Friday 28 February 2014

Tuesday of the 4th Week of Lent

Some people can be extremists in the way they do things. One does not necessarily need to be killing or torturing other people to be called extremists. These sort of people are murderers, terrorists perhaps, but not all extremists do such things.

Today's Gospel shows us one form of extremism. The Sabbath was meant for people to spend time in growing in relationship with God and not to do unnecessary work. Yet, certain Jews were so extreme that they interpreted unnecessary work to mean not doing anything at all. Even curing people and carrying or moving things is considered work to them. Even today, if we go to the Holy Land, some hotels observe the practice where, on the Sabbath, the lift or elevator will stop at every floor so that people would not need to "work" by pressing the button to whichever floor they wish to go to.

When Jesus cured the man, the Jews began to persecute Him because he was not observing their interpretation of the Sabbath. What about us? Are we extreme in our conduct in one way or another? Do we observe the Lord's day and spend time with Him in prayer and listen to Him? Or are we so engrossed or extreme in our ways, that we fail to genuinely love God and neighbour?

Thursday 27 February 2014

Monday of the 4th Week of Lent

How much do you trust God? Some people say that they trust God, and yet go to shamans, witch doctors, or even medicine men, thinking that these can help them or cure them. Some people say they trust God, but at the back of their mind, they doubt whether God is really listening and whether God would really heal them or help them. How many of us trust God unreservedly and wholeheartedly?

In today's Gospel, a court official whose son was ill at Capernaum believed what Jesus had said and started on his way, trusting that Jesus would heal his son. When he received news that his son was healed, he and all his household believed. If we were put in a similar situation, would we believe that Jesus would heal us? Sometimes healing may take place immediately, at other times, gradually. Are we expecting Jesus to heal us according to our time-frame? Or are we willing to be patient and wait, knowing and trusting that Jesus would do what is best for us?

Wednesday 26 February 2014

4th Sunday of Lent Year A

Blindness can occur in different ways. For some, they are physically blind. For others, they are spiritually blind. Advances in modern medicine may, to a certain extend, restore physical sight. People who were thought to be "blind" could see again after receiving treatment over a period of time. However, healing those who are spiritually blind may not be so straightforward.

Today's Gospel tells us about the blind man and the Pharisees.Though the blind man was born blind, he had his sight restored by Jesus, and when he discovered that Jesus was the one who restored his sight, he believed in Jesus. On the other hand, the Pharisees could see physically, but due to their stubbornness, pride and lack of compassion, they were the ones who were spiritually blind.

Some of us may be just like the Pharisees. Though we could physically see clearly, we are unable to spiritually see clearly. When we refuse to change our ways; when we ignore the needs of others; when we choose to ignore the injustices happening; when we are filled with selfishness, hatred, prejudice and unforgiveness; when we fail or refuse to recognise goodness in others; then we are spiritually blind.

Are we still refusing to let the Lord heal us and help us see? Today, let us learn to be humble and submit to God, for it is He who can open our eyes of Faith and the eyes of our hearts, enabling us to see clearly.

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Housekeeping - 3rd Week of Lent

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

23 March 2014 - 3rd Sunday of Lent Year A
24 March 2014 - Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent
25 March 2014 - The Annunciation of the Lord - Solemnity
26 March 2014 - Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent
27 March 2014 - Thursday of the 3rd Week of Lent
28 March 2014 - Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Sometimes we forget the basic principles of how we ought to live. When we do things, we may be so focused in only our wants, needs and happiness, that others may be sidelined or forgotten. Some of us use people only when it benefits us and once we have achieved our objectives, we just throw them away or put them aside only to be used again later.

Today's Gospel reminds us that God "is one and there is no other. To love him 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." Do we really, genuinely and unconditionally love our neighbour? Or do we love our neighbour only when they are useful to us? Or do we love all, regardless of who they are? The same principle applies when we say we love God. Do we love God only because He is good to us? Or do we really, genuinely and unconditionally love Him "with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength?" It seems easy and convenient to say that we love, but is our love merely words or just for show?

Monday 24 February 2014

Thursday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Pride and stubbornness are two great obstacles to our spiritual growth and good relationship with God. When we are proud, we think that we are ok and there is nothing for us to improve on. When we are stubborn, we think that only our way is the right way and we go through great extent to protect our way. This leads to contempt, arrogance, aloofness and a whole list of other attitudes which not only alienate us from God, but also from our fellow humans.

Today's reading reminds us of how the Israelites were so proud and stubborn, refusing to listen to God's voice. We too may, in one way or another, be just as guilty. Are we still continuing on such attitude and behaviour, leading to our own self-inflicted ruin? Or have we learnt to wisen up and walk humbly before God, with hope of being Him with eternally? Let us not be fooled and complacent, and choose rightly.

Sunday 23 February 2014

Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Laws and customs are there for a purpose. If we do not have laws and customs, we may descend into chaos. Each person may end up doing as one pleases. People become fearful because of uncertainty. This is why in today's reading we are reminded: "take notice of the laws and customs that I teach you today, and observe them, that you may have life..." When we take notice of the laws and customs, we are set free and we have life, because we know what is ok and what is not ok.

In the Gospel, Jesus too reminds us that we take notice of the laws and customs when he said: "Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them." Jesus reminded us of a simple summary of the laws and customs when he taught us to love God and love neighbour. This means that laws and customs are not to be disregarded but to be followed. Are we aware of what are God's laws and customs, and are we doing our utmost best to follow them?

Saturday 22 February 2014

The Annunciation of the Lord - Solemnity

Whose agenda are you following? Your agenda or God’s agenda? Whose will are you doing? Your will or God’s will? Whose kingdom are you building up? Your kingdom or God’s kingdom? Mary in today's Gospel was certainly not following her agenda or doing her will or building her kingdom when she said ‘Yes’ to the angel Gabriel to become the mother of Jesus.

Imagine the consequences she faced. She could have been stoned to death according to the law of that time. For that reason Mary knew that from the human point of view she may not even be able to bring her pregnancy to its full term, but she had faith to believe that what is impossible for us is possible for God. And so with that faith she said “yes.” She surrendered into the hands of God, and it really was surrendering because she was dwelling into the unknown. She had faith to believe that no matter what difficulties would follow, God would provide a way out and a solution. Mary’s final words to the angel are a model for each of us, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Surrendering to God, making that act of trust or abandonment into the hands of God, is not easy. It means letting go and like Mary facing the unknown and the unknown scares us. When we are faced with a decision like Mary, will we surrender to God and allow God to do what seems impossible from our human point of view ? Will we surrender our agenda, our will and our kingdom to God and allow God’s agenda, will and kingdom to become a reality?

Friday 21 February 2014

Monday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Some people say that familiarity breeds contempt. When you think you know a person well enough, you may be less likely to listen to him or her, and you may think that that person is not that great or wonderful. In today's Gospel, Jesus said, "I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country." To a certain extend, this seems true. This is one of the reasons why a priest or a religious is rarely sent to his or her home town, as the local people there may be less willing or open to listen and work with the local boy or girl.

However, familiarity does not necessarily breed contempt. The issue at stake is whether we are willing to see a person with neutral eyes and hearts. Yes, the person may have been born and raised at that place, we may have known the person and seen the person grow through the years. But that does not mean we know the person absolutely, 100%, completely. The person may have gifts, talents, or abilities which may have escaped our attention due to our personal pride, prejudice and coloured vision. Are we willing to open the eyes of our hearts and be humble enough to support our local boys and girls, who for one reason or another have been sent back to home territory to serve and care for us? Let us do our part and grow in love with all.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

3rd Sunday of Lent Year A

Some of us will never be satisfied. We crave for so many things. Our list of needs and wants keep piling up, and it seems as if we will never be able to fulfil all our needs and wants. We become unhappy and dissatisfied. It seems as if the more we need and want, the harder it becomes for us to be content.

Today's readings uses water to symbolise God's love and care for us. We can survive without food for some time, but we cannot survive for long if we do not have water. In the same way, we cannot survive for long if we do not have God's love and care. Without water, we will eventually die. Without God, we will die an eternal death.

Everything that we strive for to fulfil our needs and wants is only temporary. But what God offers us is a living water which will quench our thirst, and satisfy us completely. The Samaritan woman in today's Gospel was offered that living water of God’s love and forgiveness, even though the people in her town had shunned her. With this living water, we will never be thirsty again. With this living water, we would not need other temporary substitutes. Are we still stubbornly looking elsewhere?

Monday 17 February 2014

Housekeeping - 2nd Week of Lent

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

16 March 2014 - 2nd Sunday of Lent Year A
17 March 2014 - Monday of the 2nd Week of Lent
18 March 2014 - Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Lent
19 March 2014 - Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Solemnity
20 March 2014 - Thursday of the 2nd Week of Lent
21 March 2014 - Friday of the 2nd Week of Lent

Friday of the 2nd Week of Lent

Jealousy can kill. People can commit hideous acts out of jealousy. Today's reading shows us a classic example of jealousy. In today's reading: "Israel loved Joseph more than all his other sons, for he was the son of his old age, and he had a coat with long sleeves made for him. But his brothers, seeing how his father loved him more than all his other sons, came to hate him so much that they could not say a civil word to him."

See how jealousy can cause us to behave in a crazy manner? Just because Israel loved Joseph more, the other brothers hated him so much that they could not say a civil word to him. They even tried to kill him but fortunately, one of the brothers named Reuben had some sense and prevented them from doing so. When we are jealous, we too could do crazy things, stupid things, only to realise our folly when it is too late. Some of us may even try to sweep our deed under the carpet, hoping that no one would notice and hoping that the deed would be forgotten. But no, the consequences of our jealousy will come back to haunt us in one way or another. When will we ever learn to be content and happy with who we are, what we have?

Sunday 16 February 2014

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Lent

Some people can be difficult to understand or comprehend. They may put on appearance and masquerade in one way, but the fact of the matter is they are not who we may think they are. There is more than meets the eye, and it takes much observation to figure out their true intentions. Sometimes they are so adept in cloaking their true self that many could be easily fooled by them. It takes a trained eye and a discerning heart to penetrate through their facade.

But though such people can fool others, they cannot fool God. Today's reading tells us: "The heart is more devious than any other thing, perverse too: who can pierce its secrets? I, the Lord, search to the heart, I probe the loins, to give each man what his conduct and his actions deserve." We can try to appear to be good, holy, respectable, etc., but God can clearly see whether we are genuine people or fake people. The question is: are we going to continue to portray a false image of ourselves for our own glory and win the admiration of others, or are we willing to come to terms with our true selves and walk humbly before God?

Saturday 15 February 2014

Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Solemnity

Many of us would know something about our fathers and we would have grown under their guidance over the years. Some of us, due to one reason or another, may have not known much about our fathers. Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was one father whom we know very little about. The Gospels do not mention him much, except for the beginning from the time Jesus was conceived till He was lost and found at the Temple when He was twelve.

From the little we can glean about Saint Joseph in today's Gospel, we read that Saint Joseph was "a man of honour and wanting to spare Mary her publicity, decided to divorce her informally." However, when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream with a message of reassurance, Joseph "did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do." These verses already give us some idea of the sort of person Saint Joseph was. Though he was an upright man, he was also submissive to the will of God. Today's Gospel reminds us too of our role as fathers. Being a father or being called one is not enough; we need to show good example and yet be humble enough to listen to God's voice. Let us be lovingly macho in our relationship with God and with others, and follow the example of Saint Joseph.

Friday 14 February 2014

Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Lent

Throughout our lives. we will face many challenges and obstacles. We may commit sin, but we are constantly reminded to go for confession and do our best to be in good relationship with God and with all around us. Our God is patient and loving, even though at times, some of us may behave in such a manner which could make us wonder if we are doomed and condemned. However, until we die, we still have opportunities to seek forgiveness, reconciliation and move on.

In today's reading, God assures us: "Come now, let us talk this over, says the Lord. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing to obey, you shall eat the good things of the earth. But if you persist in rebellion, the sword shall eat you instead." Are we still refusing to walk in His ways? God has not given up on us, and we should not give up also. Let us choose to obey Him and let Him care for us.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Monday of the 2nd Week of Lent

Some people may be stingy with their time and finances when it comes to church and helping others. However, these people may not be so when it comes to their own needs. Sometimes I hear of some people asking the church for this, for that, but these same people are very reluctant to contribute a fair amount of time or money. During parties or functions, these people would rush for the best pieces or the largest quantity, only to throw away or pack home what they have grabbed, but it is unfortunate to note that these people would be so inconsiderate to either bringing very little to share, or they would not bring anything at all. Greed and selfishness seems to be their way of doing things.

Today's Gospel reminds us: "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you..." Some people may think that they can get away with their behaviour and attitude, but they fail to realise that they are answerable for what they have done. Let us learn to be responsible, loving and caring, just as we pray and hope for God to be loving and merciful towards us.

Sunday 9 February 2014

2nd Sunday of Lent Year A

Do you know who you really are? Do you know who the person next to you really is? Sometimes we are not fully aware of who a person really is until that person reveals his or her true self. Some say that to really know a person, one needs to cause the person to become drunk, then the true self emerges. More often than not, we would not know a person completely.

The disciples in today's Gospel also did not really know who Jesus really was. They had seen him performing miracles, healing the sick, and preaching fantastic words. But they were still not fully aware of Jesus' true nature. When Jesus was transfigured, then only did they get a glimpse of Jesus' true identity. It must have been so awesome, so amazing, the disciples were on a high, and they wanted to be on a high for much longer, since Peter had suggested to construct 3 tents so that they could hang around for a while. But things would not last in that way forever. It was time to come back to earth, and the disciples were reminded to listen to Jesus and not to say a word about the vision to anyone until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

We too might have experienced our mountain top experience. We would love to stay there longer, perhaps indefinitely. But we know that we cannot, for we still need to continue proclaiming the Good News to others. We have been given a glimpse of who Jesus really is, and so it is our turn to share this glimpse with others. Are we still stuck on the mountain top? Or have we begun our mission in bringing the joy of Christ to others?

Saturday 8 February 2014

Housekeeping - 1st Week of Lent

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

9 March 2014 - 1st Sunday of Lent Year A
10 March 2014 - Monday of the 1st Week of Lent
11 March 2014 - Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent
12 March 2014 - Wednesday of the 1st Week of Lent
13 March 2014 - Thursday of the 1st Week of Lent
14 March 2014 - Friday of the 1st Week of Lent

Friday of the 1st Week of Lent

Are there some among us who still harbour anger and hatred towards a brother or sister? Perhaps a family member or friend may have hurt us so badly that we find it extremely difficult to forgive, reconcile and move on. We begin a tirade of excuses, justifying our enmity with such people, and we behave as if we are the victim (even though, at times, we could be just as guilty by the way we behave). The question is: how can we continue to pray in church, and especially how can we pray the Lord's Prayer or Our Father, when we still have such rage and anger in our hearts?

Today's Gospel reminds us: "If you are bringing your offering to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar, go and be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back and present your offering. Come to terms with your opponent in good time while you are still on the way to the court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you solemnly, you will not get out till you have paid the last penny." Why are we still so stubborn, so obstinate, so unwilling to forgive, reconcile and move on? Are we allowing pride and prejudice to rule our minds and hearts? Let us think carefully and change our behaviour and attitude, while we have the time and opportunity to do so.

Friday 7 February 2014

Thursday of the 1st Week of Lent

Whatever our needs and wants may be, are we asking God consistently and properly? Today's Gospel tells us: "If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!" We may begin to wonder, "How is it that I have been asking for this or that and yet God has not given me what I asked for?" Let us take a good look at ourselves for a moment... Are we asking God with the right intention and with humility? Or are we expecting God to do our bidding? Are we asking so that ultimately we would be glorifying His Name? Or are we asking only to glorify ourselves and look good?

Let us be reminded that God loves all of us and treats all fairly. Today's Gospel reminds us: "So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets." How willing and generous are we to love and treat others well, just as God loves and treat us fairly? Let us walk humbly and lovingly before God and behave justly and lovingly towards others, with hope that He will grant our needs for His glory.

Thursday 6 February 2014

Wednesday of the 1st Week of Lent

Each and every one of us is given lots of opportunities to change our lives and grow closer to God. God is not going to condemn us and throw us into hell straight away. It is through our own neglect and refusal to change that could eventually cause us to lose our heavenly reward. Some of us may think that we have plenty of time to change, and we procrastinate, thinking that our time is not up. However, are we trying to put the Lord to the test? Are we setting ourselves up for an eternity away from God? Ultimately, we have only ourselves to blame if we do not keep watch and prepare ourselves for any possibilities.

In today's reading, we read of the people and king of Nineveh making effort and changing their ways. We are told that "God saw their efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened." What about us? Are we doing our part and renounce our evil behaviour, whatever that may be? Or have we become too proud and obstinate, refusing to change only to regret later?

Wednesday 5 February 2014

Tuesday of the 1st Week of Lent

How do we pray? Some of us may pray the rosary or novena to Mother Mary. Some pray the Divine Mercy prayer. Some pray the Divine Office, or part of the Divine Office like Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer). Others may be more inclined towards praise and worship. But when we pray in these ways, are we really praying, or could we be guilty of, as today's Gospel tells us, "babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard."

Jesus taught us a simple way of praying in today's Gospel, a prayer called the Our Father or Lord's Prayer. The challenge in this prayer is where forgiveness is concerned. We seek forgiveness from God for the many sins we have committed, but are we willing to forgive others too? People may have hurt us, angered us, or betrayed us but are we willing and humble enough to forgive them? Easier said than done, but if we call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, let us walk the talk and learn to love and promote love to all, forgiving, reconciling and moving on.

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Monday of the 1st Week of Lent

The way we live our lives would give us a glimpse of what would happen to us ultimately when we die. Until then, we are given lots of opportunities to repent and change our lives. Are we taking such opportunities to grow closer to God and love our neighbour impartially?

Today's Gospel presents us with two final options: eternal life or eternal punishment. Most of us would want eternal life, but are we loving God and neighbour consistently and continuously that would lead us to eternal life? There are so many obstacles along the way, and a more challenging obstacle which we face is loving our neighbour, since we can see our neighbour daily. Loving our neighbour is indeed not an easy thing, as there are many aspects of loving our neighbour which we may have neglected. Today's Gospel gives us some examples of loving our neighbour: "I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.” We may have neglected to love our neighbour in some of these examples, and if we realise this, what are we doing about it? How can we say we love God, if we pick and choose how and whom we love? God is loving to all, regardless of who they are and what they have done. Are we doing the same?

Monday 3 February 2014

1st Sunday of Lent Year A

When we do something wrong or make a mistake, how many of us are willing to admit it? Some of us may try to sweep it under the carpet and hope that no one would discover what we have done. Some would start putting the blame on others and try to find a scapegoat to take the blame for us. How many of us are honestly and readily willing to say we are sorry and move on?

In today's readings, we are reminded that Adam and Eve sinned because they did not want to admit their wrong doing. Adam blamed Eve for causing him to eat the forbidden fruit. Eve blamed the serpent for tempting her into eating the fruit. It is a continuous vicious circle. You blame me, I blame you, and in the end, we may end up fighting more and more over the most trivial things, just to ensure that we appear to look good. This attitude smacks of pride and arrogance, where we refuse to acknowledge our weaknesses and be compassionate about the weaknesses of others.

Today's Gospel paints us another picture. Jesus was able to overcome temptation from the devil. Some may say: "But He is God! Surely as God, He is beyond temptation!" However, we should not forget that Jesus is also human. As human, He could be tempted. The forms of temptation which the devil used on Jesus are dissatisfaction, pride and disobedience. But He knew that what the devil was offering Him were merely lies. When we are dissatisfied, we begin to think that God is not giving us our needs. Pride causes us to think that we are greater and more important, and our heads begin to swell. Disobedience is caused when we bow down to the Devil instead of God, and we could do so when we treat other things and objects as gods.

Jesus refused to give in to these temptations because He knew that He was God's beloved. We too are God's beloved. We are precious in God's eyes. We do not need to prove ourselves to God or to anyone. God can and will provide for us. Are we willing to be humble and patient, letting God care for us and give us what we need according to His wisdom? Or are we going to continue doing things our own way? Sometimes, when we demand too much our rights, nothing will be left.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Housekeeping - Week 8 Year 2

For your easy reference, the following is a list of weeks and years with their corresponding date:

2 March 2014 - 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
3 March 2014 - Monday of Week 8 Year 2
4 March 2014 - Tuesday of Week 8 Year 2
5 March 2014 - Ash Wednesday
6 March 2014 - Thursday after Ash Wednesday
7 March 2014 - Friday after Ash Wednesday

Friday after Ash Wednesday

How do you fast? Some people eat less, some avoid certain types of food or drink for a period of time, some do not eat anything for a period of time. But can you tell whether a person is fasting? For some, fasting is a real pain and they put on a "sour face" or "monkey face" to show that they are fasting. Some look listless or seem to have no energy while fasting. How many of us fast cheerfully and discreetly?

Today's reading tells us about the type of fasting the Lord expects of us: "to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke, to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, to clothe the man you see to be naked and not turn from your own kin?" If we fast to put on a show, then what is the point of fasting? Also, if we fast but treat others badly, how different are we compared to others? Let us learn to fast happily and with compassion towards others, so that "your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over. Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you."