Saturday, 28 August 2021

Saturday of Week 34 Year 1

It is easy for us to become complacent in life. When times are good and we seem to be dong well, we may begin to think that nothing is going to happen to us and we carry on our merry way. But the reality is that what seems to be good and well could very quickly escalate into a dangerous or deadly situation. Many things can happen so quickly that we may not be ready or prepared for it. If we are suddenly put in such a situation, would we be ready physically and especially spiritually for it?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded: "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. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth." The Gospel is not trying to scare the living daylights out of us, or make us paranoid. Instead, we are being reminded that our time on earth is short and we are merely pilgrims here. Instead of becoming complacent in life, we should make effort to grow closer in relationship with God. Are we slowly and surely making effort to do so, so that we would be with our loving God?

Saturday of Week 31 Year 1

What do we ultimately look for in life? Do we look for a happy and prosperous life here on earth, or do we seek eternal life? We say that we seek eternal life, but sometimes we may end up focusing a lot on our lives here on earth, and neglect our relationship with God. When we do so, we end up becoming more and more accustomed to the ways of the world, and drift away from the ways of Christ. At the end of the day, is this what we really want? Do we seek only what is temporary, and risk being alienated from God?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded, "No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money." The Gospel reading is not trying to tell us that we should forget about our lives here on earth, since we still need to survive and care for our loved ones and ourselves. What the Gospel reading is telling us is this: if we choose to serve God, then we should focus our priorities on growing in relationship with God, while not neglecting our responsibilities here on earth. May we choose our master wisely, since what we choose would have temporal or eternal consequences.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Saturday of Week 30 Year 1

I remember years ago when I had just been ordained a priest and I was invited to a wedding dinner. Normally, I would hesitate to go for wedding dinners, because they rarely begin on time, and follow "Malaysian Time" which could drag on for hours waiting before things get started. But since I knew the families well even from the time I was a seminarian, I agreed to attend the wedding dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant, I quickly looked for a place away from the main table, so that I could take leave unassumingly without anyone noticing, when the need arises.

However, before I could warm a seat at a table quite some distance from the main table, the father of the bride spotted me. Just my luck, he caught me in the arm and said, "Father, this is not a suitable place for you, move up to the table next to the main table." I felt humbled and a little embarrassed as the father of the bride firmly held my arm and escorted me to the proper place, and I was taken aback that my name was even printed on a label at the seat reserved for me, where I could get a good view of the proceedings.

This experience is exactly what happened in the Gospel today, where Jesus said, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

At the end of the day, I realised that what Jesus taught us in today's Gospel is very real even today. When we try to show off or tell people how great or capable we are or when we look for titles or honour, we may actually end up eating humble pie. May we learn to remain humble in all we say and do, and give God the glory.

Wednesday of Week 30 Year 1

In today's Gospel, we are told that being merely a member or follower of Jesus does not automatically mean we will enter God’s Kingdom. Also, being acquaintances to Jesus does not automatically qualify us to share eternal life with Him. Besides that, Jesus reminds us that calling on the name of the Lord, ‘Lord, Lord,’ is not enough to enter the kingdom of heaven but listening and then doing God’s will is a necessity. Moreover, Jesus asserts that many from the gentile nations will enter God’s kingdom. God’s invitation to salvation is open to Jew and Gentile alike. People whom we never thought or expect to be in the Kingdom of heaven, will be there.

What does this mean to us? It means that entering into God’s Kingdom is not an automatic or guaranteed thing. It also means that being a member or follower of Jesus or even an acquaintance to Jesus does not mean that we are entitled to Heaven. Instead, we must struggle against the forces of temptation and whatever which would hinder us from doing His will like apathy, indifference, and compromise. Do we trust in God’s grace and help especially in times of testing and temptation, with hope that with His help and guidance, we would be with Him?

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

St. John Vianney - Memorial

What does it mean to be a shepherd? A shepherd guides and guards the sheep under his care, even to the extent of dying for his sheep by defending the sheep when being attacked by wolves and other predators. Being a shepherd is certainly a great responsibility, and that is why finding young men and women who are willing to be shepherds to their communities is no easy task. One needs to constantly pray for God's help so that more and more young men and women would answer God's call to work in God's vineyard as shepherds. Not only that, one also needs to encourage one's own children to discern and consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

In today's Gospel, "Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness. And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’" Jesus invites us to come forward and labour as His shepherds, but how many of us are willing to respond? As time goes by, many of our present shepherds are getting old or have retired from active service. This means that new shepherds are needed to continue labouring in the harvest.

Today we celebrate St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. Let us not only pray for our parish priests and give them our encouragement and support, but also encourage more and more young men to answer God's call to become priests. Many of our present priests, some of which are parish priests, are not so young any more, no longer "spring chicken," but they still continue serving in God's harvest as best they can. May the Lord grant us more labourers to his harvest, to build His kingdom and give Him the glory.

Monday, 12 July 2021

Saturday of Week 29 Year 1

Do we eat to live or do we live to eat? If we say that we live to eat, that means we want to enjoy food and other attractions of the world as much as possible. Some may think that the world is all there is, and after that, they would cease to exist. So such persons would enjoy what this world has to offer to the fullest while they still can. On the other hand, if we eat to live, then we know that our lives on this earth are only temporary, and the choices we make would have eternal consequences. So we try our best to strike a balance in living in this world, with our focus in the next.

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, by living to eat and concerning ourselves only with this world, thinking that this world is all there is? Or have we made more effort to strive for more spiritual pursuits, by eating to live so that we could 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.

Saturday of Week 26 Year 1

Life as Christians is never easy. We face all sorts of challenges and difficulties, especially since we may need to take a stand or a position which is contrary to the ways of the world. For example, at work we may be asked to promote goods or services which may bring in huge profits and possibly a big bonus or a big pay raise or even a promotion, but such goods or services may be at odds with the teachings of our faith. When this happens, would 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. Even though we may be facing challenges, ridicule and persecution for holding steadfast to our faith, we know that God will not abandon us. Are we willing to be humble and patient in our journey towards eternal joy with Him?