Tuesday 12 July 2016

Monday of Week 1 Year 1

When a young man feels called to the priesthood, he has to undergo a process and pass through several steps such as interviews, several tests, journeying with the vocation director for some time, meeting the bishop several times, letter of application, etc. When accepted, he stays several years in the seminary for intensive formation which includes studies in Philosophy and Theology. The seminarian is also exposed to various pastoral experiences in different environments, including parish assignments, spending time with the poor, marginalised and less fortunate, and many other situations a priest may encounter in ministry. This is to test the young man's physical, psychological and moral stamina, to ensure that he is fully aware and ready for the tasks ahead. Only after successfully going through these many stages that the young man may ask to be ordained.

Jesus' disciples did not undergo such a process as we do today, but they had a somewhat similar orientation. Today's Gospel tells us that Andrew and Simon were simply casting their nets in the lake while James and John were putting their nets in order when Jesus called them: "Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men." They left everything in the boat and followed Jesus immediately. That instant, willing and ready! No hesitation! No ifs or buts! They had their "seminary formation" with Jesus for only three years or even less. All but one passed with flying colors and after that, they went on a super charged mission in bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the entire world.

Today we give thanks for the many young men and women who have answered God's call, just as the disciples did, to go forth and preach the Good News. What about the rest of us? Have you answered God's call to preach the Good News? Have you offered your lives to serve Him as His priests and religious? May you find it in your hearts to be generous, willing and enthusiastic to answer His call, and go into His vineyard, for His greater glory.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Dec 27 - Saint John, Apostle, Evangelist - Feast

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist. He was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman, brother of Saint James the Great, one of the Sons of Thunder, a disciple of Saint John the Baptist and a friend of Saint Peter the Apostle. He was called by Jesus during the first year of His ministry and traveled everywhere with Him. He took part in the Last Supper. He was the only one of the Twelve who did not forsake the Saviour in the hour of His Passion, standing at the foot of the cross. He was made guardian of Our Lady by Jesus and took her into his home. Upon hearing of the Resurrection, he was the first to reach the tomb and when he met the Risen Lord at the Lake of Tiberias, he was the first to recognise Him. How was he able to go through all these events and situations? Because ultimately, Saint John the Evangelist showed and taught us what it really means to love.

The word "love" has been used and abused so rampantly, that it may have lost its meaning. This is because, if you really and truly love someone, you will do anything and everything for his or her best, even to the point of sacrificing your very own life like Jesus and many others did. Such love is expensive, costly and not easy to find, since the one who loves is putting everything at stake, no holding back, no hesitation. In the case of Saint John the Evangelist, it is such expensive love which was his guiding principle or motto, and it is what we should follow or emulate. May we learn to love with such intensity, genuineness and courage, that others may come to know the love of Christ.

Dec 26 - Saint Stephen, the first Martyr - Feast

Today we celebrate the Feast of Saint Stephen, the first Martyr who died for Christ. Some of us might be wondering why we celebrate his feast on the day after Christmas where we are still filled with the joy of Christmas. The reason is because this Feast of Saint Stephen is to remind us of why Jesus came. Christmas is not just about the baby Jesus, but a life that would go through much persecution and rejection, which would end up on the Cross. Even as an infant, persecution had already started when Herod tried to kill the baby Jesus, resulting in His escape to Egypt and resulting in the death of the Holy Innocents, whose feast we celebrate on December 28. So the coming of Jesus is a call to commitment and a call to martyrdom, and Saint Stephen sets us an example on how to follow and die for Jesus.

Following the example of Jesus, Saint Stephen offered his spirit to God, saying: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." He even prayed for forgiveness for those who were stoning him to death, where he said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” This tells us that a Christian martyr does not die consumed by hatred and crying for vengeance, but his love for Christ enables him to love and forgive his enemies. If we were to be martyred for our faith, would we be able to follow Saint Stephen's example, as well as the examples of the many martyrs who had died for Christ?

Monday 20 June 2016

Friday of the 2nd Week of Advent

In society, we have certain rules, regulations and laws which are meant to be followed, for the good of society as a whole. If we do not follow such rules, regulations and laws, we could be causing inconvenience or even problems to others, because of our selfishness, attitude and behaviour. For example, if we drive our vehicle as we please by not wearing the seatbelt or driving too fast, we may be a danger or hazard to others, and the police would summon us for not obeying traffic laws. Likewise, we also have God's commandments which are there for the good of all, so that all may be loving and responsible in our words, deeds and conduct.

Today's reading tells us: "I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go. If only you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river, your integrity like the waves of the sea." God is inviting us to let Him teach us and lead us. When we are open to following God's commandments, and be willing to let Him guide us, we would then learn to be loving and responsible as His people. Are we willing to let God be our guide, or do we still stubbornly insist in doing things our way?

Thursday of the 2nd Week of Advent

When you go for a holiday or a business or working trip, it is generally better if you have a tour guide or someone who knows the place of destination who can accompany you. This is so that the holiday or trip would be an enjoyable one, and you would not be so easily cheated or taken for a ride. In the season of Advent, there is somebody who is ever willing to help us in our journey. That person is John the Baptist, who is showing us the way and the preparations that we need to do. The preparations consist of repentance and the conversion of heart. In the Gospel, Jesus exalts John the Baptist because he is faithful and committed to His mission in life. He is indeed true to his purpose.

What about us? Are we preparing ourselves for Jesus, with repentance and conversion of heart? Are we being faithful and committed to our mission in life, so as to give glory to God? May we follow John the Baptist's example, and prepare the way not only for ourselves but for others too, so that we would be ready to meet our loving Saviour.

Wednesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

When a farmer wants to plough the field in preparation for planting crops, the farmer would put a yoke on an ox so that the animal could pull the plough. Some farmers have a yoke which is designed for 2 oxen, so that the burden of ploughing the field could be shared by the 2 oxen. Another reason why a yoke for 2 oxen is used is to train a new ox, since the more experienced ox would be guiding the new ox in ploughing the field.

In today's Gospel, Jesus is inviting us to " Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light." When we have Jesus to guide us, we would be able to go through the plough of life with less difficulty, since Jesus is pulling the plough with us. May we shoulder Jesus' yoke, and find rest for our souls in His care.

Tuesday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Supposing you are a rich man and you dropped some money while coming out of a building, would you go back to search for the money and retrieve it? If the amount dropped is substantial, some may go back to search and recover the money, but if the amount is negligible, quite likely it would be ignored. But if you are a poor person, any amount of money lost is a big deal, and quite likely a poor person would search and recover the money.

In today's Gospel, we see a man who chose to go after that one sheep that was lost, even though he had another ninety-nine. For some of us, losing one sheep may not have been a big deal; but for that man, each sheep was extremely precious and losing even one could be disastrous to the man's livelihood, and so he had no qualms about searching for that lost sheep till it was found. God is very much like that man. The Gospel tells us that "it is never the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost." Even if we have done a lot of bad or nasty things, God is always looking for us and beckoning us to come home with Him. Are we going to stubbornly choose to remain lost? Or are we willing to return to the Lord's ways, and let Him be our providence and guide?

Monday of the 2nd Week of Advent

When a person is paralysed, he or she may not be able to move or do anything on their own, and would require the help of family and friends to attend to their daily needs. Some even suffer from a different form of paralysis, where a person is unable to speak or express oneself clearly and concretely, and may end up being misunderstood or even rejected. This is why being paralysed in one way or another is certainly no laughing matter, since we lose our freedom and independence to care for ourselves, and are at the mercy and generosity of others.

In today's Gospel, we come across a paralysed man who was brought on a stretcher by some men. These men went up on to the flat roof and lowered him and his stretcher down through the tiles into the middle of the gathering, in front of Jesus, as the crowd made it impossible to find a way of getting him in. It was the faith of these men that impressed Jesus and Jesus cured the paralysed man, based on such great faith. The paralysed man may have had faith, but there was no way of telling about the amount of faith he had, since he could not move or express himself. So this paralysed man was lucky and fortunate to have such great friends who had such great faith in Jesus.

Some of us may be suffering from a different kind of paralysis, that is spiritual paralysis. We suffer from spiritual paralysis when we sin and allow ourselves to remain in the state of sin, until we become spiritually paralysed to God's promptings. The cure to such spiritual paralysis is to be regular and consistent in going for confession, and building our relationship with God. The question is: are we willing to be set free from such spiritual paralysis, or do we prefer to remain spiritually paralysed until it is too late?

Friday 17 June 2016

Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

Every once in a while, we come across people who know how to talk a lot. Such persons know how to sound as if they know a lot about a certain topic, or that they are able to do many things, or that they have quite a bit of wealth, property and power in society, and they claim that they would be willing to use their wealth, property or power to help others. But how many of such persons would be willing to "walk the talk" or be willing to put into practice what they say and show that action speaks louder than words? Or are such persons only saying such things to sound good, but their words and promises are empty and meaningless?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his disciples: "It is not those who say to me, “Lord, Lord,” who will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven." Jesus is emphasising that one not only needs to listens to His Words, but also needs to act on them. If we examine our lives, are we merely wasting our words frivolously and saying things only to sound good? Or are we practicing what we preach, for the good of all and for His glory?

Wednesday of the 1st Week of Advent

When we see a beggar or some poor people coming to us and asking us for some food or money, what do we do? Do we help them, or do we ignore them completely? If we do help them, do we give them some money just to shoo them away or get rid of them, thinking that we have done our part, or do we go that extra mile and make effort to help them for a longer period, perhaps even helping them come out of their poverty?

In today's Gospel, we see a contrast between Jesus and His disciples. The disciples seemed to be more concerned about their needs, but Jesus was more concerned about the crowd, not only by teaching and healing them, but also in seeing to their welfare by giving them something to eat. Logistically speaking, the disciples seemed worried and concerned about their situation, since realistically, it seemed impossible to feed so many. But Jesus is not just any ordinary preacher, and He showed them the true meaning of love and compassion by willing to give until it hurts, and taking that extra step in giving the crowd something to eat.

What about us? Would we be willing to go that extra mile and help those in need, even if it means giving till it hurts? Or have we become so concerned only about the costs and about ourselves? May we learn to be like Jesus in the way He loved and served the crowd, so that in all we say and do, may His Name be glorified.

Thursday 16 June 2016

Tuesday of the 1st Week of Advent

It is interesting to observe how some people behave or react or respond when certain situations or circumstances occur. Some people may think themselves as adults or mature, but in some of such situations or circumstances, such persons may be quite childish in their attitude or behaviour. Likewise, there are people who have learnt to be humble and dependent on God's providence, being childlike in their relationship with God, when such situations or circumstances occur. Where do you stand? Have you become childish when certain situations or circumstances happen? Or have you become more childlike?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded that there are things which are revealed to mere children and not to the learned or clever. Some may initially think that God is being unfair or discriminating towards the learned or clever. But if we read between the lines, we could discover that there are the learned or clever who have become quite full of themselves, thinking that they know it all. Such persons are unable to listen to the promptings of God, and they would not experience things which are revealed, because they have closed or shut their minds to God's care and providence.

What about us? Are we making effort to be more childlike in our relationship with God? Or have we allowed our minds and hearts to be closed or shut, thinking that we are learned and clever, and do not need God?

Monday of the 1st Week of Advent

Nowadays, we seem to see more and more conflicts and wars happening around the world. Conflicts and wars happen due to a number reasons. One could be because of pride, where persons of one nation react due to what persons of another nation have said or done. Even though at times what was said or done was not as serious as it seems, pride blinds and distorts the minds of persons into reacting unwisely. Another reason could be because of greed. A nation has resources that another does not, and the other nation goes to war to try and plunder such resources. Also, some nations or corporations promote (in a discreet way) conflicts and wars because it benefits them financially, since weapons from such nations could be sold to nations involved in the conflicts and wars, for a handsome profit.

Seeing such conflicts and wars happening around us, could we ever experience the peace that is given in the vision of Isaiah in today's reading: "peoples will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles; nation will not lift up sword against nation, there will be no more training for war."? I believe we can, if we humbly, genuinely, perseveringly and consistently "walk in the light of the Lord." Let us free ourselves from our pride, ego, greed and prejudice, and turn to Jesus who can heal the world and grant us peace.

Thursday 9 June 2016

Friday of Week 34 Year 1

It is interesting to observe how people spend so much time and effort in obtaining things of this world, things which are only temporary and will not last. For example, we may have a brand new car today, but that same car would slowly depreciate in value, parts will breakdown, and there will come a time when the car would end up as scrap. The same goes for the computers and electronic gadgets we own or long to own. What is the latest and greatest today would become obsolete tomorrow. Whether we like it or not, that is the way things are here on earth, and we need to set our priorities right and focus on what really matters.

In today's reading, we are reminded of One who will never disappear or fade away. The reading tells us: "His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire ever be destroyed." No matter what happens, be it good or bad, Jesus will always be there for us. So we should make more effort to grow closer to Him and let Him be our guide, since all other persons and things are impermanent, temporary, and will sooner or later go away, but Jesus will always be around.

Wednesday of Week 34 Year 1

Being a Christian is not easy, since there are many things we believe in and practice which are in contrast with the ways of the world. When we persist in doing things which are in contrast with the ways of the world, even though what we are doing is right and just, we may face persecution, condemnation or even the possibility of death. What is even more painful is when those who are against us, or are persecuting us, are from our friends and families, who have chosen to conform to the ways of the world. As Christians, when we are faced with such persecution, what do we do and how should we respond?

In today's Gospel Jesus tells us: "Men will seize you and persecute you; they will hand you over to the synagogues and to imprisonment, and bring you before kings and governors because of my name – and that will be your opportunity to bear witness... You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relations and friends; and some of you will be put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name, but not a hair of your head will be lost. Your endurance will win you your lives." The key points we can gather from the Gospel is that we have an opportunity to bear witness as Christians,  and that our endurance will win us our lives. May we not try to save our skin, give up or abandon our faith in the face of persecution, but remain steadfast and committed, knowing that God will be our help and guide.

Tuesday of Week 34 Year 1

Some of us may have watched several movies concerning the end of the world, and some have become so paranoid, that they begin to make extensive preparations for it, especially preparations like surviving a nuclear attack, or the disintegration of society due to some major disaster. Some even become influenced by certain doomsday groups, who claim to know when the world is going to end, and even trick people into parting with their wealth, property and other possessions. But what sort of attitude should a Christian have towards the end of the world?

In today's Gospel, Jesus cautions us: "‘Take care not to be deceived,’ he said ‘because many will come using my name and saying, “I am he” and, “The time is near at hand.” Refuse to join them. And when you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened, for this is something that must happen but the end is not so soon.’ Then he said to them, ‘Nation will fight against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquakes and plagues and famines here and there; there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven.’"

What Jesus is telling us is not to be so easily duped or taken for a ride by those so called persons who claim to know when the world would end. This is because, as Christians, we should know our bible and if we know our bible, then we should know that Jesus Himself said that no one except God the Father knows when the end will be. Also, if we really trust God, should the end of the world come, there is no reason to fear or panic, because we have God to care for us. Moreover, we should not be lazy and think that by simply being counted or following such doomsday groups, we would be spared of the trials that accompany the coming of the end. Instead, we should focus in building a good relationship with God and with others, so that no matter what happens, God will be our providence. So let us not allow ourselves to be so easily deceived, and continue to have hope and trust in our loving God, as He is our everything and our guide.

Monday of Week 34 Year 1

What does it mean to think outside the box? To think outside the box means to think differently, unconventionally, or from a new perspective.When one thinks outside the box, one is looking at issues or challenges from different perspectives, and finding creative and innovative ways to solve the problem. It also means that one is not fixated in ideas or thoughts.

In today's reading, we hear how Daniel and his friends faced the dilemma of having to eat forbidden food. Daniel understood the situation of those who were put in charge of him, and even though such persons in charge were fearful and fixated in their thinking, Daniel was able to think outside the box, and found a creative way of going round the problem of food. At the end, the results showed that Daniel and his companions "looked and were in better health than any of the boys who had eaten their allowance from the royal table; so the guard withdrew their allowance of food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables." In doing so, it became a win-win situation, where Daniel and his companions were able to survive without eating that which is forbidden to them, and those in charge of them avoided punishment for disobeying the king with regards to the food and wine.

What about us? Do we think outside the box when it comes to issues and challenges in church? Are we able to identify and utilise different methods to come to a solution? May we not be so fixated in our thoughts and ways, and be willing to explore new ways, so that in all we say and do, we give glory to God.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Friday of Week 33 Year 1

In the reading, the temple was rededicated with so much reverence and rejoicing after the pagans had desecrated it. The people prostrated in adoration and praised God for being with them again, because the Temple symbolised the God presence among them. Yet, at the time of Jesus, the Temple had become a "den of thieves," as mentioned in the Gospel, because of the selling that was going on, and in the hustle and bustle of selling, there would have been much noise and cheating going on, causing the Temple to be desecrated once again. Naturally, Jesus would not tolerate such nonsense going on in the Temple, and He drove out those who were selling, to restore the Temple to its sacred dignity as the dwelling place of God, a refuge for those in trouble and in need, and a sanctuary of life and love.

Just as Jesus drove out the sellers to restore the Temple to its sacred dignity, Jesus wants to cleanse the temple in our hearts, by driving out the sin which is desecrating it. Are we willing to let Jesus cleanse our hearts, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation, so that it would become a dwelling place of God once again? Or are we remaining stubborn and obstinate, preferring to let our hearts remain as a "den of thieves?"

Thursday of Week 33 Year 1

Supposing you are the mayor of a city and you are known to be an impartial, fair, just and efficient leader. Then one day, you receive instructions from the higher ups in the government that all newborns are to be examined, and any newborn is found to have some defect, that newborn is to be exterminated without delay. Would you obey such an instruction? Or supposing the instruction says that all old people above 70 are no longer productive, and they are to be exterminated without delay. Would you obey such an instruction to protect your livelihood and avoid being persecuted or even put to death? Or would you rather go against the government, even if it means losing your job, your status, or even your life?

In today's reading, we see how Mattathias and his sons chose to do what is right and just and obey God's orders. The reading tells us that, "In his zeal for the Law, Mattathias went through the town, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Let everyone who has a fervour for the Law and takes his stand on the covenant come out and follow me.’ Then he fled with his sons into the hills, leaving all their possessions behind in the town. At this, many who were concerned for virtue and justice went down to the desert and stayed there."

Such leadership by Mattathias and his sons inspired many others to follow their example and remain faithful to God. As leaders, are we showing fervour and good example, encouraging others to do the same? Or have we misused our leadership for our own gain, and caused others to go astray? Are we leaders only for our own interests, even if it mean committing evil? Or are we being leaders for the good of all and for the glory of God?

Wednesday of Week 33 Year 1

I believe most parents would want their children to succeed in life. To achieve this, most parents would make much effort to see that their children have got a good and comfortable home, good nutrition, the best education that they can afford, access to good learning facilities and equipment and much more. All these efforts and sacrifices are made in the hope that their children would gain an edge in the world.

But when it comes to matters concerning faith, what do parents do? Do they make much effort to ensure that their children receive good grounding in the faith? Also, if the faith is being challenged, there is persecution and the entire family could be wiped out, how would parents advice or teach our kids? Would we tell them to make a run for it and save themselves, reasoning that they are young and have got lots of life ahead of them? Or would we be like that mother in today's reading, who "was especially admirable and worthy of honourable remembrance, for she watched the death of seven sons in the course of a single day, and endured it resolutely because of her hopes in the Lord."

At the end of the day, we need to ask ourselves this: Is faith in God so precious, so valuable, so important, that we are willing to let our children and ourselves lose our lives so that we may gain eternal life? Or have we become so attached to the ways of the world that we are willing to compromise or abandon our faith, just for the sake of temporary riches and fame?

Monday of Week 33 Year 1

As children, some of us were known to be champion pesterers. We would whine and beg our parents for something, and sometimes we could go on and on for hours or even days. After a while, our parents may give in to our whining, though sometimes they may not give us what we want. When we grew up and were pursuing our degree, many of us would "pester" our tutors and professors for help or better grades. Once again, we may get what we want, sometimes we may not get what we want. If you notice, whether you get what you want or not is not the main point. The main point is that you would have pestered for it patiently, persistently and consistently, hoping that you get it in the end. But when it comes to asking God for something, how many of us are willing to be just as patient, persistent and consistent in asking for it?

In today's Gospel, we come across the blind man who wanted Jesus to heal him. The blind man said: "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me." Even though people in front scolded him and told him to keep quiet, he shouted all the louder, "Son of David, have pity on me." Eventually, the blind man was healed, because he had faith in Jesus. What about us? Do we have faith in Jesus like the blind man has? Are we willing to be patient, persistent and consistent in asking Jesus for help? May we not be so easily defeated but persevere and trust in God, knowing that He will do what is best for us.

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Friday of Week 32 Year 1

It may seem surprising to us, but there are people in this world who do not believe in God. Such persons do not believe in God for a number of reasons. Some of such people think that science has the answer to why things happen. Some think that since you cannot see, touch, or feel God, then they deduce that God does not exist. But if we consider a moment: there are many things in this world which we cannot see, touch or feel. For example, we cannot see, touch or feel germs, but they are there and we may experience the consequences of germs if we are infected by them through some means. Also, we cannot see air, and yet we are surrounded by air.

This is why today's reading tells us: "Naturally stupid are all men who have not known God and who, from the good things that are seen, have not been able to discover Him-who-is, or, by studying the works, have failed to recognise the Artificer... if they are capable of acquiring enough knowledge to be able to investigate the world, how have they been so slow to find its Master?" While science may be able to explain some things, there are also many things that science cannot explain. When science cannot explain certain things, does it mean that such things are fiction or not true? Of course not. It basically means that science is limited, whereas God is unlimited. May we not be so naive as to think that we can do without God, and learn to depend on Him for wisdom and understanding.

Thursday of Week 32 Year 1

If someone were to come up to you and say that the world is going to end, and that you should come for a gathering to prepare for the end, would you go? Quite likely you would not, but there are some who are so easy to be tricked, and when they go for such gatherings, they may end up losing their wealth or posessions, since persons organising such gatherings use scare tactics to make others part with their belongings, in preparation for the so-called end. Then once these people have gotten their loot, they make a quick get-away, and those who were gullible enough to listen to them may find themselves in a lurch.

In today's Gospel, we are reminded that "The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation... They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit..." Are we going to be so easily tricked or influenced by others and start worrying and fretting? Or are we going to continue to trust in our loving God and build our relationship with Him, knowing that He will care for us no matter what happens? May we not be so easily duped or taken for a ride, and let the Lord be our providence and guide.

Wednesday of Week 32 Year 1

Some of us may have heard of the phrase: "With great power comes great responsibility." Such a phrase has great implications, since the power we hold is not to be used as one pleases, or to be used recklessly, but to be used in a responsible manner, for the good of all, and for the glory of God. Such responsibility is certainly not an easy or simple matter, and to be true and faithful in our conduct is not something we can accomplish on our own.We need to continuously depend on God's help for strength and perserverence.

However, for those among us who abuse their positions, who think that we can do as we please, today's reading warns: "power is a gift to you from the Lord, sovereignty is from the Most High; he himself will probe your acts and scrutinise your intentions... If, as administrators of his kingdom, you have not governed justly; nor observed the law, nor behaved as God would have you behave, he will fall on you swiftly and terribly. Ruthless judgement is reserved for the high and mighty; the lowly will be compassionately pardoned, the mighty will be mightily punished."

Such warnings ought to remind us that we are to serve and not lord it over others. The question is: are we making efforts in humility to remain loyal, faithful and dependent on the Lord, or have we allowed ourselves to go astray? Are we aware and careful of the consequences of our actions, or have we become blind and deaf, refusing to admit any guilt or wrongdoing? May we come to realise the graveness of the responsibility entrusted upon us, and in all we say and do, give glory to God.

Tuesday of Week 32 Year 1

When you are given a task or some responsibility, what is your motivation to do it? Some do the task because they see it as a means to impress others. Some do so to gain recognition and hopefully rewards. Some do so because they want to prove themselves and prove their abilities and capabilities. Some do so because they see it as part of their duty or job. But how many of us are willing to get the task done, without expecting recognition, reward or to show off for our own gratification?

In today's Gospel we are reminded: "So with you: when you have done all you have been told to do, say, 'We are merely servants: we have done no more than our duty.'” In whatever we do, are we doing things just to serve ourselves, or are we really serving the Lord? Let us always remember that all our abilities and talents are meant to give God the glory, not for our own selfish ends.

Monday of Week 32 Year 1

Life is meant to be lived with simplicity and joy. But the problem that we get ourselves into is when we allow our lives to be complicated and cluttered with sins like hypocrisy, craftiness, being cunning or scheming, wanting things only our way, and so on. We begin to think and deceive ourselves that the sins we commit are not so serious, and that we have plenty of time to go for confession to remove such sins. But sin stains our soul, and the longer we take to have it removed, the harder it would be for us to remove the stain. Just as a stain on clothing would ruin the clothing, the stain of sin on our soul would ruin us and ruin our relationship with God.

In today's reading, we are cautioned: "Wisdom will never make its way into a crafty soul nor stay in a body that is in debt to sin; the holy spirit of instruction shuns deceit, it stands aloof from reckless purposes, is taken aback when iniquity appears." When we allow sins to fester in our soul, we lose our connection with God, for God and sin are incompatible. That is why, we should make every effort to have our sins removed by being regular in confession, and strive to "love virtue... let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord, seek him in simplicity of heart; since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test, he shows himself to those who do not distrust him." Are we willing to take action and return to the Lord's ways, before it is too late?

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Are successful businessmen considered wise? What about university professors? Are they considered wise? If a person has a PhD or some Academic Doctorate in some area of specialisation, is that person considered wise? It seems as if many of us have equated wisdom with knowledge, intelligence and good business acumen. A man who knows how to save, how to make good investments, who becomes rich as a result of hard work and intelligence, who has many influential friends and colleagues, or even a person who has many followers, seems to be considered by many as wise. But what is wisdom really?

Wisdom is when we realise that all comes from God and all will return to God. Wisdom reminds us that the most important things in life are not just having friends, or having lots of children or grandchildren, or even having prosperity and luck. All these are impermanent, temporary and cannot be brought with us when we die. Instead, when we begin to realise that our faith and trust in God is what really matters, when seek treasures in heaven instead of focusing only on treasures on earth, then we begin to understand and strive towards true wisdom.

When it comes to worldly investments, many of us seem to be ready to make preparations and sacrifices, all for the sake of making life easier for ourselves, for our children and hopefully for our descendants. But how many of us have been making preparations and sacrifices, when it comes to spiritual investments? We seem so eager to make preparations for any eventuality in this life, but how eager are we in preparing for death and eternal life? In today’s gospel, we see an example of how prepared we could be. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasts the foolish bridesmaids with the sensible ones. The sensible ones are prepared to meet the bridegroom at any time. The foolish ones thought that they had enough oil, they had enough time. But time waits for no man or woman, and if we are not prepared or careful, we may find ourselves outside the door, like what had happened to the foolish bridesmaids in the parable, since we have not enough oil burning in our lamps.

So let us strive towards true wisdom, by investing for eternal life. Let us be ready and prepared to meet the Lord at any time, as Jesus cautions us in the Gospel: "So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour." May we not be caught off-guard or unprepared, because our eternal future and happiness is clearly at stake.

Monday 6 June 2016

Friday of Week 31 Year 1

What does it mean to be astute? Being astute means having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one's advantage. People who are astute have or show shrewdness and discernment, especially with respect to one's own concerns. This means that such persons know how to survive, and they know how to be creative and innovative when it comes to thinking of ways to make money, to get well connected with the influential and powerful and to be well-off.

In today's Gospel, we come across the parable of the dishonest steward. In this parable, the master praised the dishonest steward not for his dishonesty, but for his astuteness. Jesus seemed to be making a lament when He said that the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than the children of light. Why so? Because, we sometimes end up neglecting our spiritual growth and relationship with God, and our hearts become divided between the needs of the world, and our efforts to grow in holiness, whereas the children of this world seem focused and determined in making it big in worldly affairs. May we learn to be astute, especially in spiritual matters, for the glory of God and for our eternal future.

Wednesday of Week 31 Year 1

Are we as a society becoming more and more apathetic (which means showing or feeling no interest, enthusiasm, or concern) towards others? If we look around us today, how many of us really do care about others? For example, how many of us would stop if we see somebody in need of help by the road because of a vehicle breakdown or an accident? Or how many of us would be friendly and neighbourly to others in our housing area? What about in church? Do we make effort to get to know others around us, especially newcomers and strangers?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "All the commandments... are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments." If we claim to have love for others, then we have no excuse and no reason to be apathetic towards others. This is because if we remain apathetic, then we are not really loving after all, and are merely concerned about ourselves, our needs and perhaps the needs of our loved ones. Are we willing to come out of our apathetic attitude and behaviour, and truly love just as God loves us all?

Tuesday of Week 31 Year 1

As Christians, we should be charitable and hospitable to all, not just our friends. But when we go to church, how many of us would actually make effort or go through the trouble to look around and see if there are any strangers or newcomers especially inside the church or near the church entrance? Do we make our church a place where all are welcomed? Do we recognise the persons around us, or even the strangers in our midst, and be friendly and welcoming to them? Or do we only stick to our cliques, our family or friends? What about our housing area? Are we friendly and neighbourly to at least the houses near us? Or have we become so suspicious of persons, even neighbours, that we keep to ourselves and not have anything to do with them?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Do not let your love be a pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as much as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other. Work for the Lord with untiring effort and with great earnestness of spirit. If you have hope, this will make you cheerful. Do not give up if trials come; and keep on praying. If any of the saints are in need you must share with them; and you should make hospitality your special care."

Some of us may think that being welcoming and hospitable to others, especially strangers and newcomers, is responsibility of the hospitality ministers. But if we consider ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God, then shouldn't being welcoming and hospitable to others be our responsibility and duty also? What about our neighbours in our housing area? Shouldn't we be hospitable and neighbourly to them too? Are we reserved and inward looking as Christians, or have we learnt to come out of our comfort zone, and reach out to others with love, care, concern, and compassion, bringing the joy of Christ to all through our words and actions?

Monday of Week 31 Year 1

Could we ever understand why certain things happen in life? For example, could we ever understand at what point a child is conceived? Some couples would have tried for weeks, months or even years to have a child, and still have no success. Yet some couples are able to have children so easily. Also, could we ever understand why certain people have been inflicted with certain illnesses? Some of us may claim that our genes and family background could play a part, but we are only speculating, since there have also been cases where persons had no issues in their family history and they had been living as healthily as possible, could still be stricken with certain illnesses.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything?" If we cannot even understand why many things happen on earth, then how are we able to understand God? We could get some glimpses of who God is, but ultimately, it all bears down to faith, trust and joyful obedience. When we learn to have more faith and trust in God, even if we do not understand why certain things happen does not matter that much, since things happen for a purpose, for His glory.

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

If you look at society, what do you see? Many of us see that society seems to be made up of two categories. One category is what we call leaders, the other is what we call followers. The leaders are those who govern and the followers are those who follow and obey the leaders. When it comes to our church, do we see a similar pattern? For many of us, we think that the church is also made up of two categories. One category is what we call church leadership, which is made up of clergy, that is the church hierarchy consisting of bishops, priests and deacons, together with lay leaders who help the clergy in different capacities. The other category is what we call followers, which are generally lay persons who may not hold any significant leadership role. Once again, in a church setting, many seem to think that the leaders govern and the followers just obey.

But if we ponder for a moment, is it really true that we are made up of such categories? Actually, no. We may have different functions in church, but we are actually belonging to only one category, that is, we are disciples of Christ. As disciples of Christ, we are not called to be just passive followers, merely obeying and following, but active leaders in our own different ways. Today's readings tell us how we should carry out our responsibilities as disciples of Christ, as Christian leaders in our own different ways. The readings refer to all of us, whether we are clergy or laity. So what can we glean from today's readings concerning Christian discipleship and leadership?

Firstly, we must listen to God as the prophet Malachi warns us in the first reading.This means that we must be concerned with doing His will and not ours. When we listen to God, we recognise that all authority and power comes from God alone. Whatever talents that we may have, comes from God, and have been entrusted to us for the good of the community. Secondly, our Christian discipleship and leadership must be pastoral, that is, we must love the community whom we serve. In the second reading, St. Paul uses the image of the love of a mother to describe his love for the Church. We too must always be motivated by love in all we do. Thirdly, our Christian discipleship and leadership must always be one of service instead of power and prestige. In the Gospel, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for abusing their leadership, by seeking to control the people and by trying to gain power, prestige and benefits from their position. As Christian disciples and leaders, we are called to be servants, to humble ourselves, and to serve the needs of our brothers and sisters, instead of looking for glory, or expecting places of honour, or demanding recognition or fringe benefits.

Ultimately, as Christian disciples and leaders, our goal is to be like Christ, our model and our teacher. We are called to follow Jesus' example in preaching the Good News to all, with joy, humility, patience, perseverance, compassion, mercy, and a good dose of love. May we make every effort to fervently and enthusiastically carry out our duties and responsibilities as Christian disciples and leaders, for the greater glory of God.

Sunday 5 June 2016

Friday of Week 30 Year 1

Extremism can come in many forms, and these days, we see more and more of religious extremism and intolerance happening. Extremists give the religion a bad name, since what they do and their way of thinking is actually distorted and diverted from what is the actual teaching of the particular religion. Such people take simple and straightforward teaching and make it complicated and radical. Sometimes, such extremists do such things to draw attention to themselves, and to attract especially the young to join their cause.

In today's Gospel, we come across a bunch of extremists who are the lawyers and the Pharisees. These folks held an extreme view, among many things, about keeping the sabbath. To them, keeping the sabbath means absolutely no work can be done, not even good deeds. But Jesus caught them in an embarassing situation when He said: "'Which of you here, if his son falls into a well, or his ox, will not pull him out on a sabbath day without hesitation?' And to this they could find no answer."

When we are dealing with extremists, their minds are so warped and they have become so stubborn and obstinate, that even doing good and merciful acts are prohibited. This is why the lawyers and Pharisees could not and dared not answer Jesus' challenge, since they would be conflicting their absurd position if they were to agree that such a good or merciful deed is permissable and commendable. What about us? Are some of us extremists in one way or another? Have we put people off or caused disharmony in our community with our extreme views through our behaviour, attitude and conduct? Let us do away with such extreme views, so that we may learn to live and love according to the ways of the Lord once again.

Tuesday of Week 30 Year 1

Every once in a while, we come across people who think that their salvation is already guaranteed. Such persons think that their "saved" status can never be revoked, no matter what they have said or done. Some have even claimed that only a certain number of people would be saved, and they conveniently misquote scripture to support their views. But what is a Christian understanding of salvation? Are we really saved or not?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience." What does this mean to us? It means that we still need to continue living good Christian lives, as we await our hope for salvation. It also means that we cannot do as we please, thinking that we can get away with it, expecting to still be saved when what we have done is against God's commandments. May we be consistent with our behaviour, conduct and attitude, as we await our hope for salvation, and inspire others to do the same.

Monday of Week 30 Year 1

If you have a heart attack and you need to get to the hospital quickly for treatment, and the day when your heart attack happened is on the sabbath, would you go to the hospital quickly as planned, or would you say, "It's the sabbath, so I will go the next day"? Or if your house is on fire and you need to rescue your family, but the fire is raging on the Sabbath, would you go ahead and rescue your family? Or would you say: "Oh no! It's the Sabbath. I will rescue the family tomorrow."? Or supposing it is the sabbath and your son has been bitten by a snake, and he will die if you do not bring him to the hospital quickly for immediate treatment, would you still insist that it is the sabbath, and you would rather observe the sabbath come what may, even if it means your son will die?

These examples and many more show us the hypocrisy and absurdness of the synagogue official and the Pharisees in today's Gospel, when it comes to observing the sabbath. Common sense would tell us that we should take action and perform works of mercy and do good things on the sabbath, since lives are in mortal danger as can be seen in the examples above. And yet, the synagogue official and the Pharisees could be still covered with confusion when such emergencies happen. What does this show us? It shows that the synagogue official and the Pharisees have become so distorted and extreme in their thinking, that it is illegal or sinful to be merciful, loving and compassionate even on the sabbath.

If we look at ourselves, have some of us become like the synagogue official and Pharisees? Are we washing our hands of our responsibilities as Christians, when there is an emergency or great need for help on the Lord's Day? May we come to realise the real and true meaning of the sabbath, and in all we say and do, give glory to God.

Saturday 4 June 2016

Friday of Week 29 Year 1

It seems that many of us are becoming more reluctant to deal with issues which we may have with certain other persons. Sometimes we just ignore the person or walk away, not wanting to have anything to do with the person or addressing the issue. Sometimes we go straight to the person's boss, leader and superior, even though the issue may not be that great initially, because we lack the patience or courage to deal with the person directly. Why do we do these things? It is precisely because we have allowed our pride and ego to take control, so much so that we are only concerned about ourselves, and not interested in practicing love, mercy and compassion towards ourselves and towards others.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Why not judge for yourselves what is right? For example: when you go to court with your opponent, try to settle with him on the way, or he may drag you before the judge and the judge hand you over to the bailiff and the bailiff have you thrown into prison. I tell you, you will not get out till you have paid the very last penny."

Have some of us become so self-righteous or conceited that we think we are faultless and right, demanding that others admit their faults? Or have we come to a point that we are not bothered about others anymore, causing ill-feelings, anger or even hatred to simmer and boil over? As Christians, we pray that God would forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Are we practising what we pray, or are we saying it blindly, without meaning, just to put on a show?

Thursday of Week 29 Year 1

Some of us may have heard of the term "filial piety." Filial piety basically means to be good to one's parents; to take care of one's parents; to engage in good conduct not just towards parents but also outside the home so as to bring a good name to one's parents and ancestors; to perform the duties of one's job well so as to obtain the material means to support parents. When we observe filial piety, we would try to keep the peace, especially in our family and with our parents, siblings and other loved ones. We would try not to get into major arguments as far as possible, and sometimes we learn to give and take so as to avoid ill feelings, as we would not want our family to break up and drift apart. But sometimes, we are put into a difficult situation. If your parents, siblings or other family members demand that you to do something which would keep the family united and at peace, but would cause you to break God's commandment and commit sin, what would you choose? Would you listen to your family, or listen to God?

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

Wednesday of Week 29 Year 1

I believe most people would not want to be associated with evil. However, our negligence and failure to take action may lead us towards sin and evil. For example, we neglect to be loving and charitable towards others, we think only about ourselves, we allow pride and our ego to get the better of us, we steal or kill either directly or indirectly because we desire something which we want but cannot easily have, or we are unable or refuse to forgive others. When we do these things and more, we may be dragging ourselves on a path towards evil.

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

It seems challenging and difficult, humanly speaking, to overcome evil, because the ways of the world tempts us with so many attractions. But this is not an excuse for us to give up or despair, since we are helped by God's grace, and when we go for confession regularly, we are actually making effort to keep our soul clean. May we make every effort to change our ways, our attitudes and our behaviour, and fight on the side of God, for our eternal future.

Tuesday of Week 29 Year 1

Some of us are used to putting off to tomorrow what could be done today. We can come up with many excuses as to why we are not getting the task done. For example, we say that there is still plenty of time, or that the task seems not that important, or the task needs extra time to prepare, even though in reality it is not that difficult to do, or we feel lazy or unmotivated at the moment. Sometimes we procrastinate for so long, that when the deadline for the task is approaching, then we begin to panic and work feverishly on it to get it done, or if the task does not seem so urgent, we may just forget about it altogether. But what we thought to be not so urgent today, may turn out to be critical tomorrow. For example, we think that servicing the car is not so urgent, even though the time to service has come, because we mistakingly believe that the car can still run for some time before it really needs servicing. But are we going to wait until the car breaks down and is in bad shape, then only we become frantic and get it serviced? By then, we may end up paying more for repairs, compared to if we had serviced regularly and according to schedule.

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us of the need to be prepared: "See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes." Just as we should not procrastinate in getting a task done, even though it may not seem so urgent at first, we should also not procrastinate in building our spiritual life. May we not find ourselves caught off-guard when the time suddenly comes for us to meet the Lord.

Monday of Week 29 Year 1

What is avarice? Avarice means extreme greed for wealth or material gain. It makes the getting and keeping of money, possessions, and the like, a purpose in itself to live for, instead of seeing that these things are valuable only as instruments for the conduct of a rational and harmonious life. When a person is infested by avarice, the person treats as if wealth or material gain are all that matters, and relationship, including family and even God, become secondary or even insignificant. Sometimes a person who is filled with avarice begins to treat such wealth or material gain as god.

In today's Gospel,  Jesus cautions us: "Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs."When we allow avarice to fester in our lives, we are distancing ourselves from God, thinking that we are self-sufficient and self-reliant. But what we fail to realise is that all that we have and own are merely temporary things which we cannot bring with us when we die. May we avoid allowing ourselves to end up in eternal ruin, and make every effort to be "rich in the sight of God."

Friday 3 June 2016

Friday of Week 28 Year 1

A leaven is a substance used in dough and batter that causes it to rise, making the end product, be it bread, cake or some other baked item, soft and delicious to eat. While leaven is usually used for a good purpose, there is a different kind of leaven which we need to be cautious about. What leaven is that? The leaven of hypocrisy of the Pharisees, which Jesus warns us in today's Gospel not to imitate because they give us false impressions and bad examples. For example, the Pharisees like to give alms in public. They do this only to please the crowd, not God. Now, if one follows their example, one also becomes like them because their corrupting influence, their 'leavening effect', corrupts and influences us to give alms for our personal glory, gratification and to boost our pride and ego, instead of giving alms for the glory of God.

Behind much hypocrisy and lying is fear. Often we are afraid of how others will react if they discover the truth about us. That is why we must not be afraid to allow "Everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear." When our inner life and hidden actions are exposed to the light of God, the light of truth, we can be set free. We can do this especially when we go for the sacrament of reconciliation, where all that we are ashamed of, all that is hidden, could be revealed and forgiven. When we do so, we have no reason to fear, because God is there to help us and guide us. Are we willing to come out of our shadows, our hypocritical ways, and let the light of God shine through us and heal us?

Thursday of Week 28 Year 1

When we go to the dentist, one of the things that some of us dread is when the dentist uses a drill as part of a procedure to repair a tooth. The drilling can lead to a sense of being uncomfortable, or even pain, especially when the drill touches a nerve. Sometimes the dentist would give us an injection to help numb the pain, but the pain can still be felt. When we feel the pain, what do we do? Do we brave through it, or do we twist and turn violently and make a ruckus? In the same way, we sometimes come across persons who confront us and "drills" us with the truth. When we are faced with the truth, do we keep trying to live in denial or try to sweep it under the carpet, or do we face up to it, seek forgiveness, reconcile and move on.

In today's Gospel: "When he left the house, the scribes and the Pharisees began a furious attack on him and tried to force answers from him on innumerable questions, setting traps to catch him out in something he might say." The scribes and the Pharisees knew that the truth about them had been exposed, but they were stubborn, proud, egoistic and arrogant, refusing to admit their fault. Instead, they tried to put Jesus down to hide the truth. But what the scribes and the Pharisees failed to realise is that the truth would eventually prevail, no matter how hard they tried to hide it.

Ultimately, we need to decide. Are we going to be like the scribes and the Pharisees, refusing to face up to the truth? Or are we willing to be humble and docile, and face up to the truth? Just like a drill can help make our tooth better, may we let God drill us, so that we would change and become better persons for His glory.

Tuesday of Week 28 Year 1

Many of us make great efforts to keep ourselves clean, tidy and pleasant smelling. We bathe regularly, use expensive perfumes, apply make-up, put on good looking clothes, and do many other things of this sort, to make a good impression and keep up a good appearance. After all, we would not want to emit body odour and feel embarrassed in the presence of others, and we would not want to appear unkempt. But all these efforts to maintaining cleanliness are merely external cleanliness. What about our internal cleanliness, that is, the cleanliness of our soul?

In today's Gospel, Jesus admonished the Pharisees when he said: "Oh, you Pharisees! You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness. Fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside too? Instead, give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you." The Pharisees were more interested in appearing to be good and holy, and they observed many practices to appear to be clean, but they neglected in keeping their spiritual sides clean. In the same way, we too could be appearing be clean, but we may be neglecting to keep our souls clean from the stain of sin. Are we interested in only external appearance, which is temporary? Or have we made effort to remain clean internally, by keeping our souls clean from sin?

Monday of Week 28 Year 1

People become Catholics or Christians due to a variety of reasons, and after baptism, they are encouraged to live out and practice their faith in many different ways. Some do so by getting involved in different church ministries such as Ministers of Hospitality, Lectors, Commentators, Catechists and many others. Some do so by reaching out to the poor, providing them with basic necessities. Some do so by getting involved in works of mercy or charitable deeds, such as visiting the sick in hospital, praying for them, visiting prisons and much more. But what is the most important duty a Christian or Catholic is bound to do?

Our primary duty as Christians or Catholics is to preach the Good News, as Paul says in today's reading. This means that preaching the Good News is not only meant for religious leaders, since each and every Christian is expected to do his or her part in preaching the Good News, in one form or another. One need not go far or to some remote place to preach the Good News, since even in our homes or housing area, we would come across many who may have not heard the Good News. Are we doing our part with joy, perseverance and consistency, or have we been slacking or trying to to shirk our responsibilities?

Thursday 2 June 2016

Friday of Week 27 Year 1

What happens to a person when he or she allows jealousy to take control of one's life? Some begin to behave in a silly or erratic manner, and they begin to say things which are silly, stupid or which make a fool of themselves. Some begin to waste time and effort trying to plot and bring the other person down, when they could have used such time and effort to do good. Some even begin to lose sleep and become increasingly frustrated, when others seem to be doing better or are more successful than they are, causing their health to be affected. But at the end of the day, why do we need to be jealous? What are we really trying to prove?

In today's Gospel: "When Jesus had cast out a devil, some of the people said, 'It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.' Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses. So too with Satan: if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? – Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils. Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out? Let them be your judges then.'"

When people allow jealously to get the better of them, they begin to talk nonsense, such as what has happened in the Gospel. Instead of trying to belittle Jesus, these people only end up belittling themselves. May we prevent jealousy from ruining our lives and relationships, and give thanks to God for the gifts we have as well as the gifts others have.

Thursday of Week 27 Year 1

In many movies and television shows, we often see the good guy winning and being triumphant. Quite often we would see the bad guy ending up dead, or imprisoned, or running away from the good guy. But what is the reality we see around us? We see the rich getting richer, and the poor getting poorer; those who do evil get the benefits, whereas those who do good end up as losers. Some of us begin to wonder: "Does God care? Will God do something to right the situation?" As time goes by, some of us begin to lose hope, or give up, thinking that the bad guy is untouchable or unbeatable. But the funny thing about life is, the good guy does win, not quite the way we expect, but sometimes in ways that go beyond our understanding and imagination.

In today's reading, the people tried to be good people and they tried to be faithful to the Lord. But they ended up getting disappointed and said: "It is useless to serve God; what is the good of keeping God's commandments? Because the arrogant seemed to be blessed and the evil doers prosper!" But the prophet Malachi reminded the people that God sees and He knows and He remembers. In the end, for those who fear God, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.

What about us? When we see that evil or wickedness or corruption seems to be winning, would we persevere and trust in God, knowing that He will save us and help us? Are we willing to be patient and let God take care of things? May we never give up or despair, but remain in hope, prayer and perseverance, knowing and trusting that God will help us in His time and for His glory.

Wednesday of Week 27 Year 1

Do we understand what the words mercy and compassion mean? We often say such words, especially when we are the ones asking for mercy and compassion, but when it involves others, especially those who have done great harm towards us, towards our loved ones, or even towards others, do we have the same attitude of mercy and compassion? Quite likely, some of us may wish just retribution towards those who have cause such harm. But if we consider a moment: do we fight evil with evil? How different are we if we demand retribution towards those who have done harm, and we respond with hate, anger and rage?

In today's reading, Jonah was sulking and fuming because God did not punish the people of Nineveh, because these people had renounce their evil behaviour. Jonah had expected divine retribution from God, because the Ninevites were Israel's sworn enemies. But what Jonah failed to realise and appreciate is that God is merciful and compassionate to all, not just to the Israelites, and He is slow to anger, rich in graciousness, relenting from evil.

If God is so compassionate and merciful towards all, even towards those whom some perceive to be evil-doers, than what about us? Do we still insist for an eye for an eye, or retribution come what may? Or have we learnt to be like God, who is patient, loving, compassionate, and merciful to all?

Tuesday of Week 27 Year 1

What do you do when you come to realise that you have sinned? Would you go for confession as quickly as possible to remove the stain of sin from your soul? Or would you think that there is plenty of time to go, only to put it off indefinitely? When you stain your shirt or dress, surely you would get it cleaned and removed as quickly as possible. This is because the shirt or dress may be valuable or significant to you, and you would not want to end up with a ruined shirt or dress. If so, then why are some procrastinating in removing the stain of sin from the soul, which has eternal consequences?

In today's reading, the king of Nineveh made quick and immediate "efforts to renounce their evil behaviour, and God relented: he did not inflict on them the disaster which he had threatened." This is because the king of Nineveh realised the consequences of not taking action, and he was not going to wait until he encountered God's wrath. May we too make every effort to keep our souls clean from the stain of sin, so that we too avoid the disaster which would affect our eternal future.

Monday of Week 27 Year 1

We sometimes come across certain persons who just want to win, no matter what. Such persons usually have a big ego and they think that they are right, or in some cases even if they have been proven wrong, they would twist and turn to try and make it sound that they are not that wrong, or that they are still right from a different point of view. Such persons are what we call "know it alls" or "think they know it all," while the fact of the matter is they may actually only sound right or sound as if they know it all, but if scrutinised further, they may not necessarily be right or know it all after all.

In today's Gospel, we come across a lawyer who tried to disconcert Jesus. Even after Jesus had given a correct and good answer, the lawyer just could not leave things be, and even tried to justify himself. In the end, the lawyer ended up eating humble pie and even though he knew that Jesus had put him in a spot, he was still unable to let go of his pride and ego. Jesus challenged him by asking: "Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands‘ hands?’" The lawyer knew that the example of the Good Samaritan showed what it means to be a good neighbour, but because of his pride, ego and prejudice, he could not bring himself to answer: "The Samaritan proved himself a neighbour..." Instead, the lawyer merely said, possibly in a haughty tone: "The one who took pity on him."

What about us? Are some of us like the lawyer, thinking that we are always right or often right? Have we tried to disconcert or discredit others, to show how great, clever, learned or smart we are? Let us not allow our pride, ego and prejudice to get the better of us, and learn to walk humbly in the presence of our loving and merciful God.

Friday of Week 26 Year 1

When something goes wrong, how many of us are willing to take responsibility for what has happened? Perhaps some of us may do so, but there are also people who refuse to admit they have done wrong and try to play the blame game and put the blame on others, or even find a scapegoat to take the blame. Why do people do such things? It could be because of their pride and ego, where they are unwilling to admit they are wrong, even though it is quite obvious, and they even think that they can never be wrong. Such persons rather stick to their way of thinking and refuse to learn from their mistakes, expecting others to accept them as they are. Could some of us have such behaviour or attitudes in some way?

In today's reading, Baruch reflected upon the disastrous events that had happened to the Israelites, especially the destruction of Jerusalem, and exile in Babylon. He came to a conclusion: "To us, the look of shame we wear today, we have sinned in the sight of the Lord, we have disobeyed Him, we had not listened to the voice of the Lord our God." Everything that went wrong and all the disastrous events that happened, Baruch pointed the finger at himself and his people, instead of trying to put the blame on others.

What about us? Are we willing to be humble and admit our mistakes? Are we willing to seek forgiveness from God and from others, while being willing to forgive others too, when they have wronged us? Are we willing to learn from our mistakes and wrongdoings, and let the Lord change us into better persons?

Thursday of Week 26 Year 1

Sometimes we forget who we are as Christians. When we forget who we are, we may end up doing and saying things which offend God and hurt others. That is why we need to be reminded as often as possible, especially through the reading of the scriptures, who we are and how we are supposed to live. When we read the scriptures, or when we hear it being read, are we moved with what we hear? Or have we become unreceptive towards the scriptures?

In today's reading, Ezra gathered the men, and women, and children, and read to them from the Torah. He stood, on a raised platform in the rebuilt Temple, and from morning until midday read the Torah, from beginning to end. The men, women, and children listened to their story, their family history, the laws which God had given them; and they discovered who they were. They raised their hands in the air, and proclaimed, “Amen, Amen” and they wept for joy. Why were they so moved?  Finally, they understood who they were, who God had called them to be, and they began to understand the commandments which were to guide their lives.

What about us? Do we finally get it? Do we realise who we are? We often think of ourselves as brothers and sisters in Christ, but have we read the scriptures and finally understood what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ? May we come to a realisation of who we are, who we are called to be, and let the Lord be our help, providence and guide.

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Wednesday of Week 26 Year 1

In today's reading, we come across Nehemiah who was a slave and the king's wine-attendant. The duty of a wine-attendant was to ensure that the wine tasted good and was not laced with poison. If the wine tasted bad, Nehemiah could lose his head. Not only that, Nehemiah had to serve the wine with a happy face, otherwise he could be punished. So when the king asked why did he look so sad and what was in his heart, a great fear came upon him, because he risked punishment for looking sad, and he wanted to go back to his homeland to rebuild his ancestral city, but he was afraid that the king might get offended by his requests.

Nehemiah called on the God of heaven, and then made his request to the king. To his surprise, all that he asked for, even the timber for building of the Temple, was granted. Why was Nehemiah able to have all his requests granted? Because Nehemiah called on the Lord first, and the favour of the Lord was upon him. So the next time we are faced with any choices or decisions, and before we make a choice or decision, let us call on the Lord first, so that His favour would be upon us.

Tuesday of Week 26 Year 1

In our efforts to preach the Good News, we may come across resistance and opposition. The reaction of a good Christian is not to get angry with those people who oppose and resist us, but to have more patience with them. The task of a disciple of Jesus is not to destroy but to build up. We must temper our tendency to return evil for evil. But being patient to such people is not so easy. This is because some of us are used to quick results, and we expect our ministry to flourish after a certain time. But the reality is, God's ways are not our ways, and sometimes our efforts may not bear fruit as we expect. Then what happens?

In today's Gospel, we see an example of expecting quick results in ministry, where the brothers James and John said to Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” This is because the people of the Samaritan village did not receive them well. But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village. Jesus showed His disciples, and us too, that using force or threats is not the way to preach the Good News. At the end of the day, we are required to do our part, the rest we leave it in the hands of the Lord.

Thursday of Week 25 Year 1

Whenever we attend a meeting, some items on the agenda may be important and need to be acted upon quickly. Other items may seem not so important, and we sometimes clssify such items as KIV or Keep in View. We may "sit" on such items for a while, or in other words, not take any action, as we deliberate about how to go about dealing with such items. But the fact is, sooner or later, we would need to do something. Sometimes, in our busyness or in our enthusiasm in getting other tasks done, we may even forget to address such items, only to later discover that the issue or situation has become even more critical, and we may end up having more difficulty or challenges in dealing with such items, since we may have KIV them for too long.

In today's reading, the Israelite exiles returned to Jerusalem to build the Temple. Their task was to complete the building of the Temple, but many other issues and tasks cropped up along the way, and they forgot how urgent it was to build the Temple, causing it to be KIV as they dealt with other matters. The prophet Haggai was called to remind the people of the building of the Temple, and his message was for the people to reflect for themselves and see how things had gone for them. The prophet Haggai reminded the people that now was not the time to become distracted with other matters, or to KIV the building of the Temple, but instead the people should finish the task.

What about us? Do we KIV when it comes to urgent matters concerning our faith and relationship with God. Do we put God first, or have we allowed many other issues to overwhelm us, and distract us from maintaining a good relationship with God, and end up putting God in KIV? May we come to our senses and put God back in the center of our lives, while we have time and opportunities to do so.

Wednesday of Week 25 Year 1

During our parents time, when they were young, life was not as easy and convenient as it is nowadays. Back then, people had to struggle to survive, some would have experienced the horrors of war, life was full of uncertainty, especially if one was living under colonial rule, and many challenges and difficulties lay ahead. But people did their best to remain sane and cheerful, and go through life as best they could. In contrast, how many of us appreciate what our parents went through so that we could live better, more peaceful and happier lives? How many of us give thanks for the sacrifices and perseverances of our parents, so that we could be where we are today?

In today's reading, Ezra looked at his people and remembered how they were sent into exile. They had sinned against the Lord and were punished by being conquered by their enemies, and sent into captivity and slavery. But the Lord was merciful and now a remnant has come back to rebuild the Temple. Ezra remembered the past and he was taking nothing for granted in the present, and was grateful and thankful to God for His love, care and mercy.

What about us? Are we taking things for granted for the many good things and peaceful lives we have today? Do we show gratitude and thankfulness for the many sacrifices made by those who have gone before us? May we always remain grateful and humbled, and never forget to let God be in the central of our lives. Otherwise we may face the danger that when we have too much of everything, we become proud and arrogant, and our relationship with God could be reduced to almost nothing.