Thursday 31 December 2015

Friday of the 7th Week of Easter

It is easy for us to say "I love you," but how many of us truly mean what we say? Do we say "I love you" but our actual meaning is merely "I like you," or are the words "I love you" sincere and genuine? Would we be willing to love till it hurts, even to the point of death? For example, if someone is in grave danger and we are in a position to rescue the person, but in doing so we ourselves may end up dead, would we go ahead and attempt the rescue?

In today's Gospel, Jesus asked Peter 3 times whether Peter loved Him. Peter had denied knowing Jesus when Jesus was on trial, but Jesus did not hold that against him. Instead, Jesus helped Peter come to terms with what it really means to love. Love is not just words but requires action, and in the case of Peter, Jesus had entrusted the care of His sheep to him. Not only that, Jesus reminded Peter: "I tell you most solemnly, 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 ultimately, Peter would be expected to love till it hurts, to love even to the point of death.

What about us? Do we really know the meaning of the words "I love you" after all? Are we willing to love even to the point of death? May we truly love and give our all, and show what it really means to be a Christian by our love.

Thursday of the 7th Week of Easter

I believe all of us would have experienced some issue at some point of our lives, due to misunderstanding, differences in opinion, or some other criteria. Some of the issues we may have experienced may seem significant or serious, but sometimes necessarily so, especially since our minds may have become too fixated or closed to see the bigger picture, and we begin to squabble over petty things or trivial matters. When we are like this, we lose sight of our true purpose as Christians and end up wasting much time and energy over such petty things or trivial matters.

The Pharisees and the Sadducees had a problem with Paul. They were obstinate and refused to change when Jesus was around, and they were also equally obstinate with Paul. So Paul decided to shake things up a bit and demonstrate their narrow-mindedness. Paul pitted the scribes and Pharisees against the Sadducees by exclaiming: "Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees. It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial." When he said this, the scribes and the Pharisees ganged up against the Sadducees and argued over differences of opinion which had nothing to do with why Paul was being arrested and put on trial in the first place. This shows that, the core issue which the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees had against Paul, was actually not really a big deal after all, since they could be so easily distracted with other things.

What about us? Have we become like the Pharisees and the Sadducees? Have we become so easily distracted by small matters or petty things, and neglected to address the bigger or more serious matters? May we learn to see the big picture, and free ourselves from such narrow-mindedness, so that we can truly live Christian lives, with love towards God and neighbour.

Wednesday of the 7th Week of Easter

From time to time, we do come across, within a community, people who do things for their own benefit or own gain. Sometimes such people would try to influence the community to listen to them and follow their ways, to the eventual detriment of the community. We have seen how such individuals have betrayed or sold off their community just for some title, position, wealth or power and when such people have gotten what they wanted, they would disappear and let the community face the consequences.

This is why St. Paul in today's reading warns us: "Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the overseers, to feed the Church of God which he bought with his own blood. I know quite well that when I have gone fierce wolves will invade you and will have no mercy on the flock. Even from your own ranks there will be men coming forward with a travesty of the truth on their lips to induce the disciples to follow them. So be on your guard..."

As leaders of a Christian community, we need to be discerning and careful not to allow certain individuals to wreak havoc and destruction to the community. While we should not become paranoid or suspicious of every person or every idea, we should seek God's help and wisdom to ensure that all in the community are not led astray or duped into following false or wrong teaching. May we be vigilant, so that our community would grow according to God's ways and glorify His Name.

Tuesday of the 7th Week of Easter

Some of us go through life as if there does not seem to be much meaning. We get up, get ready, perhaps have a nice breakfast, go to work, slog it out for hours, then come back from work exhausted, probably have a shower then a light dinner, before we hit the sack, to repeat the whole process again. While it is necessary for us to survive in this world, and we need to take care of our life here on earth, is what we are doing day in day out all there is to life? Are we content in only focusing on living and surviving in this world, without much thought about our eternal future?

In today's reading, St Paul reminds us: "But life to me is not a thing to waste words on, provided that when I finish my race I have carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me – and that was to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace." St Paul is reminding us that just living life as it is, or just talking about one's present situation and one's life, is insufficient. As Christians, we have an added dimension, that is, we are called to go forth and preach the Good News, and not only be content with letting life slip by or spending our time in idle chatter. May we take heed of St. Paul's example, and do our part in building God's Kingdom for His glory.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Monday of the 7th Week of Easter

It is unavoidable that at some point of our lives, we would come into some form of conflict with others, or we may experience some form of persecution. This is because we as Christians follow Jesus, His way and His teaching. When we are faced with situations where we need to adhere to Christian principles at the expense of worldly principles, we are bound to clash with others who follow worldly principles, and who are trying to make us do the same.

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us some reassuring, encouraging and comforting words: "In the world you will have trouble, but be brave: I have conquered the world." Notice that Jesus did not say "may have trouble" but He said "will have trouble." This shows that being a Christian is certainly not going to be easy, as there are many things that we adhere to which are against the ways of the world. So let us not be disheartened or even despair, as we have Jesus to guide and protect us, since He has already conquered the world, and with His help, we too can do the same.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Friday of the 6th Week of Easter

There are times in life where we come across certain forms of irrational persecution going on around us. Some of such irrational persecution stems from the irrational fear certain parties have towards Christians, whom they accuse are out to convert them or weaken their faith. In recent times, we read of how some of these parties react, even to the point of seeing as a threat, certain ordinary objects, or even certain fixtures and fittings, just because such items are in the shape of a plus sign, which they consider to be the shape of a cross, no matter how absurd or ridiculous such a consideration or thought may be. However, fortunately for us, we do still have some rational and open minded leaders who see such things as petty issues which are being used by certain quarters, who are using religion merely to gain political mileage.

In today's reading, we come across another example of such a rational and open minded leader who could clearly see that the Jews were making a concerted attack on Paul and bringing him before the tribunal, merely out of jealousy and not because Paul had done anything wrong. This leader is Gallio who was proconsul of Achaia. Even though the Jewish crowd tried to create a ruckus by turning on Sosthenes, the synagogue president, and beat him in front of the court house, Gallio still refused to take any notice at all. As far as Gallio was concerned, Paul was innocent in Roman law, and he refused to allow the Jews to incite him to take any action.

If we are leaders in our community, or even if we are political leaders, may we learn from today's reading and call a spade a spade. Instead of misusing religion for political grounds or for personal gain, may we learn to do what is right and just, since we ought to be leaders for the service of all, and not leaders for our own glory.

Wednesday of the 6th Week of Easter

Christian faith is such that we need to have an experience of it, as well as proper teaching of it. We cannot depend only on the experience of it, since we may not understand what is it we are really believing, and sometimes people could lead us astray with an experience of faith which has been manipulated by them for their own agenda. On the other hand, we cannot have only an intellectual-based faith, where we only learn about it but have no inkling about what it feels like, especially feeling the presence of God.

That is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come." Jesus has taught the disciples much, but depending on teaching alone is not sufficient. Experiencing the Holy Spirit is also necessary, so that we would be fired up and strengthened to go forth and preach the Good News with joy and courage. May we always strive to understand our faith well through proper study, and let the Holy Spirit fill us with love, strength, compassion and vigour, so that we may truly be His diciples bringing the Good News to all the earth.

Saints Philip and James, Apostles - Feast

In every Christian community, there needs to be a balance of missionary spirit and community life. We cannot ignore one or the other. If we focus only in mission, we may forget our identity as Christians, that is we are Christians not as individuals, but as a community. On the other hand, if we focus too much on the Christian community, we may neglect our mission in bringing the Good News to all. So, we need to be balanced as a Christian community and as Christian missionaries, since both are needed for us Christians to grow and flourish.

Today we celebrate the feast of Saints Philip and James. St. Philip was the one who sincerely and joyfully told Nathanael that he had found the Messiah and encouraged him to come and see for himself. Yet it was also this same Philip, as mentioned in today's Gospel, who asked Jesus to let him see God the Father so that he will be satisfied. James (the Lesser) was the apostle who, together with St. Peter, settled the issue about accepting non-Jews into the faith without having to be circumcised and taught the Law of Moses.

In St. Philip and St. James, we see the missionary aspect and the community aspect of the Christian community which needs to be addressed and balanced. St. Philip showed us an example the missionary aspect by bringing others to Jesus, Nathanael in this case. St. James showed us an example of the community aspect, by making a decision which affected the growth and well-being of the community, by not imposing non-essential customs and practices on the non-Jews. May we learn, through the example of Saints Philip and James, how to strike a balance between missionary spirit and community life, so that we as a Christian community could grow more like our Lord Jesus Christ.

Monday of the 6th Week of Easter

Some of us may have heard of the country ballad by Carrie Underwood titled "I Told You So," and some of the words are: "I told you so, oh I told you so, I told you some day you come crawling back and asking me to take you in..." In this song, the lyrics seem to show one person gloating over, or speaking in a condescending manner towards another person, for not listening to, or refusing to accept, or rejecting, advice or suggestions. When a person uses such word like "I Told You So," it is possible that the person may "brag" over it, or the person may feel proud and "wise" for having said something towards another person, and the other person had not listened and ended up with issues or problems. But as Christians, is this the sort of attitude or behaviour we encourage?

In today's Gospel, we see an example where Jesus said "I have told you all this" and even said it three times. Jesus said "I have told you all this" not to prove what He said was true, but so that when the time for those events have to come to pass, His disciples may remember that Jesus had told them. Jesus is helping His disciples, and us too, to remember that we must always be prepared and ready for anything, and remain in God's love and care.

As Christians, we are called to be prophets. What does that mean? It basically means that we are to speak the truth and tell it as it is, no matter how hard or difficult the message may be to accept, for the good of those who are supposed to receive the message. But the prophet is saying such truth or message not to show how clever or wise the prophet is, but to do the will of God and deliver God's message and warning to those who need to know. The prophet is not interested in bragging, or gloating, or saying "I told you so," to appease one's personal ego or gratification, since the prophet is merely doing one's duty. Are we also doing our duty faithfully?

Friday of the 5th Week of Easter

What sort of love do we have towards others? Do we love only because it is advantageous to us or convenient to us? Do we love because the other person loves us? Do we love because the other person is nice to us or good to us? Do we love because of some other reason? Or could we ever love without needing a reason, that is, unconditionally, with no strings attached?

Perhaps the greatest kind of love we could manifest is mentioned in the Gospel: "A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends." Just as Jesus laid down His life to save us from our sins, we too are asked to do the same. Jesus loved us, and so we too are asked to love others, even to the point of losing our life. Are we willing to follow Jesus' example in truly and genuinely loving, without counting the costs?

Today, the world is infested with a kind of love that is conditional, a love which is selfish, a "what's in it for me" kind of love. May we free ourselves from such kinds of love, and follow Jesus' example in loving others completely, just as He showed us how to on the cross.

Monday 28 December 2015

Thursday of the 5th Week of Easter

What sort of joy are we looking for in this world? Are we looking for joy which is only temporary? Or are we looking for joy that is complete? Some of you may be thinking: "Of course we would want complete joy." But how do we get complete joy in this world, when we are constantly bombarded with new things or the latest things? For example, some of us may have bought a computer, and initially we are happy with our purchase, but our happiness is short-lived, since a new model or a much more powerful model could have been released shortly after we had bought the computer. Then what happens? Some of us may feel frustrated, since we had purchased too quickly, without waiting for the newer model to emerge. Can we ever attain complete joy from what this world has to offer?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: "Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments
you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete." Isn't it clear that the joy we experience in this world is only temporary? After a while, we would need to find other ways and means to remain joyful. In fact, we may never attain complete joy. However, Jesus is offering a kind of joy which is complete. We can receive this joy which He offers us if we keep God's commandments and remain in His love.

Some of us may say: "But keeping God's commandments is hard! How is it possible for us to do so?" It is a question of trust and dependence on God. If we put our trust and dependence in God, and let Him guide our lives; if we are willing to be detached from worldly attractions and pleasures; if we are willing to truly love God and neighbour, with no strings attached, with no conditions; then perhaps we would be able to remain in Jesus' love and experience complete joy.

Wednesday of the 5th Week of Easter

When we go to a country for work or studies or some other purpose, we are sometimes advised to follow some of the customs and practices of that country. We may have heard of the saying: "Do as the Romans do." Even though we follow some of such customs and practices, we may not necessarily follow all of them, since some of these customs and practices are peculiar to a certain ethnic group, and has nothing to do with the general public of that country.

In today's reading, we come across some conflict, because certain members of the Pharisees' party who had become believers objected, insisting that the pagans should be circumcised (in other words, "kena potong") and instructed to keep the Law of Moses. Such a custom or practice was peculiar to the Jews, as it was handed down to them from their forefathers. But is such a custom or practice relevant to others, those who are not Jews? Should Christians be subjected to such a custom, which Jesus did not impose or insist upon in His teaching or way of life? Of course not, and later in another part of the reading, we would understand why. This is where we need to be clear about what is actual teaching of faith, and what are practices which appear to be common among Christians of a certain ethnic group, but not common among Christians as a whole. We need to be clear, since although matters of faith and morals are non-negotiable, matters concerning practices and customs can and will differ from place to place. May we discern carefully and know which is which.

Tuesday of the 5th Week of Easter

No matter how challenging of difficult your day has been, when you enter a church to pray or to gaze at the tabernacle containing the Blessed Sacrament, how do you feel? Quite likely you would calm down and feel some peace, isn't it? When you hear a lovely hymn being sung or played from a CD, you would feel some peace right? When you are gazing at the crucifix at home or at the big crucifix in church, or gaze at a holy picture of Jesus, Mary, the Holy Family, or one of your favourite saint, you would also feel some peace right? Notice what is happening? You are experiencing a sense of security and peace, as you know that God is with you.

In today's Gospel, Jesus gives us a message of peace and hope. He tells us: "Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give, this is my gift to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid." When we have God with us, when we have Jesus as our guide, then there is no reason to fret, worry or fear. No matter how difficult the circumstances may be, no matter how tough life is treating you, no matter how painful the persecution you may be experiencing, just remember this: God gives us peace, the kind of peace which is sufficient for us. Let us not feel downtrodden or even despair, since God is there to protect us and guide us to our true home.

Saint Mark, Evangelist - Feast

It is easy for some of us to be taken in by the ways of the world, especially where fame and recognition is concerned. Some of us want to be known or recognised for what we have done, and sometimes we could go through great lengths to protect what we think is rightfully our intellectual property. Even in universities, we are reminded not to plagiarise but to acknowledge the work of others by giving credit where it is due. Of course, it is right to do such things, since by doing so we are promoting healthy research and scholarship, improving on the work of others while thanking them for what has been done; but are we allowing ourselves to become proud and conceited, as a result of such fame and recognition? Are we focusing only on what we have achieved, thinking that we attained such achievements solely through our own effort?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "All wrap yourselves in humility to be servants of each other, because God refuses the proud and will always favour the humble." When we remain humble even though we have achieved much, we are actually giving credit to God for helping us come to where we are today. We are also acknowledging that all that we have, all that we have achieved, are gifts from His bounty, and we continue to depend on Him for help and guidance. May we not become so proud and conceited into thinking that we can do without God, and continue to serve with humility and joy, for His greater glory.

Sunday 27 December 2015

Friday of the 4th Week of Easter

Some of us may have experienced a situation called mid-life crisis, where we begin to realise that the many things we once enjoyed, can no longer be enjoyed; the many things we once could do, seem to be harder to accomplish; the many tasks we once worked so hard on, seem to be not much of a big deal anymore. When we are experiencing such a situation, some of us may be slipping towards depression, since our life and body condition is changing, as we are aging and we discover that we are no longer as before, sort of like "no more spring chicken."

But today's Gospel gives us some comfort. Jesus is inviting us: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me." What we are going through is part of life as we grow older, and instead of worrying or fretting, we should just move along and adapt to a different phase of life. Sure, we may not be as we were before, but does it really matter? With Jesus as our guide and help, what we can or cannot do is no longer our concern. We just do what we can, and offer all we do for the glory of God. May we keep on trusting in Jesus, knowing that He will be at our side, as we walk on.

Thursday of the 4th Week of Easter

What do we look for in life? Are we looking for fame, popularity, recognition, peer acceptance or something else for ourselves? Or are we looking for true joy and happiness? Some of us think that by gaining fame, popularity, recognition, or peer acceptance, we would be joyful and happy. But the joy and happiness we seemingly experience are only temporary things, they do not last, they are merely illusions that come and go. After some time, when the fame, popularity, recognition, or peer acceptance is gone, we may even lose the joy and happiness previously experienced.

That is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "I tell you most solemnly, no servant is greater than his master, no messenger is greater than the man who sent him. Now that you know this, happiness will be yours if you behave accordingly." When we let Jesus be in control, when we do not seek greatness for ourselves, then we will experience true happiness, because all that we are doing is not for our own pleasure, personal gratification or to boost our ego. All that we are doing is for the greater glory of God, and to build God's Kingdom. May we be humble and willing to walk in Jesus' ways, and let Him grant us true happiness, the kind of happiness that will last.

Wednesday of the 4th Week of Easter

It is tempting for some of us to come up with our own opinion or interpretation about what a particular passage in the bible means. Sometimes our opinion or interpretation could be coloured or influenced by our background, attitude towards certain persons or places, or some other criteria. When we begin to interpret passages in the bible on our own, without a definitive authority, then we risk interpreting such passages according to what suits us, or what suits our agenda. This could lead others to follow what we say, instead of what the bible is really telling us, or what Jesus is really teaching us.

This is where Jesus reminds us in today's Gospel: "For what I have spoken does not come from myself; no, what I was to say, what I had to speak, was commanded by the Father who sent me, and I know that his commands mean eternal life. And therefore what the Father has told me is what I speak." Jesus is showing us what we are to say or teach should not be at our whims and fancies, since what we are teaching is not our own stuff, but what Jesus taught us. Are we trying to build God's Kingdom by teaching what Jesus is really teaching? Or are we ending up building our own kingdom, by teaching what we think Jesus is teaching, but in reality, is our own stuff instead?

Saturday 26 December 2015

Tuesday of the 4th Week of Easter

In the corporate world, people would generally not share important matters or company procedures with just anybody. This is because such information is normally classified as trade secrets or company confidential information, and sharing such information could be detrimental towatds the growth of the company, or put the company at a disadvantage. Strict rules and heavy penalties are enforced to ensure that employees and those who have access to such information toe the line and divulge such information only to those who are authorised to know. But when it comes to the Good News of Jesus Christ, we have no such stringent rules. Instead, we are encouraged to share the Good News to everyone without fear or favour. But sometimes, we come across people who seem to be sharing the Good News only with certain groups or certain persons they are comfortable with. As Christians, are we limiting our efforts on sharing the Good News? Or have we learnt to break any barriers or prejudices, and share the Good News with all?

In today's reading, we are told that those who escaped during the persecution travelled as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch, but they proclaimed the Good News only to the Jews. We were not told why they limited the proclamation of the Good News only to the Jews, since there could have been many reasons that made them do so, including reasons like the political, social and cultural circumstances. But some of them who came from Cyprus and Cyrene went to Antioch and started preaching to the Greeks, and the Lord helped them, and a great number believed and were converted to the Lord. This shows that if we are willing to move out of the norm and venture into the unknown, if we are willing to come out of our comfort zone and be courageous and daring to reach out to others, God can work wonders through us. May we be humble and willing to let God be in control, so that we can be His instruments in building His Kingdom and glorify His Name.

Monday of the 4th Week of Easter

One of the things that ought to change when we become Christians is that we should no longer be divided or segregated according to ethnic group, language group, racial lines or whatever that had segregated us in the past. We are brothers and sisters in Christ; not brothers and sisters in Christ according to a certain group, or language, or social status; but brothers and sisters in Christ, full stop. What this means is, we are no longer strangers or foreigners to each other, but one family with Jesus as our brother, Mary as our mother, God as our Father. If we live according to such basic principles, then we should experience peace and happiness in unity with diversity. But are we really living as brothers and sisters in Christ, or are we still distinguishing ourselves according to groups, factions or some other criteria?

In today's reading, the Jews were initially unhappy that the pagans or the uncircumcised had been baptised. These Jews thought that Jesus belonged only to their club, and all others are to be excluded. But Peter made them realise that God does not limit Himself only to certain groups or certain persons. He is God for all, and He loves us all the same, regardless of who we are, or where we come from, since the reading tells us: "'God' they said 'can evidently grant even the pagans the repentance that leads to life.'"

If God is a God for all, then what about us? Are we still keeping only to our group, our social status, our prejudices, our comfort zones? Or have we learnt to come out and mix around, as brothers and sisters in Christ, one family of God? Are we living and loving as brothers and sisters in Christ, without terms or conditions? Or are we still trapped in our old self and old ways?

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Friday of the 3rd Week of Easter

It is easy for us to write off someone who seems lost or hopeless according to our expectations or according to our standards, or the person is different from us or seems to be lacking in one way or another, according to our coloured and prejudiced eyes. Some of us begin to think that such a person is beyond redemption and is destined to be condemned. Some of us even ostracise the person, and do not want to have anything to do with the person. The funny thing is, sometimes, God uses such persons to teach us never to judge, never to be so quick to condemn, to be humble, and to love unconditionally, just as God loves all of us the same.

In today's reading, we come across Saul who many feared and despised, since he was fervently and enthusiastically persecuting Christians. But God had other plans for Saul. Instead of writing him off, God caused Saul to change from a Christian basher, to a Christian defender. Imagine the shock, bewilderment and amazement experienced by the Christians when Saul, who became Paul, began preaching in the synagogues, 'Jesus is the Son of God.' Who would have ever thought that Saul could be turned into a stalwart promoter of the Christian faith, yet that is exactly what happened. God had shown that what was impossible is made possible.

What does this tell us? It tells us that God can do wonders beyond our expectations. He can change people, no matter how evil, horrible, obnoxious or mean they may have been. Are we willing to put our trust in God, knowing that He will do what is best for us, according to His time and for His glory?

Thursday of the 3rd Week of Easter

I have done many baptisms throughout my ministry and so far, I have noticed that in these baptisms, there is quite a bit of rejoicing and happiness. If the baptised is a baby, the parents, grandparents, Godparents and guests are rejoicing and all-smiles, as a new member has come forth from the family, even though the baby may be unaware of what is going on. If the baptised is a child or an adult, not only the parents, grandparents, Godparents and guests are rejoicing and all-smiles, the baptised too are excited, rejoicing and happy for having received new life and God's salvation. In today's reading, the eunuch went on his way rejoicing, after being baptised by Philip.

It is good to rejoice when a new person receives baptism, since the person has become a child of God. But let us not just rejoice at that point of time and that's that. We should continue to live a life of rejoicing in God's love and care, and share this life of rejoicing with all we meet. If something is so significant and worth rejoicing, surely we would not want to keep it under wraps, but share the joy around. So let us renew our efforts with joy, enthusiasm and exuberance, so that all would come to know what it means to be a Christian.

Wednesday of the 3rd Week of Easter

There are many things that we cannot see, yet we believe that such things exist. For example, we cannot see germs or bacteria, but we experience their effects. We cannot see electricity, but we experience the effects of electricity through the many appliances it provides power to, so that our lives would be easier or more convenient. But the irony is: sometimes we may be able to see something, and yet we are not able to believe what we are seeing. Why is this so? Sometimes it could be because the something is so shocking, spectacular, disturbing or flabbergasting that we may be at a lost of words and unable to comprehend what is happening or has just happened. Sometimes it could be because we are so set in our way of thinking or doing things, that other ways of thinking or doing things are seen as a threat or not worth our attention.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst. But, as I have told you, you can see me and still you do not believe." The people had seen Jesus say and do so many things. They had witnessed so many healings and miracles performed by Jesus. But some of the people, especially the scribes and the Pharisees, were so fixated and stubborn with their way of thinking and their way of doing things, that no matter what Jesus said or did, they chose to remain closed to the Good News being proclaimed by Jesus. They knew who Jesus was, but chose to find ways and means to get rid of Him, since what Jesus said and did was challenging their authority and going against the status quo. To them, personal survival, personal status and self-preservation was more important than listening to God's voice and doing what is just and right.

What about us? Have we too become or are becoming like the scribes and Pharisees? Do we value only our views, so much so that Jesus' teachings, God's commandments and many other things have taken a back seat or ignored completely? May we continue to take courage and say and do what is right, and let God be our providence and guide.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Tuesday of the 3rd Week of Easter

There are some topics of discussion which could cause people to become very excited or passionate in expressing their views, opinions and thoughts. One such topic would be politics, where people sometimes get into intense argument and may begin to take sides and insist that a particular political party or persons within that party are good, bad or somewhere in between. Another such topic would be food, since each person would have his or her favourite food and favourite location where such food could be found. But if we look at such topics carefully, we would discover that these topics are only temporary. People could change allegiance from one political party or person to another, due to changes in circumstances or situation. Likewise, people could change their preference for food and where to find such food, due to various reasons.

But there is one topic that will not change, and that is Jesus' invitation to come to Him and believe in Him, as today's Gospel tells us: "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst." When we remain in Jesus and believe in Him, we have something which is constant, dependable, reliable and accessible. Political parties and persons come and go. Food comes and goes, since places and persons also come and go. But Jesus remains at all times and in all places. So, if that is the case, shouldn't we make more effort in being with Jesus, receiving Him regularly, and letting Him be our help and guide?

Monday 21 December 2015

Monday of the 3rd Week of Easter

It is interesting to observe the habits, behaviour and attitude of some people when it comes to food. Some people are very choosy about what they eat, and such persons would eat only at certain places and eat only certain kinds of food. Some people are food enthusiasts, and such persons would be more than willing to travel long distances to savour food which may not be available at where they come from, or such food may not taste that great and the place where they go to offers a much better taste. Some people are food addicts, and they would eat almost the same thing over and over again, since trying or tasting once does not seem to satisfy their taste buds. But all these people have one thing in common: the food that they eat can only be enjoyed for a short time, after which the food would be processed by the body, some of the nutrients would be absorbed by the body, and waste would be excreted from the body. Such food would never satisfy completely, and one would end up hungry again after a while.

This is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "Do not work for food that cannot last, but work for food that endures to eternal life, the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you, for on him the Father, God himself, has set his seal." The food that Jesus is offering us is the Eucharist, His Body and Blood. Such food is to satisfy our soul and to give us life. Seeing that such food can last for the good of our soul, why are some of us not receiving it regularly? Some of us make so much effort to seek and enjoy food here on earth which delights us only for a short moment. But what about food for our soul, which would delight us eternally? May we get our priorities right and make more effort to receive such heavenly food regularly, for the betterment of our eternal future.

Friday of the 2nd Week of Easter

It is easy for some of us to get carried away with a certain task, or a certain situation or event, or a certain activity. When we get carried away, our emotions and feelings sometimes get the better of us, and some of us may not be able to see the task, situation, event or activity from a different angle. This could happen especially when we are so focused in getting things done or dealing with such situations, that our mind may become stuck and it seems to us as if there is only one way to complete the task or resolve the situation. But sometimes, there comes a time or a situation arises where we may need to think outside the box, but we cannot seem to get out of the present state of mind or thinking we may be in. Then what do we do?

What we may need to do is to have someone like Gamaliel in today's reading to advice us and shake things up a bit, so we could reconsider or re-evaluate the situation. The members of the Sanhedrin were already so overcome with anger and jealousy that they were on the verge of destroying the apostles, but what they failed to realise is that what the apostles were doing is not of human origin, but of divine origin, and as Gamaliel rightly cautioned them, they may actually find themselves fighting against God. Fortunately for the members of the Sanhedrin, Gamaliel was in the right place and at the right time to help them think outside the box, and let the apostles be.

What about us? Do we have persons in our lives who could help us see things from a different perspective? Or are we ourselves, in one way or another, helping others to see things differently? May we be humble and docile enough to accept the advice of others, and see situations from a different angle or perspective, so that in all we do, may we give glory to God.

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Easter

Supposing your parents were to ask you to carry out a task which would make them happy, and the task is okay in matters of faith and morals. Quite likely you would get the task done, since you would want to maintain a good relationship with your parents. Likewise, supposing your boss in the company you work in asks you to carry out certain tasks for the benefit of the company, and such a task is also okay in matters of faith and morals. Once again, you would probably get the task done, since by doing so, you might get a good job review or evaluation, and you might stand a good chance to get a salary raise or move up the career ladder. Sounds so far so good, isn't it?

But what if you are put in a quandary? What if your parents demand that you do something that would make them happy, but by doing so, you would be breaking God's commandments and the laws of the church? For example, your wife has conceived but the foetus has been found to have some sort of defect, and your parents feel that having such a baby would be an embarrasment to the family honour, and so your parents have demanded that the foetus be aborted to "safe face" and protect the family interests. Would you do as what your parents have demanded? Likewise, supposing your boss demands that you conduct certain unscrupulous tasks, such as sabotaging a rival company's products, or coming up with statements or claims to put down or belittle a rival company's reputation or products, all for the sake of eliminating the competition. Would we do as our boss says?

We hope that we would not have the misfortune of being confronted with such difficult choices, or face such dilemmas as mentioned. But sometimes, life does give us such tough situations and we need to make a choice or take a stand. In today's reading, we are reminded that "Obedience to God comes before obedience to men." In reality, when confronted with such difficult decisions, would we truly, honestly and unreservedly choose to obey God, or would we succumb to obeying men, just to save face, or to save our skin? Whatever choice we make, may we choose wisely, for our eternal future is at stake.

Saturday 19 December 2015

Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Easter

In recent times, we have seen certain people or certain leaders doing nasty or naughty things and then trying to find ways and means to hide their actions. Some of such persons and leaders even resort to twisting and manipulating the laws of the country to try and protect themselves by persecuting those who are trying to expose them, or those who are trying to uphold the truth and what is right. Such persons, whom we sometimes call "whistleblowers," end up being silenced; some end up being imprisoned; and some even end up dead. But how long can these persons or leaders continue their charade? One day, their deeds and crimes will be exposed, either in this life or in the hereafter. If any of us are like such persons or leaders, would we stubbornly continue to try and hide, thinking we could continue as normal? Or would we rather change our ways and make amends with God and with others before it is too late?

In today's Gospel, we read: "though the light has come into the world men have shown they prefer darkness to the light because their deeds were evil. And indeed, everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear his actions should be exposed; but the man who lives by the truth comes out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what he does is done in God." A person could try to hide evil deeds, corruption and other misdeeds, but one cannot hide indefinitely. Even if one thinks one could hide from others, such despicable acts or deeds would eventually become known by others, especially since information can spread so quickly and so easily in various ways these days. Moreover, such persons cannot hide from God, since all a person has done or failed to do would be presented when the time for God's judgement comes. Are we going to lose our eternal life, just to save face only for a short moment here on earth?

Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Easter

Over the years, it has become more and more challenging to live out Christian ideals and way of life. This is because the ways of the world and the many attractions it offers have become more and more enticing and appealing to many. Some of us may have become more and more engrossed with what the world offers, since some of us do not want to be left out or left behind. Some of us feel that it is important to keep up with progress and improve on our standard of living. But the question is: where do we draw the line? Do we embrace the ways of the world, even to the point of abandoning Christian living and Christian virtues? Do we succumb to the demands of the world, and forgo what is proper and just according to what Jesus has taught us?

In today's reading, we are told about the early Christian community and the sort of attitude and way of life they lived: "The whole group of believers was united, heart and soul; no one claimed for his own use anything that he had, as everything they owned was held in common. None of their members was ever in want, as all those who owned land or houses would sell them, and bring the money from them, to present it to the apostles; it was then distributed to any members who might be in need."

Could we ever go back to such a way of living? Would we be willing to make sacrifices and be willing to share whatever we have with others? The ways of the world seem to tell us that our rights are more important; that what is ours is ours; that we must protect our interests at all costs. But from the reading, we seem to be encouraged to share instead. Do we really want to follow Jesus and His ways, and be ready and willing to share, for the betterment of the Christian community and for the glory of God? Or have we become so accustomed to the ways of the world, so much so that some of us may have become more and more alienated from others, even though we call ourselves Christians?

Friday 18 December 2015

Baptism of the Lord

Today we celebrate the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan river by John the Baptist. When Jesus approached John for baptism, John initially refused to baptise Him, because John's baptism was a baptism of repentance, because he felt unworthy, and also because Jesus should have been the one baptising him. However, Jesus insisted upon John baptising Him to fulfil all righteousness, since even though Jesus did not sin, He chose to be baptised to signify His union with the sinfulness of humanity, for whom He came to redeem from such sin.

When Jesus came out of the waters of baptism, things changed in His life. His baptism became the beginning of His public ministry. It also showed His close relationship with God as expressed in the words: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Jesus became an example to all of us of how to be in the right relationship with God by always doing what was righteous for the sake of building up the Kingdom of God.

By nature of our own baptism, we died to our old sinful ways and have risen to new life in Jesus. Our lives have changed and with it come new Christian responsibilities. We are called to imitate the example of Jesus by doing God’s will every day in our lives and by using the grace that He gives us daily to help build up the kingdom of God. Just as God gave Jesus the power to go out and spread His love in the world, so too does He give us the same Spirit to do good in the world. May we then go forth to proclaim the Good News with joy, enthusiasm and vigour; and do our part in building God's Kingdom, for His greater glory.

Dec 28 - The Holy Innocents, Martyrs - Feast

There is a song titled "The Greatest Love of All" originally sung by George Benson and later covered by Whitney Houston, and part of the words in the song are: "I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way, show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride, to make it easier, let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be." These words give us the impression and understanding that children ought to be loved, cared for, and protected. However, this is not always the case. In some countries and in some places, children are being mistreated, abused and even exploited. As Christians, we are often reminded to be child-like, and Jesus often reminds us: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." But are we following what Jesus says? Are we like little children, and also making effort to protect children around us from harm?

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, where Herod out of his insecurity and insanity, ordered the massacre of infants at Bethlehem. To Herod, these children meant nothing to him, and he chose to eliminate them just because he feared one child, the infant Jesus. Herod was more interested in protecting his power, even to the point of committing murder, even though Jesus is king not of the kind which Herod thought. But Herod could not see that, since he was already consumed and blinded with greed, pride, ego, power and prestige.

Even today, this senseless brutality and exploitation towards children are being committed for political, racial and religious reasons. The Feast of the Holy Innocents remind us that it is our duty to protect the rights and dignity of children. Just as Mary and Joseph protected Jesus from the evil of Herod, we as Christians are reminded to protect the children from the various forms of evil against them. Are we doing our part, so that the children of our future are secured?

Holy Family

The family today is under serious threat. We see more and more families becoming broken. We see lack of face-to-face communication taking place; husbands and wives not talking to each other; children not talking to their parents or siblings. Instead of talking, they prefer to text and send messages, as they become more and more dependent on smartphones, whatsapp, Facebook and other gadgets and gizmos to communicate. We see greater increase in divorce rates, because some people are not happy in their marriages and instead of seeking help or making effort to get their marriages fixed, they look elsewhere for love and comfort. We see children being left alone at home or under the care of grandparents, maids or babysitters, as parents work late or prefer to live and enjoy their lives outside. We see elderly parents being abandoned or placed in nursing homes and rarely visited, because some people find it inconvenient to care for them (even though our parents were making sacrifices to care for us when we were young, some of us are unwilling to do the same when they are old). Some parents have even given up or lack patience to teach their children, preferring to wash their hands and let others do their dirty work.

All these things may sound like a hopeless situation. Does this mean that there is no hope for the Christian family? Is the Christian family doomed? No. There is hope, if we are prepared to make God and our faith the center of our lives again. The Holy Family, whose Feast we celebrate today, reminds us that it is not hopeless. The Holy Family was not a perfect family. since they too had their problems; but what sets them apart from other families is their faith in God. They understood that a family would not be able to grow truly as a family unless God is made the center of it. Once we make God the center of our lives, does that mean we will not have any problems? No. But we know that God will care for us and not abandon us. The problems we face become easier to manage, since God is in control.

Today, we give thanks to God for the many families around us. Each family is a precious gift of God, and must never be taken for granted. Let us offer each family to God and pray that each family would make more effort to let God be the center of their lives. Whatever obstacles and problems we face in our lives and in our families, let us not despair or give up. Let us let God be in control in our families, so that with His help and guidance, we would be able to do and accomplish all things for His glory.

Thursday 17 December 2015

23 December - Season of Advent

Can old people conceive and successfully give birth? Some of us may be sceptical and say that such a thing is not possible to happen, since we think that old people have less energy and less ability to withstand the rigours of labour and pain. But sometimes, we do come across examples where old people are able to conceive and successfully give birth. One example of old people conceiving and giving birth would be Sarah, Abraham's wife, who was old and barren, and yet after so many years, she finally conceived and gave birth to Isaac.

Another example can be found in today's Gospel. Elizabeth, Zechariah's wife and Mother Mary's cousin, was also old. She too had been barren and it seemed as if there was no more hope or chance for her to conceive and successfully give birth. But God's ways are not man's ways, and God can make what seems impossible possible. Elizabeth did conceive and successfully give birth to a son, and the child was named John, who later became known as John the baptist.

If God could be so kind and merciful to Sarah and Elizabeth, and enabled them to have a child even in their old age, just imagine what He could do for us. May we have more trust and confidence in God, and let Him do what is best for us, in His time and for His glory.

22 December - Season of Advent

Vocations to the priesthood and religious life are becoming fewer these days, especially in certain countries. As people progress and prosper, they are faced with more and more attractions and temptations of the world, and the voice of God calling some to work in His vineyard seems to be harder and harder to listen. One other reason why vocations are dwindling could also be because families are shrinking in size, and parents are becoming more and more reluctant to let their son or daughter go. But is what sort of attitude is expected of us as Christians? Should we be clinging on to our children and not let them do what they are called to do?

In today's reading, we come across Hannah who chose to fulfil her vow and make over her son Samuel to the Lord. Hannah could have been selfish and choose to keep Samuel with her, since conceiving Samuel had been so difficult and had taken so long before it finally happened. But Hannah chose to be generous and let go of Samuel, so that he could do what he had been called to do.

What about us? Are we willing, like Hannah, to let our son or daughter go and do what he or she has been called by God to do? Our children are gifts from God, and it is a blessing to share such gifts. May we with joy, humility and generosity let our children go forth, so that we would have more workers in His vineyard, for His greater glory.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

21 December - Season of Advent

There are many reasons why we should remain joyful even though our country may be experiencing tough times, even though we may be facing difficulties or even persecution. If we look around us, we can see the joy of having the gift of life, the gift of good health, even the gift of friendship or companionship. We can see the joy in the faces of couples, who are expecting a child, as they go about making the necessary preparations. We can see the joy of a child, looking around with wonder and awe, since even the smallest thing or what seems to be trivial to many of us seems to arouse the curiosity and excitement of the child. Seeing that many joyful things, situations and events occur around us, no matter how big or small such joyful occasions may be, do we not feel joyful too?

In today's reading, Israel is invited to shout for joy, since "The Lord has repealed your sentence;
he has driven your enemies away. The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst; you have no more evil to fear." With the Lord by Israel's side, there is no longer any reason to be sad or fearful. Likewise, the Gospel tells us of the joy experienced by Mary and Elizabeth when they met. For Elizabeth, the sadness of previously being barren is over as God revealed His blessings on her. For Mary, she experienced the joy of seeing her cousin exactly as what the angel Gabriel had said, as well as the joy of things to come.

Today as we are preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus, may we remain joyful and hopeful. God is coming to help us and save us. Let us set aside our anxieties, fears and worries, and with joy and exuberance share the joy of the Lord with all.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

18 December - Season of Advent

Supposing one day, as you are having a date with your girlfriend, she tells you a shocking truth: she is pregnant. How would you react or respond? What if your girlfriend were to tell you that the child was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit? How would you react or respond? Would you believe your girlfriend and accept the child as your own? Or would you dump her, thinking that she had been unfaithful and is making up stories to try and cover up what you think is the real truth?

In today's Gospel, we come across Joseph who had found out that his betrothed, Mary, was with child. Certainly Joseph would have been filled with doubts, possibly even with suspicion, especially when the child was said to have been conceived through the Holy Spirit. Joseph was certainly in a dilemma, for he knew the consequence and fate of a woman with child before marriage. Joseph could have had difficulty coming to terms with such a news, and after much thought, he thought that the best solution would be to divorce Mary informally, since he was a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity. Then came saving news: the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and assured Him that the child was indeed conceived through the Holy Spirit. Mary had not betrayed him or committed sin after all. Joseph took Mary to his home and raised the child as His own.

If we are in Joseph's shoes and faced a similar situation, would we still keep our girlfriend and the child? Or would we still insist in dumping her, even though she had not done anything wrong? Sometimes the society we live in may make it difficult for us to take courage and keep our girlfriend and the child, but if such a thing were to ever happen, may we take courage in God's providence and do what is right.

17 December - Season of Advent

Throughout our lives, we would have experienced times of greatness, times of weakness and moments of grace. Perhaps when we were young, we would have experienced greatness in our achievements, in our relationships with others, and in our relationship with God. Then some of us may have gone through a period of weakness, where we may have fallen away from our relationship with God and with our relationships in church. Some of us during this stage may have been too preoccupied or busy in our career or in other pursuits. Then some of us may come to realise that all the wealth and achievements we savoured or sought are actually not that important or that big a deal after all. It is during this time that some of us experience God's grace and we rekindle and strengthen our relationship with God and with church.

In today's Gospel, we also see moments of greatness, times of weakness and moments of grace. From Abraham to David, we see moments of greatness, with Israel becoming the chosen people of God and developing into a great and mighty nation. From David to the Babylonian exile, we see moments of weakness where Israel's fell from greatness. We see how Israel turned away from God and turned to sin. From the Babylonian exile to Jesus, we see moments of God's grace, with God's promises to Israel and its fulfillment in Jesus.

What stage are we presently in now? Are we facing moments or grace, or are we still stuck in moments of weakness? Are we still pursuing wealth, fame, power and all that the world has to offer, or have we come to realise that building a relationship with God is more worthwhile in the long run? May we not get caught off guard, and do our best to grow closer to God, who constantly beckons us to come to Him and remain in His love.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Easter Friday

Why do some people get annoyed or even angry so easily? Some people become annoyed or even angry when things do not go their way, when they are misunderstood by another person, or when their viewpoints clash with another's viewpoints. Some become annoyed or even angry when they are accused of being wrong, when they think they are right, and their perception causes them to believe that they are right. Some become so easily annoyed or even angry because they do not know how to or refuse to reason. Some become annoyed or even angry when they are insulted, when they incur a loss, or when they are trying to protect their pride or their greed. Our reactions vary in different situations, and sometimes, we may be making mountains out of molehills in our annoyance or anger.

In today's reading, Peter and John were talking to the people, much to the extreme annoyance of the priests, who were accompanied by the captain of the Temple and the Sadducees.These priests and Sadducees were extremely annoyed because their pride and ego had been hurt by the truth being proclaimed by Peter and John. But Peter and John did not back down and did not water things down to appease these priests and Sadducees. Instead, Peter and John continued to preach the truth, the Good News, with enthusiasm and vigour. Would we be willing to face persecution and even death, just like Peter and John, so that the Good News would be known to all?

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Easter Thursday

When you see a wound, especially if the wound looks serious or grievous, how would you react? Some of us may feel faint, especially if the wound is oozing with blood. Some of us may feel quite squeamish and try to look the other way. Some of us may even run away, afraid to see more than just the wound. But could a wound be a source of tremendous joy or happiness? Some of you may be thinking: "Has this padre gone bonkers and needs his head examined? How could a wound ever be a source of tremendous joy or happiness?"

But surprising as it sounds, a wound could indeed be a source of tremendous joy and happiness. How so? In today's Gospel, Jesus showed the wounds of his hands and his feet. Not only that, He even ate a piece of grilled fish right in front of the eyes of His disciples. The wounds of Jesus became a source of great and tremendous joy and happiness, because they show that Jesus is not a ghost, but is risen, and that the disciples not only had Jesus in their midst again, they were also healed of their possible feelings of guilt of having deserted and abandoned Jesus in His darkest moment.

In a way, Jesus is also beckoning us to show the wounds of our hearts, to tell Him what is troubling and disturbing us, to tell Him our hurts and pains, as well as our anger and resentment. Jesus is inviting us to let Him heal us, since by His wounds, we are healed and saved. May we with tremendous joy and happiness and without any hesitation, show our wounds to Jesus, so that He can heal us and make us whole again.

Easter Wednesday

Giving up seems to be the easiest thing to do for some people. People give up due to a number of reasons. However, if we examine the motives of some people as to why they give up, we may begin to discover that some of the real reasons why they do so may be because they do not want to take responsibility for the situation or task, or perhaps they feel that their pride is at stake, or that their reputation is more important to them, and would rather salvage what they can instead of risking things further.

The two disciples on the way to Emmaus in today's Gospel were walking away from Jerusalem, walking away from the situation at hand. They were giving up, thinking that there was nothing left for them to cling on to. But Jesus did not give up on them. Jesus walks along with them and helps them realise that there is hope. Eventually, the fire within them which at first seemed to have sizzled out started burning again. They became aware again of their mission and they responsibilities to bear witness to the Good News.

If some of us are feeling like giving up, like there is no hope, remember this: Jesus is there. We may not see Him, but He is there. He wants you to come closer to Him and let Him heal you and rekindle the fire in your hearts. Do not be afraid. The hearts of the two disciples at Emmaus were set aflame with new vigour, new zeal, new enthusiasm, because they opened their hearts to Jesus. Let us too open our hearts to Jesus.

Easter Tuesday

Usually on a Sunday, we may get a sizeable crowd for Mass. In some parishes, several Masses may need to be celebrated to accommodate the crowd. Sometimes, Masses may be celebrated in different languages, so that persons of different language preference would be able to understand and participate at Mass. However, just imagine for a moment... 3000 people coming for Mass at the same time. Surely such a situation would be unusual or amazing, especially on a Sunday, not a Feast Day, Solemnity or some other significant celebration, but an ordinary Sunday. If 3000 people coming for Mass at the same time is already considered phenomenal, just imagine if we had 3000 baptisms happening on the same day and time. Wouldn't it be a miracle? Could such a miracle happen ever again in our churches at this present time?

In today's reading, 3000 people were cut to the heart when they heard Peter's words, they were convinced by his arguments, and they accepted what he said and were baptised. What Peter said had moved the hearts of so many and changed their lives completely, bringing about their conversion. Likewise, may our hearts be moved like those 3000 people, and may we renew our zeal and commitment in bringing Jesus' Good News to others.

Easter Monday

What sort of persons are we? What sort of stuff are we made off? Do we have only outer strength, or do we have inner strength as well? Some people may have outer strength: for example, they have the military power, weapons, political and social influence, connections and standing, or some other form of external factor which gives the illusion that such people are strong and powerful. But the problem with outer strength is that such outer strength comes and goes. People with only outer strength could lose such strength at any time or at any moment. But how many of us have inner strength, which includes truth, integrity and other virtues which come from within us?

In today's Gospel, we come across examples of outer strength and inner strength. The soldiers, the chief priests and the elders, had outer strength, but they lacked inner strength, since they chose to cook up a lie and live on in fear and worry. Instead of being people of courage and bravery, they succumbed to cowardice and deceit. They failed to adhere to good principles and good virtues expected of them. On the other hand, the women, who were thought to be powerless, discounted and devalued, were the ones who lived up to the truth with courage and integrity. These women showed their inner strength, as they saw the empty tomb, the truth in the Risen Christ, and went off to proclaim the truth with joy and fervour.

Let us ponder and ask ourselves sincerely: are we people of merely outer strength? Or have we grown especially in our inner strength? Do we depend only on outer strength to define who we are? Or have we shown our inner strength through our words and actions? May we come to realise the folly and illusion of outer strength, and learn to follow the ways of the Lord.

Monday 7 December 2015

Wednesday of Holy Week

When we are put in a difficult situation, or when we face persecution, or when our faith is challenged, what happens? Quite possibly our defence mechanism would kick in. We would begin to think of ways and means to rebutt the claims made towards us, or we begin to think of how we could answer or respond to the accusations. Some of us feel that we have the knowledge, know-how and convincing arguments to defend and protect ourselves. But sometimes, our defences may not necessarily be necessary or sufficient. So how should we as Christians respond to such situations?

In today's reading, we see how a Christian should respond. The reading tells us: "The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue. So that I may know how to reply to the wearied he provides me with speech. Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear...  The Lord comes to my help, so that I am untouched by the insults. So, too, I set my face like flint; I know I shall not be shamed." When we put our trust in God and let Him guide us, then we are responding to such situations not on our own effort or our own abilities or our own accord, but through His promptings. The way God guides us to respond accordingly can sometimes surprise us and even our accusers. May we learn to let go and let God be our hope and guide, knowing that He will help us.

Tuesday of Holy Week

Each and every one of us are given many options to choose in life. Sometimes we make good choices, sometimes we make not so good choices. But whatever choice that we have made, God is constantly inviting us to choose life and to dwell in His love. It is ironic and tragic that there are people who choose to avoid God, but that is the reality of having the freedom to choose, and whatever choice a person has made, the person would need to be prepared to face the consequences of the choice made.

In today's Gospel, we come across two individuals who made a choice. Judas chose to betray Jesus, even though he had been with Jesus for such a long time. Peter tried to be a bravado and claimed that he was willing to lay his life for Jesus, but later chose to disown or deny Jesus when he was confronted. But the difference between the betrayal and the denial is this: Judas was not repentant of his betrayal, since he later went and killed himself. Peter, on the other hand, sought to make amends with the risen Lord.

So which individual have we become or are becoming? Are we becoming more like Judas, refusing Jesus and preferring to go our own way? Or have we learnt to become more like Peter, acknowledging or admitting our mistakes, and seeking to return to the Lord's ways and growing closer to Him? May we choose wisely, for our eternal future is at stake.

Monday of Holy Week

What does it mean to be a "minister"? A minister is supposed to be serving the interest of the people, so that all would prosper and progress; or in the context of a church minister, so that the people would grow in holiness and grow closer to God. But how many of the "ministers" around us are really doing their duty for the good of all? How many of such "ministers" are really serving and not merely trying to please the boss, superior or certain persons who would be beneficial to him or her. How many of us who are "ministers" or the "ministers" around us, are impartially and dedicatedly serving for the glory of God, not for their own personal gratification or to boost their prestige, pride and ego?

In today's reading, we are reminded about what it really means to be a "minister" or a servant to God: "Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom my soul delights. I have endowed him with my spirit that he may bring true justice to the nations. He does not cry out or shout aloud, or make his voice heard in the streets. He does not break the crushed reed, nor quench the wavering flame. Faithfully he brings true justice; he will neither waver, nor be crushed... I, the Lord, have called you to serve the cause of right; I have taken you by the hand and formed you; I have appointed you as covenant of the people and light of the nations, 'to open the eyes of the blind, to free captives from prison, and those who live in darkness from the dungeon.'"

Notice that such a "minister" or servant is supposed to bring true justice and to do all things for the glory of God. If you are a "minister," or if we observe the various ministers around us, are we as "ministers" really bringing true justice and serving for God's glory? Or have some of us been corrupted with greed, ego, power, wealth and personal glory, that we have begun to serve ourselves? May we take caution and not allow ourselves to fall into the ways of the world, or become conceited or corrupted. Instead, may we, in all we do, give glory to God.

Sunday 6 December 2015

Friday of the 5th Week of Lent

As Christians, doing good in this world is becoming more and more challenging and difficult to accomplish. This is because we are bound to stumble upon certain people who will criticise, find fault, belittle, or even persecute us no matter how big or small the good deed, gesture or task may be. Some people may even accuse us of trying to convert others or cause others to weaken their faith, just because we are doing some charitable task or work of mercy under the church. Perhaps in the past, the church may have had certain so-called Christians who caused Christianity to develop a bad name due to the counter-witnessing of such Christians. But as we know, every religion has had its share of good and bad followers. The question is: how do we help others to see our real purpose and good intention, so that they would come to know what being a Christian really means?

In today's reading, we see how the prophet Jeremiah was persecuted by his enemies just because he was speaking the truth. Likewise, in the Gospel, Jesus was persecuted because of certain words He said and for some, even the things He did were rejected. But did the prophet Jeremiah or Jesus back down from what they did or said? Did they stop what they were doing so as to pacify their enemies? No. Instead, they continued what they said and did, because they were trying to help others see and understand their real purpose and good intention, so that the world would come to know God who really loves us and God who invites us to remain in His love. Though we too may face trials and persecution, may we not give up or give in, but remain faithful in our witnessing, so that others may come to know what it really means to be a Christian, and give glory to God.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent

What is a contract? A contract, especially if we are referring to a business contract, is an agreement of a list of services being offered, certain terms and conditions to be met, the kind of compensation to be received such as money or goods in exchange, and the consequences to be faced if the contract is not fulfilled. Such a contract is often only for a certain period of time, and once the terms and conditions of the contract have been fulfilled, the contract would usually expire. But when it comes to God and us, God does not make contracts with us, but a covenant. The terms are stipulated by God and fulfillment of the covenant are carried out by God in His time.

In today's reading, God made a covenant with Abraham, where Abraham "shall become the father of a multitude of nations." This covenant is not for a limited period, but in perpetuity. When God makes a covenant, He keeps His word and He is faithful, even though we may not be so faithful to Him at times. God is willing to make a covenant with us humans, and keep His end of the bargain. We are invited to remain faithful to Him, but we are not forced to. We can choose to remain in His providence, or we could choose to go our own way. The choice is up to us, though it is advantageous for us to remain in His covenant. So let us always choose to remain with Him, so that we may continue to prosper, live and be happy.

Friday 4 December 2015

Wednesday of the 5th Week of Lent

Are you a slave? Or are you free? You may be wondering: "What a silly question! Of course I am free! After all, I can move around, gather with friends, do many things without let or hindrance." But even though we may appear to be free, we could also be enslaved. How so? Some of us could be enslaved by a certain passion. For example, we may be enslaved by a passion to have the latest gadget or gizmo, and we could end up spending so much money trying to keep up, and even end up in debt. We could be enslaved by an addiction. For example, some of us could be addicted to smoking or drinking alcohol. Without a cigarette or two, or without a glass of whiskey or brandy, some of us may begin to feel jittery, restless and uncomfortable, since something seems lacking in us (that is, the nicotine or alcohol which we have become so dependent on). So are we really free?

Another form of slavery is when we sin. When we sin, we become slaves to evil. 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 be freed from our sin instead of being enslaved by it. But the problem is: how many of us are willing and humble enough to heed Jesus' words and be freed by Him from the slavery of sin, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Some of us seem to be procrastinating, thinking that we have plenty of time and make amends. Some of us just do not seem to bother or care about the consequences of allowing sin to remain in us. Are we going to allow the slavery of sin to continuously ensnare and poison us, until it is too late? Do we really want to be free in the first place?