Thursday 16 May 2024

Saturday of Week 8 Year 2

What is "bad faith"? "Bad faith"is a sustained form of deception which consists of entertaining or pretending to entertain one set of feelings while acting as if influenced by another. It is associated with hypocrisy, breach of contract, affectation, and lip service. It may involve intentional deceit of others, or self-deception.

In today’s gospel reading we witness how Jesus masterly unmasks his opponents’ “bad faith” by questioning them about the validity of John the Baptist’s ministry. Now, since they refused to believe in John, they should have answered that his ministry was purely of human origin - if they had been honest. But they admit among themselves, “we fear the crowd” (Mt 23:26). In other words, these religious opponents of Jesus are more concerned about their personal safety than about the truth, which shows their bad faith. They want to save their skin rather than live up to their true convictions.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we willing to be honest and true to our convictions? Are we willing to call a spade a spade? Or have we become like these religious leaders, who chose to have "bad faith" instead of having "true faith" or being honest in our convictions?

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Saturday of Week 12 Year 1

Years ago one Monday morning, I was just about to leave my parish after the morning Mass to go home to visit my folks. As I was about to get into my car to drive off, I noticed a car enter the compound of the church. A couple came out of the car and rushed towards me. They looked distressed and the wife said, "Father, I am Catholic and my husband is not. Our son, who is not baptised, was just involved in a serious road accident, and he is now at hospital. The doctors have told us that he has little chance of survival. Could you come and say a prayer for him please?" The husband interjected: "Please father, pray for him. Ask God to heal him." I could see the anxiousness on their faces. So I obliged and met them at the hospital. While praying for the young man, all of a sudden, his breathing began to stabilise and he began to drift back into consciousness. His parents were shocked and overjoyed when their son opened his eyes and his condition improved. When the doctor came to examine him, the doctor was speechless, as the young man, though still injured, seemed to be on the road to recovery. Shortly after, the young man made a full recovery. The young man and his father attended RCIA and were baptised on Easter Vigil.

In today's gospel, Jesus was amazed at the deep faith of the centurion who was a Gentile. Even though the centurion was not a follower of Jesus, he still believed that Jesus can heal. Because of such faith, Jesus healed the centurion's servant. Just like in the Gospel, the parents of the young man had faith that Jesus would heal the young man, especially the young man's father who was not a Catholic or even a Christian at that time. Because of such faith, the young man was healed.

What can we learn from this? When we have faith in God, God can make many things possible. All we need to do is to trust and believe that God will help us, not according to our time and our way, but in His time and His way. May we have faith like that centurion, a faith that continues to rely and trust in God’s power even if things do not happen the way we want and the time we expect.

Saturday 17 June 2023

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

When we look at our identity, what comes to mind? Some think that identity means the name given to us. Others think that identity refers to our status or popularity. But what is our identity? Who are we really? We are, as the First Reading reminds us, “a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.” Such an identity may make us feel great or even proud. But the reality is that this identity is given to us not merely as an honour, or to “syiok sendiri” or a privilege. This identity is given to us with terms and conditions: it comes with responsibility and mission. In today’s Gospel, we are called by Jesus to take up responsibility and mission and become the labourers in his vineyard: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Notice that we are called to become labourers in his vineyard, and this means each and every one of us are called, not just the priests and the religious.

When it comes to receiving titles and positions such as a Datuk, or Tan Sri, or even Tun, many of us are more than happy to do so. Many of us are also more than happy to receive other peoples’ respect and honour. But how many of us are actually prepared and willing to volunteer ourselves for the work that needs to be done? When the parish or the priests ask for volunteers; when we ask for support from parishioners, how many of us are willing to come forward and help? It seems as if many of us may be proud to be called a Catholic, or proud to be known as a son or daughter of God. But how many of us are prepared and willing to take up the challenge and responsibility of the mission, to be sent as labourers to his harvest? There are people who are always ready to complain and criticise, saying: this is bad; or that is bad, or this is how it ought to be done. There are people who easily give all sorts of suggestions: why don’t we do this or that? But how many people are prepared to do the carry out the tasks or mission, seeing it through with gusto and enthusiasm?

Jesus in today’s Gospel challenges us to participate in his mission to build up God’s kingdom: “to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” When we work for Christ, we should not expect anything in return, such as praise, honour, or even benefits. In fact, we often receive criticism and some of us may even face persecution or even be put to death. Jesus in today’s Gospel also tells us: “You received without charge, give without charge.” Are we prepared to take up this challenge? Are we willing to be sent as labourers to his harvest?

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Saturday of Week 10 Year 1

We sometimes comes across certain persons or cultures that find it hard or even disrespectful to speak frankly. Such persons or cultures have been conditioned to think that the 'face' or 'saving face' is paramount, and that speaking frankly or telling it like it is could cause another person to "lose face" which is incomprehensible, unimaginable or even a taboo. This can lead to much miscommunication or misunderstanding, because one could never be too sure what such persons or cultures really mean, since a yes could mean a no or even a maybe.

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.

Saturday of Week 9 Year 1

We sometimes come across persons who do things to attract attention, or to gain popularity, fame or recognition from others. For example, we may have come across certain persons who are quite nasty towards others, but when a priest or even a bishop asks them to carry out a task, they suddenly appear to be friendly or docile, and they seem to go out of the way to get the task done, especially in front of the priest or bishop, perhaps with the hope of gaining brownie points or to get on the good side of the priest or bishop. But when the priest or bishop is not present, they go back to their nasty ways.

In today's Gospel, "Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’"

Have some of us become like the scribes, who appear to be serving but expecting to be noticed and recognised? Do we perform a task only to gain brownie points or to get on the good side of what they think are important persons or persons of authority? Or are we able to resist the need to be recognised and admired, check our motives and intentions, and serve not for ourselves but for the glory of God?

Monday 29 May 2023

Saturday of Week 8 Year 1

In today's Gospel, we see an example of what happens to people who will not face the truth. They have to twist and wriggle and in some cases even tell lies in an attempt to save face, and in the end get themselves into an embarrassing position in which they have nothing to say or they end up saying even more silly things, or stupid things or nonsense. The person who will not face the truth has nothing but the prospect of a deeper involvement in a situation that renders him helpless and ineffective.

The question that we perhaps may want to ponder is this: do we want to live peacefully and joyfully in truth, or are we continuously preferring to live a lie? Why do some of us choose to live a lie when we have been reminded so many times that the truth will set us free, and a lie will continue to enslave us and could even cause us to ultimately lose our relationship with God? May we choose wisely which path we take, and be ready to face the consequences accordingly.

Thursday 16 February 2023

Friday of Week 6 Year 1

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

From the Gospel, we can see a few key qualities of being a follower of Jesus:

  1. If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Here, a follower of Jesus chooses to renounce himself, takes up his cross, and follows Jesus. It is not enough to just renounce oneself, but one also needs to take up his cross and follow Jesus.
  2. But anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. Here, a follower of Jesus not only chooses to lose his life for Jesus' sake, He or she also chooses to do so for the sake of the gospel. Both Jesus and the gospel must be involved.
  3. For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Here, one must be willing to stand up for Jesus and His words. If one is ashamed of Jesus' words, especially those words which may seem difficult to understand or accept, then how can one stand up for Jesus?
So as we can see, being a follower of Jesus is not so simple. Anyone can claim to be a follower of Jesus, but claiming to be a follower of Jesus means nothing if there is no action or personal sacrifice. May we strive towards being true and genuine in following Jesus completely, and give glory to God in all we say and do.