Thursday 31 October 2013

Thursday of Week 31 Year 1

For some of us, losing a few coins or something which seems small or insignificant may not be a big thing. This is especially when we have plenty to spare and we find that it is not worth worrying or fretting about such a lost. "Don't sweat the small stuff" is what some may say.

However, sometimes the small stuff could be just as important or serious as the big stuff. For instance, some of us may think that going to confession can wait, as we assume that the small sins we commit is not a big deal. But IT IS a big deal. Just as a small stain can slowly ruin your shirt, a small sin can also slowly corrupt your soul. Also, a small lump may seem insignificant, but if we are not careful and see a doctor for diagnosis and quick treatment if necessary, we may be in big trouble as that small lump may turn out to be malignant.

Today's Gospel shows us that, when it comes to saving us, God does sweat the small stuff. He wants each and every one of us to be with Him. Even if it is one sheep, or one drachma, or one whatever, each and every "small stuff" is important. Each and every one of us is important to God, and when we confess our sins and sweep clean our soul, "there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner." What an awesome and loving God we have!

Wednesday of Week 31 Year 1

Nowadays individualism seems to be more and more apparent in society. While individualism may not necessarily be a bad thing, one consequence of individualism is the preservation and protection of oneself without considering others. We see how people only think about themselves and become selfish in our attitude and behaviour. For example, when there is an accident on the road, few people would stop to help or see whether help is on the way. Instead, we see people slowing down just to glance at what is happening before speeding off, and some even try to look at the vehicle registration plate, perhaps with the intention of buying 4D and hoping to win a prize.

In contrast, today's reading reminds us that we should "avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love." We also read that "Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments." Do we really have genuine love towards others around us? Or have we become more and more self-centered, to the point that we must protect our rights? If we demand for our rights, there may be nothing left.

Wednesday 30 October 2013

Tuesday of Week 31 Year 1

When we are invited to a free feast or grand function by a celebrity or royalty, many people may rush to attend, since this would be an opportunity to get a glimpse of the celebrity or royalty and possibly rub shoulders with them. However, it seems strange that when we are invited to a free feast at the Lord's supper each day, not many people are "rushing" to dine with the King of kings, Lord of lords.

This is basically the gist of today's Gospel. Some of us are so anxious to be at a feast or function by a human celebrity or human royalty, but few of us are anxious to dine with our Divine Celebrity and Divine Royalty. Seems ironic that some of us are focusing more on the temporary here on earth. Are some of us forgetting our ultimate goal in life, i.e. to be with our loving God?

Monday of Week 31 Year 1

When we organise a party or big "makan" (that's big meal, for those of you who do not understand Malay), we may be inclined to invite our friends, relatives, loved ones, people whom we like and get along with. There seems nothing wrong with inviting these sorts of people, especially since we find it easier and meaningful to be among people we are familiar with.

But Jesus in today's Gospel is cautioning us to come out of our comfort zone and be more inclusive and open towards others, not just people we are familiar with. When we are more open towards others, we begin to learn the sort of loving God we have, who loves all without favour. It is in this way that we discover that we are "fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again."

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Some people are physically short. When they talk to others, they often need to look up so that the other party can not only hear what they have to say, but also get cues from their facial and bodily expression. Some people are emotionally short. They feel as if they are not good, not important, not capable, etc., and they try to attain wealth and power to compensate their low self-esteem. Other people may be spiritually short. They feel as if God is not caring or loving enough, and some think God has abandoned them, especially when prayers are continuously unanswered or when they are faced with a crisis.

Zaccheaus in today's Gospel appears, to a certain extend, to fit in these 3 categories. He is not only physically short, but possible feeling small both emotionally and spiritually, on how he sees himself and how he perceived others seeing him. Zaccheaus climbed the sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus. By doing so, he thought he could place himself at a same or higher level with others. We too may have done this at times through various means, hoping that people would accept and respect us. But by doing so, like Zaccheaus, we may only experience more rejection or alienation.

People did not bother about Zaccheaus, but Jesus did. Jesus called Zaccheaus to come down from his tree of insecurity and unites him back to the community. By doing so, Jesus helped Zaccheaus to experience God's love and restore his dignity. When we sin, we may feel that we have lost our dignity and acceptance in our community. We may feel ashamed and inadequate, and may have made and continue to make mistakes. But God still love us, and wants us to come back to Him. The question is: are we willing to humbly and joyfully accept and dwell in His love?

Tuesday 29 October 2013

All Souls Day

In life, there are many things we can try to avoid. Some of us would go through great effort trying to avoid illnesses. We buy vitamins, healthy and wholesome food, regular medical checkup, etc. as part of our effort to stay healthy. Some of us try to avoid conflict and arguments in our family and relationship. Others try to avoid situations which could be dangerous or fatal.

However, we know that there are things which we cannot avoid. The first is taxes, which we pay in one form or another. Whether it is income tax, road tax, GST, Assessment Tax or Quit Rent (Cukai Pintu), we are taxed and taxed.

Another thing which we cannot avoid is death. All of us will die some day. Nobody lives forever. We can try to find ways and means to prolong our lives, but we will eventually die. Our bodies are corruptible. Even the things which we invent and use here on earth are corruptible. But there is something which lives on even after our bodies are dead and gone. That something is our souls.

Today we celebrate All Souls Day. We remember the many people (family, friends, acquaintances, loved ones, etc.) who have gone before us. We have hope that these people, through the love and mercy of God, would be with God. The 2nd reading reminds us that we are filled with joyful hope and trust in God. Thus, let us then rejoice today, knowing that Christ has won the victory for us. Death can no longer conquer us because death is already conquered by Christ. Let us not be saddened over the death of our loved ones. Instead, let us rejoice with them for they have finally come to their rest with God.

Monday 28 October 2013

All Saints Day

Today we celebrate All Saints Day. We thank God for the many men and women, young and old, who through their lives showed us how to strive towards holiness. Some of us, perhaps, may think that we are just not good enough or capable enough to become a saint. The point is, we are all called to become saints in different ways. Perhaps a reading of Hebrews 12 would help.

If we read Hebrews 12, we would discover from the beginning that " since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us; while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith." We are also reminded that "for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines; he scourges every son he acknowledges. Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what “son” is there whom his father does not discipline?" The saints are the great cloud of witnesses who are surrounding us, cheering us on, encouraging us. On our part, we need to:

1. Rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us

2.  Persevere in running the race

3.  Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus

4.  Endure your trials as “discipline”

Are we able to go forth and strive towards holiness and be saints with God's help? Or are we still dwelling in self-pity, refusing to let our loving God transform us?

Thursday of Week 30 Year 1

Some Catholics seem to be stuck in a rut. When they commit sin, they begin to think that they seem to have no hope and that no matter what they do, they will end up in a continuous cycle of sinning. So what do they do? They either try to sweep things under the carpet, hoping that no one will find out, or they may become extremely anxious and scrupulous, seeking the priest very often for confession. What these faithful seem to lack is confidence: confidence in themselves; confidence in others; and ultimately confidence in God.

Today's reading reminds us that "nothing therefore can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked." This passage is a great confidence booster for those among us who may think that God has abandoned us. The reality is, He has not abandoned us. He is always there and He is encouraging us, nudging us to be closer to Him. The danger is, we may be abandoning ourselves, when we are unable to trust God and have confidence that He will save us.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Wednesday of Week 30 Year 1

Most of us would not like to be left out in one form or another. Some do not like to be left out of the latest juicy news (which may turn out to be gossip). Some do not like to be left out of the latest gadget or gizmo. Others do not like to be left out of career advancement or bonuses. But how many of us truly do not want to be left out of being in God's presence? The answer may seem obvious, but this is where we need to examine ourselves honestly.

In today's Gospel, Jesus cautioned us: "Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed." What is Jesus trying to tell us here? Does it mean that only certain people are able to succeed and others are condemned and will fail? No. What Jesus is trying to tell us here is that we need to do our part (regular Mass attendance, regular confession, etc. sounds familiar?) and at the same time, depend on Him and trust in Him to help us. It is when we try to enter on our own effort that we will fail. The funny thing is, there are people out there who think they can do it on their own and stubbornly try to make it through their own way. But here, we have Jesus our Lord offering us lots of help. He is inviting us to "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)" It depends on whether we want to accept His help or not.

Saturday 26 October 2013

Tuesday of Week 30 Year 1

What is our goal in life? Some of us strive to be successful in our career. Some strive to have a good family. Others perhaps strive to attain financial freedom. To achieve what we strive for, we often need to make sacrifices or suffer, in the hope that what we seek would eventually materialise.

As Christians, our suffering "in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us." Our goal is to be with God. But as the reading tells us: "we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience." Are we doing our part and prepare ourselves as we wait with hope and patience? Or have we allowed ourselves to fall away?

Oct 28 - Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles

Before we do anything or make any important decisions, do we pray and ask God for strength and wisdom to do what is right? Today's Gospel shows us that Jesus "went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God." Notice that He did not rush through prayer but took time to converse with God and listen to Him. Perhaps we too should take heed of this, as some of us may have the habit of rattling through our prayer without giving God a chance to talk to us and teach us.

Friday 25 October 2013

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Whenever we go for confession, how many of us are aware and willing to confess that we are guilty of the sin of pride in one form or another? Perhaps we are not truly aware of what exactly is pride. Perhaps we are aware, and are too proud or find it too difficult to confess. Thus, it is good for us to ponder about what is pride.

Pride can manifest itself in many ways, some obvious, some subtle.

When we belittle ourselves and cause others to praise us, we increase our pride.

When we tell lies because we do not want others to know the truth, thinking that if they know, they would not like us or respect us or remain our friend: that is pride.

When we are over concerned with appearance, beauty, looks, and clothes, and attempt to look good or appear to be better than we really are: that is pride.

When we are more concerned about what others think about us, comparing ourselves to others: that is pride.

When we think we know it all or don't need to learn, and want things done our way or no way: that is pride.

When we are not willing to admit when we are wrong, refusing to ask for forgiveness, and trying to find ways and means to justify our sin instead of just admitting it: that is pride.

When we tend to criticise others, finding faults in others, and being quick to blame others, while having feelings of bitterness, anger or lack of forgiveness: that is pride.

The list can go on...

Today's Gospel tells us about the Pharisee and the tax collector going up to the Temple to pray. One was so full of himself, so proud of what he has done and accomplished. The other knows his strength and weaknesses, and humbly asks God to "be merciful to me, a sinner.” Are we able to recognise ourselves as a Pharisee, or as the tax collector? Perhaps we are struggling to be more like the tax collector, and be less like the Pharisee? Let us offer ourselves to God, asking him to help us to understand the true meaning of humility, and make every effort to walk humbly before God.

Friday of Week 29 Year 1

We are coming towards the end of October. Soon, November will be here. Soon, it will be Advent and then Christmas. All these things are what we hope to see.

However, we also know that there is no guarantee that we will be able to see the coming months or the coming celebrations. The situation around us is unpredictable, as we do not know what the future holds.

So what do we do? We hope, we pray, we trust, we love, and of course, we get ready.

Today's Gospel warns us to make good with our opponent before we are dragged before the judge. This is no ordinary warning, because at stake is our soul. In life, we spend a lot of time, energy and wealth taking care of our bodies. Some of us bathe once or twice a day, put on perfume, make-up, eat good fruits and food, go for regular medical and dental checkup, etc. But how prepared are we spiritually? How prepared is our soul? Have we made peace with the many "opponents" in our life? Or are there hidden areas of darkness which could cause us to be "thrown into prison... unable to get out till you have paid the very last penny?"

Thursday of Week 29 Year 1

If you are put in a situation where you have to choose God's law or family law, which would you choose? For some of us, keeping the family united is important and we would not want to offend our elders, due to "filial piety."

However, there are times where choosing God's law would cause friction in our family, especially if there are certain members in our family who are not Catholic. If we choose to obey our family in this situation, we may be committing sin. If you are faced with such a situation, how would you respond?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division." What does this mean? It means, there are times we may have to choose between doing what is right in eyes of God, or doing what pleases our elders. Many sins have been committed in keeping the family honour, and as Catholics, we would certainly be put in a difficult and possibly dangerous situation. Would we be brave and wise enough to do make the right choice?

Wednesday of Week 29 Year 1

In life, we need to make all sorts of choices. Sometimes the choices we make today can have far-reaching consequences, some good, some bad.

In today's reading, we are reminded that we have a choice to make: to be slaves to sin or to be ‘slaves’ of righ
teousness. To many of us, this seems to be a no-brainer. After all, who wouldn't want to be ‘slaves’ of righteousness, since we would be striving towards being with our loving God? However, this is where we need to do something: regular confessions, regular Mass attendance and participation, awareness examen, good conduct, etc. The question is this: are we still procrastinating, or have we started becoming more proactive for the betterment of our souls?

Tuesday of Week 29 Year 1

On Sundays, we see quite a number of people attending Mass, some perhaps do so out of habit, some to fulfil the Sunday obligation, others because they genuinely want to be nourished by the Lord as they struggle through life.

However, it is interesting to note that few prepare themselves for Mass, especially in making a good confession to sweep clean the soul. Some make a confession only once or twice a year, especially during the Advent and Lent confessions, others perhaps do so only after a long period of time. We seem to be eager to attend Mass, but how many of us are eager to make a good confession? Seems like some of us procrastinate until it may be too late.

Today's Gospel reminds us that we should make every effort to be ready to meet the Lord. The question is this: how truly ready are we? Are we ready to meet him immediately if he comes right now? Or are we going to scramble and prepare ourselves only when that moment comes?

Monday of Week 29 Year 1

What sort of riches are we striving for? Are we focusing only on riches here on earth, or have we been making effort to attain riches in heaven?

Today's Gospel gives us an excellent opportunity to reflect what is most important to us. This passage also reminds me of an e-mail I received awhile ago:

A man lay dying on a bed surrounded by his wife and children. He had millions in the bank and was afraid of losing it all. So he said to his wife: "When I die, make sure you withdraw all my money and place it in my coffin for burial." His children were aghast with such an idea but dared not say anything. The man died. After the funeral, the children asked their mother: "Mom, did you actually do as dad asked?" The mother smiled and replied: "Don't worry. I am not stupid. I wrote him a cheque and placed it in the coffin!"

Is wealth and property here on earth all that matters? Or have we been making effort to be in good terms with our loving God?

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

As we become more accustomed to having things done quickly, we become less tolerant in waiting. We want bigger (or smaller in some cases), faster, better, cheaper, etc. What was acceptable years ago is now not enough. Things very quickly become obsolete.

Perhaps some of us have forgotten what it means to slow down, to wait, to spend time with family and with God. How many of us actually spend some time in front of the Blessed Sacrament with the Big Boss? When we pray, do we discover that we cannot rush and take time to listen to His voice? Otherwise, what is the point of praying?

In today's Gospel, we see how the widow kept on coming to the judge for justice. She was persistent and had faith that she would get justice. Eventually, the judge gave her what she wanted, though she did not get it as quickly as what we would have expected. The important point here is this: the widow had faith she would get justice, and she was willing to wait and remain persistent.

What about us? When our prayers are not quickly answered or if the Lord does not grant us our requests, are we going to give up? Or are we willing to wait and have faith that our loving God will do what is best for us?

Saint Luke, Evangelist - Feast

When we go for trips, some of us may fret about what to bring with us. Some would start packing lots of clothes, toiletries, make-up, etc. Others might just pack what they feel is necessary and travel light.

When the Lord sends us on a "trip" (mission), what have we been instructed to do? In today's Gospel, there is a sense of urgency for us to make the trip. We are told to:

1. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

2. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.

3. Salute no one on the road.

4. Stay in the same house... do not move from house to house.

Our duty, from today's Gospel, is to go and preach the Good News through words and deeds. This duty is so urgent that we should not be hampered and distracted with other matters.

Should the Lord call you right now to go and preach the Good News without delay, would you be able and willing to do so immediately?

Thursday of Week 28 Year 1

People who have done something wrong may try to hide their wrong doing in many different ways. Some may keep quiet and sweep it under the carpet, hoping the matter does not surface. Some may try to find a scapegoat and put the blame on the other party. Some may even make lots of noise or fuss and hope that by creating a ruckus, people will get confused and forget about the issue at hand.

Today's Gospel shows Jesus giving it nicely (or in BM, taruh betul-betul or kow kow) to the scribes and Pharisees for their many wrong doings. However, as we can see, instead of acting justly and humbly to correct their wrongs, the scribes and Pharisees tried to attack back with "innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say." Pride and arrogance have consumed these scribes and Pharisees, and we too could be guilty of the same.

Are we willing to change our ways, and walk humbly before God? Or have we become proud, arrogant and self-righteous like the scribes and Pharisees have here?

Wednesday of Week 28 Year 1

As humans, some of us admit that we are partial and biased in one way or another. For whatever reason, we may treat some with favour, some will be treated indifferently, some will just be overlooked. In other words, we may look at people with different standards.

This can lead to situations where the "favoured" people get away with something that others will be severely punished for.

The last line of the 1st reading says that God has no favourites. That means God is impartial, that He loves everyone regardless of whether they are good or bad, clever or not so clever, etc.

What about us? Are we able to be impartial to all, just as God is impartial towards us?

Oct 15 - Saint Teresa of Ávila

Today, we are invited by Jesus to place our entire trust in him and in his heavenly father. Very often, we will not be able to understand the reasoning behind God’s will. But that’s alright. It only indicates that we are not God. Our limited minds cannot fully comprehend the will of the One who is unlimited. Unless we become like little children, docile and obedient, God’s will remains obscure to us. Jesus reminds us that God hides these things from the learned and the clever and reveals them to mere children. This is what trust is all about. A child trusts that his parents will take care of him and so he is free from worry. Obedience means trusting.

As long as we insist on our ways, as long as we refuse to listen to others or refuse to change, we can never experience the kingdom of God. We must learn to bring down our walls and defenses. We must let the Lord prune us, so that we would bear even more fruit. It is only by surrendering to God, will we find our victory. When we surrender to God’s will, we will also find peace. Obedience means surrendering to God’s will.

Let us then listen to God. Let us trust in his goodness. Let us learn humility from Jesus who humbled himself to accepting death on the cross. Let us surrender ourselves to God so that we will be remade anew.

Monday of Week 28 Year 1

What would Jesus say about our generation?

Jesus gave a stern warning to his generation when they demanded a sign from him. When the religious leaders pressed Jesus to give proof for his claims, he says that he is God's sign and that they need no further evidence from heaven than his own person. Unfortunately the religious leaders were not content to accept the signs right before their eyes.

What about us? When God gives us a sign, warning us to change our ways, do we get the hint? Or have we been blinded and fail to take notice and do something till it is too late?

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

As children, some of us would have been taught to be thankful and grateful when we were given presents or treats. We were especially taught to be thankful to God for the many gifts and blessings He had bestowed upon us.

But as we grow older, how many of us still give thanks to God? Nowadays, we tend to see people happily receiving without giving thanks. For example, how many of us consistently and habitually say a prayer before and after meals? Or how many of us give thanks to God for the good and bad we receive? Often, when we receive the good, some may think it is through their good luck or their own effort which enabled them to achieve the good. However, when the bad occurs, some may either blame others, or blame God, or begin praying for God's help.

The question is: have we become so self-centred or ungrateful that we forget that whatever we have received is from God's bounty?

In today's Gospel, only the foreigner, the Samaritan, "turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." What about the others? What about us? Have we forgotten the meaning of thankfulness and gratitude?

Friday of Week 27 Year 1

When a person is blinded with envy or jealousy, then anything that other people do, no matter how good or noble the deed may be, is seen as evil or bad. This was the problem with some people during Jesus' time. Due to their narrow-mindedness and self-centeredness, they saw him as a threat as he was doing good deeds and attracting large crowds, possibly causing their own "fans" to dwindle.

We too could fall into the same trap, especially when pride and greed have taken over our being. Instead of belittling others just because they are doing better than us, let us be reminded that ultimately, what we are doing is for the greater glory of God.

Non nobis, non nobis, Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam (Psalm 115:1)

Thursday of Week 27 Year 1

How persistent are we in praying to God for His bounty? Sometimes when we ask for something and we don't get it, we may give up, thinking that God is never going to grant us our needs. However, if you look closely at the Gospel, we can identify 2 important points. The first is, are we persistent in asking? The second is, are we asking for our own selfish needs or is what we are asking ultimately for His glory? After all, in the Our Father, we pray "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done." If what we are asking is ultimately to glorify God, then surely what we "ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you." Otherwise, we may be asking so that Our Kingdom come and Our will be done.

Wednesday of Week 27 Year 1

Today's Gospel teaches us about how to pray and here Jesus teaches us the Our Father or Lord's Prayer. Perhaps among the significant points in the Lord's Prayer is this: "and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us." Seems easy to ask God for forgiveness, but how easy is it for us to forgive others? Something to reflect on :)

Tuesday of Week 27 Year 1

Some of us may think that it is better to be a Mary than a Martha, but the point of the Gospel is to remind us that there is a time and place to be a Mary or a Martha. The question is: do we know when is the right time and place?