Thursday 30 April 2015

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Do you have a friend whom you could consider a true and good friend? More often than not, our friends are actually merely our acquaintances, since finding a close friend whom you could really trust and depend on is not so easy. A good friend is someone you can turn to for help whenever you are in need. This friend may not be able to solve all your problems but he or she would be there for you through thick and through thin. A truly good friend also challenges you with the truth. He or she can tell things about you that you do not see in yourself and this is done out of love and not out of revenge or to belittle you. Humanly speaking, it is not easy to find a person who fits such criteria of a truly good friend, though we could find a divine good friend in Jesus Christ.

In today’s gospel, Jesus healed the blind man and made him see. Sometimes, we too are blind although we have eyes to see. We are blind when we don’t notice the poor and think of their needs. We are blind when we cannot recognise our weaknesses and mistakes. There are also times, we fail to recognise and see Jesus in others. That is why we need someone to tell us. Jesus helps us come to terms with our inability to see, and helps us restore our sight, just as He did for the blind man.

Today, Jesus invites us to open our eyes to recognise Him in the Eucharist. Jesus gives himself to us as food, so that we may grow, be strong and survive both spiritually and physically. Just as Jesus has given Himself to us, we too must give ourselves to others. We must not to be selfish. Instead, we must learn to love others, even those people whom we do not like. We must also help others, including the poor, the elderly and those who are weak. Just as you have experienced the love of Christ, you must also share His love with everyone you meet. May we be true and good friends to others, just as Jesus is a true and good friend to us.

Housekeeping - Week 29 Year 1

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

18 Oct 2015 - 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
19 Oct 2015 - Monday of Week 29 Year 1
20 Oct 2015 - Tuesday of Week 29 Year 1
21 Oct 2015 - Wednesday of Week 29 Year 1
22 Oct 2015 - Thursday of Week 29 Year 1
23 Oct 2015 - Friday of Week 29 Year 1

Friday of Week 29 Year 1

Some of us may have had an issue with another person at some point of our lives. When this happens, what do we do? Some of us may try to ignore the issue altogether, thinking that it would be a waste of our time to try and argue over it or get it resolved. Some of us think that the other party is definitely in the wrong and we expect them to come crawling to us for forgiveness, even though we too may be in the wrong through our conduct, behaviour and actions. How many of us are willing to get the issue resolved amicably with the other party in a brotherly or sisterly way?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny." Are we so self-righteous or conceited that we think we are faultless and right, demanding that others admit their faults? Or have we come to a point that we are not bothered about the other person, and we choose to have nothing to do with him or her, causing ill-feelings, anger or even hatred to simmer and boil over? As Christians, we pray that God would forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Are we practising what we pray, or are we saying it blindly, without meaning, just to put on a show?

Wednesday 29 April 2015

Thursday of Week 29 Year 1

Most of us like to keep the peace, especially in our family and with our parents, siblings and other loved ones. We generally try not to get into major arguments as far as possible, and sometimes we learn to give and take so as to avoid ill feelings, as we would not want our family to break up and drift apart. But sometimes, we are put into a difficult situation. Supposing you are asked by your parents, siblings or other family members to do something which would keep the family united and at peace, but would cause you to break God's commandment and commit sin? What would you do: Listen to your family, or listen to God?

This is why Jesus in today's Gospel tells us: "Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law." It may seem good to try and maintain family unity and happiness, but by doing so, we could be doing something which would cause us to commit sin. It is indeed a difficult choice, but it may be one we may need to make. Ultimately, we need to choose, and be prepared to take responsibility for the consequences, whether it be temporary, or eternal.

Wednesday of Week 29 Year 1

Whose side are you on? Are you on the side of good? Or are you on the side of evil? Some of you may be saying: "Isn't it obvious? Of course we are on the side of good!" But sometimes, we could be heading more and more towards the side of evil, especially when we sin, when we neglect to be loving and charitable towards others, when we think only about ourselves, when we allow pride and our ego to get the better of us, or when we are unable or refuse to forgive others.

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds and cautions us: "You must not let sin reign in your mortal bodies or command your obedience to bodily passions, you must not let any part of your body turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin; you should, instead, offer yourselves to God, and consider yourselves dead men brought back to life; you should make every part of your body into a weapon fighting on the side of God; and then sin will no longer dominate your life, since you are living by grace and not by law."

Some of you may be saying: "But being good is hard, it is difficult, how do we resist falling into sin?" Humanly speaking, it is difficult, because the ways of the world tempts us with so many attractions. But this is not an excuse for us to give up or despair, since we are helped by God's grace, and when we go for confession regularly, we are actually making effort to keep our soul clean. May we not neglect the value and importance of regular confession, so that we may grow steadily in our relationship with God.

Tuesday of Week 29 Year 1

For many Catholics, Sunday is the day where they go to church to attend Mass. Some do so because they want to grow closer to God and be nourished by His word and by the Eucharist. Some do so out of habit, or to fulfil the Sunday obligation. But whatever reasons we may have for attending Mass, one important fact remains: are we properly prepared for Mass? Some of you may be wondering: "this padre is crazy; what do you mean prepared? Surely we are prepared! We get up early, showered and cleaned ourselves well, got the kids ready, made sure everyone is dressed properly, and made effort to come to church early." While all these are good, but what may be lacking or missing is this: are you prepared spiritually, that is, have you examined yourselves carefully and gone for confession to clear any sins, especially serious ones?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the need to be prepared: "See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes." While it is commendable for us to make effort to attend Mass, we should also not neglect in keeping our souls spick and span. May we be diligent and consistent in our preparations to meet the Lord, for the betterment of our souls.

Monday of Week 29 Year 1

Some of us may have become quite comfortable with life on earth, that we may have neglected in preparing ourselves to meet the Lord. We think that we have plenty of time to grow spiritually, especially if we are still young, seem physically fit, do not seem to have any diseases or major illnesses and we have a whole life and many opportunities ahead of us. But as know, death can come at any time and in any form. We have seen recent tragedies and happenings which remind us how frail and impermanent we are, since we could be gone in a blink of an eye. Would we end up being caught off-guard and unprepared if something should suddenly happen?

In today's Gospel, we come across a rich man who had a good harvest and thought that he had many years of enjoyment to come. But Jesus cautions us: "But God said to him, "Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?." So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God." Would we still insist in being complacent and not bothered, thinking that we need not be concerned for the time being? Or would it not be better for us to start doing something now, even if it is little by little, so that we would gradually grow closer to God? After all, we are reminded in a Malay proverb: "Sedikit sedikit lama lama jadi bukit" which roughly translates as "little by little, eventually it becomes a hill." May we do what we can, even if it is little by little, so that we may be somewhat prepared for any eventuality, come what may.

Tuesday 28 April 2015

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

What is success? What is failure? Are any of us failures? The way the world sees success and failure is quite different from the ways of God. God created everyone for success. God did not create anyone for failure. But what do success and failure really mean? For most people, as for James and John in today's Gospel, success means to be the best. To succeed means to excel. Success is measured by comparing one's achievements against the achievements of one's "competitors." However, in today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches us a new understanding of success.

For Jesus success means people realising and fulfilling God's dream for them. Does this mean that God has already determined the outcome of our earthly existence? No. God has an intended destination for which He created you and me. But whether you and I attain this destination or not depends on how much we are willing to cooperate with God's grace. God gives us free will to choose to cooperate or not.

James and John, on the other hand, represent an earthly understanding of success that encourages ambition, rivalry and unhealthy competition among people. We call such success the rat race, or as some may say, it is a dog eat dog world. On the other hand, Jesus teaches a different kind of success, which encourages mutual cooperation and contentment of realising that we can all be successful because God has created each and every one of us for something different. God has enough dreams to go round, a different dream for everyone, a different success for everyone. Our ambition in life should be to discover and live God's dream for us.

At the end of the day, are we still seeking success here on earth? Or have we started to seek the kind of success that God has planned for each of us, different though it may be according to each person, but success all the same? May we be willing and humble enough to let go of temporary success, for the kind success which is permanent and eternal.

Housekeeping - Week 28 Year 1

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

11 Oct 2015 - 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
12 Oct 2015 - Monday of Week 28 Year 1
13 Oct 2015 - Tuesday of Week 28 Year 1
14 Oct 2015 - Wednesday of Week 28 Year 1
15 Oct 2015 - Thursday of Week 28 Year 1
16 Oct 2015 - Friday of Week 28 Year 1

Friday of Week 28 Year 1

Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Different people have got different sorts of fear. Some are fearful of the dark, some are fearful of the unknown, some are fearful of strangers, while others are fearful of change. As Christians, what should we be fearful of?

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns us: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. I will tell you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has the power to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." What Jesus is warning us is that we should not fear man and the things around us, because man can only destroy the body but not the soul. No matter what happens, God would be there to care for us. However, we should fear God, not in a paranoid or erratic way, but with reverence and trust, since God could destroy both body and soul. But is God going to destroy us completely as He pleases? No. Jesus in the Gospel assures us: "Can you not buy five sparrows for two pennies? And yet not one is forgotten in God’s sight. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid: you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows." God has no intention of destroying us totally, so there is no reason to fear, since He is giving us plenty of opportunities to grow closer to Him. It is a question of whether we want to remain in His care and love, or to be away from Him. Ultimately, the choice is up to us.

Monday 27 April 2015

Thursday of Week 28 Year 1

It is not easy for some of us to hear the truth. The truth hurts, and when our behaviour, conduct and attitude are exposed, some of us may try to find ways and means to prevent the truth from being widely circulated. We do not want to lose face or become embarrassed, so our defence mechanism kicks in, and we begin to work on some form of damage control. But the fact is, the truth will prevail, we cannot sweep it under the carpet forever. We could keep trying to live in denial, only to be further humiliated, or we could face up to it, seek forgiveness, reconcile and move on.

In today's Gospel, we read: "When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say." The scribes and the Pharisees knew that they were in the wrong, but they were stubborn, proud, egoistic and arrogant, refusing to admit their fault. Instead, they still insisted in keeping their facade, and tried to put Jesus down. But what the scribes and the Pharisees failed to realise is that Jesus was not just any ordinary itinerant preacher. The more they tried to go against Jesus, the more foolish they looked, even without realising it. Ultimately, we need to decide. Are we going to be like the scribes and the Pharisees, only to lose face even more? Or are we willing to be humble and docile, and let God help us change for the better?

Wednesday of Week 28 Year 1

Some of us seem to easily find fault with others. We think that we are clever enough, wise enough or knowledgeable enough to tell others what to do or what not to do. But is that really the case? Are we really faultless, or are we merely being self-righteous and judgemental towards others? Jesus reminds us: "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you... (Matthew 7:1)." However, some of us still fail to realise that all of us are human, and we may not know the full facts or details. Thus, why do we still insist in looking at or judging others with coloured eyes?

In today's reading, we are further cautioned not to judge. St. Paul warns us: "No matter who you are, if you pass judgement you have no excuse. In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know that God condemns that sort of behaviour impartially: and when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgement? Or are you abusing his abundant goodness, patience and toleration, not realising that this goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance?" When we judge others, even when it is obvious that we have at some point of time done the same thing as what others have done, we are merely being hypocrites. May we be humble enough to admit our own failings, and learn to be compassionate and encouraging towards others, instead of trying to be self-righteous and judgmental.

Tuesday of Week 28 Year 1

Some of us seem to be so preoccupied in maintaining cleanliness in our homes and even keeping our bodies clean. We would make so much effort to sweep and mop the house regularly, and most of us would take a bath at least once a day, and some even put on nice smelling perfume. But all these efforts to maintaining cleanliness are merely external cleanliness. What about our internal cleanliness, that is, the cleanliness of our soul?

In today's Gospel, Jesus admonished the Pharisees when he said: "Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you." The Pharisees focused so much on external practices, including so-called practices in cleanliness, that they neglected in keeping their souls clean. We too could be just as guilty as the Pharisees, by only putting on a facade of being clean on the outside, but what about the inside, our soul? May we come to realise that the cleanliness of our soul is more important, and may we do something to maintain the cleanliness of our soul, for our eternal future.

Monday of Week 28 Year 1

Supposing someone were to come up to you and ask you: "What do you do as a Christian or as a Catholic?" What would your response be? Some of us may say we worship and pray to God and Jesus is our saviour and guide. Some may say that they attend Sunday Mass regularly and get involved in various church activities. But what are we supposed to do as Christians?

While all other activities and church events are good, our primary duty as Christians is to preach the Good News, as Paul says in the reading. Not only that, Paul also mentioned in the reading that Romans, to whom his letter is addressed, are also duty-bound to preach the Good News. This means that preaching the Good News is not only meant for religious leaders, each and every Christian is expected to do his or her part in preaching the Good News, in one form or another. Therefore, let us not slack or try to shirk our responsibilities, and go do what is expected of us.

Sunday 26 April 2015

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

What is your favourite chapter or verse in the bible? Some of us seem to have a favourite chapter or verse, which we often turn to, to remind us of God's love, to comfort us when we are facing difficulties, or when we are in need of strength and encouragement. But the bible is not only about such things. The bible also contains chapters and verses which could make us feel quite uncomfortable and uneasy, as the second reading reminds us: "The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword..." This means that the bible not only consoles us but also challenges us. It does not only promise blessings but also spells out curses which arise when we fail to remain faithful to God.

Today's Gospel is one example where reading the bible could make us feel quite uncomfortable or uneasy. Why so? In the Gospel, the rich man claimed that he had kept all the commandments from his earliest days. Then Jesus posed him a greater challenge, "Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." If you were in the rich man's shoes, how would you have felt? Quite likely some of you would have been bewildered with such a challenge. It seems crazy and absurd for us to get rid of everything that we have and become a pauper, just to follow Jesus. But what is Jesus really trying to tell us? Are you able to read between the lines?

What Jesus is trying to tell us is quite profound and concerns us as Christians, as His followers, as His disciples. Jesus is reminding us that the kingdom of God is far greater than the kingdom of men. The treasures which we will find in heaven far surpasses and outweighs the riches which we accumulate on this earth. Unless we are prepared to let go of things on this earth by being detached from them, we will not be able to gain treasures in heaven. This is because when we are concerned only on things of this life, which are temporary, will fade, and which we cannot take with us after death, then we are truly being foolish, since we are spending so much time trying to accumulate earthly things which would eventually be lost to us.

But is being rich wrong? No, that is not the point of what Jesus is trying to teach us. What Jesus is trying to tell us is to remove all obstacles, such as our riches, our pride, our wealth and possessions, or our power, which prevent and distract us from following Him and becoming truly His disciples. While we do need to survive in this world, we should not be entangled by what this world has to offer, and lose sight of our heavenly goal. As some may have heard, we should "eat to live" and not be concerned with "living to eat." This means that, like the camel in the Gospel, we must remove earthly burdens which encumber us, so that we may pass through the "eye of the needle," if we seek to be in the Kingdom of God.

Some of you may be thinking: giving up our earthly riches and being detached from them? Sounds impossible. We are surrounded by so many forms of temptations to gain more and more of what this world has to offer. How do we tear ourselves from such constant bombardment of earthly attractions? Once again, Jesus assures us: "For men it is impossible, but not for God; because everything is possible for God." May we seek God's help and grace, so that we would be able to give up all attachments that will prevent us from following Jesus, so that we would be lightened and free to strive towards His Kingdom.

Housekeeping - Week 27 Year 1

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

4 Oct 2015 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
5 Oct 2015 - Monday of Week 27 Year 1
6 Oct 2015 - Tuesday of Week 27 Year 1
7 Oct 2015 - Our Lady of the Rosary, Memorial
8 Oct 2015 - Thursday of Week 27 Year 1
9 Oct 2015 - Friday of Week 27 Year 1

Friday of Week 27 Year 1

Have you ever stopped to think what jealousy could do to you, especially if you allow it to fester and control you? Some people may be quite surprised and embarrassed when they discover what happens when they allow themselves to be jealous. Some begin to behave in a silly or erratic manner, and they begin to say things which are silly, stupid or which make a fool of themselves. Some begin to waste time and effort trying to plot and bring the other person down, when they could have used such time and effort to do good. Some even begin to lose sleep and become increasingly frustrated, when others seem to be doing better or are more successful than they are, and their health is affected. But at the end of the day, why do we need to be jealous? What are we really trying to prove?

In today's Gospel, we read: "When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, 'It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.' Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then.'" We can obviously see that some of the people had allowed jealously to get the better of them, causing them to talk nonsense. Instead of trying to belittle Jesus, these people only end up belittling themselves. May we become aware of the dangers of allowing jealously to control us, lest we inadvertently end up by being worse than we were before.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Thursday of Week 27 Year 1

Life is such that we do not always get what we want immediately. Sometimes we need to ask a few times before we get what we want. Sometimes we do not get what we want at all. When we do not get what we want, what happens? Some of us may begin to feel as if God has abandoned us or God does not care, some may even start going for other means, hoping that these other means would give us what we want. But more often than not, we still end up not getting what we want. Then what? Do we just give up, get angry, pout and throw a tantrum? Or are we willing to be patient, persistent and consistent, with hope and trust that God would grant us our needs and wants?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants." Sometimes we ask for things or for help, but we are not persistent, patient and consistent in what we ask for. Sometimes, what we ask for may not be good for us. That is why we need to discern whether what we are asking for is really needed or necessary, and whether what we are asking for would ultimately glorify God. May we be humble and patient enough to let God guide us and grant us what we truly need, according to His time and for His glory.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Memorial

The feast of the Holy Rosary originated from the naval victory at Lepanto on 7 October 1571. In that naval battle, a small combined Christian fleet defeated a mighty Turkish armada, thus stopping the invasion of Christian Europe. The victory was considered a miracle and Pope St. Pius V attributed it to the praying of the Holy Rosary and the intercession of Our Lady.

From this incident, we can discover that the Rosary is indeed a very special devotion to Our Lady. Many Popes, clergy, religious, saints and lay persons have always recommended it as a good form of devotion. The Rosary is vocal and mental prayer; and it is also personal as well as communal prayer. When we meditate upon the mysteries of the Rosary, we experience Christ through Mary. Not only that, by praying the Rosary, Mary accompanies us in prayer, and praying the Rosary sustains us in the battle against the evil one and his accomplices. Therefore, let us not slack in praying the Rosary, and like Mary surrender ourselves to God so that He may be our help and guide.

Tuesday of Week 27 Year 1

Some of us may have heard of the idiom, "once bitten twice shy," which basically means when something or someone has hurt you once, you tend to avoid that thing or person. In the case of Jonah, this time he complied with God's command, after having had the unpleasant experience of being in the fish's belly for three days and threes nights and later vomited out on shore. Jonah went to warn the Ninevites of the impending doom coming their way. The Ninevites took Jonah's warning seriously, and even the King of Nineveh issued a decree: "Men and beasts, herds and flocks, are to taste nothing; they must not eat, they must not drink water. All are to put on sackcloth and call on God with all their might; and let everyone renounce his evil behaviour and the wicked things he has done. Who knows if God will not change his mind and relent, if he will not renounce his burning wrath, so that we do not perish?"

The reading then tells us 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." In the same way, when we listen to God's warning and act upon it, we too may experience what the Ninevites experienced, and we would also avoid going through the unpleasant experience of Jonah. Are we willing to take seriously what God is telling us, before it is too late?

Monday of Week 27 Year 1

If God calls you and asks you to do something, would you do it? Or would you try to find all sorts of excuses to avoid doing it?  Some of us may even go to the extent of trying to run away and hide, hoping that God would eventually let us go and not bother us, but that is not often the case. God is omnipotent and omniscient, meaning that He is all-powerful and all-knowing. This means that, no matter where we try to run, we cannot hide, for God can seek and find us anyhow.

In today's reading, Jonah tried to run away from God, instead of doing His will by going to Nineveh. What Jonah failed to realise is that he was not dealing with just any other being, but he was dealing with God. Jonah tried to run away by boarding a ship to Tarshish, but God had other plans. In a way, the way God treated Jonah shows that He has got an interesting sense of humour, by causing Jonah to be swallowed by a big fish, only to be vomitted on to the shore after three days and three nights in the fish's belly. Eww! Must have been quite yucky and disgusting to be stuck in a fish for a while.

In the same way, we too could experience a not so pleasant time like Jonah, if we choose to repeatedly ignore God's voice. Sometimes we need to remember that God calls us because He has a better plan for us, and it would be to our benefit to do His will for His greater glory.

Friday 24 April 2015

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

What does it mean to be married? Is marriage merely an event for show or for display, such as what we see in some of the reality shows appearing on television these days, which treats marriage as a form of entertainment? Some people may say that they have a right to get married, so long as they are at the right legal age, and they love each other. No matter what others say, no matter what the church may say, they insist that they have a right to marry. While the church recognises that individuals have a right to marry, the church also requires that those planning to marry be properly informed about what marriage is all about, in other words, what such individuals are getting themselves into.

Why is the church so fussy about preparing couples for marriage? What is the big deal, some may ask. Is the church behaving like a Big Brother, trying to control our lives, even when it comes to marriage? No. The church is not like that. It is precisely because we have seen many marriages fail, sometimes so quickly and at an alarming rate, that it is a great cause of concern. When affected couples were asked what had happened and what went wrong, it is quite often the same story: they were actually not ready for marriage, even though they had initially thought they were; they had not known each other long enough or well enough; they had not truly and clearly understood what commitment in marriage is all about; they were more concerned about their own needs and issues; and a significant number of affected couples realised that God was not present in their minds when they decided to get married. When you marry without being ready in all sense of the word, you are merely brewing a recipe for disaster, leading to another statistic for marriages gone bust.

The readings today gives us some understanding of what marriage is all about. We must realise that marriage is not a human institution but a divine institution. It is a vocation. Very often, God is forgotten in all the hustle and bustle of making preparations for marriage. Couples are more concerned with so many other things, that God and the church seems to have become a necessary inconvenience. Some couples feel as if they are being forced or pressured by their parents to marry in church. But what they forget is that it is God who makes marriages possible and lasting. If God is absent from our lives, it would really be very difficult to make the marriage work. Also, a marriage calls for couples to experience a conversion in their lives. Conversion must take place because, as Jesus reminds us in today's Gospel: "the two must become one body." Conversion must take place for couples to die to their selfishness and learn to live together as one. That is why the preparation is so important. Some people try to find ways and means to take short cuts during the preparation, but what they fail to realise is that Rome was not built in a day. If you want to graduate with a degree, you work hard for it and you pursue it relentlessly. Likewise, if you want to stay married, you must also be properly prepared and work hard for it. Moreover, marriage is about commitment. Love is all about commitment, and never about feelings and emotions. Commitment means accepting the whole package as is, "for better or for worse," and not just pick and choose the parts we like. Commitment means learning to forgive not once but again and again, and is more concerned with giving than with taking and receiving. Commitment calls us to change ourselves throughout our lives.

Today, marriages are in trouble. Couples are behaving more and more individualistic. The togetherness and oneness seems to have become lost in translation. Divorces have become so rampant. I recall being present for a hearing for divorce cases at a family court some time back, and on that one day, more than fifty cases were being heard, and each case was disposed like products moving along a conveyor belt. Can you imagine that? What has marriage become? Have some couples become so selfish and self-centred, that people are seen as objects to be used, and when they are no longer seen as useful, they are then discarded? This is why I pray that couples will take responsibility and initiative for their marriage to remain strong. Remember that your children learn from you, and your children too may someday follow in your footsteps. If your marriage is messed up, do something about it and seek help where necessary, don't play play with your marriage, don't wait until it is too late. Let us pray that God would continue to bring healing into our lives so that our lives would be filled with selfless love instead of selfishness.

Housekeeping - Week 26 Year 1

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

27 Sept 2015 - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
28 Sept 2015 - Monday of Week 26 Year 1
29 Sept 2015 - Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels - Feast
30 Sept 2015 - Wednesday of Week 26 Year 1
1 Oct 2015 - Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin, Doctor - Feast
2 Oct 2015 - The Holy Guardian Angels

The Holy Guardian Angels

Have you ever met an angel before? Some of us may have been influenced by pictures of angels that look cute, with wings, and flying here and there. But are angels really like that? In the bible, we have read in several places which tells us that angels are far from cute. In fact, such passages describe to us that angels are frightening to behold and the angel often says: "Do not be afraid." Certainly not something many of us would want to encounter.

But today's reading gives us something to be thankful and ponder about. In today's reading, we are reminded: "The Lord says this: ‘I myself will send an angel before you to guard you as you go and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Give him reverence and listen to all that he says. Offer him no defiance; he would not pardon such a fault, for my name is in him. If you listen carefully to his voice and do all that I say, I shall be enemy to your enemies, foe to your foes. My angel will go before you.’"

This means that each of us, whether we are aware or not, have got a guardian angel watching over us. Sometimes that guardian angel would work through our conscience to warn us when we are about to sin, but it is up to us to avoid such temptation. Also, we may have had experienced several occasions where our guardian angel had prevented evil from happening to us. This is why we should always give thanks to God, for His gift of a guardian angel to us, and let us strive to avoid all occasions of sin, and learn to live in His embrace and providence.

O Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom His love entrusts me here, ever this day be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen.

Thursday 23 April 2015

Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Virgin, Doctor - Feast

Our hand has five fingers. Among these five fingers, some might assume that it is the last finger, the little finger, that has the least important function. However, we might be surprised to discover that the little finger is actually the strongest finger of the hand. Why so? When you grip a knife, the last three fingers of each hand, especially the little finger, are used to grip the knife handle tightly, with the thumb and index fingers holding it loosely. Also, try holding a hammer without the little finger gripping the handle. It won’t be that easy to hit a nail into the wall.

So it is interesting to see how much strength and power the little finger has, isn't it? It may be the smallest of all the fingers, it may be the last finger in the hand, it's just a little finger, but it certainly has considerable strength. In fact, losing the little finger can be very inconvenient. It may mean losing the grip of things, practically as well as symbolically. This helps us understand what Jesus meant when He said in the Gospel: The one who makes himself as little as a little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Just as the little finger plays an important role in gripping, a little child shows us how we should be strongly gripping in our dependence on God and His providence.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus. Her way to holiness and eventually to sainthood is known as the "Little Way." She believed that the way to approach God is to be like how a little child approaches its parent: with open arms and complete trust. St. Teresa showed how she lived out that "Little Way" by taking on all the lowly and humble tasks in her convent. Her life was just so routine, mundane and ordinary. But she did small things with great love. St. Teresa was like that last finger of the hand – small and little, yet strong and powerful. She taught and showed us that in the small, little and lowly, God's mighty love and power is shown. May we follow her example, and learn to do all things, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem, for the glory of God.

Wednesday of Week 26 Year 1

Some of us have got attachments in one form or another. We may be attached to our parents, our family members, our children, various things, our property, our titles and many others. We find it difficult to let go of our attachments, and sometimes that could be a stumbling block in our efforts to grow spiritually and become closer to God.

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds and challenges us of the cost of being a disciple. To be a disciple, one needs to take up one's cross and follow Him, even to the point of being detached from one's parents, family members and other things which could distract or encumber us from becoming effective disciples. Our duty and mission as disciples is to go forth and preach the Good News, and if we are attached to or distracted by the wants and needs of others, how would we be able to freely and joyfully carry out what is expected of us? May we be humble and docile enough to let God take control of our lives, and learn to be detached, so that we could serve Him for His greater glory.

Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Archangels - Feast

Do you believe that ghosts exists? Some people not only believe, but they would become quite superstitious and wear all sorts of amulets or charms, chant prayers, offer gifts such as fruits and food, avoid going near certain places like the graveyard at night, and do all sorts of other things, in the hope that the spirits would not disturb them. Such people are frightened that the ghost would bring them bad luck or disaster should they encounter one.

For some, ghosts are considered evil or wicked and should be avoided at all cost. But are all spirits evil? No. There are also good spirits which help us in one way or another, sometimes without even us realising that they are present. One such spirit are the angels or archangels, like Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, whose feast we celebrate today. The name Michael means "who is like God." In Scripture, it was St. Michael who long ago led the battle against Satan (Rev. 12:7-9) and his will is focused and driven toward accomplishing goodness: he is a protector of souls, and wields his sword of righteous justice against Satan. Gabriel means "God is my strength." In Scripture, He appears to Zechariah (Lk 1:13) and Mother Mary (Lk 1:27-28). Gabriel brought us God's message of strength in which we draw our hope: God Incarnate was soon to enter history for love of man. Raphael means "God is my health." Raphael is one of seven angels "who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord" (Tob 12:15). The meaning of Raphael's name reflects the fact that he touched Tobit's eyes in order to heal them of blindness.

Though God cannot be seen, yet through these three archangels, He manifests His power and presence. Each angel is sent by God to be our help and our guide, since an angel cannot give instructions on its own accord, but deliver instructions from God to us. May we be docile and humble enough to listen to the angels and archangels, who are there to be our rule and our guide, so that with their help, we could grow closer with our loving Lord.

Monday of Week 26 Year 1

What do you value most in life? Some people value fame, fortune, recognition, power, wealth, or popularity. Such people would make much effort to achieve what they value, because they want to be seen as the best, the smartest, or even the greatest. If we ponder for a moment, we could realise that we value these things mainly because we are proud of ourselves and are feeding our ego. But all these things that we value are only temporary. We cannot bring them with us when we die. Even while we are still alive, situations could cause us to lose these things; sometimes due to reasons beyond our control. Then what would happen then? What would we do?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.'" Why would a little child be great? It is precisely because the child is docile and dependent on his or her parents, instead of trying to boost one's ego. We too can be great, not because we are trying to feed our pride and ego, but because we are humbling ourselves and being dependent on God's help and providence. We are also being great when all we do, we do it for the glory of God, and not for our personal gratification. The question is: are we only looking for greatness among others here on earth, greatness which is only temporary and will be forgotten or fade away? Or have we learnt not to be too concerned about greatness, and continue to do God's will?

Wednesday 22 April 2015

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Each and every one of us has got a certain role and purpose as a church. No matter how small or big the role and purpose is, it is necessary and needed. Some of us may feel as if what we are doing in church may seem insignificant or nothing to shout about, but what we often forget is that everything that we do as a church has got a reason, a purpose. The church is the Body of Christ and we could look at the church in reference to the human body. The human body, as we know, has got different parts, and each part has got its own purpose and function. Hands are use for writing, lifting, holding and carrying. Feet are meant for walking. Our eyes are meant for seeing and our ears are meant for hearing. Each part cannot take over the function and role of the other, since each part has been designed specifically for a particular role and function.

The problem that some of us may be facing is when we allow pride, ego, and especially jealousy, to take control of us When we allow jealousy to rear its ugly head, we become indifferent and blind to the importance and roles of others. We begin to think that whatever we do is most important, or that we are the greatest, and that our role is indispensable. When others seem to be doing the same thing as we are doing, we begin to feel irritated, threatened and insecure. We allow Christ's mission to be disrupted, when we allow competition to fester in the life of the church.

In the first reading and in the Gospel, we can clearly see how jealousy can cloud our minds, our eyes and our hearts, causing us to lose track of who we are and what is our role and purpose. In the first reading, some of the elders appointed by Moses and who had received the spirit from him felt threatened by others who had not gone through the same selection and yet received the spirit. What they failed to realise is that God gives His spirit to anyone He chooses. Nobody can claim to have a monopoly or control over God, or His Spirit, or Truth. God gives Himself to all. The disciples of Christ in the Gospel also had the same problem. They felt threatened by another man who was able to cast out devils and saw him as a competitor. However, Jesus saw him differently and recognised the gift of the Spirit in this man. This led Jesus to make an important observation: “Anyone who is not against us is for us."

So what does this all mean? It means that we must remember that we are all part of Christ's Body, and each and every one of us are necessary and important. We must not see each other as competitors. Instead, we must encourage the gifts, talents and contributions of others, since all of us have one common mission, that is to build God's Kingdom and not our own kingdom. After all, what and who are we trying to ultimately prove? Thus, if we have been jealous of others in the community, if we have been an obstacle to others, or if we have failed to give encouragement, then we must make effort to change, and not expect others to change to suit us. This is what Jesus was trying to tell us in the Gospel when he said: "if your hand, foot or eye should cause you to sin, cut it off." Let us stop all this nonsense about blaming others and start taking responsibility for our actions and for the problems we have brought to our church community. May we learn to focus more on doing God's will and giving Him the glory, instead of trying to gain glory and gratification for ourselves.

Housekeeping - Week 25 Year 1

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

20 Sept 2015 - 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
21 Sept 2015 - Saint Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist - Feast
22 Sept 2015 - Tuesday of Week 25 Year 1
23 Sept 2015 - Wednesday of Week 25 Year 1
24 Sept 2015 - Thursday of Week 25 Year 1
25 Sept 2015 - Friday of Week 25 Year 1

Friday of Week 25 Year 1

When we associate with a leader, many of us would want to associate with a person who is destined to become even more important, or a person who has a great track record, or a person who is a winner, or even a person who can produce results which could benefit us. How many of us would associate ourselves with a person who is going to be mocked, persecuted or even put to death? According to the ways of the world, such a person is considered a loser or a person who would only bring disaster to us, and should be avoided at all cost. However, what do we Christians think a leader should be like?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "'The Son of Man' he said 'is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.'" If we look at what Jesus just said from a worldly point of view, it certainly does not sound very exciting or wonderful, since such a leader would end up dead, and raised up on the third day? The world would laugh and claim that such a thing is impossible. But Jesus proved the world, and also us, that He did die and He rose again, as His purpose as a leader was not to gain recognition from the world, but to save us from our sins. The kind of leadership Jesus taught us is called a servant-leader, where we serve others, even to the point of death, not for our personal glory or gratification, but for the glory of God.

Today we as Christians are called by Jesus to follow His example and His leadership style. We are called to take up our cross and follow Him, for it is through Him that we receive the gift of salvation. Ultimately, we have a choice: to follow the ways of the world and its ideas of leadership, or to follow the ways of Christ, and let Him be our help and guide.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Thursday of Week 25 Year 1

It is certainly an unpleasant feeling when we have done something wrong and we live in constant fear that what we had done would somehow come back to haunt us. Those who may have committed some serious sin would constantly be on the look out, be paranoid and worry that the truth may be revealed. But as the Malay saying goes: "Sepandai-pandai tupai melompat, akhirnya jatuh ke tanah juga." Roughly translated into English, that would be: "No matter how clever the squirrel is able to hop or jump, it would eventually fall to the ground." In other words, we can run but we cannot hide for long, since the truth could come back and hit us in some way.

In today's Gospel, King Herod had respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet and servant of God. However, out of impulse and a desire to please his family and friends, King Herod had John beheaded.  Now his conscience is pricked when he hears that some think that the Baptist has risen.  As a result, King Herod wanted to see Jesus more out of curiosity, anxiety and fear than out of a sincere desire to know Jesus.

Are we living in constant fear? God's grace frees us from the tyranny of fear and sin, and enables us to reject what is wrong and to choose to do what is good. May we be willing to walk in God's ways, and remain free from any fear and anxiety while depending on His love and providence.

Wednesday of Week 25 Year 1

If you suddenly discover that you have some urgent matter to accomplish, or some important assignment which would determine your grades in school or university, or some significant task which had been assigned to you and you had completely forgotten about it, what would you do? Surely you would frantically put in extra effort and work at a feverish pace, hoping to get the job done before the deadline comes. Some of us would even be willing to forgo meals, sleep and other things to gain extra time. But how many of us would do the same when it comes to proclaiming the Good News? Do we consider proclaiming the Good News urgent and important enough that we are willing to make sacrifices to accomplish such a task? Or have we become complacent, thinking that we have all the time in the world or we feel it is not that urgent?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "Jesus called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there. As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave their town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere."

Notice that Jesus instructed the Twelve to bring nothing for the journey, as He did not want them to be encumbered or burdened with things, and He wanted them to go forth in haste and urgency to preach the Good News and heal. If we are Christians, followers of Christ, shouldn't we too be taking our task of preaching the Good News seriously? Or have we become comfortable with resting on our laurels, taking our time and enjoying life?

Tuesday of Week 25 Year 1

Sometimes we come across people who try to throw their weight around and claim that they have a special relationship or friendship with the bishop or parish priest, especially if it involves blood or family relationship. Such people think that, just because they are related to the bishop or parish priest in some way, they have the right to demand certain benefits, special treatment, or perks. But as Christians, do we have a right to demand such things? What sort of attitude should we have?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice." To Jesus, having a special friendship, relationship or even familial relationship with Him is not good enough. As Christians, we should not only hear God's word, since anyone could do that and still not do anything. What is more important to Jesus is that we not just hear God's word, but also act upon it. That is why we should not get caught up with mere relationships, no matter how close we may claim to be with Jesus, but we should be focusing more on hearing God's word and sharing it with others.

Saint Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist - Feast

Every once in a while, we come across people who try to show their authority or their importance in church. Such people go through great effort to tell others how important they are, or how close they are to the bishop or parish priest, or how vital they are to keep a certain church ministry functioning. Some of us find such people quite obnoxious, since they seem to be trying so hard to be in the limelight and they make a big show on whatever they do. But as Christians, what sort of attitude should we have towards our role and responsibility in a ministry or as a church?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together... Each one of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it. To some, his gift was that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers; so that the saints together make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ."

As Christians, our duty is to serve in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience, as St. Paul reminds us. If our motivation is to draw attention to ourselves while we serve, then are we serving the Lord, or are we actually serving ourselves? Let us check ourselves and be reminded that ultimately, all that we do ought not to be for our personal glorification or gratification, but for the glory of God.

Monday 20 April 2015

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

It is not easy to build a relationship or gain friendship. It takes time for a relationship and friendship to become strong and mature. However, there are two attitudes which can destroy relationship and friendship. What are the two attitudes? They are jealousy and ambition, as they can cause soured relationships, rifts and disharmony. As St. James warns us in the second reading: "Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done..."

Relationships and friendships breakdown, deteriorate or even disintegrate because we develop feelings of jealousy against one another, and this is often fueled by ambition for power and status. What is the cause of jealousy and ambition? St. James in today’s second reading gives us a clue: "Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force." Moreover, in today's gospel, we see the disciples of Jesus fighting among themselves over the issue of power. They were arguing over which of them was the greatest.

Why do we need to be jealous and ambitious? Why do we need to be the greatest? It is precisely because we are insecure; we are not comfortable with ourselves; we feel that we are not good enough and that others are better off than us; we feel that others threaten our status and position; and all these could lead us to become more and more jealous until we come to a point where jealousy consumes us, and we become more interested in working towards the downfall of others. Jealousy leads us to gossip and slander, and we end up wasting all our time and energies in our petty squabbles and in our scheming, instead of building God’s kingdom.

So what do we need to do to break the deadly and poisonous grip of jealousy in our lives? We need to put a stop to all the nonsense we are doing immediately, no ifs, maybes or buts. We cannot go on being jealous, as it will only lead us to our ruin. Jesus reminds us in today's Gospel: "If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all." This means we should strive towards serving with humility, we should strive to work with one another in building God’s kingdom, and we should strive towards a conversion of heart. This can come about if we pray earnestly for ourselves, for one another, and for the community. But prayer alone is not enough. We must be prepared to change our ways and heal our relationships with one another, instead of continuing to point fingers at one another and hurting each other with our words and deeds. May we let the Lord be our guide and strength, and release us from our jealousy, so that in all we do, His name be glorified.

Housekeeping - Week 24 Year 1

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

13 Sept 2015 - 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
14 Sept 2015 - Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross
15 Sept 2015 - Our Lady of Sorrows, Memorial
16 Sept 2015 - Wednesday of Week 24 Year 1
17 Sept 2015 - Thursday of Week 24 Year 1
18 Sept 2015 - Friday of Week 24 Year 1

Friday of Week 24 Year 1

What is our purpose as Christians? Are we Christians because we want to serve God and serve others? Or have some of us become more and more interested only in serving ourselves? When we look at the church we are attending, is the church only interested in making money and the spiritual growth of the faithful is merely for show, limited or non-existent? Sometimes we could be guilty of putting a price on everything in the name of religion. For example, we have seen how some people have been duped into paying large sums of money to attend a healing rally organised by a so-called famous pastor who claims to be able to heal anyone, when Jesus did not enforce any charges for healing others. People gave out of the generosity of their hearts and not because they were being forced or cajoled to. Does the church we go to have this kind of attitude, where it is only all about money? Are we ourselves having such an attitude also? It is interesting to note that some people seem to think that they can pay their way to heaven, sort of like "cheap grace" where the more they contribute, the better the chances for them to reach heaven. Has our church and even some of us begun to have such thoughts?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us sternly: "This is what you are to teach the brothers to believe and persuade them to do. Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit – with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words. All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse and wicked mistrust of one another; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a profit. Religion, of course, does bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have. We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that."

This is where we have to honestly ask ourselves: are we a church only for the money? Sometimes we may discover that the church we go to could be only for the money, if the rich, influential and wealthy are well treated, but the poor, the marginalised, those who are not so well-off or even those who are struggling to make ends meet are given little or minimal attention. If the church we go to is treating people differently according to dollars and cents, then perhaps we should seriously consider whether that church is really a church of Jesus Christ at all.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Thursday of Week 24 Year 1

As clergy, religious and lay persons who hold teaching positions in church, we hold a great responsibility. When we teach, we are teaching what the church teaches, not what we think and not our opinion. Sometimes we come across people who begin to divert from what the church teaches because they value what they think more than what is taught by the church for centuries. When we have this kind of attitude, we could be responsible for causing schism, where people begin to break away from the church to form their own, because they think their opinion is the correct one and all others are wrong.

That is why, St. Paul in today's reading cautions us: "Take great care about what you do and what you teach; always do this, and in this way you will save both yourself and those who listen to you." Having an opinion about something is fine, it is not wrong. But it becomes a problem when that opinion you have begins to cloud your mind and causes you to become convinced that the opinion is truth, even though it is merely your opinion and has not been verified and accepted by the church. Thus, let us be responsible in what we teach, and teach the truth, for no servant can be greater than the Master. If we teach our own stuff, are we trying to usurp our role and become the master instead?

Wednesday of Week 24 Year 1

Every now and then, we come across people who are habitual liars. Such people cannot seem to speak the truth or say it as it is, due to some reason or another. People lie for many different reasons, among them include: to protect one's skin, to safe face, to avoid work or certain tasks assigned to them, to gain some advantage in life, the list can go on. But no matter how hard we try to avoid the truth, the truth will one day surface. There is saying: "tell the truth and shame the devil," and that saying should be taken to heart, since it is better to stay truthful than to live with lies and be constantly fearful, nervous and insecure.

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "I wanted you to know how people ought to behave in God’s family – that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe." When we live on the side of truth, we have no reason to fear or be high strung, since there is nothing for others to use as ammunition to blame us. The truth may hurt, but isn't better for the hurt to be felt upfront, instead of the possibility of the hurt being felt for all eternity?

Our Lady of Sorrows, Memorial

It is not easy for a mother to care for her sick child. The mother would spend sleepless nights caring for her child and ensuring that her child takes medicine regularly, while praying that her child would recover quickly. It is even more not easy if the child is dying. The mother would be quite distraught, and she would turn to God in prayer, begging Him to heal her child and spare her child from death. Whatever the circumstances may be, a mother would generally make much sacrifices for the health and well-being of her child.

Mother Mary in today's Gospel also made much sacrifices for Jesus. In fact, she made the ultimate sacrifice. She saw her son Jesus dying on the cross. Most other mothers would have avoided being at the crucifixion site, for personal safety and also it would have been too much to bear. But Mother Mary still stayed on, keeping vigil with her son, Jesus, and watched with agony as her son's life slowly ebbed away. The Gospel tells us that Jesus gave Mother Mary to His beloved disciple as his mother, so that Mother Mary would have a place of refuge. In a way, Jesus is giving Mother Mary to each and every one of us, as we are like that beloved disciple.

In the end, Jesus died on that cross. But is this the end? No. We know that Jesus rose again after 3 days. Jesus' death was for the forgiveness of our sins. What was initially a sorrowful scene has turned to great joy as Jesus appeared once again to His disciples. Even then, we could imagine the strength and patience of a mother, our Mother Mary, who despite going through hell and back, still had the fortitude to "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." May we too have the fortitude to face up to the many dangers, troubles and persecutions which may come our way, taking Mother Mary as our shining example, and always depending on our Lord's help and providence.

Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Why do we give so much honour to the Holy Cross? Besides being the symbol of Christianity, the Holy Cross brings to light many fundamental truths taught by the Catholic Church. It is the symbol of Divine Love: for God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. It is the symbol of salvation: through Jesus Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, those who believe in Him and obey His teachings, will enjoy eternal life in the Kingdom of God. It is also the symbol of Divine compassion: God did not send His Son into the world to condemn it, but in order that the world may be saved through Jesus.

Everywhere we look, the symbol of the Holy Cross is present to remind us of the infinite sacrifice Jesus did for our redemption. The sign of the Cross is found in the Sacred Liturgy. The Cross is in all Christian festivals. It is in the Rite of Adoration and is the symbol of blessing. It is found in the dedication of Churches, in certain Christian schools, homes, in certain Christian hospitals, seminaries, convents, Religious Orders, and even in cemeteries. In many places, we would come across the Holy Cross in its various designs and forms.

Today, let us look up to the Holy Cross as our symbol of faith and salvation. Let us always honour the work of Christ that was manifested through the Holy Cross, the true symbol of love, compassion and forgiveness. Let us too learn to take up our cross and follow Jesus, learning from Him and spreading His Good News to all the ends of the earth.

Saturday 18 April 2015

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

As children, many of us may have attended Religious Education each Sunday. For some of us, such classes are called Catechism classes or Sunday school. During such classes, we would have learnt so many things about God, about Jesus, about the ten commandments, the list goes on. But the problem is: is this what faith is all about? Is our faith confined only to memorising our catechism? Some of us may have gone through rote learning in school, where we had to memorise things and regurgitate such facts in order to pass exams. But what benefit did we eventually gain from such methods of learning? Do we understand what we have learnt and are we able to apply such facts in daily life? In the same way, do we understand what we have learnt at Catechism classes, and are we able to apply what we have learnt in daily life?

The fact is: faith is more than just memorising facts, as the readings today tell us. Faith is more than merely reciting the creed; more than learning our catechism; more than just knowing about God and Jesus. It is pointless for us to just have the kind of faith where we have head-level knowledge about something or someone, where we merely have facts and information about that thing or person. Instead, our faith should be about knowing someone, whereby we have a special and intimate relationship with that person.

In today’s gospel, Peter recognises Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One of God. However, this recognition is only head knowledge. Peter knew about Jesus but didn't know him as a person. Jesus, therefore, explains who he really is and what his mission entails. Jesus tells Peter that He must suffer grievously, be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, put to death, and after three days He will rise again. But this is the part which Peter could not understand. Peter knew that Jesus was the Christ but could not accept the fact this Christ must suffer and die. To help Peter, Jesus further explains that for one to become His disciple, that person must be prepared to renounce himself, take up his cross and follow the same fate of Jesus. This means that the disciple must have an intimate relationship with Jesus and not only be satisfied with knowing about Jesus.

That is why our faith would be meaningless if it stays only within head-knowledge. Our faith calls for conversion, commitment and action. St. James in the second reading challenges us to show our faith through our good deeds. It is not enough to just say that we have faith, but we must prove our faith through the lives we live, by our readiness to accept the cross of Jesus and follow him. We must be prepared to lose everything, even our lives knowing that “anyone who loses his life for Christ’s sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

Let us therefore honestly examine our faith. Is our faith merely head-knowledge? Is our faith only a safe kind of faith that tries to avoid trouble or the cross? If we call ourselves Christians, then we should be doing what Christ did. We should renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus, since He is the way to eternal life and glory.

Housekeeping - Week 23 Year 1

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

6 Sept 2015 - 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
7 Sept 2015 - Monday of Week 23 Year 1
8 Sept 2015 - Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast
9 Sept 2015 - Wednesday of Week 23 Year 1
10 Sept 2015 - Thursday of Week 23 Year 1
11 Sept 2015 - Friday of Week 23 Year 1

Friday of Week 23 Year 1

It is easy for some of us to find fault with other people. Some of us begin to see only the imperfect or less desirable things about others, instead of acknowledging their strengths and capabilities. One reason why people look down upon others or only know how to find fault with others is because the person himself or herself is insecure and unwilling to come to terms with one's own faults. So to try and cover up their own faults, the person would project such faults on others. But sometimes, the person's own faults would be exposed, and when confronted, they may become even more insecure and agitated. Quite often, this stems from the fact that the person is too proud or egoistic or even having some sort of inferiority complex, making it difficult for the person to be humble enough to admit one's faults and change for the better.

In today's Gospel, Jesus admonishes us when He says: "Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye," when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye." Perhaps we should learn to be less proud and egoistic and learn to be more humble, so that we could learn to grow into better persons as we grow closer in relationship with God. Nobody is perfect and if we think we are perfect, then we may be like gods and we may think that we do not need God. Our pride and ego will not help us in the long run, so instead of trying so hard and remaining so stubborn in our present circumstances, let us be willing to let go and let God be our guide and help. After all, what good is all the pride and ego in the world to us, if it would only lead us to eternal ruin in the end?

Friday 17 April 2015

Thursday of Week 23 Year 1

Each and every one of us may have experienced conflict at some point of our lives. Sometimes the conflict could be a really small matter, nothing serious, and should be amicably resolved in short time. Sometimes the conflict could be of a more serious issue, and we may need more time to resolve it, but ultimately, we need to employ Christian charity and forgiveness, and not let such an issue blow out of proportion. As some of us may have heard, "let us not make a mountain out of a mole hill." In other words, we should be courageous, kind, firm and forgiving in getting the conflict settled, instead of adding more fuel to the fire and making things worse.

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful."

We should remember that when we pray the Our Father or the Lord's Prayer, we are also asking God to be our guide, our providence and also to forgive the many trespasses we may have committed. But at the same time, we too should do the same towards others, as St. Paul reminds us. Are we compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and loving enough to forgive and love others, just as God has forgiven us and loves us immensely?

Wednesday of Week 23 Year 1

What does it mean to be a Christian? Being a Christian means our lives should have been totally transformed from our old ways and put on the ways of Christ. It means we are making much effort to love God and neighbour, not just with words, but also through our actions. It means that we are doing our utmost best in living a virtuous life, free from pride, prejudice, ego, malicious intentions, and a willingness to love, be humble, be docile, forgive and reconcile. All these sounds nice and good, but are we really living a Christian life, or are we only Christians in name, but living worldly lives and doing worldly things like everyone else?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand... That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry. And it is the way in which you used to live when you were surrounded by people doing the same thing, but now you, of all people, must give all these things up: getting angry, being bad-tempered, spitefulness, abusive language and dirty talk; and never tell each other lies. You have stripped off your old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator..."

Some may say that it seems impossible to live a true Christian life, but we must not forget that to God, nothing is impossible. Yes, we will stumble and fall along the way, but we should get up and strive on, making steady progress in becoming more and more like Christ, while depending on His Grace and providence. Let us be reminded: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3)."

Birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Feast

Some of us may be thinking that we are nobodies, that we are small and insignificant, and we would have thought that our opinions do not matter, since we do not seem to have any clout, power, popularity or so-called authority. What we may have failed to realise is that sometimes, people who seem to be nobodies could be just as wise or even wiser in their thoughts and their conduct. Just because such people have nothing of value or significance in the eyes of the world, we may have brushed them off or not taken them seriously, when in reality, their value or significance can be seen if we look deeper with eyes of faith.

In today's reading, we are told of Bethlehem which to the Israelites was a small and insignificant place. But as the reading tells us: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, out of you will be born for me the one who is to rule over Israel; his origin goes back to the distant past, to the days of old... He will stand and feed his flock with the power of the Lord, with the majesty of the name of his God. They will live secure, for from then on he will extend his power to the ends of the land. He himself will be peace." From what seems like such a small and insignificant place, our Saviour Jesus was born. From such a place where nobody would have given any thought of, our King of kings and Prince of Peace came forth to bring the Good News of God's salvation to all.

This is why we should never take for granted other people. Take the example of mother Mary whose birthday we celebrate today. To others, she was just like any other Jewish girl, nothing great or important. But God made her the mother of His Son, Jesus, and mother of God. God had transformed what people think as insignificant, to become significant and important, if we look with eyes of faith and trust. Let us be thankful and grateful to God for the gift of mother Mary, and also the gift of each and every one of us, because all of us are made in His image, and we are important and significant in the eyes of God.

Monday of Week 23 Year 1

Most of us are busy people, but we should take care not to overdo things. Sometimes we do too much at the expense of something else. Perhaps the something else could be our health, and all the effort in doing so much ends up in poor health or hefty medical bills. Perhaps the something else could be our strained relationship with family and friends. Or perhaps the something else could be our deteriorating relationship with God. We ought to remember that the Lord's day or the Sabbath is for all Catholics to gather for Mass to be nourished by the Lord. Just as God "rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done," human life has a rhythm of work and rest. The institution of the Lord's Day helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives.

That being said, we come across the scribes and the Pharisees in today's Gospel who had extreme views about the Sabbath. Any logical and decent human being would have concurred with Jesus by doing good and to save life on the Sabbath, if and when the need arises. But not the scribes and Pharisees, since these folks were so extreme and stubborn that not a single thing could be done during the Sabbath. Jesus was amazed with their attitude, and He still went ahead to cure the man with the withered hand. Naturally, this did not go well with the scribes and the Pharisees, and they began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

Sometimes we too could be just as guilty like the scribes and the Pharisees. Some of us could be doing unnecessary things on the Sabbath, while others may be doing absolutely nothing, not even good things, like the scribes and the Pharisees. Have some of us forgotten that ultimately, what God wants is "mercy, not sacrifice?"

Thursday 16 April 2015

23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Among the many senses which most of us have which we often take for granted are the ability to hear and the ability to speak. If we are unable to see, we can still get around on our own by using our ears, sense of smell and other senses which would have been further heightened and enhanced as we get older. If we are unable to hear but our other senses are intact, we could still survive by using sign language and other forms of communication, including reading another person's lips to somewhat understand what the person is saying. If we are unable to speak, we could also depend on other forms of communication to survive. But just imagine if one is born mute and deaf, or become that way due to some illness. Life would certainly be quite difficult to live, since one would be dependent on others for almost everything.

In today's Gospel, Jesus healed a man who was deaf and mute. This healing could be seen from a different perspective, that is, it can be seen as a symbolic model of the process of evangelisation, or spreading the Good News about Jesus. The apostles heard the Word of God and then went out and spoke about it to everyone. These people heard the apostles preaching and they in turn went and spoke about it to all their friends. Eventually the Good News reached the entire world.

Today, however, we may be in danger of losing the faith that the apostles gave their lives to hand on. Many people are abandoning the faith. The Good News is that God so loved the world that he sent his only son that we might have life, but many of us are not "hearing" it and are not sharing it. Why are we not sharing it? Because many of us may have become so preoccupied in our lives with so many other things, that we would have forgotten how urgent it is for the Good News to be preached. Some of us may have become deaf to the Good News, and some of us may have become mute in sharing it, whereas some of us may have even become both deaf and mute to the Good News.

To heal the deaf and mute man in the Gospel, Jesus took him away from the crowd. Jesus could have just willed that the man be healed, but instead He touched him. He put his fingers into the man's ears and touched his tongue with spittle. He then spoke a seemingly magic word... ephphatha which means "be open", and the man was healed. Similarly, Jesus may be calling you to come away and touch each of us as well, so that our ears and tongue would "be open" and enable us to hear clearly and speak clearly once again, so that we too would be healed and be able to confidently and courageously go forth and preach the Good News. Are we willing to be healed by Jesus and go forth to preach the Good News with renewed vigour?

Housekeeping - Week 22 Year 1

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

30 Aug 2015 - 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
31 Aug 2015 - Monday of Week 22 Year 1
1 Sept 2015 - Tuesday of Week 22 Year 1
2 Sept 2015 - Wednesday of Week 22 Year 1
3 Sept 2015 - Thursday of Week 22 Year 1
4 Sept 2015 - Friday of Week 22 Year 1

Friday of Week 22 Year 1

Change and progress is never easy for some. Some people generally prefer to remain as they are, keeping the status quo, doing as they have been doing for donkey years, sticking to what is familiar. Such people view new insights or new teaching with much suspicion, and they would often put up their defense mechanism to protect their old ways. The problem is, such people may have become so set in their old ways, that they have become a hindrance to allowing God's voice to be heard and for true conversion of heart to take place.

That is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus speaks about not putting a new cloak to patch an old cloak, and using only new skins to store new wine. Jesus is telling us to move on from old ways to new and better ways of growing in relationship with God. He is telling us not to be too focused in only meticulously observing the law, as the scribes and Pharisees do, but to refocus in the law of loving God and loving neighbour, which was the whole idea and purpose of the law in the first place. The scribes and the Pharisees had taken what was supposed to be quite a simple law, and transformed it into lots of rituals and practices, which cause people to be bogged down in mere external practices. But Jesus, like new wineskin and new wine, was showing them and all of us too, a new and better way of living, by living the way of love.

Sometimes we too could be guilty in following the ways of the scribes and the Pharisees in what we do and how we behave towards others. Some of us are so focused in prayers and practices, which are like the old ways of the scribes and the Pharisees, instead of focusing in the new way of Christ, the way of loving all, just as God loves all. May we be humble and willing to change, so that we would be free to listen to God's voice again, and grow deeper in relationship with Him.