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.