Saturday, 6 June 2020

Friday of Week 12 Year 2

How many of us can really rely on our leaders or even kings and royalty in our country? If there is trouble and our country is on the verge of being overrun or conquered by enemy forces, would our leaders, kings or royalty be willing to stick with us and defend our country to the very end? Quite likely, our leaders, kings or royalty would flee, leaving others to defend our country as best we can. It seems as though one's own survival and personal interest takes precedence over the interest of the country, as far as some leaders, kings or royalty are concerned.

In today's reading, we see an example of a king who took more interest in his own survival, and not so much on the interest of the kingdom. In the reading: "...the king made his escape under cover of dark, with all the fighting men, by way of the gate between the two walls, which is near the king’s garden – the Chaldaeans had surrounded the city – and made his way towards the Arabah. The Chaldaean troops pursued the king and caught up with him in the plains of Jericho, where all his troops deserted. The Chaldaeans captured the king and took him to the king of Babylon at Riblah, who passed sentence on him. He had the sons of Zedekiah slaughtered before his eyes, then put out Zedekiah’s eyes and, loading him with chains, carried him off to Babylon."

From the reading, we see two examples where one's personal interest takes precedence. Firstly, King Zedekiah was not bothered about the city and more concerned about his own survival, and he made his escape with his fighting men. Then when the Chaldaen troops caught up with him in the plains of Jericho, his own troops deserted him, leaving him to his fate. This shows that at the end of the day, not everyone who claims to be our leaders have the interest of our city or country at heart, since at times, personal interest takes precedence. However, we do have a leader or king who would not desert or abandon us. That King is our loving God. Shouldn't we then pay more attention and hope on our loving God, knowing that He would protect and care for us, and not abandon us?

Immaculate Heart of Mary

I believe many of us would have tried our level best to remember by heart the many things we learnt at school, such as certain phrases in a language, or certain mathematical formula, or some other matter, especially when we were told that such things may come out during the exams. However, more often than not, such things would only be remembered, but not really pondered upon or questioned. Then when we leave school upon completing our studies, how many of us would still remember all those things we had tried to remember by heart?

Our mother Mary, whose feast of the Immaculate Heart we celebrate today, did not just remember things; she pondered over the events and experiences in her life. Mary would have pondered over the joy of the first Christmas, and also the sorrow and grief at Calvary. In today's Gospel, it was the worry and anxiety of looking for Jesus and after finding him at the temple, the surprise at the answer He gave, that Mary also pondered in her heart. Mary remembered and pondered in her heart all these events and experiences and much more.

Today, as we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we are invited to have a contemplative heart and ponder about the many times we have experienced God in our lives. When we remember and ponder in our hearts, we become more aware of God's presence in our lives, and we begin to deepen our hope and confidence in God, come what may.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Saturday of Week 10 Year 2

One of the challenges we face when dealing with persons of different cultures is that in some cultures, speaking plainly and clearly is expected; whereas in other cultures, the 'face' is so important that persons of such cultures would try their level best not to cause another to 'lose face.' When the 'face' is important, some persons would try to break the news, whether good or bad, in such a way that the other person would not be 'embarrassed', so to speak. Such an approach has led to misunderstandings and even ill-feelings, when different cultures clash.

As Christians, we too have a 'Christian culture' as shown in today's Gospel. The Gospel tells us: "Do not swear: All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no." When we swear, we may be trying avoid another from 'losing face' but in doing so, we may sometimes find ourselves unable to fulfil what we swore; or we may even end up telling lies. May we come to realise the importance of saying what we mean and meaning what we say, and all that we say and do, we give glory to God.

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Saturday of Week 9 Year 2

One thing we need to be careful about is when we come across certain church teachings which seem too good to be true, or sound strange. When we come across such teachings, we need to discern whether such teachings end up appealing to our needs, wants and desires, instead of what the church actually teaches. This is because those who teach such so-called church teachings often have got a hidden agenda, and not for the good of the church. Perhaps one key question we need to ponder is this: are such so-called church teaching really what Jesus taught us?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with the intention of teaching. The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes; and then, instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths. Be careful always to choose the right course; be brave under trials; make the preaching of the Good News your life’s work, in thoroughgoing service."

The reading cautions us not to be so easily duped or led astray by such teachings, but remain steadfast to the truth, with patience and with the intention of teaching. May we always choose to preserve the truth, and help others do the same.

Friday of Week 9 Year 2

Being a Christian is never easy. Anyone who claims that being a Christian is easy is either not really living a Christian life, or they may be lying. This is because as Christians the ways of Christ quite often do not agree or do not comply with the ways of the world. For example, as Christians, we are told to love, even to love our enemies; but the world tells us to hate others, or try to put others down to lift ourselves up, and only love ourselves and be concerned only about ourselves.

When we do not follow the ways of the world, and instead follow the ways of Christ, what happens? Today's reading tells us: "You are well aware, then, that anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be attacked; while these wicked impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and deceived themselves You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true; remember who your teachers were, and how, ever since you were a child, you have known the holy scriptures – from these you can learn the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."

What does this mean to us? It means that following the ways of Christ is not going to be a bed of roses or a walk in the park. We will face many trials and tribulations, and as the reading tells us, we are certain to be attacked in some way. It also means that we must not let ourselves go astray, or give up and end up following the ways of the world. Instead, we must have faith in Christ Jesus, and remain steadfast in such faith. Are we willing to endure much challenges in the world, with hope and trust that Jesus will save us?

Friday of Week 9 Year 2

Among the Jews, the most common title for the 'Christ' was, 'Son of David.' In today's Gospel, the purpose why Jesus then said "The Lord said to my Lord: Sit at my right hand and I will put your enemies under your feet." (which is actually Psalm 110:1), is to show to the crowds and the Pharisees that the Christ was more than a descendant of David because David calls this descendant of his, “my lord.” This is to show that David views the Christ as his Lord and superior.

So what does it mean to acknowledge Jesus as Lord? To acknowledge Jesus as Lord means that we should owe our full submission and loyalty to Him. If we owe our full submission and loyalty to Him, then He is our Lord and the Master of our lives instead of the many earthly things such as: our passions, the love of money, alcohol, drugs, and so on; which may distract us or which we may pursue as if these things matter more and may have become like our "lord" instead of Jesus. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: do we really give to Jesus our loyalty? Or have we allowed ourselves to divert our loyalty to other 'lords'?

Tuesday of Week 9 Year 2

Growing in holiness is not something we can do in an instant. We may be used to getting so many other things done instantly; such as withdrawing money from an ATM, or making a cup of coffee; but when it comes to growing in relationship with God and growing in holiness, it takes time and effort. We may experience temptations along the way, and some of us may commit sin; but we are constantly reminded to get up, seek forgiveness, move on and use such experiences to help us grow spiritually, as we let our loving God help us and guide us.

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."

As the reading clearly tells us, we need to be patient and long for the Day of God to come, and while doing so, we should be living holy and saintly lives. Of course, living holy and saintly lives is not easy, especially when we face so many challenges and temptations in the world. This is why our focus should be on Jesus, and let him take control of our lives. While it is necessary for us to live and survive in the world, we should not let worldly attractions overwhelm us or distract us from our ultimate goal. May we stay focused in our quest to be with Jesus, and help others to do the same.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Friday of Week 6 Year 2

It is easy for us to give a lot of comments and suggestions for improvement or changes in church. But sometimes, such comments and suggestions are just that: merely comments and suggestions, without any commitment to take action or to offer oneself to see such comments and suggestions through. For example, some people like to comment or suggest that churches these days should have a funeral parlour, since more and more people these days live in flats, apartments or condominiums, where facilities for a wake may not be available. But when such persons are asked to form a committee and help raise funds, so that a funeral parlour could be constructed somewhere in the church grounds, such persons suddenly give all sorts of excuses, or back down from their suggestions. Are some of us all talk and no action?

In today's reading, we are told that "Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead." Also, the reading tells us that "A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds." We say that we have faith; we believe in God; we recite the creed every Sunday; we call ourselves Christians; but is our faith merely words? Is our faith all talk but no or little action? Are we willing to do something about what we say, or are we merely blowing hot air?

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Thursday of Week 6 Year 2

How do we treat others in church? Do we treat all as equal, as brothers and sisters in Christ; or do we treat others according to the way they dress, or their appearance, or according to the their status or rank in society? In some churches, I have noticed that when a person is well dressed or has got a title or something, some treat such a person like a VIP. But when a beggar or shabbily dressed person comes to church, some may begin to form all sorts of thoughts and assume all sorts of scenarios, whether good or bad.

Today's reading warns us: "Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?" Today's reading also tells us that "the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of scripture: you must love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law."

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are we segregating and treating people differently in church? Are we not all brothers and sisters in Christ, regardless of how we look or who we are? If we are continuing to treat people in such a manner, how different are we compared to the world? Are we followers of Christ, or have we allowed the ways of the world to corrupt us?

Monday, 3 February 2020

Wednesday of Week 6 Year 2

When we say something, are we saying things based on our perception, feelings or emotions, without verifying the facts? Are we aware of what we are saying, or are we blindly saying things? Do we realise that words, once said, cannot be taken back?

In today's reading, we are cautioned to "be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to rouse your temper; God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger." God gave us two ears and one tongue, possibly to remind us that we should listen carefully and speak only when necessary, since sometimes we end up saying more than we should. Sometimes we say faster than we think, and that could only make us look foolish at the end. May we use words with caution, and use words for the glory of God.

Saturday of Week 5 Year 2

I believe most of us know that God's commandments, as well as Jesus' commandments of loving God and neighbour, are the basis for church rules and practices, whereas customs are traditional and widely accepted ways of behaving or doing something in the church community. Such rules, practices and customs did not materialise overnight, and they are meant for the good of the entire Christian community, not just for the good of a few. However, we sometimes come across certain persons or groups who are against such rules, practices and customs, because such persons or groups want things their way and for their benefit.

In today's reading, we come across Jeorboam who did not like certain rules, practices or customs among the Israelites; and Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘As things are, the kingdom will revert to the House of David. If this people continues to go up to the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, the people’s heart will turn back again to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will put me to death.’ And so, Jeroboam created his own gods, by making two golden calves; he got the people to worship such false gods; "He set up the temple of the high places and appointed priests from ordinary families, who were not of the sons of Levi"; and even had the audacity to "institute a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth of the month, like the feast that was kept in Judah." Jeroboam did all these because he did not like certain rules, practices or customs among the Israelites, and he wanted to save his own skin. As a result, "such conduct made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth."

What about us? When we are faced with certain church rules, practices or customs, would we change or discard such rules, practices or customs as we please, just because they are inconvenient to us or we feel uncomfortable towards them? Is faith like changing clothes, where we discard things which we are unable to accept? May we continue to be faithful, and walk in God's ways.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Saturday of Week 4 Year 2

One of the many realities in life is that we cannot do everything. There are some things which we can do; some things which we can do really well, as we have the gift or talent for it; and there are also some things which we just cannot do, or are able to do with some difficulty. Some things can be learnt, but learning to do such things has its limits, since we may not be naturally adept or gifted in doing such things. This is where we need to learn to let go and let others do other things which we may not necessarily be good at, or depend on God's providence to get things done.

In today's reading, king Solomon acknowledged before the Lord that he was a young man and unskilled in leadership. He asked the Lord for wisdom so that he could understand how to discern between good and evil; and to be a good king following the ways of the Lord. Because of this, king Solomon was not only given wisdom, but blessed by the Lord with power, wealth and victory over his enemies. King Solomon knew his abilities and limitations, and chose to depend on God's providence, instead of trying to do things on his own.

What about us? Are we willing and humble enough to acknowledge our abilities and limitations just as King Solomon did, and seek wisdom from the Lord, so that we could do His will? May we come to realise that ultimately, our help is in the Lord, and may we glorify Him in all we do.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Saturday of Week 3 Year 2

What sort of response do we have when we commit sin or do something wrong? Are we willing to own up to the sin committed or the wrong done? Or would we go through great lengths to deny any wrongdoing or sin, even though the sin or wrongdoing is so evident beyond reasonable doubt? Have we allowed ourselves to become blinded by pride and ego, and think that we are never wrong or never guilty?

Today's reading shows us how King David responded when the prophet Nathan confronted him with the many sins he had committed. Instead of trying to worm his way out, or make all sorts of excuses, or deny his guilt, King David was docile and humble enough to admit his guilt and merely said: "I have sinned against the Lord."

What about us? Would we be willing to own up to our wrongdoing, our mistakes, our sins? Let us not allow pride and ego get the better of us and be humble and docile, just like King David showed us, and admit our wrongdoing, our mistakes, our sins. Let us not allow the stain of wrongdoing or sin remain, lest we end up ruining our relationship with God.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Saturday of Week 2 Year 2

How generous are we towards others? Are we generous to all, regardless of who they are and where they come from, or are we generous only to certain persons who may be beneficial to us in some way? Are we generous in our time and wealth, even to the point where it hurts, or are we calculative in giving what we are comfortable in giving, or only what we can spare?

In today's Gospel, Jesus was home. A crowd had gathered and Jesus could have been calculative in giving his time towards the crowd, since some would have thought that Jesus ought to have some privacy and rest. However, to Jesus, being generous knows no bounds or limits, especially when it comes to doing the will of God. Instead of being calculative, Jesus was generous even to the point where it hurts.

What about us? would we be willing to be generous like Jesus, even forgoing our personal needs or comfort? Are we willing to put others before self, and follow Jesus' example, who showed us the true meaning of being generous? May we learn to be more like Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served, and in all we say and do, give glory to God.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Saturday of Week 1 Year 2

It is easy for us to condemn or ostracise a person, especially if the person has committed a serious crime; but how many of us are willing to give the person a second chance, especially if the person is genuinely remorseful and wanting to change his or her ways? What if we are the ones who have done something wrong and are asking for a second chance? Would we then be compassionate and merciful towards others and give them a second chance as well, just as we have been given a second chance?

In today's Gospel, Matthew, a tax collector was called by Jesus to follow Him. As a tax collector, Matthew was condemned and ostracised by his countrymen because he sold his services to the Romans to collect taxes and profited in the process. However, Jesus was willing to give Matthew a second chance by inviting him to follow Him.

What about us? Jesus gives us plenty of chances to start again. Would we be willing to set aside our prejudice, pride, self-righteousness and ego, and give others a chance, just as God has given us many chances to turn back to Him?

Monday, 6 January 2020

Saturday after Epiphany

Whose will are we trying to follow? Are we following God's will, or are we following our own will? If we say we are following God's will, then surely we should be praying for His will to be done, just as we do when we pray the Lord's Prayer. But sometimes we pray that our needs and wants are met, instead of leaving it to the Lord, and trusting that His will would be sufficient. Are we willing to refocus our prayers so that God's will be done?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have already been granted what we asked of him." Ultimately, the reading reminds us that God listens to our prayers in accordance with His will, not ours, and that if we ask for something in accordance with His will, then we can be confident that He will hear us. Are we willing to ask in accordance with His will, trusting and knowing that He will do what is best for us, for His purposes and glory?