Saturday, 13 October 2018

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Years ago, I recall receiving an e-mail about a lady who was looking for a Mr. Right. In other words, the lady was fishing for a husband. It so happened that the lady came across a building with a sign saying: "Search a Husband Here." Also, there was another sign saying: "You can enter this building only once and stop at each floor only once." The building had 7 floors and the lady excitedly entered the lift at the ground floor. When the lift reached the first floor, the doors of the lift opened and the lady saw a sign in front of her saying: "Enter here for a husband who is handsome and strong." The lady decided to remain in the lift, curious to know what the next floors would be. At the second floor, the sign in front of her said: "Enter here for a husband who is handsome, strong, and a good cook." The sign at the third floor said: "Enter here for a husband who is handsome, strong, a good cook, and loves children." The lady became more and more curious and excited, and she decided to remain in the lift and see what the other floors would reveal. As she reached the fourth, fifth and sixth floor, the sign in front of her on each floor revealed even more fantastic capabilities and attributes of the men supposingly to be found at each floor. Finally the lady reached the seventh floor and when she got out of the lift, all she saw was a flight of stairs going down, and a sign which said: "No men can be found here, since no men could ever meet your expectations at this level."

Today’s gospel tells us about a Mr. Right, the right man to foretell the coming of the Messiah. According to the scribes, the prophet Elijah is the right person to prepare the coming of the Messiah, since they believed that Elijah was the precursor of the Messiah, and that Elijah was a terrible man preaching doom and destruction. Yet when John the Baptist came and announced the coming of the Messiah, somebody greater than him, the scribes did not accept him as Mr. Right. For them, John’s person and message was not up to their expectations. He preached about baptism and personal conversion, not about the terror that will go with the day of the Lord. For them John was not Elijah, not Mr. Right. Yet, the irony is, John actually turned our to be Mr, Right, not according to our expectations, but according to God's plans.

What about us? Have our expectations clouded us and prevented us from accepting the message of John the Baptist, the actual Mr. Right, and prepare the way for the Lord? May we open our eyes, ears and hearts, so that we would be able to let the message of John the Baptist change us, so that we would learn to walk in God's ways and glorify Him in all we do.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

When we were young, some of us may have seen movies concerning the 10 commandments. We were also reminded in Catechism classes, during Mass and in various church activities about the 10 commandments, and how the 10 could be categorised into two, as Jesus mentioned in today's Gospel: "This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these."

However, if we examine today's readings and Gospel carefully, we would realise that actually, there is really only one commandment: “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is the greatest and only commandment. All other commandments flow from this great commandment, the source of all commandments. If we are able to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength, then we don’t have to worry about the others, since we would naturally obey and follow the other commandments.

But are we really following this great commandment? If we examine our lives, we may come to realise that we may be actually breaking the first commandment of loving God. How so? Whenever we are hit with misfortune, some of us may have run to temples. Others resort to feng shui, or divination and crystals to ward off bad luck or for protection, instead of depending on and trusting in God's help. Also, some of us have made other objects our gods. For some it could be money, while for others possession. There are some who consider power as their god. Whenever, we do any of these, we have broken the first commandment.

So what do we do? Remember what the wise scribe had to say to Jesus in today’s gospel: “To love God with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.” Total unconditional and undivided love for God is what is required of every person. In other words, we let God to be God of our lives.

What about the second commandment then – to love our neighbour as ourselves? We need to realise that it is impossible to love others as ourselves; to love others unconditionally; unless we love them with the love of God. It is only when we place all our love unconditionally with God will we be able to love others as God loves them. Thus, let us pray that we will listen to Jesus' voice, inviting us to love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, so that we may truly love our neighbour as ourselves.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

I once sat next to a blind beggar and observed him as he was trying to beg for a few ringgit. I was quite amazed at how this blind beggar had developed a heightened sense of touch, hearing and smell, even though he could not see. Just by the sound of a coin dropping onto his bowl, he could decipher correctly how much it was. By feeling the paper money, he could tell a RM1 note from a RM5, RM10 or RM100.

Today’s Gospel tells us about two blind men following Jesus and crying out. They might not see Jesus, but their heightened sense of hearing led them to Jesus. When Jesus entered a house, they approached him there, since their heightened sense of hearing and smell helped them encounter Jesus directly. Not only that, when Jesus asked if they had faith in him to heal them, they responded positively. Because the blind men had complete trust and faith in Jesus, they were healed of their blindness and their sight returned.

What about us? Would we have faith and trust in Jesus to heal us, especially from our spiritual blindness? Even though we may be able to see clearly, we may be spiritually blind, especially when we sin, when we have ego and pride in our hearts. May we, like the beggars in today's Gospel, have complete faith and trust in Jesus, and be regular in going for confession and receiving Him daily at Mass, so that Jesus can heal us and enable us to physically and spiritually see clearly once again.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Saturday of Week 34 Year 2

A lot of diseases such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes can be prevented and controlled. What is important is we need to be disciplined in our diet and keeping our weight and stress levels in control. But for some of us, when it comes to preventive measures, we don't usually see the benefits of being vigilant. So what happens? Some of us begin to slacken and not take care.
Then while we are lying on the hospital bed in pain, then only we start regretting for not taking care of our health and our body.

The same also goes for our soul and our eternal future. Jesus in today's Gospel warns us: "Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap." If we are not vigilant; if we slacken in our spiritual health and allow sin to permeate in our soul and neglect to cleanse ourselves from sin by going for confession, we may find ourselves regretting for not taking care of our spiritual health. By then, it may be too late, and we may find ourselves away from God.

So let us not neglect our health and our body, and at the same time let us not neglect our spiritual health, lest we find ourselves suffering physically or even spiritually. Let us remain vigilant and watch ourselves, so that when the time comes, we would be better prepared to meet the Lord.

Monday of Week 34 Year 2

Being a widow or even an orphan during the time of Jesus was no easy experience. Society at the time of Jesus was such that the man of the house was the sole breadwinner, and the wife and children were totally dependent on him. To be a widow meant having to fend for herself and maybe even to depend on public charity, and sometimes little or even no help is given. Thus, being a widow or an orphan meant being part of a vulnerable and defenseless people.

In today's Gospel, we come across a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins into the treasury. Despite the fact that the widow was extremely poor, she was still willing and generous to put in, from the little she had, all she had to live on. Jesus in turn gave everything He had, all He could give, just to save us. If the widow and Jesus could give everything, what about us? Would we be willing and generous to surrender it all to God and for the growth of the church?

Friday, 24 August 2018

Saturday of Week 33 Year 2

We sometimes here people saying words like: "a thorn in my side."  What they basically mean is that someone or something has been continually causing problems for them, and the sooner they are able to get rid of such problems, the better. For example, some couples may have had money problems as a thorn in their side since the day they got married; or health inspectors are a thorn in the side of most restaurants; or custom officers have been a thorn in the side of crminals involved in smuggling activities due to raids and confiscation of smuggled goods.

In today's reading, we come across another example of a "thorn in my side." In the reading, two prophets who have been a plague to the world, were finally killed by the beast that comes out of the Abyss. This caused the people of the world to be glad about it, since they thought that the "thorn in their sides" have been finally gotten rid of. But God had other plans, and "after three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud." The thorn in the sides of the people of the world could not be silenced or stopped, since God is with them.

What does this mean to us? As Christians, we are called to be "a thorn in the side" of others, especially when it comes to doing what is right and just. We may face troubles or presecution, or even put to death, but we should not be worried or concerned, and continue being "a thorn in the side," since what we are doing is not for our own gratification or glory, but for the glory of God.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

Saturday of Week 32 Year 2

What does it mean to be a Christian? Some say that being a Christian means following the ways of Christ; some think that being a Christian means praying and observing church laws and precepts; some think that being a Christian means to reach out to the poor, marginalised, destitute, the lost, the little, and so on. All these efforts are good and they have their purpose, but perhaps one area which some of us should look at is supporting the mission of the church, especially in funds contributed and other supporting roles, so that those doing mission could focus on their duty.

Today's reading reminds us that "It is our duty to welcome missionaries and contribute our share to their work." This means that we not only need to encourage and support them, we also need to see to their upkeep and for other works of charity they may endeavour. As we know, doing God's work involves expenses, as nothing is free, and the more we are willing to contribute to missionary efforts, the more people can be sent to reach out to others, especially in areas where some of us may not be able to go ourselves.

Thus, we need to ask ourseves: are we contributing fairly and generously for the growth of the church and for its missionary efforts? Sometimes the little extra we offer could go a long way towards helping the church to continue in its efforts in bringing the Good News to all.