Tuesday 30 June 2015

Housekeeping - Week 15 Year 2

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

10 July 2016 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
11 July 2016 - Monday of Week 15 Year 2
12 July 2016 - Tuesday of Week 15 Year 2
13 July 2016 - Wednesday of Week 15 Year 2
14 July 2016 - Thursday of Week 15 Year 2
15 July 2016 - Friday of Week 15 Year 2

15th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Some of us would still remember our catechism classes or in some cases even at RCIA sessions, where we are reminded of what we can or cannot do as Christians. For example, some of us recall being told that we cannot eat meat on Fridays; or that if we have committed a serious sin we should go for confession first before going for communion; or that we must go to church every Sunday or every day if possible; so many do's and don'ts which could go on and on. It seems as if being Christian means observing so many laws and restrictions, making life appearing to be stifling or suffocating for some. But is Christian living merely about keeping laws? Well, yes and no, since Christian living actually demands that we keep one Law, which is Love, of which must be the basis of all other laws.

Today's Gospel tells us of three different persons who came across a man who had been robbed, beaten up, and left for dead. The first two persons, the priest and the Levite, who walked pass the person in distress, were not being 'bad' people, so to speak, but they were actually merely trying to be good Jews, since to them, keeping the Law was more important. This is because, to the Jews, to touch someone who was covered in blood would be to touch someone considered 'unclean.' The Samaritan, on the other hand, is an outsider, a non-Jew. Yet, it is this Samaritan who reaches out to help the man in need. He goes out of his way to make sure that the man's well-being is taken care of till the man makes a full recovery.

The Samaritan's generosity is an example of the kind love which Jesus speaks about in the Gospel, since as the first reading reminds us, "it is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance." Love is not merely something we observe or do out of obligation, but must be freely given and freely received. Jesus is the perfect example of this love, by becoming man and dying on the cross for us, so that we may live. In His life and in His death, He was faithful to the greatest law, the greatest commandment, that is the law of love.

Today, let us follow the example of the Good Samaritan, and the example of Jesus, and not merely and blindly follow God's laws like the priest and the Levite. Instead, let us never forget to follow the greatest law of all, that is the law of Love.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Housekeeping - Week 14 Year 2

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

3 July 2016 - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
4 July 2016 - Monday of Week 14 Year 2
5 July 2016 - Tuesday of Week 14 Year 2
6 July 2016 - Wednesday of Week 14 Year 2
7 July 2016 - Thursday of Week 14 Year 2
8 July 2016 - Friday of Week 14 Year 2

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Today's readings give us two conflicting images that do not seem possible to be harmonised. One is of abundance and rejoicing; the other is of the cross and self-denial. When we look at these images, we would wonder how we could link the two, since finding a connection does not seem so evident or straightforward. But if we look discerningly and carefully at the messages offered in today's readings, we can see how they actually do fit together.

In the first reading, Isaiah's message is a vision of the future Jerusalem, which had been destroyed, its inhabitants scattered, will be made prosperous again and its people brought back home, and the ancient Israelites clung with hope and trust to this promise of future security and happiness. In current times, some of us too are experiencing cities ravaged by war, cities plagued by poverty; and cities infested with crime. We grieve over what is happening to such cities, and we wonder whether God will turn their mourning into rejoicing. This is not a vain hope or just a dream, for as today's psalm reminds us, God "changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot." God liberated a people before; and He certainly could do it again. But how would He do so?

Today’s Gospel offers us answers to this question. The world has an immense need of labourers who will bring to life the kingdom of God. Jesus sent out the seventy-two in pairs, to all the towns and places that He himself was to visit, and he sends us out to continue their work. Today we are the ones with the message, "Peace to this household." "Peace" seems to be a simple greeting to give, but a great and challenging task to accomplish. But world peace really does begin in our families and in our neighbourhoods, and we can and must establish it there. Jesus warned us that the message of peace may be rejected. Our efforts at change may not always be appreciated. But God restored the people in the past, and through us, God can continue to restore the people today.

One thing we need to constantly remember is that we are the new creation of which Paul speaks in today’s second reading. And like Paul, we too must be willing to be crucified to some of the standards of our world, standards that stand in opposition to the reign of God. It is in this way that the cross enters our lives, and that God's peace would begin to spread in our homes, our neighbourhood, our cities, our countries, throughout the world. Let us pray that God will continue to help us in our effort and grant us more patience in spreading His message of peace to all.

Sunday 21 June 2015

Housekeeping - Week 13 Year 2

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

26 June 2016 - 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
27 June 2016 - Monday of Week 13 Year 2
28 June 2016 - Tuesday of Week 13 Year 2
29 June 2016 - Saints Peter & Paul, Apostles
30 June 2016 - Thursday of Week 13 Year 2
1 July 2016 - Friday of Week 13 Year 2

Thursday of Week 13 Year 2

Those of us who need to use a hearing aid know how convenient a hearing aid is. With a hearing aid, we would be able to hear many things which, due to some reason or another, our ears are no longer able to pick up. On the other hand, a hearing aid could also be a nuisance for some, since a hearing aid picks up every kind of sound, near and far. The hearing aid, unlike the human ear, is not discerning and does not have selective hearing, whereas our human ear has selective hearing, since it filters out unnecessary noises and only lets in what needs to be heard.

In a way, today's reading shows us how we too could become so selective in our hearing when it comes to things we don't like to hear. In the reading, Amaziah the priest of Bethel reacted to Amos by telling him: "Go away seer; get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel." Amaziah did not like what Amos was saying, since much of what Amos said was unpleasant to hear and as if impending doom was approaching. But Amos was saying such things not because he liked to or wanted to, but as a warning to change one's ways, by responding to a call of conversion and repentance.

What about us? Are we still so stubborn and proud to listen to God's voice, and filter out things which makes us uncomfortable or disturbs us? Let us be reminded that at times, we need to discard our selective hearing, so that God's soft promptings could be heard, and we could learn from Him and grow closer to Him, for the good of our eternal future.

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Many of us call ourselves Christians and do our best to live good and devout lives. We make effort to go to church as often as possible, some even daily. However, let us consider for a moment: if Jesus were to come to you and ask you to "Come, follow me," what would your answer be? Would you say "yes" immediately, or would you start thinking of all the things you need to settle before following Jesus, or make all sorts of excuses instead?

Today’s gospel gives us a very clear picture of what is required of us to be Jesus' disciples. In a nutshell, we must be prepared to give up all things that we value in order to follow Jesus. In the Gospel, we see three different situations. Firstly, Jesus reminds us that although all other creatures may have a home, the Son of Man himself has no permanent home. This means that a disciple needs to give up all forms of security such as a good job, a good family, or even a good education, to follow Jesus. The second man was unable to follow Jesus immediately because he needed to fulfil his filial obligation to bury his father. Yet even this, according to Jesus, does not take precedence over the call to follow Jesus. Finally, the third man is reminded that if one is to follow Jesus, there is no turning back: "once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." These three situations are examples of the high cost of discipleship. However, Jesus is not asking us to be not filial or to discard our obligations to our parents and elders, since service to God should never be used as an excuse to escape from one's obligations to one's parents. But what the Gospel is telling us is that one must be prepared to die to one's personal needs, likes and dislikes, and even agenda to follow Jesus.

The first reading tells us of Elisha, who answered the call of Elijah, and slaughtered the oxen and burned the plough. What Elisha was doing is that he is giving up everything: he is abandoning his life as a farmer to be a prophet and follow Elijah. This is a sign of firm commitment. Are we willing to make a firm commitment like Elisha did, to follow Jesus? Remember that once we have truly and sincerely decided to follow Jesus, there is no turning back. Are we willing to sacrifice everything for Jesus, for the sake of the Kingdom of God?

Saturday 20 June 2015

Housekeeping - Week 12 Year 2

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

19 June 2016 - 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
20 June 2016 - Monday of Week 12 Year 2
21 June 2016 - Tuesday of Week 12 Year 2
22 June 2016 - Wednesday of Week 12 Year 2
23 June 2016 - Thursday of Week 12 Year 2
24 June 2016 - Birthday of John the Baptist

Tuesday of Week 12 Year 2

Some of us can behave quite strangely at times. We expect others to be nice to us, to be kind to us, to help us when we are in need, to forgive us when we have done something wrong, to accept us as we are, to be compassionate and patient with us. It seems like we are concerned all about us. But what happens when it is us dealing with others? Are we just as nice, kind, helpful, forgiving, accepting, compassionate and patient with others?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets." Instead of expecting others to take the initiative, we as Christians should be the one to take the initiative by treating others the way we ourselves would like to be treated. In this way, we are being witnesses to the Gospel, because our ultimate objective is not to gain respect or recognition here on earth by our words and deeds, but to give glory to God. By doing so, others would begin to understand what it really means to be a Christian, and perhaps join us in faith.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

It is interesting to observe how some people view God. Some people seem to long for a god that would bless them with riches and good fortune, that would protect them from all harm, that would solve all their problems, that would give them happiness and peace. Perhaps this was what Peter in today's Gospel was hoping for, when Jesus came into his life. Peter had hoped and thought that Jesus had come to liberate Israel from the Romans, and lead Israel as a nation back to their glorious past. But Jesus gives a very different picture of his role, by speaking of Himself as being "destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death." Jesus is trying to help Peter and His disciples understand that He is God who is prepared to suffer and die for us because He loves us.

What does this mean to us? It means that, to be a disciple of Christ, we must as Jesus tells us in today's Gospel: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it." Whatever we seek in this world merely brings temporary satisfaction, and we can become easily dissatisfied and search for other things that may satisfy; but nothing can truly satisfy but God's love. It also means that as a disciple of Christ, we are one in Christ, as St. Paul in the second reading reminds us: "You are, all of you, sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus." This means that as one people in Christ, we need to help each other and together experience God’s love.

Some of us may wonder: how are we to deal with suffering? Is suffering a bad thing? No, Jesus taught us through His life example that suffering is not a bad thing or our enemy. In fact, Jesus is showing us through His life example that we all experience pain and suffering, but when suffering comes, we can either choose to complain and become bitter and angry; or we can choose to see how God can bring goodness out of this experience. Today, let us not fear or despair if we are experiencing suffering, since God is there to help us and guide us, transforming us into something beter, for His glory.

Friday 19 June 2015

Housekeeping - Week 11 Year 2

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

12 June 2016 - 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
13 June 2016 - Monday of Week 11 Year 2
14 June 2016 - Tuesday of Week 11 Year 2
15 June 2016 - Wednesday of Week 11 Year 2
16 June 2016 - Thursday of Week 11 Year 2
17 June 2016 - Friday of Week 11 Year 2

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

We sometimes come across people who think they are good Christians because they observe and keep God's laws and the laws of the church faithfully. They think that being a Christian or having a Christian faith means keeping such laws. The problem with such thinking is that when we begin to think of our religion as merely a set of laws, our faith is then based on fear of judgment and punishment from God. Some of us begin to think that if we obey these laws we will be blessed and nothing bad will happen to us, but if we break these laws then we will be punished and cursed. When religion is based on fear, we become judgmental. We begin to judge others by external appearances and behaviour, and we are ready to catch people when they make a mistake and are quick to condemn them or even ostracise them from the community. But is this what Christianity really all about? As Christians, how do we see others? Do we often judge others by appearance, remember their mistakes and use it against them?

In today’s readings, we are reminded of what it really means to be a Christian. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that "what makes a man righteous is not obedience to the law, but faith in Jesus Christ." This means that it is not enough to just follow a set of rules and laws, as our faith is based on relationship with God and the heart of our faith must be love. God relates to us not as a judge waiting to punish us when we have done wrong but as a God who loves us, as St. Paul tells us of his faith: "The life I now live in this body I live in faith: faith in the Son of God who loved me and who sacrificed himself for my sake."

Moreover, we are also called to mercy instead of judgment. Today's gospel gives us the beautiful story of Jesus and the sinful woman. In the Gospel, the Pharisee who invited Jesus to his house only saw a sinful woman. This woman is described as one who had "a bad name in town." For the Pharisee, this woman's sin was too great and cannot be forgiven, and that she was already condemned and doomed. But Jesus saw the woman differently. He knew that she was a sinner but he also knew she could change if given the opportunity. Mercy and forgiveness creates the opportunity for change, and allows us to leave the past behind. Mercy and forgiveness is how God relates with us and challenges us to also show mercy and forgiveness to others.

Today, may we begin to show mercy, understanding and forgiveness to one another. May we recognise that we are all sinners and acknowledge that we are not perfect. May we admit that we have hurt one another by our pride, ego, and selfishness. But let us not remain trapped by our failings, because God has shown us a way forward through forgiveness and mercy. May we press on in our journey, as we learn to forgive and be forgiven, and let our loving God be our help and guide.

Thursday 18 June 2015

Housekeeping - Week 10 Year 2

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

5 June 2016 - 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C
6 June 2016 - Monday of Week 10 Year 2
7 June 2016 - Tuesday of Week 10 Year 2
8 June 2016 - Wednesday of Week 10 Year 2
9 June 2016 - Thursday of Week 10 Year 2
10 June 2016 - Friday of Week 10 Year 2

10th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Each and every one of us would have gone through some form of suffering in our lives. Suffering can either make or break us. We are familiar with what some people have done to themselves because of suffering: they become withdrawn; they feel they can't take it any longer; some even despair and end it all by committing suicide. We are also familiar with how some people have handled their suffering: they could still smile sweetly and live normally, having a positive outlook and depending on God's help with patience and confidence. What about us? How would we respond to suffering? What about the sufferings of other people? What have we done when we are confronted by the suffering of other people? What have we done when people share their pains and sufferings with us? Have we remained unmoved or have we involved ourselves in their suffering by lending a compassionate ear or extending a helping hand?

In today's readings we learn that there are people who really do care about other people; that they do not keep their distance from others in their sufferings but instead do something to help them. This was what Elijah did to the widow of Zarephath in the first reading, where Elijah petitioned for God's help and brought her son back to life. This was also what the townspeople did in the Gospel for the widow of Nain, by giving her their support as her son's body was being carried out for burial. Jesus also did something spectacular for the widow of Nain, by raising her son back to life.

Do we not see examples of Elijah and Jesus in the way some of us deal with people who come to us? When a person comes to us in need, do we make effort to give him or her our time, or do we often make excuses, saying to ourselves that we have more important things to do? If we are making excuses and avoiding people to do our own thing, then perhaps the words "God has visited his people" in today's Gospel can never be said of us.

Today, let us make time for others when they are in need. Sometimes, the time we offer to them could mean much more than all the sermons we could utter, or even the financial aid we could offer. Let us be men and women of God, bringing His love and compassion to others, so that in all we say and do, His name be glorified.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Housekeeping - Corpus Christi & Week 9 Year 2

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

29 May 2016 - Corpus Christi
30 May 2016 - Monday of Week 9 Year 2
31 May 2016 - Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Feast
1 June 2016 - Wednesday of Week 9 Year 2
2 June 2016 - Thursday of Week 9 Year 2
3 June 2016 - Sacred Heart of Jesus

Thursday of Week 9 Year 2

Some of us are not ashamed to be known as a successful doctor, lawyer or some other profession. Some of us even display our qualifications and achievements on the wall of our office or at a prominent place at home, to show our customers, guests and others how far we have made it in the world. When we go for a function or an important event, some of us have no qualms about dressing our best and even show off our medals and other decorations attained from royalty or for outstanding services rendered to the government. But what about our spiritual achievements? Have we been consistent and persistent in maintaining a good and healthy relationship with God, and observing not only His commandments but sharing the Good News with others?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Do all you can to present yourself in front of God as a man who has come through his trials, and a man who has no cause to be ashamed of his life’s work and has kept a straight course with the message of the truth." Sometimes we may suffer humiliation and persecution for keeping the faith and defending the truth. But what are we really seeking at the end: temporary recognition here on earth, or eternal happiness with our loving God?

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Wednesday of Week 9 Year 2

It is often tempting and easy, when it comes to preaching the Good News, to rest on our laurels and avoid coming into conflict with others, especially when times are peaceful and churches seem full of faithful. Some of us become reluctant to share the Good News with others, and some even do not respond when their faith is questioned, preferring not to get involved. But what sort of attitude should we Christians have concerning this matter?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control. So you are never to be ashamed of witnessing to the Lord, or ashamed of me for being his prisoner; but with me, bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy – not because of anything we ourselves have done but for his own purpose and by his own grace." This means that we cannot just remain silent and idle in our faith, but be bold, courageous and willing to go forth and preach the Good News, as well as to make clear what our faith is really about if questioned. Are we willing to bear the hardships for the sake of the Good News, following the example of St. Paul?

Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary - Feast

In today's Gospel we read the story of Mary visiting Elizabeth. What gift did Mary bring to Elizabeth? We are not told that she brought food or some other item, but she brought herself. She gave Elizabeth the gift of her very presence. It is easy to send flowers or a parcel, but to give the gift of ourselves, to make time to be with somebody, that is the gift that many people long for but do not receive. Following Mary's example in today's Gospel story, we must give ourselves, our presence, our time. We must find the time to visit and be with people. This is the greatest gift because its value cannot be calculated in terms of money.

Another point about Mary's gift to Elizabeth is that one should give not according to one's convenience but according to the needs of the receiver. It was not convenient for Mary to travel the lonely, dangerous road from Galilee to the hills of Judea. But Elizabeth needed a helping hand. She was six months pregnant and could no longer to do many things. So Mary, as soon as she learned that Elizabeth was six months pregnant went quickly and stayed with her for about three months, until she gave birth. Mary gave to Elizabeth what she needed when she needed it.

Also, Mary's presence enabled Elizabeth to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and Elizabeth was able to experience the interior peace and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. Mary's visit was an inspiration to Elizabeth. When we visit people, let us try to bring some inspiration into their lives, let us seek to bring them closer to God, and let us try to share with them the Spirit of God in us, the Spirit of consolation, of courage, of peace and joy, just as Mary did for Elizabeth.

Monday of Week 9 Year 2

Some of us priests are appointed parish priest of a certain parish for a certain period of time. After the time is up, or if the bishop has got valid reasons or certain other reasons, we could be removed from the parish and transferred elsewhere, or given some other task. This is because the parish does not belong to a particular priest or a particular group, and the temporal and spiritual care of the parish could be given to a priest chosen by the bishop according to his discernment and decision. However, we sometimes come across some people who seem to think that the parish belongs to them, and some of them even think that the parish priest belongs to them.

This is the problem which the tenants had in today's Gospel parable. They thought that the land belonged to them, after probably having lived there for quite a while. The Gospel reminds us that the landowner had only leased the land to the tenants, but these tenants had become too comfortable living on the land and began to treat the land as theirs. When the landowner tried to collect his share of the vineyard, the tenants went against him by ill-treating the landowner's servants and killing some of the servants, and even killed his son. Eventually, the landowner got rid of the tenants and leased the vineyard to other tenants.

Some of you may be wondering: why were the chief priests, scribes and elders furious and wanted to arrest Jesus? Because as the Gospel tells us, they realised that the parable was aimed at them. They were like the tenants, who had been given a lease to care for the temple and faithfully observe the commandments that God had given to them. But instead of being faithful to their task, they began to think that the temple and the commandments could be manipulated according to their whims and fancies. The prophets had been sent to admonish these people, but they ill-treated these prophets and killed some. Even Jesus, who is the son in the parable, was ill-treated by these chief priests, scribes and elders, and they even tried to do away with Him. Because of this, Jesus warned the chief priests, scribes and elders that they would eventually lose control of the temple and the commandments, and these would be entrusted to others who were more worthy.

What about us? Have we manipulated the church we are in, trying to take control and do things as we please? Have we become like these chief priests, scribes and elders, in danger of losing it all due to our pride, ego, prejudice and stubborn ways? May we change our ways and let God take control, depending on His care and guidance, since we too are merely tenants on this earth, and if we fail to be faithful and sincere in our duties, we may lose even the little we have.

Monday 15 June 2015

Housekeeping - Holy Trinity & Week 8 Year 2

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

22 May 2016 - Trinity Sunday
23 May 2016 - Monday of Week 8 Year 2
24 May 2016 - Tuesday of Week 8 Year 2
25 May 2016 - Wednesday of Week 8 Year 2
26 May 2016 - Thursday of Week 8 Year 2
27 May 2016 - Friday of Week 8 Year 2

Friday of Week 8 Year 2

It is interesting to watch the attitude and behaviour of some people at church. Some are really genuine in their efforts to serve, and we see such people going about performing their duties without trying to attract any attention or showing off. When the time comes to step down and let others take over, such people are happy to let go of their responsibilities and provide the necessary support and encouragement. On the other hand, we also come across people who seem to crave for attention and recognition. Such people go about doing their duties with much fanfare and they find it extremely difficult to let go of their responsibilities. Quite often, such people would give all sorts of excuses when it is time for someone else to take over, and they seem to think that without them, the particular ministry they are in would collapse, or even the church would collapse. But what sort of attitude do you have towards service in church? What sort of attitude is expected of a Christian?

In today's reading, St. Peter reminds us: "Each one of you has received a special grace, so, like good stewards responsible for all these different graces of God, put yourselves at the service of others. If you are a speaker, speak in words which seem to come from God; if you are a helper, help as though every action was done at God’s orders; so that in everything God may receive the glory..." The important point to note here is that, ultimately, all that we do is for the glory of God. Are we humble and wlling to give God the glory, or are we still craving and insisting in doing things for our own personal gratification and own glory?

Sunday 14 June 2015

Thursday of Week 8 Year 2

Each and every one of us face temptations daily, in one form or another. Quite often, we may succumb to such temptations if we allow our pride, ego and selfish desires to take control of our lives. This is why, in today's reading, St. Peter reminds us: "I urge you, my dear people, while you are visitors and pilgrims to keep yourselves free from the selfish passions that attack the soul. Always behave honourably among pagans so that they can see your good works for themselves..." Our time here on earth is short, and we should do our best to avoid giving in to our selfish passions, which would lead us to sin.

Instead, St. Peter reminds us: "You are new born, and, like babies, you should be hungry for nothing but milk – the spiritual honesty which will help you to grow up to salvation – now that you have tasted the goodness of the Lord." When we were baptised, we tasted the goodness of the Lord and learnt to depend on Him as we grow up to salvation. May we be humble and willing to continue growing up to salvation, depending on the Lord for His help and guidance. Since the nourishment that He gives us is the best and since we have tasted the best, do we still need to look elsewhere?

Wednesday of Week 8 Year 2

It is easy to spot a fake, especially if we are quite observant of certain things about what is genuine. For example, we can see that a product is a fake by the type of packaging used, since most fake products would not go through the effort or trouble to use proper packaging for the product. However, from time to time we do get some products which have been packaged in such a way that it looks just like the real thing. This is where we need to be careful about where we buy the product from (such as purchasing from retail outlets which are known and recognised by the company of the product), and look out for certain security features which would tell us that the product is genuine, features which are extremely difficult for others to duplicate.

Likewise, it is also relatively easy to spot fake people, especially by their conduct and behaviour. Some of such people claim to love others, but their love could sometimes be seen to have some sort of hidden intention or agenda: "ada udang di sebalik batu" or "there is a prawn under the stone" are some expressions used on such persons, who love others or are nice to others because there could be some benefit or advantage for them in the long run. That is why, in today's reading, St. Peter reminds us: "You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, in sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart." Some of us could be loving others, but we may be not sincere with our love, especially if we have certain conditions attached to it or we believe we could gain some advantage or benefit. May our love be genuine, sincere and real, and may we learn to love unconditionally, just as God loves all of us unconditionally.

Saturday 13 June 2015

Housekeeping - Pentecost & Week 7 Year 2

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

15 May 2016 - Pentecost Year C - Mass of the Day
16 May 2016 - Monday of Week 7 Year 2
17 May 2016 - Tuesday of Week 7 Year 2
18 May 2016 - Wednesday of Week 7 Year 2
19 May 2016 - Thursday of Week 7 Year 2
20 May 2016 - Friday of Week 7 Year 2

Pentecost Year C - Mass of the Day

Today we celebrate Pentecost, where Jesus finally sends us the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, the one who will teach us everything and remind us of all that Jesus has said. But what does the coming of the Holy Spirit mean to us? What is its significance in our lives?

The coming of the Holy Spirit enables us to overcome our fears. It does not mean we would no longer have any fear, but fear can no longer control us, since the Holy Spirit is in control and will guide us. In the first reading, the apostles were at first fearful, and they hid behind closed doors. When they were filled by the Spirit, they came out from that room to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Also the coming of the Holy Spirit breaks down barriers between us and creates unity among people from diverse backgrounds. The church does not belong to any particular group, since the church is the Church of Christ and all people, regardless of race, color or language are part of it. As St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, we are "children of God", "heirs of God and coheirs with Christ." If we live according to the Holy Spirit, then we must not allow prejudice to affect the way we live our Christian lives. This means that since the church is made up of peoples from diverse backgrounds, we must be able to look after the interest of everyone and not only look towards our own interest.

Moreover, the alternative Gospel reminds us that the coming of the Holy Spirit is to "teach you everything and remind you of all I (Jesus) have said to you." This is because we forget so easily and need to be constantly reminded of our identity as children of God, as brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to be reminded that our life in the Spirit is a life that must be founded on love, and that there is no room for hatred, prejudice, unforgiveness, or selfishness.

Thus, let us give thanks to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit, and allow Him to take control of our lives. Let us always be ready to listen to His promptings and learn to live as brothers and sisters in Christ, children of God. May we let the Holy Spirit transform us, so that we may be united as one and go forth to proclaim the Good News to all the earth.

Friday 12 June 2015

Housekeeping - 7th Week of Easter

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

8 May 2016 - 7th Sunday of Easter Year C
9 May 2016 - Monday of the 7th Week of Easter
10 May 2016 - Tuesday of the 7th Week of Easter
11 May 2016 - Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter
12 May 2016 - Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter
13 May 2016 - Friday of the 7th Week of Easter

7th Sunday of Easter Year C

Sometimes at church, we come across faithful who seem to be more comfortable with their own group, such as a particular ministry, or language group, or some other group which share a common interest or practice. While there is nothing wrong with getting involved in a particular group, we need to be careful not to form cliques, where our particular group is more important or all that matters, and we begin to avoid other faithful, just because of some differences such as interests or language which could alienate us from others. After all, we are all brothers and sisters in Christ and one family of God, and there is no room for division and distinction in this one family of God.

This is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus prayed: "Holy Father, I pray not only for these, but for those also who through their words will believe in me. May they all be one. Father, may they be one in us as you are in me and I am in you." Jesus was concerned not only for his disciples, those that the Heavenly Father had given to His care, but also for others, including those who rejected him and even his enemies. This is also why we cannot only be praying for our loved ones and friends and only help people who are close to us. We are also called to pray for 'others,' including our enemies, people who hurt us, those speak ill of us, those who think differently, those who are of a different skin colour or language. In the first reading, we are reminded that, filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen did exactly this, since he prayed that God would forgive his enemies their sins as he was being stoned.

Today, we are challenged to remain as one family of God. We are challenged to set aside our differences and let God be our help and guide. It is certainly not easy to come out of our comfort zones and unite with others who seem so different from us, but that is what being Christian is all about, to be able to see others as our brother or sister, and to accept them as part of God's family. May we be humble and willing to let God take charge of our lives, and keep us as one.

Thursday 11 June 2015

Housekeeping - 6th Week of Easter

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

1 May 2016 - 6th Sunday of Easter Year C
2 May 2016 - Monday of the 6th Week of Easter
3 May 2016 - Saints Philip and James, Apostles - Feast
4 May 2016 - Wednesday of the 6th Week of Easter
5 May 2016 - The Ascension of the Lord - Mass of the Day
6 May 2016 - Friday of the 6th Week of Easter

The Ascension of the Lord - Mass of the Day

Some of us would have experienced, every now and then, the necessity for us to go away from where we presently are to another place where we are needed. Quite often, our duty and responsibility would require us to move on to another kind of duty or responsibility, or to another location where our services are needed. For example, priests and religious are transferred from one location to another, or from one parish to another, to serve the needs of the faithful in different parts of the diocese or even in different countries. Even teachers too are sometimes transferred from one school to another, depending on where their skills and specialties are needed. For some, it seems difficult and painful to move on, especially when we have become quite comfortable with where we are and with the people we are familiar with, but life is such that sooner or later, we would need to go.

This is why we could understand how the disciples must have felt when Jesus, after His resurrection, had to leave and return to His Father. His first departure when He died was already devastating enough, and now a second departure? It must have been unthinkable and disconcerting for the disciples to lose Jesus, this time for an unknown period of time. But why did Jesus leave? He left so that He could send the Holy Spirit to the disciples, giving them the strength, courage and that extra oomph to become His witnesses to the ends of the earth. This would not have been possible if Jesus had remained with His disciples, since they would still have clung close to him and not have been able to move off on their own.

So what can we learn from this? Many of us try to help others, accompany them, or even offer solutions to their problems, but we sometimes do not know when to stop. We give so much time and effort to help people that we fail to allow God to help them. Some of us even begin to act as if we are God and without us, people would go astray and there would be chaos. If such people whom we are helping become so dependent on us, then there is no need for them to seek God's help, since we would have become like their 'saviour.' So, we must 'leave' like Jesus, so that the Holy Spirit could come and touch the lives of these people. This does not mean that we are trying to shirk our responsibilities, but what we are doing is to allow space for God to work in our lives and the lives of others, so that we and they could learn to grow in His love and care, and let Him be our guide.

Today, let us learn to know when and how to let go, and have greater faith and trust that God will take care of things. Even though Jesus has already ascended, even though He has already 'left' us, He is still present with us in a very special way: in the Body and Blood of Christ. May we be humble and docile enough to let God take control, so that we can be His witnesses for His glory.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Saints Philip and James, Apostles - Feast

It is easy for some of us to become influenced by different teachings which appear to sound Christian, but are in fact teachings by self-proclaimed evangelists, who publicise their words and works, but with a hidden ulterior motive. Quite often, such people go about preaching to attract crowds, with the intention of making money and attaining wealth and property. Once such people have gotten what they wanted, they may conveniently make themselves scarce, while some would continue doing such deeds as long as they can. The true message of the Gospel is lost, replaced by teachings which suit or benefit such people.

That is why, in today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything." We need to be cautious not to fall into the trap of other preachers who try to sweeten or cheapen the Gospel message for their own purposes, and be discerning enough to know what is the truth and what is not, with direction and help from competent authorities, and especially with help from God.

6th Sunday of Easter Year C

Many of us know that the church can never be a democracy, where the opinions and votes of the faithful are important. This is because there are fundamental matters concerning faith and morals that cannot be changed to suit certain people, and if we are to dwell in the opinions of everyone, then we would find it impossible or extremely difficult to make decisions, sometimes decisions which may not be popular or difficult for some to accept. This is because different people would think that their opinion is what matters, and this would lead to disagreements, which may eventually lead to conflict, chaos and disunity.

In the first reading, the early Christian community faced a problem, because some of them believed that they should still follow Jewish customs, for example circumcision and prohibitions towards certain foods. This is because to them, Jesus was a Jew and had also followed Jewish ways and rituals. But there was also another group of Christians who recognised that Jesus was not merely another Jewish teacher wanting to reform his religion, but He was the Son of God who came to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God, where customs and rituals which separated and differentiated one race from the other could no longer be barriers to Christian brotherhood. Towards the end of the reading, we are told that a decision was made, where the Gentile converts should "not be saddled with any burden beyond certain essentials."

This is where Christian communities throughout the centuries continued to survive and grow with guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God's gift to the church and to each of us believers. As Jesus tells us in the Gospel: "I have said these things to you while still with you; but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you." His presence enables us to experience peace in our decisions even in the midst of chaos and problems, because through His guidance, we can still come to a common decision that reflects the will of God, in spite of all our personal opinions and ways of thinking. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church and unity would not be possible.

At the end of the day, our decisions must always be made with reference to the Church and the community as a whole. Some of us may be tempted to think that my opinion is the best and the most important of all, but what matters most is not this or that opinion or even the opinion of the majority, but the will of God that we must search for with guidance of the Holy Spirit. May we continue to discern carefully and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, for the benefit and good of the entire Church and community, and for the glory of God.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Housekeeping - 5th Week of Easter

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

24 Apr 2016 - 5th Sunday of Easter Year C
25 Apr 2016 - Saint Mark, Evangelist - Feast
26 Apr 2016 - Tuesday of the 5th Week of Easter
27 Apr 2016 - Wednesday of the 5th Week of Easter
28 Apr 2016 - Thursday of the 5th Week of Easter
29 Apr 2016 - Friday of the 5th Week of Easter

Saint Mark, Evangelist - Feast

What does it mean to proclaim the Good News to all creation? Some people think that to do so, they need to go to remote places in some unexplored territory and proclaim the Good News to the natives there. Some people seem to think that proclaiming the Good News means reaching out to people who have not become Christians. But are these what proclaiming the Good News to all creation is all about?

If we consider Jesus' command in today's Gospel: "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation." What is Jesus trying to tell us here? Jesus is telling us that our task in proclaiming the Good News is not something which we do according to our own talent or abilities, but by "the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it." This means that our task can only be fruitful if we allow the Lord to work with us and we submit to His care and guide. May we be humble and joyful in our efforts in proclaiming the Good News, treating it as a joy and privilege for His glory.

5th Sunday of Easter Year C

Most of us would be quite familiar with the Synoptic Gospels, that is, the Gospel of Matthew, Mark and Luke. One common theme which could be found among these Gospels is the theme of 'love', where the Gospel writers repeat the key teaching of the Old Testament covenant that is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. The key point made here is that our love for neighbour must be similar to our love for ourselves. On the other hand, today's Gospel is from the Gospel of John, and we are told: "I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you must also love one another." Many of us are familiar with God's commandment to love, so what is so 'new' about this commandment as stated in the Gospel of John?

The 'newness' stems from the fact that our love for one another is not based on the criteria that we love ourselves: "love our neighbour as ourselves", but the criteria is now that Jesus loves us: "just as I (Jesus) have loved you, you must also love one another." Our 'love' for ourselves is often inadequate and incomplete, and no longer becomes a standard by which we love others, but Jesus' love for us is what enables us to love. This is because God's love is perfect, since God is love.

If we are to be Jesus' disciples, then we must learn to love the way He loves us. We need to show our love through our words and deeds, taking Jesus' love as our guide and standard. When we do so, then as the Gospel tells us: "By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples." But we realise that Jesus' love is a high standard which is not so simple to attain as it sounds, because we are not God. That is why we must continue to support, encourage and pray for each other, following the example of Paul and Barnabas in the first reading where "They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith."

Today, let us pray that we will have the strength, patience, perseverance and courage to love one another as Christ loved us. Love is not a sign of weakness or defeat. It is an act of courage that rejects a culture of hatred, pride and prejudice prevalent in the world today. May we take Christ as our example and learn more and more to be like Him in His love for all of us.

Monday 8 June 2015

Housekeeping - 4th Week of Easter

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

17 Apr 2016 - 4th Sunday of Easter Year C
18 Apr 2016 - Monday of the 4th Week of Easter
19 Apr 2016 - Tuesday of the 4th Week of Easter
20 Apr 2016 - Wednesday of the 4th Week of Easter
21 Apr 2016 - Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter
22 Apr 2016 - Friday of the 4th Week of Easter

Wednesday of the 4th Week of Easter

Each and every one of us have been called and sent to proclaim the Good News. But sometimes, we may have been called to go to places outside of what is familiar to us, or outside our comfort zone. If the Holy Spirit calls us to go, would we be hesitant, drag our feet, or reluctantly go; or would we be humble and willing to go with joy and enthusiasm, knowing that God would be our help and guide? 

In today's reading, we are told: "One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off." From here, we can clearly see that it is the Holy Spirit who sent Barnabas and Saul on a mission. These two did not take it upon themselves to go on mission, or only go to places which they liked, but were merely servants and followed what the Holy Spirit commanded them. May we learn from Barnabas and Saul and obediently and joyfully go where we are sent, for the glory of God.

4th Sunday of Easter Year C

Being a Christian disciple is challenging and even disheartening for some. It is not easy trying to live Christian values when the world promotes values contrary to the Gospel. For example, in business, we are told that honest and good people will never be successful, since many in the world believe that to be rich and powerful, one must be prepared to lie, be dishonest, cheat and be involved in corruption. Also, the world seems to tell us that we must be nice to our friends and to those who can help us or are beneficial to us in some way, but we are cautioned to be wary of our enemies. As Christians, we are not supposed to make any distinction between friend and enemy, since Christians are called to love their enemies. But this is something the world is unable to accept, since it would appear as if we are freely allowing our enemies to win and take advantage of us.

In today's readings, we are reassured and comforted that remaining steadfast to Christian values is the way to go. In the first reading, Paul and Barnabas had enemies who spread lies about them and opposed them, and these enemies managed to get Paul and Barnabas expelled from the town. But the reading does not end on a disheartening note. Instead, we are told that "the disciples were filled with joy and the Holy Spirit." How is it possible for Paul and Barnabas to remain joyful even though they had been expelled from the town and it appears as if their enemies had won? It is precisely because these disciples knew that what they were doing is not for their own personal gratification or glory, but for the glory of God. The second reading tells us of the destiny of those who have suffered or died for the sake of the Gospel. They went through sufferings and persecutions, and because they remained faithful, they will no longer experience suffering, hunger or thirst "because the Lamb will be their shepherd and will lead them to springs of living water. God will wipe away all tears from their eyes." We are also reminded that as Christians, we cannot make every one happy, but we should follow our conscience and do what is right. To follow our conscience to do what is right is what it means to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, as Jesus in today's Gospel reminds and assures us: "The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life; they will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me."

It is certainly not easy and a challenge being a Christian. Jesus did not promise us an easy life or that he would take away all our problems and sufferings in this life. To be his disciple, we must be prepared to face the same fate as Jesus did, and be ready to endure hardships and persecutions. What Jesus promised us is that He will be our shepherd; will never allow us to despair; will give us the courage and strength to bear the cross; and will lead us to 'restful waters' and remain in His love and care. Are we willing to endure temporary suffering and hardship, for eternal joy and peace?

Sunday 7 June 2015

Housekeeping - 3rd Week of Easter

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

10 Apr 2016 - 3rd Sunday of Easter Year C
11 Apr 2016 - Monday of the 3rd Week of Easter
12 Apr 2016 - Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Easter
13 Apr 2016 - Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Easter
14 Apr 2016 - Thursday of the 3rd Week of Easter
15 Apr 2016 - Friday of the 3rd Week of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter Year C

Have you ever wondered why some of you are not happy, or having feelings of anger and impatience, or feelings of resentment in your life? We could come up with so many possibilities of why some of us are feeling this way, but one reason which seems to crop up among many of us is that we want and need to be in control. We struggle to be in control even from our earliest years. As babies, we cry or bawl away, so that our parents would feed us or hold us to comfort us. As toddlers and as a child, some of us may have thrown tantrums, screamed, refused to do what we are told, or even being nice or behaving well, with the hope that we would get something in return. Even as adults, we try to get our way and be in control through our words and actions. Some of us even become control freaks, and try to control everything, including our spouse, our children, those who work for us, and many others, expecting them to conform to our ways and our demands.

But the truth is, we are not, never and shall never be in control, since God is ultimately in control. In today's Gospel, Peter thought he was in control when he tried to go back to his old job fishing, but even in that, he fared badly, as he was not in control and failed to catch any fish. It was only when Jesus helped that he was able to catch so many fish. Also, the Gospel tells us that Jesus said to Peter: "when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go." This shows that Peter was not in control of his destiny, and control actually lies with God. Moreover in the first reading, Peter and the apostles reminded the High Priest and the Sanhedrin that God is in control when they said, "Obedience to God comes before obedience to men." The High Priest and the Sanhedrin could only warn the apostles not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them, but they had no control over the apostles, since the apostles were under God's control and doing His will.

This is why we should not allow ourselves to become egoistic or proud of our abilities, achievements and talent. The fact is that we are not in control, since we need the grace and strength of God to be able to do all that we do. This is what discipleship is all about: by being at God's service, by listening to Jesus and be always ready to do God's will, not ours. We are called to follow Him, to place our lives into His hands and let Him take control of our lives. May we be humble and willing to let go of the need to be in control of our lives and of others, and let God be in control, knowing that He will help and guide us to all we can be, for His glory.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Housekeeping - 2nd Week of Easter

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

3 Apr 2016 - 2nd Sunday of Easter Year C
4 Apr 2016 - The Annunciation of the Lord - Solemnity
5 Apr 2016 - Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Easter
6 Apr 2016 - Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Easter
7 Apr 2016 - Thursday of the 2nd Week of Easter
8 Apr 2016 - Friday of the 2nd Week of Easter

2nd Sunday of Easter Year C

What does Easter really mean to each of us? Is Easter meant to be experienced in an individualistic manner, or in a communitarian manner? Are we Christians only for ourselves, or are we Christians witnessing to all in a community? Today's readings gives us an indication of how important it is for us to be an Easter people as a community.

In today's Gospel, we come across the story of Thomas, one of the twelve apostles. When Jesus appeared to the apostles, Thomas was not there. The Gospel does not tell us why he was not there, but we could later get some glimpses of what was happening among the community of believers. The death of Jesus had effected each of the apostles in a different way. Perhaps in the case of Thomas, the death of Jesus caused him to have disillusionment or doubts about the community, since it was one among them who had betrayed Jesus, and many of them had run away when Jesus was arrested. So when Thomas insisted on seeing proofs of Jesus' resurrection, he did not doubt Jesus nor the fact that he may have risen. He doubted the words of his brothers, the Christian community. A week later, when Thomas was with the others, Jesus appeared and revealed himself to Thomas and to the others in the community. This time, Thomas realised that his brothers were speaking the truth about Jesus, and he said: "My Lord and my God!"

Believing in God and in Jesus isn't that difficult for most of us. But believing in the community is different matter altogether. We often see the sinfulness, the hypocrisy and the weaknesses of others in the community, and question whether God is really present in such a community. This causes many us to stay away from Church activities because we feel scandalised by the conduct and behaviour of certain persons in the community. But the point is, no community is perfect. The Church is made up of sinners, like you and I. It is in this broken and sinful community, that Jesus continues to be present, guiding us and helping us along the way. But how can we tell that Jesus is in this community and recognise His presence in the Church? Our physical eyes deceive us as they only focus our attention on the weaknesses and sinfulness of others. We must see with the eyes of faith, as Jesus tells us: "Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe."

Today, let us not doubt or feel disillusioned any longer. Let us look at Jesus as our hope and guide, knowing that no matter how difficult or challenging the community we are in may seem, we have confidence and trust that Jesus would be there to help us. May we do our part and be patient and persistent in our efforts to help our Christian community to grow, for the glory of God.

Housekeeping - 1st Week of Easter

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

27 Mar 2016 - Easter Sunday
28 Mar 2016 - Easter Monday
29 Mar 2016 - Easter Tuesday
30 Mar 2016 - Easter Wednesday
31 Mar 2016 - Easter Thursday
1 Apr 2016 - Easter Friday

Easter Sunday

Two children were presented with a pile of dung in front of them. One child said, "Oh dear! What a mess. Surely there cannot be a horse in there? How would the horse be able to withstand such a mess?" The other child began to look through the pile of dung with much enthusiasm, and when asked what he was doing, he excitedly said, "If there is a pile of dung, there must be a horse in there somewhere!" When you look at these two children, do you see what is missing, or do you see what is there or potentially there?

In today's Gospel, we come across the story of Peter and the other disciple, the one loved by Jesus, running to the tomb. Both entered the tomb, but had entirely different experiences. Peter enters and sees that the body of Jesus is missing. He begins to worry and wonder what has happened to Jesus' body. By doing so, he misses the point by focusing on what is missing, since the empty tomb is actually a sign that Jesus has risen from the dead as He has promised. On the other hand, the other disciple enters the tomb and “he saw and he believed.” The other disciple recognised the significance of the empty tomb, that is, it is not a sign of a missing Jesus, but a sign of Christ's presence, as Christ has risen and is now present to all again.

Today, we are invited to put on the eyes of faith like the other disciple who "saw and believed." We may face all sorts of problems, struggles and difficulties, but God is not absent but present to help and guide us. We must not look for Jesus among the dead but among the living. We must not remain at the empty tomb and waste our efforts looking at it, since Jesus Christ has risen! He is pointing the way out of the empty tomb and pointing us the way to new life. Let us give thanks to God and enthusiastically share this message of hope to all, that Jesus has risen!

Friday 5 June 2015

Housekeeping - Holy Week

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

20 Mar 2016 - Palm Sunday
21 Mar 2016 - Monday of Holy Week
22 Mar 2016 - Tuesday of Holy Week
23 Mar 2016 - Wednesday of Holy Week
24 Mar 2016 - Maundy (Holy) Thursday
25 Mar 2016 - Good Friday
26 Mar 2016 - Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil

At the beginning of every Easter Vigil, we are plunged into darkness. The darkness seems overwhelming. But soon, the darkness is defeated by the light of candles. Starting with one candle, the Paschal candle, the church is slowly illuminated by a sea of candles. Jesus is that single candle that gave the world a new vision and a new hope. Jesus reminds us that we no longer need be slaves of the darkness and that we no longer need be afraid of the dark. Jesus, the Light of the World, has come and defeated the darkness of sin and death.

In the readings, we begin with the creation story, where we see how God brings order to chaos. In our lives, we too may be experiencing chaos, but God brings order and harmony to our lives, if we submit ourselves to him. We then see how God leads His people from slavery in Egypt to freedom. We are reminded of how we too have passed through the waters of liberation through the waters of baptism. We have been set free from the power of sin, and are no longer slaves to sin unless we choose to remain as slaves. Some think that they are powerless when faced with their sinfulness, but God reminds us that we are no longer slaves. We are free because Christ's resurrection has set us free. So, shouldn't we begin to live as free men and women?

In every Easter Vigil, we are also reminded that death is not the end of life but the beginning of eternal life. Jesus has risen and has conquered death. Through Jesus we too can conquer death. Death no longer has a hold on us and we do not have to be afraid of death any longer. We are an Easter People and we should proclaim this great message of hope and joy. The light has overcome the darkness; order has overtaken chaos; freedom has triumphed over slavery; and eternal life is victorious over death. Let us no longer live lives as if there is no hope, since our hope is in the risen Lord, and let us share this message that "The Lord is risen" to all around us.

Good Friday

When we are facing good times, do we ever think about God? Some people seem to have forgotten about God in the midst of good times, happy times, or when they have attained something and are caught up with the festivities and celebrations. But when we are faced with disaster or tragedy, some would begin to question: "Why did this happen?" or "How could God allow this evil to take place?" or even "Where is God? Why is He not helping now?" Some may even begin to lose faith in God, thinking that God has abandoned them or is not going to help them come out of their predicament. But isn't it strange? Some of us don't give thanks to God when good things occur, but we begin to complain or blame God when bad things happen.

Today we celebrate Good Friday, where God gives us an answer to our complaints about human suffering and pain. Here is God who chose to be like us as Jesus Christ; who walked in our shoes, who shares our joys and sorrows and experiences our pain and suffering. Here lies the creator of the universe; now on the cross, He lies dead, crucified by our own sinfulness, our indifference, our ambitions, our greed, and our selfishness. God is with us not only when we are good, but also with us in our sinfulness even though He has no sin.

Sometimes, we hear parents telling their children: "I will love you if you are good." or "If you are naughty, I will not love you." Such children begin to think that their parents love them only if they are good, and that love is conditional and a reward for goodness, and that love needs to be earned. But God shows us that love is given to both saint and sinner. God loves us even while we were still sinners. The cross is proof of this. The cross is the symbol of God’s unconditional love, since Jesus died on the cross for all, not only for those who are good.

Today, let us give thanks to God for the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sins, because of His immense love for us. Let us also set aside our pride, ego and prejudice, and learn to love others unconditionally, just as God loves us unconditionally.

Maundy (Holy) Thursday

Most of us (hopefully) would know that the Mass is divided into two essential parts: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. If you have been paying attention during Mass, you would have observed that during the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest says the words: "He took bread and gave you thanks. He broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples …” These words reflect Jesus' whole life and ministry: “He took bread”, “gave thanks,” “He broke the bread” and “gave it to His disciples…”

From these words, we can learn some important points. Firstly, Jesus 'took bread.' By doing so, Jesus took whatever was given to him by His Heavenly Father and did not refuse anything, not even death on the cross. This means that Jesus was totally open to God and let God have full control of His life. In the same way, we too should take whatever may come to us from God and not be choosy. We must also learn to accept people as they are and not as how we want them to be. By taking, we affirm that whatever we have, whether it be posessions or capabilities, ultimately come from God. Secondly, Jesus 'gave thanks' to his Father not only for the good times but also for the bad. Many of us seem to give thanks only when good things come our way, but what about bad things? Do we thank God even when bad things occur? To have a grateful heart is the foundation of Christian joy and we must thank God for everything that comes our way. Thirdly, Jesus 'broke the bread' to share a meal with his disciples, Jesus' entire life too was broken and poured out for the salvation of all. We find it hard to allow ourselves to be broken, because of some reason such as shame or we fear others would take advantage of our weakness. But Jesus invites you today to share your brokenness with him and with others, since many others too experience brokenness and are consoled and comforted, knowing that they are not alone, when we share our brokenness with them. Lastly, Jesus "gave it to His disciples..." By giving bread to His disciples, Jesus is giving them life, and in the same way, we too should give and be generous in our giving, just as Jesus gave to us.

Today, let us offer our lives as a fragrant offering to God and to others, so that all may have life in Jesus. Let us be humble and willing to take what God has given us, and be generous in our giving, since all that we have comes from Him. May we learn from our Eternal Master, and grow in relationship with Him as He cares and guides us each day.

Palm Sunday

What is our worth in this world? What sort of criteria do we use to determine our worth? Some people seem to think that their worth is determined by how much or how little they are able to do things. Such people think that if they are talented and skilled in doing many things, then they are worth it, otherwise they think they are useless and a burden to others. This means that for some, we must always be doing something, otherwise we feel worthless, useless and helpless.

Today we celebrate Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. Over the past few weeks, we had seen Jesus being very active in His ministry and great crowds followed Him to be healed and to listen to His words. But now we begin to see Jesus having a change in His ministry from an active one to a passive one. Jesus shows us during this time that the value of life is not dependent on what we can do but what God can do for us. When we are active and able to do things for ourselves, we do not seem to have room for God's help, since we think we are self-sufficient. But when we are powerless and helpless, we come to realise that life is meaningless without God. Over the next few days, we would recall how Jesus will be arrested, persecuted, nailed to the cross and finally left to die. He will become powerless and helpless, but it is in His powerlessness that He will accomplish our salvation. What seemed to be a life of failure will end in victory because God is victorious over sin and death.

When we look at our lives and those around us, we too see changes taking place. There are some who were quite active before, but are no longer able to do much. For some, it seems scary and frightening to be helpless and powerless. This is because no one likes to grow old and become useless; or become sick and needing to be cared or helped by others. But we should also realise that unless we move from the active to the passive, unless we learn to let go and let God to be in control, we would not be able to experience true peace and happiness, the kind which only God can give.

Thus, during this Holy Week, let us learn not to focus too much on being active. Let us learn to be passive, and learn to discern and hear His voice. Let us journey with Jesus as we slowly die to ourselves, so that we may have everlasting life in His love and care.

Thursday 4 June 2015

Housekeeping - 5th Week of Lent

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

13 Mar 2016 - 5th Sunday of Lent Year C
14 Mar 2016 - Monday of the 5th Week of Lent
15 Mar 2016 - Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent
16 Mar 2016 - Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent
17 Mar 2016 - Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent
18 Mar 2016 - Friday of the 5th Week of Lent

Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent

It is interesting to observe how some people would go through great effort to make sure that they are healthy and clean. Such people would go for regular checkups, eat healthy meals, go for regular exercise, and take baths regularly to keep clean. But how many of us make effort to keep our soul clean? Do we go for regular confession or do some of us only go twice a year during Lent and Advent? Are we not aware that sin enslaves us, and once we are enslaved, our eternal future is in jeopardy? It seems odd that some of us would go through so much trouble to keep our physical lives clean, and neglect or procrastinate in keeping our spiritual lives clean.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "I tell you most solemnly, everyone who commits sin is a slave. Now the slave’s place in the house is not assured, but the son’s place is assured. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." Jesus is inviting us to confess our sins and have our souls cleaned, so that we would remain in His love and care. May we humbly and consistently go for confession and seek Jesus' help and guidance, so that our place in the house is assured.

5th Sunday of Lent Year C

It is interesting to observe the attitude of some people when they come for confession. Instead of confessing their sins, they begin a litany of condemnation of other people's faults, shortcomings or sins. When asked why they come for confession in the first place, I sometimes get amusing responses such as: "Oh, but you see Father, such and such a person is like this or like that" or "Wait Father, I am not finished yet..." or "I am ok Father, it is such and such a person who needs to change" and many other strange responses. We call such people self-righteous, since they seem to think that they are faultless and everyone else who do not measure up to their standards or expectations is wrong.

In today's Gospel, we come across a group of people who have an attitude of being self-righteous. We call these group of people the Scribes and the Pharisees. In the Gospel, we are told that a woman had been caught committing adultery. For the Jews, adultery is a big sin for which there is no tolerance and the penalty is death. It is also interesting to note that only the woman had been caught; what about the man, since it takes two to tango? These Scribes and Pharisees knew about Jesus' teaching on forgiveness, and they thought they had finally found an inescapable excuse to trap Him when they asked: “What have you to say?” If He granted her freedom, He would be undermining the law. If He observed the law and permitted her death, His preaching on God's mercy and forgiveness would be meaningless. It appeared as if the Scribes and the Pharisees had finally won. It is obvious that these religious leaders were using this woman for their own selfish reasons; they only wanted to put her down instead of helping her get up; and they were more interested in punishing sin than in preventing it. When pressed to give an answer, Jesus simply replied: "If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Bam! What an answer. The so called trap had been knocked out. Jesus was not telling them that the woman was innocent; instead He was challenging them: "Being sinners yourselves, do not be so quick to condemn others." Like the woman, they too were in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. After hearing Jesus' words, the Scribes and the Pharisees knew that they themselves had been caught, and "they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there."

What can we learn from this "drama minggu ini or this week's drama"? Jesus reminds us: "Judge not and you shall not be judged." Also, the Scribes and Pharisees only saw the woman's sin and her sinful past, and refused to give her another chance to change her life. On the other hand, Jesus saw in the woman not her sinful past but her saintly future. Jesus is urging us to learn to forgive others, instead of focusing only on their wrongdoings, their past failures, and making sure that everyone knows about them. When we pray the Our Father or the Lord's Prayer, may we truly and sincerely mean what we say, when we come to the part: "Forgive us our trespasses, just as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Wednesday 3 June 2015

Housekeeping - 4th Week of Lent

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

6 Mar 2016 - 4th Sunday of Lent Year C
7 Mar 2016 - Monday of the 4th Week of Lent
8 Mar 2016 - Tuesday of the 4th Week of Lent
9 Mar 2016 - Wednesday of the 4th Week of Lent
10 Mar 2016 - Thursday of the 4th Week of Lent
11 Mar 2016 - Friday of the 4th Week of Lent

Thursday of the 4th week of Lent

How much do we really love God? Do we have genuine love for God and for others, or are we doing things just for show and to seek approval and be accepted?  Some of us may have become so accustomed to the ways of the world, that we seek more and more approval from others around us, instead of doing what is right in God's eyes.

This is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus admonishes us: "As for human approval, this means nothing to me. Besides, I know you too well: you have no love of God in you. I have come in the name of my Father and you refuse to accept me; if someone else comes in his own name you will accept him. How can you believe, since you look to one another for approval and are not concerned with the approval that comes from the one God?" Have we become so attuned to winning approval among people here on earth, approval which would not last and would be lost? Are we risking our eternal future, just for the sake of experiencing temporary gratification and happiness? May we come to realise our folly, and change our lives before it is too late.

4th Sunday of Lent Year C

There are many things in life which we could avoid or have control of. Sometimes, it is for our personal good that we have the freedom to choose what we want and need, since some things may not necessarily be good for us in the long run. On the other hand, there are also many things in life which is beyond our control, beyond our choice. For example, we cannot control when we would actually die, since death can come at any time, at any place, at any moment. Another example of something beyond our control is change. As long as we are alive, we are constantly changing physically and biologically, and we have no control of such change. But we do have control over one important aspect, that is our direction in life. However, it is precisely this direction in life which is hardest to change and accept.

Today's readings tell us of different examples of change and how people respond to such changes. In the first reading, the Israelites had a change of lifestyle in the kind of diet they had been having. They now had finally arrived at their new homeland, after escaping Egypt and journeying 40 years in the desert. From that time on, they no longer had the manna which they ate in the desert; instead they had tasted the produce of that country, unleavened bread and roasted ears of corn. In the Gospel, we come across the younger son who started off on the wrong track but who later repented and decided to change his direction in life. The younger son represented the sinners among Jesus' followers who had repented and changed from their past lives, whereas the older son represented the pious and religious Pharisees and scribes who continued to hold on to their self-righteous beliefs, refusing to change because they felt that they were already good and they believed that they had no need to change. This is because change can be frightening and disturbing to some of us, but unless we change, we will remain like the elder brother: angry, frustrated, complaining always and we can never allow ourselves to be part of God's salvation. St. Paul in the second reading reminds us that "For anyone who is in Christ, there is a new creation; the old creation has gone, and now the new one is here. It is all God’s work." If we are indeed a 'new creation' then change must take place, and we must begin to live this 'newness' of life.

At the end of the day, change of our direction in life can only happen if we are open to God's love and care. May we pray for grace to accept change, and let our loving God guide us in all we do, so that we glorify Him and move forward in faith, hope and love.