Monday 30 June 2014

Thursday of Week 18 Year 2

Persons in authority could sometimes begin to become too comfortable with their position. When they were first promoted to a position of authority, they may have behaved in a certain way, perhaps with humility and trust in the Lord. But as the years go by, would they be able to continue maintaining such behaviour? Perhaps some may be able to do so, but what about the others?

In today's Gospel, we see Simon Peter being praised and then given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. We do not have any elaboration in the Gospel on how Simon Peter reacted towards such an honour and responsibility, but shortly after that, we see Simon Peter being admonished by Jesus and was even said to his face: "Get behind me Satan." Perhaps Simon Peter was influenced by the evil one to remonstrate with Jesus. Perhaps Simon Peter was genuinely concerned and did not want the Lord to be taken away.

But whatever his intentions may be, we can learn from this incident that authority is not for us to misuse, authority is not for us to think that we know all the solutions, nor is it a means for us to lord it over others. Authority means we need to do as Jesus tells us with love, patience and humility. Also, this incident reminds us that at times, we may be an obstacle to God's plan, especially if we try to interfere with matters instead of being trusting and humble towards God's Wisdom. Things happen for a reason and it is not for us to try and reason everything. Are we able and willing to walk humbly before God, and serve Him faithfully with trust and perseverance?

Sunday 29 June 2014

The Transfiguration of the Lord, Feast

Mountain tops are places where we sometimes experience the beauty of nature, the awesomeness of God's creation, and from these we get a glimpse of God's omnipotence (great or unlimited authority or power). In some situations, we could experience the presence of God and we feel humbled and long to stay in His presence for as long as possible.

In today's Gospel, Peter, James and John experienced the presence of God when they saw Jesus transfigured. They had never experienced their master in this way before. Peter, filled with awe says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. Let us erect three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But things did not quite work out that way. They were only being prepared for what is to come. With Jesus they descended the mountain to the valley below and on to the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary. On the mountain, they didn’t want to leave. In the Garden of Gethsemane, they didn’t want to stay. When Jesus was arrested they all fled in fear.

We can all identify with the apostles because in our mountain-top experiences of joy and consolation we also want to stay. We want the experience to go on forever. And then in the moments of trial we want to flee. We forget that our Lord did not promise us a rose garden, but a garden of olives and a crown of thorns. We also forget that we need to face reality and go forth to proclaim the Good News, not just remain up in the mountain.

Today, we have opportunities to experience the mountain top, perhaps on a daily basis. The Mass is our mountain-top experience which prepares us for the trials of our day. In the joy and consolation of Communion we say with Peter, "Lord, it is good for us to be here" and some of us may be reluctant to leave. Soon we hear the words, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” It is then time for us to pick up our cross and leave to face the trials of the day. Are we still clinging on to the mountain top?

Saturday 28 June 2014

Tuesday of Week 18 Year 1 & 2 - For Year A (Gospel)

What does it mean to be scupulous? A person who is scrupulous is said to be diligent, thorough, and extremely attentive to details. A person who is scrupulous is also known to be very concerned to avoid doing wrong. Sometimes in the process of trying to avoid any wrong doing, such persons may end up following rules and regulations according to the letter of the law, and not according to the spirit of the law. A scrupulous person may be so concerned with the action and fail to be loving, compassionate, or merciful. This is the situation that the Pharisees had gotten themselves into. They were more concerned about appearing to be good and upright in following the law, that they had become cold, indifferent and calculative in being charitable towards others.

In today's Gospel, Jesus told the people: "What goes into the mouth does not make a man unclean; it is what comes out of the mouth that makes him unclean." Jesus was admonishing the Pharisees for only being concerned with the tradition of the elders such as ritual cleansing before a meal, but the Pharisees did not see any problem or wrongdoing when it came to words they uttered, words of condemnation, or hurtful sayings they may have committed along the way. What about us? Have we become so scrupulous like the Pharisees, only concerned about the externals, that we forget that our attitude, behaviour and way of life have become a contradiction to the values of the Gospel?

Monday of Week 18 Year 2 - For Year A (Gospel)

Some of us face many kinds of difficulties and challenges in life. Sometimes we feel as if such difficulties and troubles are too overwhelming, so much so that we may be tempted to give up. Instead of continuing to fervently pray and depend on God's help, some may have doubted in God's providence and turned to other forms of help such as shamaans, medicine men and bomohs, thinking that these other forms of help would really help them, only to later find that they are of no help.

In today's Gospel, the disciples were battling with a heavy sea, and they doubted when Jesus came towards them, thinking that He was a ghost. Peter also doubted when he felt the force of the wind, took fright and began to sink, and Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. When we doubt, we begin to question whether God is able to help us. We fail to realise that God can help us, but according to His time. When we ask God for help, we cannot expect or demand that He will help us immediately according to our terms. Are we trying to control God? Let us be patient and persistent in prayer, knowing that God can and will help us. When and how? Trust and pray, go do your best today, and leave it in the hands of the Lord.

Friday 27 June 2014

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Some of us worry a lot and are worrywarts. We worry about so many things, sometimes things which are actually not a big deal. We worry about our present circumstances, we worry about our future, we worry about our family, our financial situation, etc. When we worry, we are actually looking only at ourselves, we are looking at our needs and perhaps the needs of our loved ones. We have little or no time to think of the needs of others, especially those not close to us or those around us.

So how do we lessen or stop our worrying? By being more trusting towards God's care, love goodness and providence. In the second reading, we are reminded that "Nothing 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. These are the trials through which we triumph, by the power of him who loved us." If God is there for us, why do we still worry? If we believe that God can help us, then we should be free from worries. We should be more willing to care and share with others, because God is there for us and we will not be lacking as God can provide for us.

In today's Gospel, we see how the disciples were worried about what to do with the crowd. We read: "When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they answered ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’" Here, we see how the disciples still did not get it. They still did not recognise or have enough trust in Jesus. They were more concerned of themselves and wondered how they were going to feed such a crowd with so few loaves and fish. But Jesus showed them that when we give, we can receive even more, and we see this in the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish which Jesus performed right in front of their eyes.

The more we are willing and prepared to give, the more blessings we would receive from God. It matters not how much or how little we give, it is the heart or quality of the giving that matters. Some people give a lot, but they may do so grudgingly or to show off. But if we are genuinely willing to give happily and generously, God will bless us abundantly, sometimes in ways which are beyond what we imagine. Are we willing to trust in God's providence and share what we have?

Thursday 26 June 2014

Housekeeping - Week 17 Year 2

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

27 July 2014 - 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
28 July 2014 - Monday of Week 17 Year 2
29 July 2014 - St. Martha, Memorial
30 July 2014 - Wednesday of Week 17 Year 2
31 July 2014 - Thursday of Week 17 Year 2
1 August 2014 - Friday of Week 17 Year 2

Friday of Week 17 Year 2

There are many places a priest or religious is sent to to serve a community for a certain period of time. However, if one notices, the priest or religious is seldom sent to his or her hometown or home parish. Even if he or she is sent there, it may be only for a short while and then he or she is transferred elsewhere. One reason why this is so is mentioned in today's Gospel.

In today's Gospel, we read: ""A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and in his own house." And he did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith." At their hometown or home parish, a priest or religious may have been known from a young age. People may have become familiar with him or her as he or she grew up. Some people may think that they know the person well enough and it becomes difficult for them to accept advise, criticism, correction or teaching from the person. Jesus did not work many mighty deeds in his hometown because the people there lacked faith in Him, and thought they knew Him well enough. In the same way, a priest or religious may also be unable to carry out his or her mission in his or her hometown, because of lack of faith in him or her. In this situation, we could say that for some, "familiarity breeds contempt" to a certain extent.

However, this situation boils down to attitude and a willingness and openness to be guided, even by a son or daughter of the home parish. Seeing how short we are in priestly and religious vocations, we may some day have not much choice in who will come to serve our community. Are we going to allow our prejudices and so called familiarity with a person to become a stumbling block in our efforts towards spiritual growth?

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Thursday of Week 17 Year 2

If 2 items were placed before you: a large boulder and a piece of clay, which of the two would you identify yourself with, especially in your behaviour, attitude and present spiritual situation? Would you consider yourself hard and unmoving like the boulder, or would you see yourself as pliable and mouldable like the piece of clay? Many of us may like to think that we are like the piece of clay, but sometimes our way of life, our attitude, our behaviour and our actions prove otherwise.

In today's reading: "I went down to the potter’s house and there he was, working at the wheel. Whenever the object of clay which he was making turned out badly in his hand, he tried again, making of the clay another object of whatever sort he pleased. Then the word of the LORD came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the LORD. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel." Just as the Lord constantly worked on the Israelites and tried to help them come back to Him, the Lord is also constantly working on us, beckoning us to turn back to Him and depend on Him. Are we willing and humble enough to allow ourselves to be like the object of clay, so that the Lord can transform us into something even more wonderful?

Wednesday of Week 17 Year 2

We face all sorts of challenges in life: from the time we were born; the time we took our first steps; the time we started kindergarten and then school, then college, then university; the time we started working; perhaps for some, looking for a life partner; for some, getting married; then starting a family; till today. Throughout the many stages of our lives, we have depended on our family and friends to guide us along the way. But how many of us have turned to God for help; perhaps falling away from Him at some point in our lives, and then returning once again to Him?

In today's reading, we are comforted with the fact that we have a loving God who waits patiently for us to turn to Him and depend on Him. The reading tells us: "If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand; ...For I am with you, to deliver and rescue you, says the LORD. I will free you from the hand of the wicked, and rescue you from the grasp of the violent." Throughout our lives, we may have done many right and wrong things. God invites us to repent and return in friendship with Him. He will care for us and protect us, provided that we are willing and humble enough to let Him take control. Are we going to wait or ignore His promptings?

Tuesday 24 June 2014

St. Martha, Memorial

If a VIP (Very Important Person) were to come to your house, how would you react? Some of us may become quite excited and begin to frantically look for good food and drink to serve the VIP. Some of us may become cautious with what we say or how we behave, hoping to make a good impression with the VIP. What if that VIP is Jesus? What would we say or do?

In today's Gospel, Martha became very busy and distracted with all the serving, while Mary chose to sit down at the Lord’s feet and listen to him speaking. There is nothing wrong in preparing something for our guests and to see that they are comfortable, but Jesus is inviting us not to be too concerned about the serving. It is better, like Mary, to spend more time with Jesus, letting Him to talk to us, care for us and enrich us with His words.

Monday of Week 17 Year 2

Throughout our lives, God has been patient towards us. Sometimes we fall and pick ourselves up, and yet God is willing to give us lots of chances and opportunities to turn back to Him. However, the choice of whether to do the will of God or to do things our own way is entirely up to us. God is not going to force us to be with Him; we choose to be with Him or otherwise.

In today's reading, the people of Judah and Jerusalem had chosen to remain stubborn and evil. The reading tells us: "This evil people who refuse to listen to my words, who follow the dictates of their own hard hearts, who have followed alien gods, and served them and worshipped them, let them become like this loincloth, good for nothing." Have some of us become like these people of Judah and Jerusalem, our hearts hardened, just like the loincloth and good for nothing? Have we forgotten who we are? Let us be mindful of our choice for our eternal future.

Monday 23 June 2014

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

What do we value most in our life? Do we value most our wealth, our property, our popularity, our position, our status, our credentials, qualifications and titles, our family, or our extended family? Perhaps we value one or a few of these things or people, but are these things and people all that matter to us? How long would we be able to hold on to these things or people? Would we be able to keep them securely and indefinitely?

In today's Gospel, Jesus teaches us something which we should value most. Jesus is telling us that that which we value most is not our money or possessions, not our titles or qualifications, not even our loved ones. Jesus is telling us that that which we should value most is the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus says: "‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field."

All that we have, whether it be material things, titles or relationships are temporary. We could lose them eventually in one way or another. It is only the Kingdom of Heaven which remains and we are united with God and His Kingdom when we do His will, and also when we are are united with one another. Solomon in today's first reading also realised how much more important the Kingdom of Heaven is when he asked God for wisdom instead of wealth, power and other things. Solomon knew and chose wisdom to understand the will of God. To know what God wants of us is the only thing that matters.

Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that all that we have here on earth are all that matters. Everything that we have is only temporary. We cannot bring our wealth, titles and relationships with us when we die. Let us make more effort to do the will of God, and be united with Him and each other in His Kingdom. Let us place God as our primary focus and highest value for the betterment of our eternal future.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Housekeeping - Week 16 Year 2

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

20 July 2014 - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
21 July 2014 - Monday of Week 16 Year 2
22 July 2014 - Tuesday of Week 16 Year 2
23 July 2014 - Wednesday of Week 16 Year 2
24 July 2014 - Thursday of Week 16 Year 2
25 July 2014 - St. James, Apostle - Feast

St. James, Apostle - Feast

"Look before you leap" is an English idiom which tells us to be careful and to weight the costs before doing something. Sometimes it is only after we get into trouble that we realise that we had been too rash or too quick in doing or saying something. So, before we endeavour into something which could be dangerous or highly risky, we should think things through.

In today's Gospel, we come across St. James whose Feast we celebrate today, and his brother John, the two sons of Zebedee, who were bold and appear to be rash. Their mother was equally bold in asking Jesus for her sons to be seated on the left and right of Jesus in His Kingdom. Jesus' reply is indeed classic... We read: "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?" They said to him, "We can." He replied, "My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.""

Indeed, we are sometimes like James, asking for something without knowing the consequences. Does this mean we must be careful and not take risks? No. Sometimes we need to be bold. We need to be willing to take risks, especially when preaching the Good News. But at the same time, we should be aware of the kind of risk we are taking. We should not be reckless in our efforts, but be knowledgeable of the situation before us. There is a time and place for everything, and we should constantly listen to God's prompting and let Him guide us.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Thursday of Week 16 Year 2

Some of us could be quite stubborn or refusing to admit our mistakes. We may prefer to continue living in a particular way of life, or do things a certain way, because we refuse to change or come out of our comfort zone. Some of us may try to change but we procrastinate or are distracted with so many other things that the world has to offer.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells His disciples about the crowd: "Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Coarse is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them." Ultimately, it is our choice. We can choose to change our ways and let God care and heal us just like He did for the disciples; or we can choose to remain like the crowd. Are our hearts so cold and stubborn that we are still like the crowd? Or have we learnt to become more like Jesus' disciples; being open to God's care and healing?

Wednesday of Week 16 Year 2

Some of us at some point or another question what is our purpose in life. We reflect on our history and the many little things that have happened along the way, and some of us may have noticed God's promptings. Sometimes, in our reflection, we may have discovered our true vocation. Have you discovered your true vocation? Do you know what needs to be done?

In today's reading, Jeremiah discovered his vocation when He encountered the word of the Lord. The Lord had appointed him a prophet of the nations and the Lord said to him: "To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Have no fear before them because I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD." With such instructions and assurance from the Lord, Jeremiah was able to go forth and do as the Lord wanted of him.

What about us? The Lord may be calling you. Have you heard His voice? He has plans for you but are you willing to let Him take control and guide you? Let us open our hearts and listen carefully for His promptings.

Friday 20 June 2014

Tuesday of Week 16 Year 2

Some people get the impression that God is like a policeman, just waiting to catch us and punish us for doing or committing the smallest sin. Others tend to think that God is an unforgiving God who keeps track of our sins. Some think that God is like a fierce and fiery volcano, always angry and ever ready to spout out lava and cause suffering to us. As Christians, what sort of God do we really have?

Today's reading gives us glimpses of the kind of God we have. The reading tells us that God:
  • Is a shepherd to all of us...
  • Removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance;
  • Does not persist in anger forever but delights rather in clemency,
  • Have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt?
  • Cast into the depths of the sea all our sins;
  • Show faithfulness
Seeing that we have such a loving, caring and forgiving God, what about our attitudes and behaviour towards others? Are we just as loving, caring and forgiving to others like God is to us?

Monday of Week 16 Year 2

Some of us think that we need to do a lot of things to win favour from God. Others think that they must behave in a certain way to gain God's blessings. Sometimes in our efforts to stay in good relationship with God, we may be neglecting our relationship with others. We think that our relationship with God is all that matters. But today's reading reminds us: "What is good has been explained to you, man; this is what the Lord asks of you: only this, to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God."

Are we acting justly towards others? Do we really love others just as God loves us all? Are we humble enough to admit our limitations and mistakes? If we are unable to love, forgive, seek forgiveness, reconcile, be loving and humble towards others whom we can see, then how can we claim to love God whom we cannot see?

Thursday 19 June 2014

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

What is strength? What is weakness? We sometimes equate strength or weakness with the amount of energy or muscle we have. Some of us think that strength means being able to hold your own, to avoid losing face, being able to deal with a situation effectively to our advantage. Some people think that one needs to be "kiasu" or "scared to lose" to be strong. Some think that to be strong, one needs to be adept or capable of putting a brave front, refusing to give in, refusing to admit our mistakes or errors, refusing to say sorry or apologise, refusing to forgive others who may have hurt us or done something wrong. But are we really strong in these situations?

Today's readings give us a different view or understanding of strength. Strength means having compassion. In the First Reading, we learn that God's justice has its source in strength, and yet God is mild in judgement, and God governs us with great lenience. He could have easily used His Power to punish us or wipe out our enemies, but He chose not to. This is a great example of God's compassion towards all of us, regardless of who we are. In the Second Reading, we come to realise that God is always there to help us and guide us, even in our weaknesses. In the Gospel, we discover that each of us have got some good and some bad, some wheat and some darnel, all mixed up together. We are not perfect and no one is completely strong or completely weak. By learning to have compassion, we learn to accept our own weaknesses and limitations. By recognising our own weaknesses and our need for God’s forgiveness and compassion, we will also begin to be compassionate with our brothers and sisters who are struggling in one way or another like us.

At the end of the day, we need to learn to be compassionate, just as our Heavenly Father is compassionate to all. Being compassionate does not mean we will be at the losing end or that we are weak. Instead, we would learn to be more like our strong, loving and benevolent God.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Housekeeping - Week 15 Year 2

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

13 July 2014 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
14 July 2014 - Monday of Week 15 Year 2
15 July 2014 - Tuesday of Week 15 Year 2
16 July 2014 - Wednesday of Week 15 Year 2
17 July 2014 - Thursday of Week 15 Year 2
18 July 2014 - Friday of Week 15 Year 2

Friday of Week 15 Year 2

Some people can go to extremes in their behaviour and attitude, especially when it comes to the sabbath. For some, sabbath is a time where absolutely no work is done. In some hotels, it seems that during the sabbath, the lift to the rooms is programmed so that it would stop at each floor. Seems like even pressing a button to go to a particular floor is considered work. On the other hand, there are people who do not bother about the sabbath. They continue to go about in their business even during the sabbath. To them, the sabbath is an especially good time to make money or to do other things.

In today's Gospel, we see the Pharisees who have taken the observance of the sabbath to the extreme. Even doing good is forbidden to them. This is why Jesus reminded them: "What I want is mercy, not sacrifice." In our lives, are we observing the sabbath for the right reasons? Or have we become like the Pharisees, only observing but without love or compassion towards others?

Monday 16 June 2014

Thursday of Week 15 Year 2

What do we look for when we feel burdened or worn out? Some people resort to substances to calm them down and may risk the danger of abusing such substances and becoming addicted. Some may resort to certain forms of entertainment which may be harmful to our health. Some may feel depressed and may despair, thinking there is no other way out and may do something drastic. How many of us are humble and willing to turn to God for help?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light." Jesus is inviting us to turn to Him and let Him care for us and guide us through our difficulties and challenges. Are we still so stubbornly trying to do things our way, or have we begun to trust in Jesus' way?

Wednesday of Week 15 Year 2

When a person is quite highly educated, there is sometimes the temptation to show how great one is or how smart or accomplished one is. Pride and arrogance may begin to manifest. The same situation also could happen when a person has achieved a high position or status, or a person has been successful in his or her career or business, or a person has accomplished some great feat.

What some people fail or refuse to realise is that whatever they have achieved are merely temporary things. When people are in this sort of attitude or situation, it becomes quite difficult for them to change for the better. This is why in today's Gospel, Jesus said:  "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children." When we are proud and arrogant, or when we think we know it all, we may fail to listen to God's voice. It is when we are like little children: humble, vulnerable, dependent on God's care and providence, that we will realise what our priorities ought to be. The question we need to ask ourselves sincerely is this: how long will our fame, wealth, popularity, status, etc. last? Are we focusing too much on what is temporary, only to the detriment of our eternal future?

Sunday 15 June 2014

Tuesday of Week 15 Year 2

Throughout the centuries, God has assured us over and over again that He will be there for us and will not let us fall away. Ultimately, it is us who choose to hide from God or avoid Him, and it is us who choose to fall away. Today's reading reminds us that God is there for us, just as He was there for the Israelites when they were besieged by Aram. In the reading, God tells Ahaz, king of Judah: "Pay attention, keep calm, have no fear, do not let your heart sink..."

However, God also reminds us as He reminded the Israelies: "But if you do not stand by me, you will not stand at all." God is there for us if we choose to remain in His love and walk in His ways. It is when we refuse to listen to His voice, when we stubbornly want to do things our way, that we may end up "not standing at all" in God's sight. Do we trust God enough to let Him handle the situation for us? Are we ending up trying to take matters in our own hands?

Monday of Week 15 Year 2

There are times in life where our relationship with God and our relationship with our family members and loved ones may come into conflict. We hope that we would be able to continue loving God and loving our family and loved ones in harmony, but when we are faced with a difficult situation where we have to choose between God and family members or loved ones, what would we do? If we say we love God, then we may be causing tension and possibly disharmony in the family. On the other hand, if we love our family and loved ones and do as they tell us, we may be committing sin against God and His commandments. A sticky and tough situation indeed.

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns us: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it." Sometimes our family members and loved ones may demand that we do something, for example, to uphold the family honour. Are we going to do what our family members and loved ones expect of us, and in doing so ruin our relationship with God? The choice is indeed a difficult one, but we must choose wisely for our eternal future.

Friday 13 June 2014

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

How important is the Word of God to us? Some of us treat the Word of God with such great importance, but we do so only for show or for decoration by putting the bible on a fancy stand and perhaps place the bible at the family altar, probably only to slowly collect dust. Some read the Word of God like a story book, but do not grasp its meaning and some do not even bother to find out more about what the passage is really trying to teach us. Some read the bible and reflect on the words reverently and prayerfully, taking time and effort to digest the meaning.

The Word of God is special nourishment for our soul. It is like soil which enables our soul to gain necessary and essential nutrients for growth so that we could bear good fruit. But for us to benefit from the Word of God, we need to examine ourselves. Today's Gospel speaks about seeds falling on different types of environments with different soil conditions. Each environment could be linked to our condition and the condition of our soul.

The first environment (edge of the path) is like people who are not the least bit interested in the Word of God. They come late for Mass, or sometimes come only for certain major occasions like Christmas and Easter. Some may say that these sort of people have a hatch, match and detach mentality, meaning that they come to church only when they are being baptised as infants, when they get married and when they are carried or wheeled in for their funeral. On other occasions, they are like "chipsmore," now you see them, now you don't. These people are also sometimes impatient, just waiting to get out of the church after Mass, or perhaps looking elsewhere or doing other things or thinking of other things, just to while away the time. They seem more interested in other things and come to church just to fulfil the Sunday obligation (with great difficulty at times).

The second environment (patches of rock with little soil)  is like people who have superficial or shallow faith. They select only bits and pieces of the Word of God, avoiding or ignoring those parts which are unpleasant or that which they think are not relevant to them. We call this group of people folks with selective hearing, only wanting to hear some things and become deaf with other things. When some challenge occurs or when they face some difficulty, their faith withers away.

The third environment (fell among thorns) is like people who listen and accept the Word of God, but so many other things, worries, pressures and distractions cause them to lose focus. As a result, they feel as if God has abandoned them and they fall away, when in actuality, it is they who have abandoned God. They lack trust, perseverance and patience to press on and finish the race.

Naturally, we hope and pray that we will be like the fourth environment, where we gain access to rich soil. People who are in this fourth environment thrive and flourish, producing good fruit and giving glory to God.

The question is this: which environment are we presently in? Are we stuck in a particular environment? It takes God's Grace and providence to help us make a change and begin producing good fruit, but we must also make effort and do our part. We must come out of our comfort zone and be willing to be more trusting and dependent on God. Are we humble and willing enough to let the rich soil God is offering us through the His Word and also through the Eucharist, nourish us?

Thursday 12 June 2014

Housekeeping - Week 14 Year 2

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

6 July 2014 - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
7 July 2014 - Monday of Week 14 Year 2
8 July 2014 - Tuesday of Week 14 Year 2
9 July 2014 - Wednesday of Week 14 Year 2
10 July 2014 - Thursday of Week 14 Year 2
11 July 2014 - Friday of Week 14 Year 2

Friday of Week 14 Year 2

Whenever we are faced with persecution or difficulties, we may be inclined to try and come up with a good defence. Some of us may start to think of all sorts of ways and means to counter our accusers. Some may decide to keep silent and wait and see. At the end of the day, would we really be able to adequately and effectively defend ourselves? Could we be making matters worse when we try to come up with solutions on our own?

In today's Gospel, Jesus assures us: "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how to speak or what to say; what you are to say will be given to you when the time comes; because it is not you who will be speaking; the Spirit of your Father will be speaking in you. Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved." If we are firm in faith and trust in Jesus, we have no reason to fear or worry, for we know that He will guide and protect us. Are we willing to leave it in the hands of the Lord and let Him save us? Or are we still trying to save our skin or do things our way?

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Thursday of Week 14 Year 2

In our efforts to proclaim the Good News, we may have become distracted with so many other things. We begin to think about what we should bring, where we should stay, how we should go about, how long we should be at a certain place; so many things begin to cloud our minds, divert our attention and distract us. Instead, we should be focusing on going forth to preach the Good News.

In today's Gospel, Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: "As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils. You received without charge, give without charge. Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you." This shows that Jesus wanted us to be free from so many unnecessary worries and concerns, so that we would concentrate more on preaching the Good News. Let us not be distracted with other things as we go forth to preach the Good News. Are we not trusting enough that Jesus would care and provide for our needs?

Wednesday of Week 14 Year 2

Some of us have been actively and enthusiastically seeking wealth, status, fame and recognition here on earth. In our pursuit for all these things, we may have committed many sins to get where we are today or to achieve what we covet or hope for. However, are we aware of the consequences of our actions, especially with regards to our spiritual well being? Some of us think that we can procrastinate, take things easy and put off looking seriously into our spiritual well being until it may be too late.

In today's reading, Hosea cautioned Israel that "their heart is a divided heart and they must pay for it." When we look at hindsight, we see how Israel was punished and went through much painful purification and cleansing. Even then, it was still not easy to get Israel to change and repent. We too could be in the same boat, the same situation. This is why Hosea advised Israel, and advises us today: "Sow integrity for yourselves, reap a harvest of kindness, break up your fallow ground: it is time to go seeking the Lord until he comes to rain salvation on you." Are we still thinking we can carry on with our lives the way we are now? Let us not be deceived, our time is short.

Monday 9 June 2014

Tuesday of Week 14 Year 2

There are so many things around us that need to be done: people to be helped, things to be resolved, family issues to be settled, so many things indeed. But quite often, we do not have enough personnel to attend to these matters. In some places, a priest or a religious has to attend to a huge crowd of faithful. In other places, the faithful are scattered over great distances. At times, it could be quite overwhelming trying to reach out to faithful who are so many or so far away.

This is why Jesus said in today's Gospel: "The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest." It is not enough to just pray for more "labourers", we also need to change our mindsets and attitudes. Some of us are quite readily and willing to encourage and pray for other people's children for a vocation to the priesthood or religious life. But there are still some of us who cling on to our own children and are reluctant to let them answer God's call. This is where we need to ask ourselves: are we only thinking of ourselves when it comes to our children? Or are we willing to be generous and let them do God's will?

Monday of Week 14 Year 2

How much faith do we have in Jesus? How much do we trust Him? Do we have faith in Him and trust Him only a little? Or do we have full faith and trust in Him? Sometimes we say we have full faith and trust in Him, but our attitude, actions and behaviour contradict what we say.

In today's Gospel, the hæmorrhaging woman was cured because she had full faith that Jesus would cure her by just touching His cloak. The official's daughter was dead but raised to life because the official had faith that Jesus could save her. Seeing how much faith these people have towards Jesus, what about us? Do we still try to look for other ways and means when we need help? Or are we humble and willing to let Jesus help us?

Sunday 8 June 2014

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

As children, some of us find it difficult to listen to our parents. We try to do things our way. As a result, we get a scolding (and in some cases, even a beating) for not listening or doing what our parents tell us. While we are growing up, we find it harder and harder to listen to our parents, as we value our freedom and we think we can figure things out. However, at times, what our parents tell us is actually for our own good, and we disobey at our peril.

When we are unable or find it difficult to listen to our parents, we are being disobedient. In the same way, when we are unable or find it difficult to listen to God's voice, we are also being disobedient. Sin is disobedience to God. Obedience means listening to God's voice and trusting in His providence.

Jesus in today's Gospel invites us to put our trust in Him and in God the Father. We may not fully understand God's will, but that's ok. Unless we become docile and obedient like little children, we would not discover God’s will. 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 who trusts that his parents will take care of him is free from worry. Obedience means trusting.

In today's Gospel, Jesus also gives us an imagery of the yoke where he says: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." A yoke is often made for two or more oxen, and by inviting us to take His yoke and learn from Him, Jesus is assuring us that by putting on His yoke, He will guide us and help us in our burdens. When we accept Jesus' yoke, we are actually being liberated from many unnecessary fears or worries, and we learn to be meek and humble, trusting in Jesus and in God the Father, knowing that we will be cared for, just as a child puts his or her trust in his or her and parents and is cared for by them. Disobedience is a result of pride. Obedience is a result of humility.

Let us therefore surrender to God's will and let Him take control. When we surrender to God's will, we will also find peace and true happiness. Are we still so obstinate and wanting to do things our way? Or would we be willing to be humble, and do things God's way?

Saturday 7 June 2014

Housekeeping - Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles & Week 13 Year 2

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

29 June 2014 - Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles
30 June 2014 - Monday of Week 13 Year 2
1 July 2014 - Tuesday of Week 13 Year 2
2 July 2014 - Wednesday of Week 13 Year 2
3 July 2014 - Saint Thomas, Apostle - Feast
4 July 2014 - Friday of Week 13 Year 2

Friday of Week 13 Year 2

When we go about in our daily efforts in proclaiming the Good News, who or what sort of group do we go for? Some of us may have become quite comfortable with reaching out to a certain group based on their income level, status, or place of residence. As a result, we may be less inclined to visit areas such as the slum areas, areas which we perceive to be bad or undesirable areas, or even areas which are occupied by squatters. Others may have become quite comfortable with reaching out to a certain language or ethnic group. This may be due to the fact that our language skills may not be so good.

However, today's Gospel reminds us that Jesus did not come to call the virtuous but sinners. Jesus reminds us that what God wants is mercy, not sacrifice. Often we may offer sacrifice because we have the means to do so or we may be doing so for our own glory, our own gratification. But by being with tax collectors and sinners, the very persons which the Pharisees shunned, Jesus is showing us that we should follow His example and be loving and merciful to these types of people. They are the ones who need spiritual guidance and nourishment, instead of being despised or looked-down upon.

Are we guilty like the Pharisees in picking and choosing only those who seem ok or may later be beneficial to us? Have we forgotten our duty to preach the Good News to all?

Friday 6 June 2014

Saint Thomas, Apostle - Feast

Do we believe everything we see or hear? Sometimes we may see something or hear of something, but what we see or hear may not necessarily be true. This is why we may sometimes be sceptical or unconvinced about something until we have clear and indisputable evidence. At other times, there are certain things we cannot see or hear, but they are present. This requires faith and trust in God.

St. Thomas in today's Gospel doubted when the disciples said, 'We have seen the Lord.' Considering the amount of stories and rumours St. Thomas may have heard, he had every reason to doubt. Of course we should discern when we accept what is being said, and when to doubt, since not everything we hear or see is true. However, we should also take heed of what Jesus said in the Gospel: "Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe." This is where we need to know when we should use our reasoning and when to depend on faith. Let us ask our God to guide us, so we would be able to be balanced in faith and reason.

Wednesday of Week 13 Year 2

How many of us would want to commit evil? Quite likely we would want to do good. But sometimes we may be committing evil when we allow justice and integrity to be distorted or trampled on. We see justice and integrity being abandoned or misused, all for our personal gain or gratification. This is why today's reading admonishes us: "I hate and despise your feasts, I take no pleasure in your solemn festivals. When you offer me holocausts, I reject your oblations, and refuse to look at your sacrifices of fattened cattle. Let me have no more of the din of your chanting, no more of your strumming on harps. But let justice flow like water, and integrity like an unfailing stream."

We can put on a show or appear to be holy and participating in various religious events, but all this would not mean anything if justice and integrity is abandoned or forgotten. Let us be mindful and take care that justice and integrity is upheld in whatever we do.

Wednesday 4 June 2014

Tuesday of Week 13 Year 2

There are times we are in a difficult or dangerous situation or put in a spot. When we are faced with such situations, some of us may begin to worry, some may even begin to despair, thinking that all is lost. Some of us may be tempted to give up the faith, thinking that we could save our skin by doing so, especially when facing persecution or even the possibility of death.

However, today's Gospel reassures us that Jesus is there to guide us and weather out the storm. We may face all sorts of storms in life, but are we willing to put our trust in Jesus and let Him help us? He admonished the disciples, and also admonishes us: "Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?" Why are some of us still afraid? Don't we trust in Jesus?

Monday of Week 13 Year 2

One of the hardest things we need to do as Christians is the ability and willingness to let go. In this world, we are so used to having property or possessions, titles or positions, or even people who mean a lot to us or are close to us. If we are told by Jesus to let go of these things and people for the sake of the Gospel, would we be willing and humble enough to do so?

In today's Gospel, Jesus challenges us to consider exactly that. He said: "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Jesus also said: "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead." Would we be willing and able to be detached from what we have, even to the extent of being detached from family relationship, so that we would be free to follow Him and preach the Good News? It is certainly not an easy thing to do, but if Jesus calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him, how would we respond? Would we do so happily, sincerely and wholeheartedly?

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles

Why do we remember Saints Peter and Paul?

Saint Peter was the first Pope and kept the rapidly growing church united in the years following Pentecost. In the first years after Pentecost it was Jews who accepted Jesus as the Saviour and so the early church was a very Jewish church. Paul preached to non-Jews, the Gentiles as they were called. All of us are Gentiles. His preaching was very successful and he brought huge numbers of non-Jews into the church, so much so that the number of Jews in the church was greatly outnumbered by non-Jews. It is because of Paul that we are now in the Church.

Also, the personalities of both Peter and Paul gives us something to reflect on. Peter was impulsive, telling Jesus that he would die with him on Holy Thursday night if necessary, but later that night he denied he knew him. Yet Jesus chose Peter because of his love: three times Jesus asked him if he loved him and asked him to look after the flock. Paul had a fiery personality. In his early life he channeled that fire towards persecuting the Christians in Jerusalem, even witnessing the death of Stephen, the first martyr for Jesus. After his conversion, Paul’s preaching was fiery for the Gospel.

Looking at the personalities of Peter and Paul, we see that God called them to use their personalities to spread the Gospel. Peter used his impulsive love to look after the flock, and Paul used his fiery preaching and personality to ensure that the non-Jews would be welcomed into the church. It is a reminder to us that our talents and our weaknesses can become God’s means to help others and guide others to Him. We don’t have to be perfect for God to work through us. God can work through us according to our abilities, as he did with Peter and Paul.

Monday 2 June 2014

Housekeeping - Corpus Christi & Week 12 Year 2

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

22 June 2014 - Corpus Christi Year A
23 June 2014 - Monday of Week 12 Year 2
24 June 2014 - Birthday of John the Baptist
25 June 2014 - Wednesday of Week 12 Year 2
26 June 2014 - Thursday of Week 12 Year 2
27 June 2014 - Sacred Heart of Jesus

Sacred Heart of Jesus

What is the Sacred Heart of Jesus? God loved the world so much that He sent us His only son, Jesus, to save us. There are different ways that Jesus had described or showed God's love for us, but perhaps one significant way of telling us of God’s love for us is the heart, the human symbol of love. He told us that we should learn of him that he was meek and humble of heart and we would find rest for our souls.

People knew this meek and humble heart of Jesus and they knew that it beat with unconditional love for them. Rough, simple fishermen leave their boats and nets to follow him. Learned doctors sit at his feet to hear his wisdom. A tax collector leaves his money table to become his disciple. Multitudes follow him for days, so captivated that they forget to prepare food to eat. The sick fight their way through the crowds just to touch the hem of his garment. And they all found peace and rest for their souls.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus is the symbol of the fidelity of God's love. It reminds us that God loves us unconditionally with a love we cannot earn or ever be worthy of. And he loves us for ourselves, not as we should be, or possibly could be.

Thursday of Week 12 Year 2

Many of us may claim to know Jesus. We claim to have participated in church, helped in different ministries, did some charity, got involved in other church activities, etc. But does Jesus know us? Or do we claim that Jesus knows us because of the many good we supposingly have done, but the reality is Jesus actually does not know us? How can we tell?

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns us: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? Did we not drive out demons in your name? Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’ Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’" We can be doing so many good things, but are the things we do the will of God, or our own will? Sometimes we may do things that appear to be according to God's will, and we are blinded and convinced that it is, but the fact is what we are doing may actually be our own will, for our own gratification, our own fame and glory.

Let us discern carefully. Why do we do what we do? Are we aware of the will of God, or are we merely satisfying our own desires and needs?

Wednesday of Week 12 Year 2

What sort of fruits are you producing in the eyes of God? Are you producing good fruit? Or have you been neglecting your duties and end up producing bad fruit? Some of us may claim to be preaching the good news, but we do so only with words. Our actions, behaviour, attitude and way of life are a contradiction to what we say. In the eyes of the world, we may appear to be producing good fruit, and our track record may seem show it. But the heart can sometimes be devious and the actions of a person may in actuality and in reality be only for one's personal benefit, gratification, glory.

Today's Gospel warns us "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them." We may be preaching the good news, but the motive on why we do so may not necessarily for the glory of God. Are we guilty of this? We can disguise our intentions, but let us be reminded that God sees all and we may end up being a false prophet.

Sunday 1 June 2014

Birthday of John the Baptist

Today we celebrate the birth of St. John the Baptist. He was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The angel Gabriel announced his birth to his father Zechariah and gave him the name John, which means “God is gracious.”

From John the Baptist, we can learn some important things:

We learn of John’s humility when he did not want attention on himself but directed people to Jesus. People wondered if John was the Messiah and he insisted that he was not. He declared that his ministry was to prepare for the coming of the Messiah and even said, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

We learn of John’s great courage in condemning the marriage of Herod to Herod’s brother’s wife. This is a reminder to us that not everything that is allowed by law is morally right, e.g. divorce and abortion. John stood up for the truth and unfortunately like many who stand up for the truth today he had to pay a price.

John’s courage in upholding the truth challenges us in a time when it is not popular to speak or live by the truth. By turning attention away from himself towards Jesus, John reminds us to do the same also in our lives. In each of us, we ourselves are to decrease and Jesus is to increase. Are we able to be firm and fervent in doing what is right and let Jesus have the greater glory?

Monday of Week 12 Year 2

It seems easy to find fault or imperfections in others. We think that others should behave like this or like that, or they should look like this or like that, or they should get rid of a certain habit, etc. But how many of us are diligent and humble enough to discover and rectify our own faults or imperfections? Sometimes the faults and imperfections we see in others are in reality our own which we project on others. We may feel too proud or ashamed to admit our faults, weaknesses and imperfections, and so we try to blame others, hoping that no one will notice our true self.

Jesus in today's Gospel questions us: "Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How dare you say to your brother, “Let me take the splinter out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye." Are we still being stubborn and hypocritical in trying to change others while refusing to change ourselves? Have we become so thick-skinned that we think we are ok and others are not? Let us open our eyes and hearts, and be humble enough to realise our true selves and let God help us change our lives and attitudes.