God really cares or listens to our prayers, especially when we do not seem to be getting any answers or solutions? When this happens, 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, but as we can see from the reading, God did not abandon His people. Instead, He roused the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia to let the Jews go back to their homeland and Cyrus 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 never 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. Let us be humble and willing to let God be in control, and let Him be our providence, help and guide.

Thursday of Week 24 Year 1

Nowadays, we can get all sorts of comments, opinions and information about certain church teaching or certain church practices. But the reality is that truth and church teaching has to be definitive and absolute. Otherwise, we may end up in relativism, where anything and everything goes, as long as it fits in with a certain culture, society, or historical context. This is why those of us who are teachers of faith and morals, including clergy, religious and even lay persons, have a heavy responsibility to ensure that matters concerning faith and morals are taught faithfully according to what the church teaches, not according to one's preference, opinion or way of thinking.

In today's reading, St. Paul cautions us: "Take great care about what you do and what you teach; always do this, and in this way you will save both yourself and those who listen to you." Having an opinion or preference about a matter concerning faith and morals is fine, it is not wrong. But it becomes a problem one begins to treat one's opinion or preference as truth, and one begins to teach one's opinion or preference, instead of what the church teachers. Let us therefore be responsible in what we teach, and teach the truth, not what we like or prefer.

Tuesday of Week 24 Year 1

During Jesus' time, widows were considered helpless and powerless, as they had no one to protect or support them in their needs. In today's Gospel, the widow was considered practically dead too, since without her only son, she had no means to provide for herself. But then she encountered the compassion of Jesus. Jesus was moved with pity for her, saw her pain and grief, and felt her sorrow and helplessness. By restoring her only son to life, Jesus showed his love and concern, giving back to her hope and new life, and restored her to her community.

What about us, if we see someone who is helpless and powerless, would we do our utmost best to help the person, so that the person would get back hope and new life? Or would we mind our own business and look the other way, or simply wish the person well and not get involved? May we learn to imitate the love and compassion that Jesus shows us, so that all may know what it really means to be a Christian.

Monday of Week 24 Year 1

When we pray, what do we pray for, and who do we pray for? Do we pray only for our needs or perhaps the needs of those we care about or love? Have we ever prayed also for others, especially those we do not know, or we do not like, or those who have been hurtful towards us in one way or another? Do we keep everyone in our prayers; or do we pick and choose who we pray for, or do we pray for only certain reasons?

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."  May we remember all around us in our prayers, for the good of all and for the glory of God.

Tuesday of Week 23 Year 1

We sometimes come across someone who seems to be teaching Christian faith and values. But if we scrutinise such persons carefully, we could discover that such persons are not really teaching Christian values and faith, but values and faith based more on the ways of the world, instead of the ways of Christ. Such persons often preach or teach in this way for their benefit, and are not really concerned about their followers spiritual well-being. Once they have achieved their objectives or goals, they may just make themselves scarce, and leave their followers in a lurch.

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." The reading cautions us to not allow ourselves to be fooled into accepting such empty teachings of such persons, since doing so would only lead us astray. May we be discerning and careful in what we hear, and ensure that our community remain faithful to true teaching for our spiritual growth and to grow closer to God.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Saturday of Week 22 Year 1

Living a Christian life in the world is certainly not easy. We face all sorts of challenges and temptations, especially since quite often, the ways of the world are not the same as the ways of Christ. We are often faced with choices: to do what is right and just, or to do what is expected of us so that we can maintain our livelihood. For example, some of those in the medical field may have been challenged to perform an abortion, or risk losing their job. When faced with such a choice, what would you do? Would you be willing to find work elsewhere, even if it means that one may possibly not be able to get a job for a while?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure and blameless – as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News..." The reading here reminds us to persevere and stand firm. This means that we must do our very best and not give up, even if it means we may face persecution or challenges. It also means that we must remain steadfast in our faith, and not allow the ways of the world to influence us into watering down or even abandoning the ways of Christ. May we continue to trust and depend on Jesus, and let Him be our help and guide.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Friday of Week 22 Year 1

We sometimes come across certain faithful who are stuck with doing things according to a certain previous parish priest's way of the past. Even though such ways of doing things are already outdated or no longer relevant in today's context, such faithful would stick to their belief that such ways are the only ways to get things done. But the reality is that things change, and what worked in the past would no longer work in the present or even in the future. For example, in the past, people, especially adults, were taught catechism on a one to one basis, before baptism is given; nowadays, people are taught through RCIA before they are considered for baptism.

In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks about not putting a new cloak to patch an old cloak, and using only new skins to store new wine. Jesus is telling us to move on from old ways to new and better ways of being disciples and of growing in relationship with God. He is telling us not to be like the scribes and Pharisees, who focused in only meticulously observing the law, but to refocus in the law of loving God and loving neighbour, which was the whole idea and purpose of the law in the first place. Jesus was showing us a new and better way of living, by living the way of love.

Sometimes we too could be guilty in following the ways of the scribes and the Pharisees, or the ways of certain faithful who are stuck in old ways. May we be humble and willing to change, so that we would be free to listen to God's voice again, and grow deeper in relationship with Him, while using new ways and methods to do His will and glorify Him..

Saturday, 15 June 2019

Saturday of Week 21 Year 1

God has given us gifts, talents and capabilities, and such gifts, talents and capabilities are meant to be put to good use, especially to glorify God. But are we putting such gifts, talents and capabilities to good use, or have we become lazy and let our gifts, talents or capabilities go to waste, even to the point of one day losing such gifts, talents or capabilities, as a result of neglect or lack of practice?

In today's gospel, the servant who buried his one talent in the ground was called "wicked and lazy" by his master.For some,  the master seemed rather harsh with his words and in his treatment of that servant, but we must remember that the servant had been given the one talent not for him to do as he pleases or to boost his ego, but to benefit the master. Since the servant chose not to be bothered about what his master expected, he suffered the consequences.

What about us? Are we putting our gifts, talents or capabilities to good use for the glory of God? Let us not end up like that "wicked and lazy" servant, and end up being "thrown into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth."

Tuesday of Week 21 Year 1

As Christians, we are commanded to go forth and preach the Good News. But when we go and preach the Good News, what is our true purpose or agenda in doing so? Are we doing it for the greater glory of God, or are we doing it for our personal gratification or personal gain, and to boost our reputation and ego?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians and us: "We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts."

What does this mean to us? It means that we need to check our motives and see whether we are truly preaching the Good News with right motive, right intention and right disposition. May we go forth and preach the Good News, with humility and joy, not for ourselves or to show how capable or great we are, but for the greater glory of God.

Monday of Week 21 Year 1

What sort of lives are we living as Christians? Do we walk the talk and practice what we preach? Or do we merely utter words and lord it over others, and expect others to do as we say but not do as we do? When we merely say things without showing example, then we may be hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees in today's Gospel, who Jesus condemned with harsh words: "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."

So what does this mean to us? It means that we should be careful of our words and actions. May we not end up as hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees, easy to say lots of things or make comments, but unwilling to take ownership of what we say and practice what we tell others to do. Word are cheap and meaningless, unless we are willing to walk the talk and show good example.

Tuesday of Week 20 Year 1

Some of us may have, from time to time, felt as if we are powerless and incapable of doing God's will, especially when the problems and issues we face seem too big or too difficult to handle. When we are faced with such a situation, what do we do? Do we continue to struggle and persevere in doing our task, without being too concerned about whether we are successful in completing such a task? Or would we give up on the task or avoid it completely?

In today's reading, the Lord turned to Gideon "and said, ‘Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’ the Lord answered him, ‘I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.’" Even though Gideon felt that he was helpless and incapable of accomplish such a task, God assured him that he would be victorious, since God is with him to see it through.

What about us? Are we willing to trust in God's providence and let God use us to see the task through? If God is helping Gideon to be victorious, even though Gideon felt weak and least important, just imagine what God would do for us if we put our full trust and confidence in Him.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Saturday of Week 19 Year 1

How is it possible for some of us to fall into the sin of serving other gods? When we begin to treat wealth, property and other things as more important than God, then we would be falling into the sin of serving other gods. We say we love and serve God, and yet some of us seem to find it difficult to take time off from our work to come to church on Sunday; or we seem to spend more time in pursuing our personal interests, instead of church or charitable activities to give glory to God. When we have such attitudes or excuses, then are we really loving and serving God, or have we strayed away from God or even rejected God outright?

In today's reading, "The people answered Joshua, ‘No; it is the Lord we wish to serve.’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we will obey.’"

Notice that in the reading, Joshua challenged the people to "choose today whom you wish to serve." And the people made a clear and firm choice in choosing to serve God, and not some other foreign god. Are we willing to commit ourselves just like the Israelites did? Or have our hearts become divided, or even rejected God, in pursuit of other gods such as our wealth, our property, our fame and popularity, and other things?

Monday of Week 19 Year 1

Is it so difficult for some of us to grow closer to God? Actually, the simple answer is no, it is not difficult, since growing closer to God requires that we be willing and humble enough to, as today's reading tells us: "...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."

When we fear the Lord, and also follow all His ways, love Him, and serve Him, then we should also love and serve others, especially by keeping God's commandments and laws. This is where it gets difficult for some, since loving and serving God appears to be easier since we do not see Him; but loving and serving others may seem harder since we may see them often, and we are required to love and serve not just those whom we like, but also those whom we find difficult or not like.

As Christians, are we willing to show what it really means to be a Christian by following His ways, love Him and serve Him, as well as being loving and offering service to others, without prejudice or favouritism? It is easy for us to call ourselves Christians, but are we Christians only in name, or are we also Christians by example? May we always be mindful of what is asked of us as Christians, and do all we can to love and serve the Lord.

Thursday of Week 18 Year 1

In today's reading, "the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe that I could proclaim my holiness in the eyes of the sons of Israel, you shall not lead this assembly into the land I am giving them.'" If one were to read this out of context, one would think that God was not being fair to Moses and Aaron, especially since it was the Israelites that were being stubborn and difficult to deal with. But why did the Lord make such a drastic decision?

When we look at the reading, we would discover that the Israelites had been behaving like spoilt brats, complaining about being taken out of Egypt even though it was for their own good. Moses and Aaron, being leaders of the people, were supposed to remain calm and patient with the people, since God had assured all that He would eventually lead them into the land He is giving them. But in the reading, we can see that in Moses and Aaron's disgust and resentment with the complaints of the rebellious Israelites, Moses taunted them before he struck the rock twice to make water flow from it.
It seems like Moses had reached the limit of his tolerance and patience and had only harsh and heated words for the people. Such a response by Moses was intolerable to God, as his duty and responsibility was to be God's mouthpiece, and do what God instructed with humility and patience. Because of this, Moses and Aaron were punished by not being allowed to lead the people into the promised land.

What about us? Have we misused our duty and responsibility, instead of serving with humility and patience? May we come to realise that what God expects of us is obedience and patience, since He will know what to do with the people, and all that is expected of us is to do His will. May we not allow pride and arrogance to affect our tasks, and ultimately leave it in the hands of the Lord.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Thursday of Week 18 Year 1

I used to occasionally visit an elderly man who was homebound to give him Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion. He was frail and bedridden but I observed that whenever he noticed I came, he would gather whatever strength he could to sit down for Holy Communion. One important thing that I noticed about him was he never complained why he was suffering; never did I hear him complain about anything. He carried his suffering without questioning God. Perhaps he knew that to suffer was part of him being a disciple of Jesus. Eventually, the elderly man died.

In today's Gospel, Jesus told Peter and the disciples that He must undergo suffering to accomplish His mission and Peter reacted with indignation. Perhaps Peter could not accept the fact that a powerful and influential person like Jesus would suffer. Perhaps Peter thought that Jesus was immune to suffering. But the reality is that Jesus was not exempted from suffering, and He went through it for it was part of His destiny and mission.

What about us? Would we follow the elderly man's example, and especially Jesus' example, in taking suffering as part of being a disciple? Would we be humble and willing to embrace whatever suffering that may come our way, to witness to Jesus and to give glory to God?

Monday, 10 June 2019

Saturday of Week 17 Year 1

We sometimes come across persons who are constantly worried or afraid about what other people think of them. Some of such persons crave attention or good feedback, and what others think or say about them affects them tremendously. When such persons crave such attention, they may be doing so to feed their ego and inflate their pride. When they do not get the attention or good feedback they crave, they may become despondent, paranoid or insecure. Some even end up having anxiety and sleepless nights, affecting one's health all for the sake of getting such attention or good feedback.

In today's Gospel, King Herod 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 keep what he thinks is his good reputation and the good opinion of others. In other words, King Herod was more interested in "saving face." What about us? Are we more worried about getting what we think is good reputation, even to the point of committing heinous or despicable acts? Or are we willing to lose face or our reputation, to remain in good standing with God?

Wednesday of Week 17 Year 1

Some of us go to great extent to achieve or attain something of great value or significance to us. For example, some are willing to pay huge sums of money to buy a piece of land, which we think would later increase tremendously in value, and enable us to rake in a tidy profit when we sell the land. Some are very attracted to a significant other, and would try all ways and means to woo the person's heart, with hope the person would one day become one's spouse. Some are willing to sacrifice much time and money to earn a degree, hoping that such a degree would enable one to attain better job prospects and better standard of living.

But when it comes to attaining admittance to the Kingdom of God, and remaining with God for all eternity, how many of us see great value in that? In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, or even a fine pearl of great value. If the Kingdom of God is so much more valuable than anything we desire or hope to attain on earth, then how many of us are willing to make effort and sacrifices to attain it? May we come to realise what is truly valuable to us in the end, and make more effort in attaining what is permanent or eternal.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Saturday of Week 16 Year 1

Over the years, I have come across people who say they do not go to church any more because they have a problem with certain persons in church, or they think that the church is full of hypocrites, or they think that the church is full of sinners. Such persons think that only good people or saintly people should be in church, and everyone else is damned or condemned. But if we understand what being church means, we would realise that the church is for both saints and sinners, and all are called to holiness, all are called to repentance.

In today's Gospel, we come across the parable of the wheat and darnel. Instead of having the darnel removed quickly and in doing so, risk removing the wheat as well, the landowner allowed the wheat and darnel to grow together, until the time of harvest came. Once it was time to harvest, then only was the wheat and darnel separated. In the same way, God allows the church to have both saints and sinners present, and both are given ample chances to grow in relationship with Him. But God is not going to wait too long for us to change our ways. When the harvest comes, would we be among the wheat, or would we end up among the darnel? Ultimately, it is our choice to make.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Tuesday of Week 16 Year 1

It is easy for us to claim that we are related to Jesus, especially since we call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God. But being related to Jesus is not enough, since Jesus in today's Gospel reminds us that having a relationship with Him is more than just familial or blood-relationship. In the Gospel, He says: "'Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?' And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.'"

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are we claiming "relationship" with Jesus only in name, while we lord it over others or feel proud about being such a relationship? Or have we learnt to be humble, and do the will of God? Relationship with Jesus is more than just words; may we put into action our "relationship" with Jesus through our words and deeds.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Saturday of Week 15 Year 1

When we are experiencing peaceful times, we often do not think about war; or losing one's home, property or way of life; or even the possibility of becoming a refugee. Yet, there are some who may have experienced such tragic events in their country; and they may have fled to another country such as the one we live in; and we may have come across such persons before. Some of us would have even helped such persons in whatever way we can.

In today's reading, we are told that "The sons of Israel left Rameses for Succoth... People of various sorts joined them in great numbers; there were flocks, too, and herds in immense droves. They baked cakes with the dough which they had brought from Egypt, unleavened because the dough was not leavened; they had been driven out of Egypt, with no time for dallying, and had not provided themselves with food for the journey."

For some, being driven out of one's country due to war, political strife or some other reason may seem a tragic thing. But in the case of the sons of Israel, the reason was to rescue them from Pharoah and Egypt, and as such, it was actually for the better. In a way, we may have experienced being driven out of a bad or even sinful situation, even if it means we have no time for dallying. Being driven out in this way is no longer a tragic situation, but a situation meant to rescue us from evil, and to help us remain in God's ways. Are we willing to be driven out and led by God? Or are we still insisting to remain in servitude in Egypt?

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Saturday of Week 14 Year 1

When someone has sinned against us or has done us great hurt or harm, how would we respond? Would we be willing to forgive the person? Or would we look for an opportunity to get back or take revenge at the person? Would we follow Jesus' way, in forgiving even those who have betrayed us? Or would we follow the ways of the world, where an eye for an eye is practised? It seems easy to get along with people who we like, but would be just as easily get along with people we less like?

In today's reading, 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. Joseph chose to let bygones be bygones, and move on in God's ways, instead of dwelling in the past.

What about us? Would we be willing to let bygones be bygones, and move on in God's ways, just as Joseph has shown us? May we learn to let go of the hurt we may have experienced, and let God heal us and guide us to be more like His Son, Jesus, and give Him the glory in all we say and do.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Saturday of Week 13 Year 1

Some people think that being the firstborn means one would have certain privileges and benefits compared to subsequent offspring. In some countries and cultures, this may seem the case, as the firstborn, especially male firstborn, is looked upon as the one to uphold the family name or family pride; and the firstborn is given special treatment, including better things, better education, better food, and other perks.

But the reality is, when it comes to God, the firstborn is not necessarily God's choice. One example of this could be found in today's reading, where Jacob managed to trick his father into getting the inheritance and special blessing supposingly reserved for the firstborn. Esau was the firstborn but he seemed to have no concern for spiritual matters, whereas Jacob was sneaky and a cheat, but God chose him to be the leader of His people.

What does this mean to us? It means that God's 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.

Friday of Week 13 Year 1

I sometimes come across people who say they do not go to church any more because they have a problem with certain persons in church, or they think that the church is full of hypocrites, or they think that the church is full of sinners. Such persons think that only good people or saintly people should be in church, and everyone else is damned or condemned. But the reality is, the church is not a hotel for saints or even a museum for saints; it is a hospital for sinners.

In today's Gospel, we are reminded why Jesus came. Jesus came not to call the virtuous, but sinners. Just as Jesus came to call sinners, the church is also following Jesus' example to call sinners to come and be forgiven and strengthened, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Eucharist. So if the church is inviting all to come and abide in the Lord, especially sinners, let us not shun or avoid those who have sinned. Rather, let us learn to grow together as one family of God, and together grow in relationship with Him.

Monday of Week 13 Year 1

When we come for confession, we ask God for forgiveness and mercy because we have sinned. Sometimes, the sin we have committed may be venial sins; other times our sin could be mortal sin. Yet, we make effort to plead to God to forgive us and help us not to sin again. However, when others have wronged us or sinned against us, are we willing to be just as forgiving and merciful to them, just as we ask God to be forgiving and merciful towards us?

In today's reading, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah had committed grievous sin, and the outcry against them had come up to the Lord. We also hear of Abraham pleading for mercy from God not to destroy the two cities. Because of Abraham's pleading to spare the innocent in these cities, God was willing to spare the entire cities for the sake of so few innocent persons. This shows us that God's mercy is incomprehensible and knows no bounds.

If God could spare entire cities for the sake of a few innocent persons, what about us? Are we still finding it so difficult to forgive and be merciful towards others who have sinned against us? May we learn to follow God's example and be forgiving and merciful towards others, just as He was merciful towards the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and just as He is merciful towards us.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Thursday of Week 12 Year 1

I sometimes come across people who can come up with lots of suggestions and ideas, but the interesting thing is when such persons are asked whether they can follow through with such suggestions and ideas, they suddenly back away or give all sorts of excuses. For example, I sometimes hear of people saying that the priest should make more time for house visits, but when asked whether such persons are willing to help the priest identify houses which may need such visits, and where possible accompany the priest to such houses, such persons suddenly back down from their suggestions.

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, "It is not those who say to me, "Lord, Lord," who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven." As Christians, are we merely making suggestions without taking ownership of them, or making a commitment to follow through such suggestions? Are we merely, as the Gospel says, saying "Lord, Lord," and refusing to do our part in sharing the Good News? May we walk the talk, not just utter words, since action speaks louder than words.

Wednesday of Week 12 Year 1

It is interesting to observe how some people can be so easily duped by certain so called preachers, who appear to preach the Good News, but what such preachers are actually doing is preaching their own version of the Good News, or perhaps a "feel good" version of the Good News. Some such preachers are adept in customising the Good News to appear to suit such people, but such preachers have hidden intentions, sometimes, even with tragic consequences.

Today's Gospel warns us "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them." That is why we must be vigilant, and help others who could be so easily fooled by such preachers or false prophets. Sometimes it may be necessary for us to be the "bad guy" or "bad girl," and try help such persons come to realise their folly. Let us not allow such falseness or fakes infiltrate our communities; and ensure that only that which is true is shared.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Saturday of Week 11 Year 1

What do we look for when it comes to strength or being strong? Is strength or being strong a physical thing, where one is able to use one's muscles or energy to accomplish feats? Or is strength something to do with one's talents and abilities? When we focus on such strength, some of us begin to feel very proud, boastful and egoistic of such strength. But as Christians, what sort of strength should we really be focusing on?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "In view of the extraordinary nature of these revelations, to stop me from getting too proud I was given a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to beat me and stop me from getting too proud! About this thing, I have pleaded with the Lord three times for it to leave me, but he has said, ‘My grace is enough for you: my power is at its best in weakness.’ So I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me, and that is why I am quite content with my weaknesses, and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and the agonies I go through for Christ’s sake. For it is when I am weak that I am strong."

The reading reminds us that ultimately, we should not be depending or focusing on our own strengths. Instead, we should be focusing on God's grace and power, since it is God who can give us strength which far surpasses anything which we could ever have or what we think we have. May we give thanks to God even in our weaknesses, and let Him use us for His glory.

Friday of Week 11 Year 1

What do we look for in life? Do we look for wealth and property? Do we look for fame and popularity? Do we look for titles and admiration from others, especially our peers? While it is true that we need to have some of these worldly things to survive, how long would we be able to cling on to such things? When we return to the Lord, would we be able to bring such worldly things with us? Of course not! Such worldly things would need to be left behind, and would no longer mean anything to us. Then what is to become of us then?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples, "Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moths and woodworms destroy them and thieves can break in and steal. But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor woodworms destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

The Gospel cautions us that treasures on earth are only temporary, whereas treasures in heaven are permanent. The strange thing is that some of us are making so much effort to store up that which is temporary, to the detriment of that which is permanent. Are we willing to have a change of heart, and make more effort to focus on that which is permanent, without neglecting our living needs while here on earth?

Friday, 29 March 2019

Saturday of Week 10 Year 1

It is interesting to observe the enthusiasm of some of those who have been newly baptised. They seem so excited of being a new child of God, and some begin to get involved in various church ministries with passion and vigour. Fast forward several years later, would such faithful still have got that same drive and passion they had when they were newly baptised? Or have some become complacent or even burned out; or even to the extent of going back to their old ways and old habits?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "And for anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work. It was God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the work of handing on this reconciliation... So we are ambassadors for Christ; it is as though God were appealing through us, and the appeal that we make in Christ’s name is: be reconciled to God."

If we are a new creation and ambassadors of Christ, then we should not slacken in our passion and vigour to preach the Good News. We should not rest on our laurels or even go back to our old ways. Instead, let us continue to do our duty in sharing the Good News through words and deeds, and glorify God in our efforts.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Our Lady, Mother of the Church - Memorial

Some of us like to look up to certain role models in our lives. We try to follow their habits and ways, as we are attracted to their lives. But the reality of our earthly role models is that they do not remain with us forever. Some fall from their role model status, due to some significant wrongdoing or even scandal. Others become too old or even pass away, leaving behind a legacy which may be forgotten as the years go by. So what sort of role model do we really have, and what sort of role model should we Christians have?

As Christians, we have one role model whom we can look up to, and who has been guiding us and praying for us and with us all this while. That one role model 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, as our role model, mother and guide. In the reading, we see Mary with the apostles, joined in continuous prayer. Mary, as a role model, showed us what it means to be part of the church community, by joining in continuous prayer, instead of just keeping to herself.

So if we embrace Mary as our role model, then we do not need any other temporary earthly role model, since we already have an eternal role model who continues to pray for us and with us, while leading us to her Son, Jesus. Ultimately, Mary our role model is showing us the way on how we should become more and more like her Son Jesus, instead of bringing attention to herself, as what some of our earthly role models may do.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter

It is interesting to observe how, from a young age, we begin to compare ourselves with others. We differentiate ourselves according to our intellectual abilities, our talents, our cultural differences, our upbringing, our social status, and much more. Some of us even become quite proud about who we are, where we come from, and what we are, that some begin to look down on others, thinking that others do not measure up to us. But as Christians, do we have such attitude and behaviour? Do we still differentiate ourselves, segregate ourselves, and discriminate towards others?

In today's Gospel, Peter and John are both called disciples of Jesus and each is given a different task to fulfil. But what is surprising and intriguing is when Peter questions John's role. He asks Jesus: 'What about him, Lord?' In response, Jesus answered, 'If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.' This caused the others to think that John would not die, when it was clear that Jesus had not said so. Notice how trying to compare oneself with others could lead to unnecessary confusion, unhealthy competition or even resentment, and as a result, our focus shifts from doing God's will to doing our will?

At the end of the day, we should realise that comparing ourselves with others is a mistake. The Lord prefers that we mind our own business, and focus more on our friendship with Him and on our dedication to preaching the Good News. The inspiring examples of others should push us forward to greater holiness and self-giving. We should rejoice in others' triumphs, seeing God alive in them, instead of allowing jealousy and competition to fester, and disrupt our duty or even ruin our relationship with God and with others. May we make every effort to glorify God in all we say and do, and be joyful and grateful of who we are and what we are, while also being joyful and grateful of who and what others are.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Saturday of the 6th Week of Easter

What is our priority in life? Some of us think that our priority is our career or job, and we spend hours building it or climbing the corporate ladder. Some of us think that our priority is our peace of mind and happiness, and we find ways and means to maintain such peace and happiness. Some of us think that our priority is our family and loved ones, and we making every effort to find the time to spend quality time with them. But as Christians, what is our real priority?

In the four Gospels, we read of several times where Jesus assures us: "Ask and you will receive." But today's Gospel not only tells us: "Ask and you will receive," but also "and so that your joy will be complete." What is this joy that Jesus assures us about? Many a times, we think that our joy would be complete when our wants and needs are fulfilled. But perhaps one way of looking at the word "Joy" is when we prioritise our lives by putting our lives according to this order: J for Jesus, O for others, then only Y for you. When we prioritise our lives in that order - Jesus, others, you - then we will indeed find true meaning and joy in our lives, and then we would find our lives complete.

Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter

Living a life as a Christian in today's world is certainly not easy. There are things in the world which may cause us to commit sin or despicable acts, but such things in the world is considered normal or part of so called "life" according to the ways of the world. For example, in some countries, abortion has been made acceptable or even legal, and those against abortion or are pro-life could be persecuted or even assaulted. Also, some countries have even permitted mercy killing or euthanasia, even though Christian teaching clearly prohibits such acts. So if we as Christians are in organisations that promote or even conduct such acts, either directly or indirectly, which clearly goes against our Christian faith, what would we do? Would we close our eyes and pretend that such acts is not our problem, and we content ourselves into thinking that we are merely doing our job to make a living, or would we go against such practices, even to the extent of losing our jobs to uphold Christian principles?

In today's gospel, Jesus warns us when He said: 'If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.' What does Jesus mean when he says “the world?” The "world" refers to that society of people who are hostile towards God and opposes His will. When Jesus talks of persecutions, He refers to the sufferings and persecutions His disciples, in proclaiming His teachings, would undergo at the hands of such persons in society. Jesus leaves no middle ground for His disciples. We are either for Him or against Him, for His kingdom of light or for the kingdom of darkness.

What about us? It seems convenient and easy when things are fine. But when we have a choice of either following the ways of God, or the ways of the world, and we have no middle ground or option, which would we choose? Are we prepared to choose God's ways each and every time, consistently, wholeheartedly and be willing to face the possibility of persecution or even being put to death?

Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter

Some people can have interesting and even wild imagination when it comes to what they think God looks like. Some think that God looks like Santa Claus, giving us lots of gifts, benefits and other goodies. Others think that God looks like a fierce judge, ever willing and ready to mete out punishment and torture on all who displeases Him. But what does God really look like? Is really that important for us to know? Would we really be satisfied just to know what God looks like?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.' ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me? ‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" Not only that, the Gospel reminds us that we are to believe in Jesus, and by doing so, Jesus assures us: "I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father."

So what does this mean to us? It means that it is not enough just to know what God looks like, though by seeing Jesus we would have some idea of what God looks like. What is more important is for us to believe in Jesus and do the works He did. May we concern ourselves more in preaching the Good News with words and deeds, and give glory to God while doing so.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter

It is easy for us to listen to nice or soothing words from Jesus. After all, we yearn for His love and care, and there are several things Jesus said which appeal to us. However, there are also several things that Jesus said which can be difficult to hear or accept, especially if such things concern us or affect us in some way. When we listen to such words, how do we respond? Do we accept both the good and the not so good that Jesus tells us? Or do we filter out the not so pleasant things, and only accept that which sounds pleasant? When it comes to following Jesus, are we disciples only when it benefits us or we find comfortable?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?'" Jesus did not back down or water down what he said, and because of this, "many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him." Yet, the Twelve chose to stay, and "Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’"

The reality we face is that we cannot have it both ways. If we want to follow Jesus, we must be prepared to accept both the eay and the difficult, the pleasant and the unpleasant. We cannot pick and choose only what we want, but take Jesus' teaching as a whole. Are we willing to let go of our prejudiced hearing, and let Jesus' words dwell and florish in us, as we let Him lead us and guide us closer to Him?

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter

Fear is innate in all of us human beings. It is a defensive and survival instinct, and is usually a response to a particular situation. For example, a person may see a snake and experience fear, even though the snake may actually be harmless and not doing anything. We have experienced fear, either real or imagined, limitations and inadequacies in this life; and when we experience fear, what do we do? Quite likely our tendency is to back out, hesitate or even run away from difficult situations.

In today's Gospel, the disciples were frightened to see Jesus walking on water. Why were the disciples frightened? Perhaps they thought they were seeing a ghost. To calm the disciples and reassure them, Jesus said: "It is I. Do not be afraid." It seems strange and ironic that the disciples themselves were still subject to fear, even though they had been with Jesus for a while. By being fearful, the disciples seemed to still lack trust and confidence in Jesus, and to help them, Jesus constantly reassured them not to be afraid.

What about us? Do we still lack trust and confidence in Jesus, and let fear interfere with our duty and mission in preaching the Good News? Ultimately, fear is useless, what is needed is trust; and with Jesus as our help and guide, we should not fear anymore, but continue bringing the Good News to all, and give God the glory while doing so.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter

I believe most of us would have never experienced being in prison or in captivity before. To be in captivity, to lose freedom, and to be kept under surveillance all the time is certainly very stressful; and those of us who have visited the prisons before and spoken to the prisoners could attest to such conditions. Some may wait for the day to come when they could be released, and at the mean time passively wait for such a day. Others would be try to find a way to escape, and if they do and get captured, the consequences could be severe or drastic. There are also some who would turn captivity into an opportunity to see the best and be the best in such a situation.

In today's reading, In today's reading, St. Paul did not lament about being in chains or in captivity, despite his innocence, but he took the opportunity to proclaim the Kingdom of God despite wearing those chains. St. Paul stayed focused on Jesus, doing His will, and depending on His providence instead of wallowing in his predicament or unfortunate situation. In other words, St. Paul turned captivity into an opportunity to continue the task of preaching the Good News, come what may.

What about us? If we are in captivity, would we make the best of the situation and continue our efforts to preach the Good News? Or would we become passive, or even lose hope, thinking that we cannot do anything about our situation? Let us not despair or give up, but continue preaching the Good News no matter what circumstances we are in, and in doing so give glory to God.

Saturday of the 6th Week of Easter

Some people think that only they or certain persons who are in their circle of friends or close group are authorised or capable of doing a task. Such persons would find ways and means to ensure that no one else would have any chance to get involved in such tasks, even though other persons may be quite capable or even better than such persons. It is interesting and ironic that we sometimes hear of such persons complaining that it seems so difficult to find new blood or new persons willing to help, when in the very first place, such persons are the ones who are unwilling to let go or share the task. As Christians, what is our attitude when it comes to preaching the Good News? Are we preventing others from doing so, thinking that only we or persons we choose are capable, or are we encouraging others, who may be just as capable or even better than us?

In today's reading, we are told that: "When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." Instead of preventing Appolos from doing his part in preaching the Good News, the other disciples encouraged him and even sent messages to Achaia asking that Appolos be welcomed. This shows that the disciples were willing to share the task of preaching the Good News with others, instead of clinging on to such a task.

What about us? Are we willing to share the task with others, and encourage them and even giving them our full support, or are we still holding to such tasks and preventing others from helping? Instead of being an obstacle to others in helping in such tasks, let us change our ways and attitudes, and encourage others help, just as the disciples in today's reading did. After all, we do such tasks not for our own glory, but for the glory of God.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter

One reality about being in mission is that we cannot choose where we want to go or where we want to serve. Ultimately, we are sent according to where the church wants us to serve, where the church finds an urgent or important need, not where we think is urgent or important. This is necessary, since at the end of the day, we are being sent to preach the Good News, and not for our comfort or convenience. Also, our being in mission means we can be taken out of a certain place at any time, and sent elsewhere. This means we need to be prepared to move on, and not be too attached to certain places or persons.

In today's reading, Paul and Barnabas "travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas. One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News."

From the reading, we see how Paul and Barnabas were told where they were to go, not where they would like to go. Also, the reading shows us how Paul and Barnabas was sent, uprooted, and then sent elsewhere, and they did it without losing any time, instead of grumbling or dragging their feet. This shows us that, when it comes to mission, we should be ready and prepared to do God's will. May we go forth happily and obediently to preach the Good News wherever we are needed, and give glory to God in all our efforts.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter

Some of us, from time to time, may have shown certain behaviour which can be really childish or even downright stupid. The reality is that we don't really gain anything from such behaviour, and yet we fail to acknowledge how silly we really are. One such behaviour is jealousy. Jealousy occurs due to thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, concern, and envy over relative lack of possessions, status or something of great personal value.When we allow ourselves to succumb to jealousy, we become blinded in pursuing what one lacks, leading us to childish or silly behaviour, which could even lead us to the point of committing great evil or despicable acts.

In today's reading, the Jews were so consumed with jealousy, that they began to act childish, silly and stupid, and they began to use blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. From acting childish, silly and stupid, the Jews allowed jealousy to turn into violent behaviour, where they "worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory." Such uncontrolled jealousy eventually led to more evil and harm committed, where there is nothing to gain and everything to lose.

What about us? Have some of us become like the Jews, so jealous that we have lost our sense of what is right, just, proper and fair? Has our pride and ego become more important than doing the will of God? May we check ourselves and avoid being entrapped or enslaved by the poison of jealousy, and give glory to God in all we say and do.

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter

When we are experiencing a time of peace and security, some of us may begin to take such peace and security for granted and become complacent and lose our alertness. We begin to have a false sense of security; thinking that nothing will happen, since the situation around us seems fine. But the reality is that such peace and security is an illusion, since things could change and escalate very quickly, transforming into a dangerous or even deadly situation. Throughout history, we have seen such transformation happening before, sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually.

In today's reading, we are told that the churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were left in peace. Instead of becoming lax or taking things for granted, these churches made hay while the sun shines, by building and fortifying themselves; by living in the fear of the Lord, with full faith in Him; and by being filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit while remaining in His guidance.

What about us, especially when it concerns our spiritual lives? Are we building and fortifying ourselves by growing closer to God? Let us not procrastinate and be caught off-guard or unprepared, and make every effort to remain alert and prepared as best as we can, since circumstances can change at any time, and we should be ready to face the Lord when He calls us.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter

In any church community, we need to reach out and attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of the community. We cannot ignore one and only focus on the other. For example, if some in the community are poor and have little means to survive, then it is necessary to provide some form of financial and material help. We cannot just wash our hands and say: "Oh! My task is only to preach the Good News", and pretend that such physical help would take care of itself. By providing such physical help, we are also preaching the Good News through charitable actions and by showing God's love and care to others, especially the poor.

However, it is clear that different persons are needed to carry out different roles. We cannot be doing everything and it is necessary to let others do some things, while we concentrate on certain tasks. In today's reading, the apostles realised that it was not possible for them to devote themselves to the spiritual needs of the community and at the same time attend to the physical needs. To solve the problem, the apostles delegated authority to seven men of good reputation, who would see to the physical needs of the community, while the apostles continued to devote themselves to prayer and to the service of the word. By delegating authority in this way, both the spiritual and physical needs of the community could be attended to.

What about us? Are we willing to delegate authority just as the apostles did, so each of us could concentrate on certain tasks, so that the Good News could be shared through different ways? May we learn to delegate, so that the gifts and talents of different members of the community could be put to good use, for the good of the community and for the glory of God.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Easter Saturday

It is certainly not easy for us to reach out to a person who is in the state of denial. It does not matter whether it is some form of serious illness, a loss, a discovery, or some significant matter; when a person is in denial, it is very difficult to convince the person to think and see otherwise. This is because the person refuses to accept the truth, even though it is already quite clear that what has happened has happened; and the reality is that one cannot turn back the clock.

In today's Gospel, Jesus' disciples were also in a state of denial. They thought that Jesus was gone for good, since they had witnessed His crucifixion and death, and they thought that it was impossible for Jesus to be alive again. That is why Jesus gave a piece of His mind to His disciples as He reproached them for their incredulity and obstinacy. Jesus not only reproached His disciples, He also sent them out to the whole world to proclaim the Good News to all creation, so that His disciples would snap out of their state of denial and do their part in helping others come to know Jesus.

What about us? Are we still in a state of denial and feel paralysed and unable to do anything? Or have we learnt to let go of our state of denial, and let God guide us and use us to bring the Good News to others, and glorify Him? Let us not doubt or remain in denial any longer, and go forth to proclaim the Good News with zeal and conviction.

Easter Saturday

We sometimes come across certain folks who are stuck in their incredulity or disbelief, and obstinacy. Such persons refuse to admit or budge from their way of thinking or way of doing things, even though it has been proven beyond reasonable doubt that their way may not be suitable or relevant, especially in today's world. For example, we still come across people who insist in doing their banking at the bank counter with a bank teller, even though the amount they are banking in is small, and such an amount could have been easily banked in using a Cash Deposit Machine.

In today's reading, the rulers, elders and scribes were incredulous and obstinate, even though they could clearly see that there was no way to counter the assurance shown by Peter and John. Even though the evidence was clearly in Peter and John's favour, the rulers, elders and scribes refused to admit or budge from their way of thinking, and the most they could do is merely issue a warning, since, as the reading tells us, "they could not think of any way to punish them, since all the people were giving glory to God for what had happened."

What about us? When we are stuck in our incredulity and obstibacy, we begin to become more and more like the rulers, elders and scribes, who have narrowed their way of thinking, even to the point of absurdity despite the fact that the evidence is overwhelmingly against them. May we be willing to let go of our pride, prejudice and stubborn ways, and be willing to let God guide us closer to His ways.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Saturday of the 5th Week of Lent

Are we willing to take risks when it comes to doing God's will? Some of us may be content on just being nominal Christians, thinking that attending Sunday Mass and perhaps getting involved in some church activities is more than enough. But how many of us are willing to go all out and do God's will, even when there are serious risks involved? How many of us are willing to lose our lives for the sake of the Gospel? It is easy to do the barest minimum as Christians, but are we willing to do more?

In today's Gospel, Jesus retreated to the countryside with His disciples, He could have decided to remain there. He could have gone on with His work of healing and teaching in a quiet way, and quite likely many people would have supported Him and kept Him safe. But Jesus knew that that was not the Father's will, so He moved out of His safety zone and comfort zone, and it is a move that will cost Him His life. Jesus was willing to give it His all in bringing salvation to all.

What does this mean to us? It means that whenever we intend to do God's will, we need to remember and be aware that it involves risk. It involves moving out of our safety zone and our comfort zone just as Jesus did, and do things which may cause us to be ridiculed, persecuted or even put to death. That is the reality of doing God's will, which quite often goes against the ways of the world. But it is only when we choose to move out that God moves in and becomes our help and guide, and we know that God will never abandon us.

Saturday of the 4th Week of Lent

Some of us seem to assume that we know it all. For example, by just getting some information about a certain person, some of us form all sorts of conclusions about the person, and think that we know everything about the person. One situation where this may happen is when a priest is posted to his home parish as parish priest. Some may assume that they know him well, since they have seen him grow up from a child, and they assume that they know his background, character and so on. But can we really assume that we know a person completely? Could we ever admit that we have been wrong about some or even all of our assumptions?

In today's Gospel, a lot of assumptions had been made about Jesus, especially about His identity. The Pharisees thought they knew everything about Jesus, and assumed that Jesus could not possibly be a prophet, since they assumed that He came from Galilee. Also, the Pharisees condemned the crowd for following Jesus,  and said about them: "This rabble knows nothing about the Law – they are damned." since they assumed they knew best about the Law and who Jesus was. In the midst of these assumptions, an unexpected challenge came from Nicodemus, who challenged the people to give Jesus a hearing and to discover for themselves who Jesus really was. But the assumptions far outnumbered and drowned out the challenge.

What does this mean to us? It means that when our minds are closed, and we choose to stick stubbornly to our assumptions, we can never grow or change. We begin to think that our ways are exactly what God expects of us, even though in reality, we could be quite wrong. This smacks of pride, prejudice and ego. Would we be really and ever willing to humble ourselves, and discover Jesus as He really is, and walk in His ways, not according to what we think are His ways?

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Some of us claim that we have not committed any serious or even mortal sins, but when we claim as such, are we claiming so with pride? It is easy to make such claims, and yet fall into sin by feeling proud about it, or putting others down or looking down on others, thinking that they are not on par with us. When we are like this, we have a problem of spiritual pride. We begin to think that we are ok and everyone else is hopeless or condemned.

In today's Gospel, the Pharisee was proud that he did not commit any grave sin; and he claims to have done credible deeds, but he was not at rights with God. Why so? His problem was spiritual pride: he called another person a sinner without acknowledging or admitting to be one himself. He propped himself up, at the expense of another person. He considered himself virtuous, and in doing so began to become more and more self-righteous. But what the Pharisee failed to realise and understand is that what God wants is not sacrifice, but love for Him and for others.

What about us? Are we like the Pharisee, full of pride and ego, thinking that we are on the right track or supposingly in God's good books? Or have we learnt to humble ourselves and say: God, be merciful to me, a sinner? Let us not be blinded by pride, even to the point of losing our awareness of sins we may have committed, no matter how small such sins may be. Instead, let us walk humbly in God's ways, and let Him be our help and guide.

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Lent

In the English language, black sheep is an idiom used to describe an odd or disreputable member of a group, especially within a family. The black sheep is the odd one out, whether he's a disgrace to the family or just doesn't seem to belong. The origin of the phrase comes from the rare presence in a flock of white sheep of a sheep with black fleece. For some families, a child who is a black sheep is seen as a bane and a burden of parents. Some parents may even resort to renouncing relationship with that child; while others may resort to punishment which may actually be just a way of venting out their frustrations on the child.

In today's Gospel, we come across another black sheep, the younger son. In the Gospel, the father gave in to his younger son's request for his share of the inheritance, but yet further on in the parable, we hear of the father waiting and looking out for him to return. The younger son came to his senses because he recalled how kindly his father treated his servants, and that was enough for him to return home to his father. Instead of seeing the younger son as a bane or a burden, the father was so happy to see his younger son again, and took him back to the household.

What does this mean for us? It means that even a black sheep is still welcomed back when he or she comes to his or her senses and wants to return. It also means that when we come across the odd one, the black sheep, the sinner, let us be the reflection of God's love to that person. May we be merciful, loving and forgiving to others, even when it comes to black sheep, just as God is merciful, loving and forgiving towards us.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent

Are we able to forgive our enemies and those who have hurt us in one way or another? Jesus taught us to forgive in different parts of the Gospel, including today's Gospel. If we ponder on what it means to forgive, we would realise that forgiving is an act of our will, not our emotions. In the Our Father, we pray: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive others who sin against us.” When we pray in this way,  we are asking God to forgive us to the degree by which we forgive others; and it is the sign that we have received God’s forgiveness by our willingness to forgive others.

If we are able to forgive, we would save ourselves from restless nights and unnecessary anger and anxiety. Instead, we could channel our energies to more constructive things. If we find ourselves unable to forgive, it could be that God is not good enough for us. It could also be that God and His words do not occupy the first priority in our lives. Thus, let us set aside our pride and ego, and continuously choose to forgive, just as God forgives us.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Saturday of the 5th Week of Lent

As humans, we are the same in body parts and composition. We may not necessarily look the same, since we have different skin colour; different body shape and hair style; but deep down inside, we belong to one humanity. Our problem is we tend to distinguish ourselves from others based on language, social status, religion, ethnic group and much more, and we stubbornly hold on to such criteria. But is this the way God intends us to live from the beginning? Of course not! We are all part of humankind, and we should be united and loving with one another, not divisive and conceited.

In today's reading, Ezekiel tells us of how God will reunite His people who had been scattered, exiled and divided, into one people, and He would be their God and they would be His people. This reading reminds us, that ultimately, we should be one people under God. The question is: are we able to let go of our pride and ego; our divisiveness; and our prejudices; and strive towards being one people of God? It may seem difficult or impossible to achieve, but God can make straight out of crooked lines, and we should continue to trust in Him and walk in His ways, as we strive to remain as one.

Friday, 11 January 2019

Saturday of the 4th Week of Lent

Who can we trust in this world? Some of us think that we can trust our parents; some think we can trust our spouse; some think we can trust our children; some think we can trust our brothers, sisters or other relatives; some even think we can trust our friends; but how much can we really trust such persons? Can we find a person we can trust completely, without any shadow of doubt? The challenge that we face is that we may be able to trust persons to a certain extent, but how many of us can claim to have absolute trust in certain persons?

In today's reading, Jeremiah is trusting of others until the Lord shows him the truth, and then he realises that they were plotting against him, even ready to kill him, and he was unaware of the deception. He would have gone on innocently, not knowing the danger, except that the Lord was looking out for him and showed him the way. We may think others are trustworthy, but they are at best human and at worst dangerous. Jeremiah was trusting of others, and they would have killed him. But he can trust in the Lord. In the same way, we too should be mindful whom we trust, and ultimately put full trust and confidence in the Lord.