Thursday 31 March 2016

Tuesday of the 6th Week of Easter

It is interesting to listen to the conversion stories of those who have been recently baptised. Some of their stories may sound nothing out of the ordinary, some may sound spectacular, but each story is unique and special. In some cases, a conversion story could inspire others who have not been baptised to seriously consider doing so; and also strengthen the resolve and conviction of those already baptised. That is why it is good to record the conversion stories of those recently baptised, as sources of inspiration and reflection.

In today's reading, the gaoler experienced an amazing conversion story. The reading tells us: "Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God’s praises, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly there was an earthquake that shook the prison to its foundations. All the doors flew open and the chains fell from all the prisoners. When the gaoler woke and saw the doors wide open he drew his sword and was about to commit suicide, presuming that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted at the top of his voice, ‘Don’t do yourself any harm; we are all here.’ The gaoler called for lights, then rushed in, threw himself trembling at the feet of Paul and Silas, and escorted them out, saying, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’" What the gaoler experienced led to him being transformed from a death to his old self to a birth to his new self. As a result, the gaoler and all his household were baptised.

Have we been inspired by our conversion story? Has our conversion story led us to a birth to a new self? Or have we slacken and gradually returned to our old selves? May we never forget our conversion story, and continue to grow in love of God and with others.

Sunday 27 March 2016

Monday of the 5th Week of Easter

It is interesting to observe how some so called preachers behave or act when they claim to be able to heal others in the name of Jesus. Such persons tend to hold huge rallies, inviting many people to come and supposingly be healed. But when one looks at the way some of these preachers behave, it seems like their intention of holding such healing rallies is to boost their ego and increase the number of followers, as well as to increase their wealth and influence. Would such preachers take the trouble and effort to heal the poor, the marginalised, or even the sick in various places which some may think to be lowly or undesirable, instead of holding such big rallies, with possibly hidden intentions? Would such preachers heal at any place, time, or situation, without expecting anything in return?

In today's reading, Paul and Barnabas healed a crippled man. The crippled man was healed not because Paul and Barnabas are gods or some powerful being, but because they saw that the man had the faith to be healed. Paul and Barnabas could have basked in the glory of what they had accomplished through the healing and taken credit for it, but instead, they "tore their clothes, and rushed into the crowd, shouting, 'Friends, what do you think you are doing? We are only human beings like you. We have come with good news to make you turn from these empty idols to the living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that these hold.'"

What does this mean to us? It means that, like Paul and Barnabas, the ability to heal is not for us to boost our pride or ego. It is meant for us to be used for the glory of God. If we have the gift of healing, may we used such gifts to build God's Kingdom, and be of loving service to all.

Saturday 26 March 2016

Saint Joseph the Worker

In this world, we need to work. If we do not work, we would not be able to survive. We may not necessarily be working in the same profession or task, but we still need to do our part. Just imagine what would happen if we do not work, or we neglect to do our part: the consequence could indeed be disastrous. For example, if farmers do not work, do not sow and reap, then we may not have food to eat. If fishermen do not go out to sea for a catch, we would not have fish and other kinds of seafood to enjoy. If we do not do our duty or our part in whatever profession, we may lose our livelihood. That is why work is essential, and we need to put effort into it. Not only that, we need to work with passion, with joy, since we would certainly want to live better lives and make a difference.

However, how many of us have thought about why we work? Do we work merely for survival, or do we work also because we want to serve God? In today's second reading, we are reminded: "Whatever your work is, put your heart into it as if it were for the Lord and not for men, knowing that the Lord will repay you by making you his heirs. It is Christ the Lord that you are serving." When we try to work to please others, we will never be satisfied and happy, since more often than not, we would not get the kind of remuneration and recognition we expect or long for. But when we work for the glory of God, we can hope to receive happiness and peace, knowing that God will care and provide for us. Thus, let us not be lazy or aversive to work. Each and every one of us has talents and abilities which can be put to good use to help make this world a better place and especially for the glory of God.

Monday of the 2nd Week of Easter

Every year, especially in a parish, we may have a good number of neophytes (that is, those who have just been baptised and confirmed during the Easter Vigil). I believe most of us would have been quite happy and joyful to have new members in our church community. But the question which often lingers in my mind is this: how many of these neophytes, also how many of us who have been baptised, whether recently or quite some time back, have really had a transformation from our old selves, or our old ways, to a new self or a new way?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God." At baptism, we were supposed to have been transformed from our old identity, to a new identity filled with the Spirit and given new life. However, some of us may be baptised and supposingly born again, but the way we live our lives do not seem to bear witness that we have really changed. Some of us continue to behave as we were before, doing things as we have been doing, living lives just like old times, as if nothing has really changed. Jesus reminds us in today's Gospel: "‘I tell you most solemnly, unless a man is born through water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God: what is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the Spirit is spirit." We may be born of the flesh, but have we really been born of the Spirit? Have we become witnesses and joyful proclaimers of the Good News, or have we been complacent and unappreciative of the gift God has given us? May we keep the fire of our faith burning, and not slack but redouble our efforts, as we make effort to live new lives in the Spirit.

Friday 25 March 2016

Monday of the 2nd Week of Lent

When we sin, we would seek forgiveness from God and go for confession to clean our soul from the sin which clings to us. But when someone else has sinned against us, or hurt us, or has done something terrible or mean towards us, how do we respond? Do we show love, compassion and mercy towards the other person, regardless of how bad the person has wronged us? Or do we seek retribution or revenge, or even avoid or shun the person?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded: "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned." It seems so easy for us to ask God for forgiveness and compassion towards us, but how easy it is for us to forgive and show others compasssion, just as God has done so for us? Are we willing to let go of our pride, hurt, ego and self-righteousness, and learn to forgive and love others, just as God loves and forgives us?

Wednesday 23 March 2016

Tuesday of Week 8 Year 1

It is interesting to observe how some people seem to hold back on their time and wealth when it comes to certain situations, whereas they can be generous or lavish in other situations. For example, some people seem to have no qualms about buying an expensive car, or a luxurious house, or invest in some business, but they do not seem so generous when it comes to their wealth and time in church matters, church activities, assisting in programmes to help the poor, and other works of charity. Some of such people even demand many things from the church, but seem quite stingy or reluctant to give. Why is this so? Are some people so selfish, self-centred and self-serving, where "me, myself and I" seems more important than the well-being of the community?

In today's reading, we are reminded "Honour the Lord with generosity, do not stint the first-fruits you bring. Add a smiling face to all your gifts, and be cheerful as you dedicate your tithes. Give to the Most High as he has given to you, generously as your means can afford; for the Lord is a good rewarder, he will reward you seven times over." God has been so generous to all of us in many ways, but some of us seem to be knowing only to take but not willing to give. Have we forgotten to be grateful and thankful for God's providence, and share what we have with others, to the best of our abilities? May we learn to be generous, just as God has been generous to us.

Monday of Week 8 Year 1

Some of us may have journeyed away from God at some point in our lives. We may have been caught up with making a living, getting some qualification, raising a family, and many other things which may have distracted us or caused us to try and move along on our own. But God has not given up on us, even though at times some of us may have given up on God. He is constantly and patiently waiting for us to come back to Him, no matter how bad we may have been.

In today's reading, God is beckoning us to come back to Him. The reading tells us: "To those who repent, God permits return, and he encourages those who were losing hope. Return to the Lord and leave sin behind, plead before his face and lessen your offence. Come back to the Most High and turn away from iniquity, and hold in abhorrence all that is foul." Are we still delaying and procrastinating? Let us not be caught off-guard and do something quickly, for the betterment of our eternal future.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Friday of Week 7 Year 1

Some of us find making friends quite easy. But quite often, the friend that one makes is not really a friend, but an acquaintance, since finding friends who are true, generous and dependable is not so easy. We sometimes come across people who seem friendly, but they may have hidden agendas and they are friendly to us possibly because we have something to offer them, or the friendship is beneficial to them. Once we are unable to satisfy their needs, such persons may disappear or avoid us all of a sudden.

That is why, in today's reading, we are cautioned: "Let your acquaintances be many, but your advisers one in a thousand. If you want to make a friend, take him on trial, and be in no hurry to trust him..." It may seem harsh, but life is such that we need to be careful when making friends, so as to not be taken advantaged of, or taken for a ride. May we find true, dependable, intimate and loyal friends, and may we be true, dependable, intimate and loyal as well.

Thursday of Week 7 Year 1

I believe many of us make much effort to keep our bodies clean. Some of us may feel uneasy or embarrassed to emit body odour, and we not only bathe regularly, some of us even put lots of perfume to hide our "natural perfume." But how many of us pay much attention to the cleanliness of our soul? Do we keep our soul clean the way we keep our bodies clean, by going for confession regularly? Or do we procrastinate and think that we have plenty of time to do so?

In today's reading, we are urged to do something about the cleanliness of our soul. The reading reminds us: "Do not say, "I have sinned, and what happened to me?" for the Lord's forbearance is long." At the same time, the reading also warns us "not to delay our return to the Lord, do not put it off day after day, for suddenly the Lord's wrath will blaze out" and it will be tragic for us. May we do our part in keeping our soul clean, so that when the time comes, we would be ready and prepared to meet our God.

Monday 21 March 2016

Tuesday of Week 7 Year 1

Some of the things we need to be prepared for when we want to serve God is the possibility of rejection, persecution, and even being put to death. Over the centuries, we have seen many saints and martyrs who proclaimed the faith with vigour, and some even went to their death for the faith. Some may have been spared torture or persecution, but they experienced hardship and many difficulties, especially when the faith was being proclaimed in new areas where the people and the conditions of the place was generally unknown.

In today's reading, we are being affirmed and encouraged to persevere while serving God. The reading tells us: "My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. Be sincere of heart, be steadfast, and do not be alarmed when disaster comes. Cling to him and do not leave him, so that you may be honoured at the end of your days. Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation. Trust him and he will uphold you, follow a straight path and hope in him." Let us not give up or waver in our vigour, but increase our efforts, knowing that God will guide us and help us in all we do, for His greater glory.

Monday of Week 7 Year 1

How do we know whether a person is wise or not? Is there some sort of clear criteria which could be used to determine whether a person is wise? Unfortunately, there is no clear criteria. Different ethnic groups have different interpretations of what makes a wise person. Even within an ethnic group, what certain individuals claim to be wise could be disputed by others. Moreover, to make it even more complicated, there are different kinds of wisdom to be considered. Some are wise in learning, some are wise in experience, some are street-wise. So can anyone claim to be completely wise, or wise only in certain aspects?

In today's reading, we are reminded that there is only One who is wise. The reading tells us: "All wisdom is from the Lord, and it is his own for ever. One only is wise, terrible indeed, seated on his throne, the Lord." Many of us could try to claim to be wise in some specific way, but only God is wise in all aspects and in all ways. Instead of trying to claim to be wise, let us humble ourselves and learn from God's wisdom, who far surpasses any of our own. Let us submit to His wisdom, since it is He who loves us and provides for us.

Friday of Week 6 Year 1

What sort of life are we living here on earth? What do we hope to attain? Some of us seem to be more goal-oriented and achievement-centered. We spend much energy and time to reach somewhere in life: such as our career, wealth, status, knowledge or whatever we deem is our priority or has importance. But are these things really that important? Are all these things all there is to life? Have we ever thought about where we are going to, what is the real meaning of our life?

In the 1st reading, we come across a people who had only one purpose in mind, that is to build a town with a tower with a top reaching heaven. Their intention of doing all this is just to make a name for themselves. They want to be remembered for what they achieved on this earth. For them that was going to be their pride and joy. But when people begin to think that they can achieve anything, they may begin to think that they do not need God. They begin to think that they can do anything they please, and achieve all things through their own effort. We have seen throughout history, how some people have built things, even claiming that what they built would last or would not be destroyed, and we have seen the consequences of such arrogance, where not only what was built was destroyed, many lives were lost due to their folly. May we come to realise our limits and how much we really depend on God for many things, and walk humbly in His ways.

Sunday 20 March 2016

Thursday of Week 6 Year 1

What sort of image of Jesus do you have? Some of us may think of Jesus as a healer, miracle worker, teacher, rebel against authorities, activist against the unjust status quo, and many other images. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks His disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" They respond to Him mentioning various prophets that represent important aspects of His mission, but nothing really captures who He really is and how He understands Himself. He tells them that He "must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days." Jesus’ self-image which contains suffering, death, and resurrection, was something which Peter found difficult to accept. Perhaps in his mind, he thought that Jesus would be some champion who would save the Jews from unjust authorities. Peter just could not come to terms with a suffering and dying Jesus. For this, Peter was criticised harshly by Jesus, even addressed as “Satan”, for he was “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

What about us? Do we have a certain image of Jesus which seems rosy and nice? Are we aware of Jesus' true purpose and mission? Some of us try to think of Jesus in good terms, with a feel good factor, but Jesus came to save us from our sins, and also to teach us how to live as God intended, not according to the way we are comfortable in or the way some others think. Are we willing to set aside our thoughts and expectations, and try to understand and do what God expects of us?

Wednesday of Week 6 Year 1

Many of us are so used to getting things done quickly, so much so that we do not like to wait. Even if we need to wait, we do not want to wait too long. For example, if we go for a hair cut at the barbers, and we find that there are one or two persons ahead of us, we may decide to wait a while, especially if the barber does a good job in cutting hair. However, if the barber is taking quite some time, especially if the customer the barber is servicing is very fussy or particular about the way his or her hair is being cut, some of us may decide to go look for another barber. How long we are willing to wait when it comes to such circumstances depends on our tolerance level towards waiting time.

However, in today's reading, Noah had to wait for 40 days of rain, another 7 days for the water to subside, and then another 7 days for the surface of the earth to dry up. Likewise, the blind man in today's Gospel had to wait before his sight was fully restored. What does this tell us? It tells us that ultimately, everything happens in God's time and we have to trust in God and wait. Some things take time, and we need to learn to be patient and carry on waiting. Are we willing to leave it in God's hands, wait with patience and hope, and let God do what is best for us?

Tuesday of Week 6 Year 1

When we speak of yeast, we normally speak of a kind of substance which enables bread to expand and rise, making the bread more pleasing to look at and eat once baked. In today's Gospel, Jesus warned us of a "yeast" which is a little different. What sort of yeast is Jesus trying to tell us? Jesus was speaking about a kind of "yeast" that was both religious and political which we should watch out for. This "yeast" refers to "attitude"; and the "attitude" of the Pharisees and the "attitude" of Herod could corrupt one’s "attitude" as a Christian.

The "yeast" of the Pharisees is narrow-minded religious exclusivism. It is an attitude that says only those who believe and behave like the Pharisees are saved, everyone else is damned or are of no consequence. The "yeast" of Herod, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of the Pharisees. Herod was prepared to water down the Jewish faith to suit his purposes. Herod was only interested in preserving His political power, and was not the least bit interested in doing the will of God.

What about us? Have we been corrupted or infected with the "yeast" of the Pharisees and the "yeast" of Herod? Have we been behaving as religious extremists like the Pharisees, thinking that our beliefs and way of doing things is the only way? Or have we become so worldly in our behaviour and conduct, only interested in protecting our power, position and prestige, and watering down our faith or even totally ignoring the ways of God? May we take caution and not be infected or corrupted by such "yeast," and in all things do with love and moderation, for the glory of God.

Saturday 19 March 2016

Monday of Week 6 Year 1

Why do we do things or offer our services in church? Do we do such things and services to serve God? Or do we do such things and services to gain recognition, admiration and to feed our pride and ego? When we do something for church, do we expect praise and recognition from others, especially from the clergy, or do we give thanks to God for the privilege to serve? Also, do we give our best for the church, or do we give only what we can spare?

In today's reading, we come across two brothers, Cain and Abel. The reading tells us: "The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering. But he did not look with favour on Cain and his offering, and Cain was very angry and downcast. The Lord asked Cain, '‘Why are you angry and downcast? If you are well disposed, ought you not to lift up your head? But if you are ill disposed, is not sin at the door like a crouching beast hungering for you, which you must master?'" Cain was angry and jealous because his brother Abel had received the Lord's favour. It appears as if Cain had given his offering, but with the intention of getting affirmation or recognition from God. That is why Cain was very angry and downcast, since if we are sincere in offering to God without strings attached, it would not matter whether our offering is looked with favour or not. So, in a rage, Cain killed Abel, thinking that getting rid of the competition would give him sole access to God's favour.

What about us? Have we become like Cain, expecting fame, recognition and affirmation from others for what we have done or contributed. Are we feeding our pride and ego when we offer our services to the church? May we take caution and not become so proud and conceited. Instead, may we do all things with humility and gratefulness, for the glory of God.

Friday of Week 5 Year 1

Have you heard of a being named S. A. Tan? Perhaps you may have seen horror stories at the movies, or read books about him, but few of us have seen him face to face. Some of us may have experienced his presence, and many of us could have experienced him luring us and tempting us to sin. Indeed, S. A. Tan is not a pleasant being to be with, even though he may appear to be deceptively so, since he has hidden and cruel intentions, and we would need to constantly and consistently watch out for the traps he has laid out to ensnare us.

In today's reading, we read about one of the many ways S. A. Tan uses to try and ensnare us and tempt us to sin. S. A. Tan, in the form of a serpent, tempted the woman to eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden. He even had the sneakiness and gall to assure the woman: "No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil." With such lies and deceitful words, both the man and woman were equally guilty in falling into Mr. S. A. Tan's trap by eating the fruit.

What about us? Are we so easily allowing ourselves to be lured into S. A. Tan's trap? S. A. Tan will constantly try to exploit our ego, our pride and our weaknesses to tempt us into sinning. Are we making efforts to resist and are we seeking God's help fervently and humbly? We must remember that our foe is not just some ordinary being, and we need to remain in good relationship with God and continuously seek His help, guidance and protection, if we are to overcome such and ancient and deadly foe. Let us not be caught off-guard, and remain in the Lord, so that we would not fall into S. A. Tan's deadly clutches.

Thursday of Week 5 Year 1

It has become easy and convenient for many of us to get things done quickly. We have become so used to efficiency and instant this or that, that we may have become less and less tolerant or impatient when things don't go our way or we have to wait for something to be completed. However, when it comes to our prayer life and communication with God, God does not follow our rules or our ways. Quite often, we find ourselves having to wait, since ultimately, God decides what is best for us. When we don't get what we want or ask for, are we humble and willing to be patient and persistent in our prayer? Would we become impatient and start looking elsewhere to get what we want?

In today's Gospel, we come across a Syrophoenician pagan woman who begged Jesus to cast the devil out of her daughter. Jesus did not seem to immediately grant her her wish, but she was humble enough to be patient and persistent in begging Jesus for His help. In the end, due to her immense faith in Jesus, Jesus granted her her wish. What about us? Are we willing to be patient and persistent in our prayer and in seeking God's help? Are we willing to let God guide us and care for us, according to His time and for His glory?

Friday 18 March 2016

Wednesday of Week 5 Year 1

For some religions, there are certain restrictions to what can and cannot be eaten. Some of such religions would specify whether it is "kosher or not" to eat something, or whether it is "halal or haram" (Malay for 'allowed or forbidden to be eaten.') However, we sometimes come across followers of such religions who focus so much on such dietary laws, that they neglect, ignore or fail to observe more important aspects of God's laws such as love, mercy, compassion, justice, fairness and many others. They may appear to be pious in what can or cannot be consumed, or even how they look in public, only to be hypocritical in their behaviour and conduct. For example, such persons would avoid eating in a shop which does not have a sign to say that the food sold in such a shop can be eaten by followers of a certain religion, but they seem to turn a blind eye or are ignorant of the corruption, injustice or other malpractices happening around them.

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "Can you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but through his stomach and passes out into the sewer? It is what comes out of a man that makes him unclean. For it is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean." Some of us may appear to be holy and focus on external practices, but our hearts may be twisted or hide nasty or cruel intentions. Let us take heed and be honest with ourselves, and make every effort to shy away from all that drives us away from our relationship with our loving God.

Tuesday of Week 5 Year 1

Some of us may have been guilty of being scrupulous in our way of life. What does scrupulous mean? It basically means that a person is very concerned to avoid doing wrong, and the person would come up with all kinds of laws or restrictions to prevent any possible wrong the person thinks could be commited. One example of being scrupulous would be the way some Jews live their lives even today. During the sabbath, some hotels would have the elevators stop and open at every floor, so that such Jews would not need to push the elevator floor button, since to such Jews, even pushing the elevator floor button is considered work, and they believe that no work can be done during the sabbath, no matter how minute the task may be.

In today's Gospel, we come across another example of being scrupulous in the Pharisees and some of the scribes, who thought that loving God means following their traditions and way of life. These people were so extreme in following their own rules and regulations, so much so that they were even willing to circumvent or bypass the true meaning of God's laws, for the convenience and observance of their own, for they were more concerned about avoiding doing wrong. This is why Jesus scolded them when He exclaimed: "It was of you hypocrites that Isaiah so rightly prophesied in this passage of scripture: This people honours me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me. The worship they offer me is worthless, the doctrines they teach are only human regulations. You put aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions."

What about us? Are we guilty of being scrupulous? Let us be mindful and careful not to become like these Pharisees and scribes, who do things in such a scrupulous manner, only to appear to be good and holy. Let us instead follow the example of Jesus, who loves us all and does all things for the greater glory of God.

Monday of Week 5 Year 1

I recall some people who seem to only belittle themselves or put themselves down when they are praised. Some of such persons do so because they have very low self-esteem. Some do so because they want to attract attention to themselves, and boost their pride and ego. But how should a Christian respond to praise? What sort of attitude should a Christian have when he or she receives praise or admiration from others?

In today's reading, we come across the creation story, and in several verses, we could notice that God saw that it was good. In other words, what God has created is good, and there is no reason why one should feel small or belittle oneself. Instead, one should give praise and thanks to God for His creation and one should give glory to God for the many good He has given us. May we come to appreciate and be grateful and thankful to God for His bounty.

Thursday 17 March 2016

Friday of Week 4 Year 1

It is easy for us to be warm and friendly towards our friends and family. When we go to church and see someone we know, we would make effort to say "hi" and to catch up on news. Some of us may even sit with such persons, so that we could go out for a meal or a drink after the Mass. But what if a stranger comes to church, do we welcome him or her and make him or her feel at home? Or do we mind our own business and carry on with our prayers or with whatever task we are doing? Are we brothers and sisters in Christ only to persons we know and like? Or are we brothers and sisters in Christ to all?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Continue to love each other like brothers, and remember always to welcome strangers, for by doing this, some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Keep in mind those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; and those who are being badly treated, since you too are in the one body. Marriage is to be honoured by all, and marriages are to be kept undefiled, because fornicators and adulterers will come under God’s judgement. Put greed out of your lives and be content with whatever you have; God himself has said: I will not fail you or desert you, and so we can say with confidence: With the Lord to help me, I fear nothing: what can man do to me?" May we come out of our "groupish" or "clannish" or "friends and family only" mentality and attitude, and make effort to be loving, caring and welcoming towards all, especially the lost, the least, the little and the last, so that others may know that we are Christians by our love.

Presentation of the Lord

The Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is one of the major feasts in the church year. It is also known as Candlemas or the Feast of the Purification, and is celebrated forty days after Christmas and commemorates the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary in the Jerusalem temple. What does this feast signify? It teaches us a few things:

Firstly, this feast reminds us of the Consecration of the Lord. Joseph and Mary took Jesus up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord. It was an act of consecration, to acknowledge and to thank the Lord for the gift of life, and to dedicate the child’s whole life to God. According to ancient Jewish tradition, every firstborn male, whether a son or an animal, belongs to God. In the case of the firstborn son, he must be ransomed or bought back. This custom is to remind the Isrealites that God delivered them from slavery by slaying every firstborn Egyptian male. Jesus is the firstborn male child of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and so He was consecrated to God and "ransomed" as required by the custom. Also, this feast reminds us of the purification of the mother in Jewish law. This was purification from ritual uncleanness after childbirth. Though Our Lady did not need this purification because she was a virgin before, during and after the birth of Jesus, she underwent it anyway to fulfil the law. In a way, when we were baptised, we too were consecrated and dedicated to God.

Secondly, this feast reminds us that Jesus is the light of all nations. We celebrate this feast of the Candlemas (a Mass with Candles) to remind us that Jesus is the light that has come into this world to give us light. Simeon in today's Gospel said that Jesus is "the light for revelation to the Gentiles." Jesus is the light that the world needs, as the world is enveloped with darkness. Just as Jesus is the light of all nations, we too are called by Jesus to be lights to others, by our personal example, as well as through our good words and deeds.

Thirdly, this feast reminds us that Jesus is a sign of contradiction. Simeon also prophesied that Jesus is a "sign that will be contradicted" or a sign that will be opposed. Throughout His ministry, Jesus met much opposition from the leaders of Israel. Such opposition lead to persecution and ultimately, his death. Likewise, we too should be prepared to be a sign of contradiction to the ways of the world, and be prepared to face opposition, persecution and even death.

The world today is faced with all sorts of fear and hopelessness. May we radiate the light of hope that comes from Jesus. May our lives serve as a candle that shares the light of hope that comes from Jesus Christ to others. May we also present ourselves to God, and diligently, persistently, and consistently be a sign of contradiction to the ways of the world, and do our part in preaching the ways of Christ. In all our efforts, may we give God the glory.

Wednesday of Week 4 Year 1

Each and every one of us go through some form of suffering in life. Suffering is part and parcel of life. We suffer because of illness, growth, lost relationships and many other reasons. While we cannot avoid suffering, what is more important is how we treat suffering. We could see suffering as a good or positive thing; or we could see it as a bad or negative thing.

In today's reading, we are reminded of the necessity and advantages of suffering. We are told: "Have you forgotten that encouraging text in which you are addressed as sons? My son, when the Lord corrects you, do not treat it lightly; but do not get discouraged when he reprimands you. For the Lord trains the ones that he loves and he punishes all those that he acknowledges as his sons. Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as his sons. Has there ever been any son whose father did not train him? Of course, any punishment is most painful at the time, and far from pleasant; but later, in those on whom it has been used, it bears fruit in peace and goodness. So hold up your limp arms and steady your trembling knees and smooth out the path you tread; then the injured limb will not be wrenched, it will grow strong again."

When we suffer punishment from God, it is not because God does not like us or is out to get us, it is because God treats us as His sons and daughters. We are being trained to become better people, and grow closer to God. Let us look at suffering as something good and worthwhile, for we are being prepared to remain happy and cared for in God's loving presence.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Tuesday of Week 4 Year 1

Many of us say we have faith in Jesus, but how many of us really mean what we say? Do we have faith in Jesus only when times are good or when the situation suits us, or do we have faith at all times? Supposing we are being persecuted, ridiculed or even being put to death, would we still have faith in Jesus? Or would some of us abandon our faith just to save our skin? Are consistent and steadfast in our faith, or is it only for our convenience?

In today's Gospel, the synagogue official named Jairus and the woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years had great faith in Jesus. Because of their faith in Jesus, Jairus' daughter was brought back to life, and the woman was cured from the haemorrhage she suffered. If Jesus could work such miracles for these people, just imagine what He could do for us, if we have consistent, persistent and unwavering faith in Him. May we learn to be patient and ask Jesus for His help, knowing with full confidence that He will do what is best for us, for the glory of God.

Monday of Week 4 Year 1

We sometimes think that we can do things on our own. To a certain extent, that may seem true. For example, we can come up with new inventions, we are able to build seemingly amazing works, some of us may have discovered new ways of doing things or new medicines to help us live better lives. But sometimes, there are situations where we are unable to resolve or do on our own. For example, we have no control over certain kinds of diseases, since our knowledge of such diseases is still limited. We have no control over the weather, since typhoons, flash floods and other natural disasters still occur. So when we are faced with situations where we are unable to solve or control, what do we do? For some of us, we have faith and trust in God, believing that God will help us. We believe that God would make the impossible possible, and we just need to be patient and let Him be in control.

In today's reading, we are told that "Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets – these were men who through faith conquered kingdoms, did what is right and earned the promises. They could keep a lion’s mouth shut, put out blazing fires and emerge unscathed from battle. They were weak people who were given strength, to be brave in war and drive back foreign invaders." These are all heroes of faith, as they realised that they could not accomplish what they did on their own, and had depended on God for strength, ability and endurance to do what they did.

What about us? Do we depend entirely only on our strength, ability and endurance? Or do we offer ourselves to God, letting Him use us to accomplish even better things, for His glory? May we be humble and docile, letting God be our help and guide, and having full faith and confidence in His love and providence.

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Friday of Week 3 Year 1

When the political situation in your country is not good, what do you do? Do you stand up for what is right, or would you make a run for it and look for so-called greener pastures elsewhere? When you see injustice or racism occuring, what do you do? Do you look the other way, mind your own business and not get involved? Or do you do what is just and right, even if it means risking your life? It seems easy to avoid getting involved, look the other way, mind our own business, or even run away, but are such attitudes and actions proper to a Christian?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Be as confident now, then, since the reward is so great. You will need endurance to do God’s will and gain what he has promised... You and I are not the sort of people who draw back, and are lost by it; we are the sort who keep faithful until our souls are saved." When we are faced with injustice, racism, misdeeds and other despicable acts, may we take courage, do what is right and just, and let God be our guide, knowing that He would help us in His time, for His greater glory.

Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle - Feast

Every once and a while, we come across a person who seems so impossible to like or deal with. Such a person could be quite obnoxious, or nasty, or mean, or even dangerous to our lives. Some of us may try to avoid such a person, or keep the person at arms length. Some of us even think that such a person is a goner, or beyond redemption. But sometimes, God works in strange ways, and persons who were once obnoxious, nasty, mean or dangerous could be transformed into something better for His glory.

One such person who was transformed is Saint Paul, whose conversion we celebrate today. Paul was once threatening Christians, and even throwing them into prison. But God had other plans for Paul, and he was totally transformed from a monstrosity to a stalwart defender of the faith. Just imagine, if God can transform a person like Paul, how much more could He transform the persons around us who are a pain or a thorn to us. May we never lose hope and remain steadfast in our trust and dependence in God, knowing that He would help us and transform us, including those who have been difficult, into something better.

Monday 14 March 2016

Tuesday of Week 3 Year 1

In our lives, we come across people who seem to be extra nice or extra polite when the boss or superior or some person of authority is present. Such persons are likely trying to curry favour with the boss or superior or person of authority, hoping to get some advantage, promotion or benefit out of it. When it comes to religion, some of such persons even think they can pull the same tricks on God, by appearing to be extra prayerful, or do lots of things for the church, or be extra nice to the priest or bishop, thinking that they could earn some brownie points with God. But what sort of attitude or way of life should we have as Christians? Why are we doing such things?

In today's reading and Gospel, God is not interested in "the sacrifices, the oblations, the holocausts and the sacrifices for sin." What God wants is for us to obey and do His will. It is not enough to just obey, since anyone could be playing games and obeying just to get some advantage or benefit. We also need to do His will. May we discern and discover God's will for us, and do it joyfully and dilligently, for His Kingdom and glory.

Monday of Week 3 Year 1

We sometimes come across people who are immensely jealous, insecure and easily provoked. Such persons cannot stand seeing other people doing well, or doing better than them, or even making some progress, since such persons fear that they may lose out. When such persons let jealousy get the better of them, they begin to do and say things merely to protect what they think is their interests or to safeguard their position and power. But what such persons fail to realise is that their jealousy would only lead them to say or do things which could lead them to look foolish or even lead them to commit sin.

In today's Gospel, the scribes who had come down from Jerusalem had such immense jealousy, that they began to talk rubbish and contradict themselves when they said about Jesus: "'Beelzebul is in him' and, 'It is through the prince of devils that he casts devils out.'" Jesus really went to town with these scribes and made fun of them, saying: "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot last. And if a household is divided against itself, that household can never stand. Now if Satan has rebelled against himself and is divided, he cannot stand either – it is the end of him." Due to jealousy, these scribes uttered contradicting and silly statements, just because they could not get the better of Jesus, only to be made to look foolish with Jesus' rebuttal to their utterance.

Have some of us become like these scribes, saying nonsensical things in the heat of jealousy? May we be on our guard against such immense jealousy, and think carefully what we say and do, since all that we say and do should be for the glory of God.

Sunday 13 March 2016

Friday of Week 2 Year 1

Do we really get to choose our leaders? Some of us think that we have a right to vote and choose our leaders, but in many cases, the choices given to us may not necessarily be what we want and expect. Sometimes we could be presented with a choice which a particular political party has decided, or because a particular person seems to be popular or has wealth or some other influence which enables him or her to be selected as one of the few choices. Given such situations, it seems like we do not really have much of a choice after all, since the ones we may want or expect, may not have the clout or support to get selected or voted in.

Likewise, today's Gospel seems to give us an impression that we do not have much of a choice with the 12 who Jesus appointed. In the Gospel, Jesus summoned those He wanted, and He appointed twelve; they were to be His companions and to be sent out to preach, with power to cast out devils. But the difference here compared to the way people and political parties choose leaders is this: it is God who chooses, and He chooses persons to be His companions, to be sent out to preach, and to cast out devils. Notice that God chooses to fulfil His purposes, not to fulfil personal or political agenda.

So let us ask ourselves sincerely, when it comes to our leaders in church, especially leaders in the different church ministries: Do we choose leaders according to a worldly approach, where those who are popular, wealthy or influential are more likely to be selected? Or do we let God be in control, and seek His help and guidance to choose leaders to do His will? May we be discerning and careful in choosing our leaders, so that in all we do, may God be glorified.

Friday 11 March 2016

Thursday of Week 2 Year 1

Each and every one of us has got different needs and wants, and sometimes what we need and what we want can be numerous. To get what we need and want, we keep on praying to God, asking Him to grant our desires. When we get what we asked for, are we grateful and give thanks to God for His providence, or do we begin to ask for more and more? When we do not get what we ask for, what happens? Are we willing to let God do what is best for us, or are we going to look for other means of help, only to find that these other means of help are not of any help after all?

In today's Gospel, we see the crowd swelling into a huge one, until Jesus had to get into a boat to avoid being crushed by the crowd. Indeed, people can be so demanding and their wants and needs can be great, and sometimes we could be crushing Jesus with our demands. While many of us are asking Jesus for so many things, how many of us are sharing or giving to others as well? Are we keeping what we have received only to ourselves? Just as Jesus has been generous to us in granting our needs, may we too be generous in helping and sharing with others.

Monday 7 March 2016

Wednesday of Week 2 Year 1

In the third commandment, we are reminded to honour the sabbath day. This commandment is meant to remind everyone to enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives. But sometimes, we come across people who go to two different extremes when it comes to the sabbath. On one extreme, we have the Pharisees who demand that keeping the sabbath means not doing anything at all, not even doing good or merciful things. On the other extreme, we have people who take advantage of the sabbath to make more money or reap in more profits. Could some of us be in one of the extremes?

In today's Gospel, Jesus grieved to find the Pharisees so obstinate, and he looked angrily round at them, because they were extreme in their views of the sabbath. Even doing good or saving a life, to the Pharisees, is considered breaking the sabbath. But the Pharisees missed the whole point about the sabbath, and chose such extreme views because to them, it seems easier to not doing anything so as not to offend God. But how could doing good or doing something merciful be offensive to God? Seems strange, but that was what the Pharisees thought, because of their stubborn, obstinate and narrow-minded ways.

What about us? Have some of us become like the Pharisees in our views, thoughts, actions and conduct? Do we think that only our ways are right and everyone else is wrong? May we learn from our Eternal Master to be humble and open in our ways, so that we would do what is good, what is loving, what is right, what is just, and what is merciful, for the glory of God.

Tuesday of Week 2 Year 1

Those of us who have taken part in a race would know what it takes to succeed. We would need to put in hours of practice, eat proper food to gain energy, get enough sleep, and do many other things to be prepared. But whatever one's motivation is to participate in a race, patience, perseverance and persistence is needed, so that one would hopefully achieve what one is looking for. When it comes to preaching the Good News and serving others, we also need to be prepared, be patient, persevere and be persistent in our efforts. There are times where our efforts seem to be not as fruitful as we wanted, but what matters is not how effective or efficient we have been, what matters is how earnest and diligent we are in performing our tasks.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "God would not be so unjust as to forget all you have done, the love that you have for his name or the services you have done, and are still doing, for the saints. Our one desire is that every one of you should go on showing the same earnestness to the end, to the perfect fulfilment of our hopes, never growing careless, but imitating those who have the faith and the perseverance to inherit the promises." We cannot do everything and we cannot please everyone, but let us not grow careless or complacent in our efforts, but be faithful and consistent, for the greater glory of God.

Monday of Week 2 Year 1

Why do we have rules? If a country does not have any rules, then society would end up in chaos and disintegrate. People would begin to do as they please, and there would no longer be any commonly accepted form of morality, justice or even peace. For example, if we do not have rules, a person could commit murder for some insignificant reason and get away with it, since a "to each his or her own" mentality could prevail. That is why we have rules, since rules set us free from so many uncertainties. Rules define what is right and wrong, and when we know what is right and wrong, we would know how to conduct ourselves and live. Rules are not there for us to break as we please, or to change according to our own whims and fancies, but to be observed for the good of all. When we are obedient towards rules, what happens? We are able to live in harmony, peace and justice.

In today's reading, Jesus too obeyed rules by obeying God the Father. The reading tells us: "During his life on earth, he offered up prayer and entreaty, aloud and in silent tears, to the one who had the power to save him out of death, and he submitted so humbly that his prayer was heard. Although he was Son, he learnt to obey through suffering; but having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation and was acclaimed by God with the title of high priest of the order of Melchizedek." Jesus showed us that by obeying and submit to God, He became a source of eternal salvation to all of us. By being docile and humble enough to hear and obey God's voice, we have no reason and no need to fear, for God will be our providence and guide. Let us offer ourselves in obedience to God, and let God transform us into something better, for His glory.

Sunday 6 March 2016

Friday of Week 1 Year 1

After a long day at work or at school, I believe that most of us would want to go home for some peace and quiet, and to have some rest. We are not robots, and we need to recuperate from a heavy day, or we may feel fatique, tired or even may be stricken with some sort of disease or illness. Even robots and machines need rest, or their operational usefulness may be shortened due to wear and tear. But where is our home, really? Is earth really our home? We know that our being here is only temporary, so what have we been preparing for our true home?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Be careful: the promise of reaching the place of rest that God had for the Israelites still holds good, and none of you must think that he has come too late for it... We must therefore do everything we can to reach this place of rest, or some of you might copy this example of disobedience and be lost." God is beckoning us to come home to our true home and be with Him, but going to our true home requires effort on our part. Have we been doing our part, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, in preparation to return to our true home?

Thursday of Week 1 Year 1

What are you looking for in life? Is life here on earth all that matters? We sometimes come across people who seem to think that life on earth are all that matters, and some of these people even go to the extent of abandoning their faith, especially when they are given fame, fortune and other opportunities in exchange of doing so. For example, there are people who have abandoned their Christian faith and embraced another faith, because they are promised that they would get perks and benefits from the government or from certain business circles. Some marry a woman of another faith and embrace the same faith the woman professes, because of certain advantages to be exploited. But is faith so insignificant that such persons would do such things?

In today's reading, we are cautioned: "Take care, brothers, that there is not in any one of your community a wicked mind, so unbelieving as to turn away from the living God. Every day, as long as this ‘today’ lasts, keep encouraging one another so that none of you is hardened by the lure of sin, because we shall remain co-heirs with Christ only if we keep a grasp on our first confidence right to the end." When a person abandons his or her faith so easily, then it seems as if the person is only concerned about himself or herself, and is not bothered about God. Could some of us have ventured into such an attitude? Let us not forget that our life here on earth is only temporary, and we are merely pilgrims. What we enjoy is also temporary and when the fun ends, we may risk losing our eternal reward.

Wednesday of Week 1 Year 1

Life is such that no one remains in the same place, same position, or same job forever. Situations change, the context we are in changes, our behaviour and attitude changes. What was once a passion in the past may no longer be so today. What we were capable of doing in the past may no longer be possible today. This is because, as we go through life, and as we age, we find ourselves being needed differently. Priests and religious, for example, are transferred from one community to another or from one parish to another or even from one role to another, when and where the need arises. The question is: are we ready and prepared to change and for change?

In today's Gospel, we read: "In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. Simon and his companions set out in search of him, and when they found him they said, ‘Everybody is looking for you.’ He answered, ‘Let us go elsewhere, to the neighbouring country towns, so that I can preach there too, because that is why I came.’ And he went all through Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out devils." It seemed easy and convenient for Jesus to settle down in one place, make Himself comfortable, and carry out His mission there. But as we can see from the Gospel, His mission was not only for one place indefinitely; He also went to other places to preach and cast out devils. By doing so, Jesus set an example for us to follow. Some of us may have become too used to a place, and we should be enthusiastic to go forth and preach the Good News, not stay put and take things easy or for granted. If some day we are asked to move on, let us humbly and joyfully do so, for the greater glory of God.

Tuesday of Week 1 Year 1

When we want to interpret the scriptures, we cannot just simply interpret it as we please. This is because the reason, context, background and nuances in the passages is different from our context and background today. Far too many so called preachers have interpreted the scriptures according to their preference and convenience, leading to a free-for-all interpretation. So how do we ensure that what we are interpreting is as close and accurate as what the passage was originally intended? By having some form of authority, of course. When you have some form of authority, the passage could be evaluated by experts who would be able to help ensure a more accurate and reliable interpretation.

In today's Gospel, we see Jesus whose "teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority." How was Jesus different from the scribes, and what sort of authority did He hold? Jesus was different because He had moral and spiritual authority, as He was one with the Father, and that what He is teaching and doing is not for His own personal gratification or benefit, but for the greater glory of God.

What about us? Is our so-called authority coming for Jesus? Or do we claim to have authority, which is actually self-appointed and for our personal gratification? May we learn to cultivate the moral and spiritual authority by Jesus, and use such authority wisely to glorify God.

Saturday 5 March 2016

6 January

Throughout our lives, we would have overcome many kinds of challenges and hurdles. There are also many other challenges and hurdles which we may still be trying to overcome or have yet to overcome, and one of which is avoiding sin. We face many temptations in life, some obvious, some so subtle, that we need to constantly discern whether a particular action or certain words could lead us or others to sin.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Who can overcome the world? Only the man who believes that Jesus is the Son of God... God has given us eternal life and this life is in his Son; anyone who has the Son has life, anyone who does not have the Son does not have life." When we have life in Jesus, then we would have much help in overcoming sin, since Jesus has given us life. If we have found that we have been drifting away from God, or neglecting our life in Jesus, may we come to realise our situation, and return to life in Jesus, walking in His ways and growing in relationship with Him, for the betterment of our eternal future.

5 January

Some of us may have been quite judgmental others just by looking at them or hearing about them. Sometimes what we see or hear could have been coloured with prejudiced eyes and ears, and unless we are open to the promptings of God's spirit, we may fail to discover and appreciate another person's character, talent and capabilities.

In today's Gospel, Nathanael did not initially have a good impression of Jesus or Nazareth. Hearing that Jesus was from Nazareth, he asked, "What good can come out of Nazareth?" He said this because Nazareth was a small, insignificant place, and to the Jews, it seemed unlikely that the Messiah would come from there. Nathanael was not despising Jesus or even Nazareth for that matter, but he was just being frank and straightforward, and Jesus recognised that in Nathanael when He said that Nathanael was incapable of deceit. Not only that, Jesus saw that Nathanael was sincere and that he awaited for the coming of the Messiah, since Nathanael was found "under the fig tree," at prayer and open to the Lord. Eventually, Nathanael was humble and open enough to recognise Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel.

What about us? Would we be able to see or hear without prejudice? We may have had not quite a good impression of someone initially, because of what we may heard about the person or where the person came from. Let us pray that, like Nathanael, we would eventually see the good in others, just as Jesus sees the good in each of us.

4 January

Some people can be quite possessive when it comes to certain things or even persons. In such situations, these persons may find it quite difficult to share or let go. Sometimes such persons would cling on to such things or persons as if their lives depended on it, and it is certainly not easy to live with such persons, because they can be domineering or controlling towards others. But the question is: how long can one really be possessive? Sooner or later, we would lose the item or person due to one reason or another. What would happen to us then, if we are such persons?

In today's Gospel, "As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus." John could have been possessive towards his two disciples and prevent them from going to Jesus, but John recognised that Jesus is the master, and that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. So, John let his two disciples go, knowing and trusting that they would be in good hands.

What about us? Would we be willing and able to let go of the things or persons we are possessive towards? Would we be willing to be detached of such things and persons, and leave them to God? May we, like John, point others to Jesus, and offer them to God for His glory.

Friday 4 March 2016

20 December - Season of Advent

If you were in Mary's shoes, and the angel Gabriel came to you to tell you that you would conceive and give birth to a son, how would you respond? Perhaps you might be excited, elated or happy and humbled to be given such honour and opportunity. Perhaps some locations of society today are more tolerant and understanding towards such a situation, and if you are in such a society, then you may experience less issues. But supposing you are in a place, like Mary, where becoming pregnant out of wedlock was unacceptable, or even a crime or a sin? How would you respond then?

In today's Gospel, the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would conceive and give birth to a son and his name would be Jesus. Certainly Mary would have been fearful of the consequence of having a child in this way, since she could be accused of adultery and stoned to death for becoming pregnant before marriage, as she was only betrothed and not yet married. But the angel assured her that God would take care of things and that nothing is impossible to God, since her kinswoman Elizabeth has, in her old age, herself conceived a son, and she whom people called barren is now in her sixth month. When Mary heard these, she chose to have faith and trust in God and said: "I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me."

What about us? Are we willing to put our trust and faith in God, no matter how difficult or challenging the situation may seem? Would we let God take care of things and continue to do His will? May we, like Mary, remain courageous and confident, and leave it in the hands of the Lord.

19 December - Season of Advent

Nowadays, being barren or infertile in many societies is no longer a stigma or issue. People in these societies have moved on in their thinking and adoption is a possible and acceptable alternative. However, some societies still view being barren as a great embarrassment or a punishment from the divine. Being barren in such societies was seen as grounds for a divorce (such societies usually put the blame on the woman), and in some cases, the woman was badly treated, shunned or became a source of ridicule and gossip.

In today's reading, we come across Manoah and his wife who was barren. In today's Gospel, we also come across Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth who was barren. Even though these couples had suffered much due to being barren; even though they suffered much embarrassment and were a source of gossip and ridicule; they chose to stayed on with each other, bore the burden together, and were faithful to each other. God did not abandon them and gave them a precious gift of two babies, Samson and John the Baptist, who later carried out great deeds for the greater glory of God. If God can do wonders for these couples and cast away their shame, just imagine what He can do for us today. Let us not feel down or embarrassed but remain faithful and hopeful, knowing that God will help us and not abandon us.

Thursday 3 March 2016

Friday of the 3rd Week of Advent

Every once in a while, we come across certain so called religious groups who claim that only their group are eligible to be with God in heaven. These people so easily and conveniently condemn others, saying that unless one joins their group or follow certain ways, one would be condemned to hell. Such persons even misquote certain scripture passages to prove and back up their claims. However, we should take caution and watch out for such persons, since they may have a hidden agenda and we should not fall for their gimmicks.

In today's reading, we are assured: "Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants – all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant – these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer. Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar, for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. It is the Lord who speaks, who gathers the outcasts of Israel: there are others will gather besides those already gathered."

God is not restricted only to certain groups or if one follows certain ways, but anyone who attaches themselves to the Lord is acceptable to Him. Let us not so easily and conveniently condemn others just because they think differently or pray differently than we do, but build peace and harmony among all, while giving Gof the glory in all we do.

Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent

We sometimes come across some people who seem to think that they have life figured out, as if they are in full control of their life, or they think that they are masters of their own destiny, or that they seem to have a plan in life. Such people, especially when they seem to be doing well in life, begin to think that all that they have achieved is due to their own efforts, hard work and determination. But behind the facade, the show of confidence, there may be issues that these people are facing, of which there seems to be no plan. When these people find themselves without a solid, reliable plan to face such issues, then what happens? If you are in their shoes, what would you do?

God has a plan for us, and He invites us to participate in His plan. His plan is that all of us are to be with Him. In today's Gospel, we come across some people who chose to stick to God's plan, while others chose to reject it. The Gospel tells us: "All the people who heard him, and the tax collectors too, acknowledged God's plan by accepting baptism from John; but by refusing baptism from him the Pharisees and the lawyers had thwarted what God had in mind for them." God did not abandon the Pharisees and the lawyers, and invited them to play according to His plan, but they chose to do things their own way, thinking adamantly that their way was a better way compared to God's plan.

Likewise, we too are invited to play according to God's plan. God does not force us to be a part of His plan, but we know from history that God's ways are far better than human ways. It is a question of whether we trust in Him and are humble and willing to let Him be our providence and guide.

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

How confident and trusting are we towards God, when we ask Him to grant us our wants and needs? Some of us say we are confident, but we get disappointed so easily when our prayers are not answered quickly. Some of us do not even bother to ask, and go looking elsewhere for help, only to find that these other means are really no help at all. How many of us sincerely and persistently ask, and then wait patiently for God's response?

In today's Gospel. two blind men followed Jesus shouting, "Take pity on us, Son of David." These blind men did not just sit around and expect Jesus to heal them, they took effort to follow Jesus till He reached the house.The Gospel also tells us: "Jesus asked them: 'Do you believe I can do this?' They said, ‘Sir, we do.’ Then he touched their eyes saying, ‘Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you.’ And their sight returned." These two blind men were cured because they had complete confidence and trust in Jesus. What about us? Would we have the same confidence like these two blind men, when we ask Jesus for something? May we doubt no longer, and let Jesus be in control, knowing that He will grant us what is best for us.

Thursday of the 1st Week of Advent

How many of us are true to our word and practise what we preach? It is easy for us to say many things, make many promises, assure others of this or that; but it is a different thing altogether in fulfilling such promises and assurance. For example, we come across certain politicians who make all sorts of promises before an election. After the election is over and the politician has won, what happens? Would the politician fulfil his or her promises, or make plenty of excuses or drag his or her feet? Even in other professions, we come across certain people who know how to talk and make all sorts of promises, only to break their word when the going gets tough, or when the situation poses no significant advantages to them.

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." It is not enough to just listens to Jesus' words, but we also need to act on them. When we look at our lives, are we merely wasting our words frivolously? Are we people of integrity, meaning what we say? Let us examine ourselves closely and say what we mean, for the betterment of our eternal future.

Monday of the 1st Week of Advent

Words can kill and words can heal, depending on how one uses words. When one uses words in a derogatory way, or one uses bad words (in other words, foul language), or one uses words with negative tones and meanings, the recipient of such words may begin to slowly feel uncomfortable and uneasy, and given a period of time, the recipient of such words may lose some self-esteem or self-worth. Some of us may have experienced being bullied with such words, and the feeling could be quite unpleasant and degrading. On the other hand, when one uses words in a positive manner, or in an affirmative manner, the recipient of such words may eventually feel good about himself or herself, and some boost in self-esteem and self-worth may be experienced.

In today's Gospel, we come across a centurion in Capernaum who came up and pleaded with Jesus to heal his paralysed servant. This centurion not only went to see Jesus, he even pleaded with Him for help. What is even more astonishing is the humility and complete confidence of the centurion in Jesus, so much so that he had full trust that all Jesus needed to do was to issue the order, and his servant would be healed. This centurion was sure that Jesus' words were enough to heal his servant, and Jesus did not have to be physically present for the healing to take place. Because of this, the centurion's servant was healed.

What about us? Do we use words wisely to heal and to build people up? Do we have confidence in Jesus' words? May we be careful with what we say, and may what we say bring healing and happiness to all around us, for the glory of God.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Friday of Week 34 Year 2

For some of us, a vision could be seen as a warning or reminder to behave or to be good, otherwise some calamity or disaster may occur. However, visions need not necessarily be seen in that way. When a vision occurs, it could also be seen as a prompting from God, inviting us to look into our lives and grow closer to Him. God is reaching out to us, giving us opportunities to walk in His ways, trust in His providence, and let Him be our help and guide.

In today's reading, John had a vision where he "saw the dead, both great and small, standing in front of his throne, while the book of life was opened, and other books opened which were the record of what they had done in their lives, by which the dead were judged." John also saw in his vision a burning lake which is the second death "and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was thrown into the burning lake." If we have been consistent, committed and persistent in our efforts to grow in relationship with God, then such visions should not startle us or cause us to fear, since we can be confident and trust that God will take care of us. God is inviting us to live, it is up to us to accept His invitation and be alive in His love.

Thursday of Week 34 Year 2

Among the many ways the evil one could use to tempt us to sin, the use of deception and disappointment is quite common and dangerous. This is because, when we are going through trials and tribulations, we could be deceived with various false promises of security and safety, and when things don't work out and such promises of security and safety end up crumbled and destroyed, some of us may become quite disappointed, even to the point of giving up or even despairing.

In today's Gospel, Jesus paints us a picture of troubles and dangers to come when He says: "There will be signs in the sun and moon and stars; on earth nations in agony, bewildered by the clamour of the ocean and its waves; men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world, for the powers of heaven will be shaken." For those who have let fear taken over their lives, such a message may seem like we are doomed. But Jesus did not stop there. He continues: "And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand." If we have faith and hope in God, then we should not allow any other forms of promises of security and safety to distract and deceive us. Instead, we should be persistent and consistent in trusting in His providence, knowing that He will take care of things, according to His time and for His glory.

Wednesday of Week 34 Year 2

Some of us think that when we are persecuted, mocked or put on trial, we should be bold and say many things in defence. Some of us think that to be vocal and loud is the better solution, since some of us think that keeping silent means that one is agreeing to the accusations or one has no defence at all. But sometimes, confidence is silent and dignified, whereas insecurities are loud and offensive, since being silent means one is confident in oneself and considers such accusations to be nonsense, baseless, and not worth arguing about.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Keep this carefully in mind: you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you an eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict." The eloquence and wisdom here need not necessarily mean that we would be inspired to say many things, since a smile and keeping silent could be just as effective and deafening as using many words. There were times Jesus made profound statements of truth; but there were also times when He just remained silent. A smile is one way to solve many problems; and silence is one way to avoid many problems; and at times, Jesus has shown us that being silent with a smile is a better way or a good answer to insults and false accusations. Do we still need to say so many things, when being silent with a smile is sometimes all that is needed?

Tuesday of Week 34 Year 2

Do you know what is a sickle? No, it does not mean someone is being sick, but it is a type of a hand-held agricultural tool with a curved, sharp blade used for harvesting grain crops or cutting certain edible plants to feed livestock. It is an ancient tool effective for reaping and harvesting, and if used as a weapon, it can be deadly and dangerous. You definitely would not want to be at the receiving end of a sickle, since the cut could be devastating, or even mortally wounding (in other words, one could get killed quite easily if struck by a sickle).

In the 1st reading, the sickles were being used for a harvest of a different sort; it was the harvest of the earth, and it refers to the judgement of the earth. In the reading, we are told that "the angel set his sickle to work on the earth and harvested the whole vintage of the earth and put it into a huge winepress, the winepress of God’s anger." While the imagery of the reading may seem terrifying, its message is meant to awaken us from our complacency and our indifference to the call for repentance. Are we willing to change our ways, turn away from our sins, and return to the Lord's ways?

Friday of Week 33 Year 2

What sort of lives do we want to live? Do we want to live good and holy lives? Or do we want to live according to the ways of the world? Sometimes, we come across people who try to live good and holy lives, but they begin to be influenced with what others think, or what is the latest fashion or style, or they try to fit into the crowd instead of standing out and being oneself. When such persons try to fit in, they have allowed themselves to succumb to peer pressure, since they want to stay in with the crowd, they want to be accepted, they don't want to be the odd-one out. But is this right Christian living, especially if by succumbing to peer pressure, it might mean keeping silent and not doing anything even when we see injustice, oppression and corruption happening?

In today's Gospel, Jesus chose to not fit in. He could have easily closed one eye, played safe, keep cool and look away from the injustice and corruption happening in the Temple. But Jesus would not put up with such nonsense in the Temple. He drove out the injustice and corruption from the holy place, and restored the Temple to its dignity. As a result, Jesus incurred the wrath of those who were already against Him.

What about us? Are we going to ignore the injustice, oppression and corruption happening around us? Are we going to mind our own business and let others do the fighting? May we follow the example of our loving Saviour, who showed us what being a Christian is all about, by doing what is right and just, for the glory of God.

Thursday of Week 33 Year 2

Do you have any regrets in your life? Do you feel as if there are some unfinished business? Opportunities come and go. We can choose to seize such opportunities, or we can choose to ignore them and let them go by. At the end of the day, whether we end up with regrets or unfinished business or not depends on us. It is the same when it comes to our relationship with God. God gives us many opportunities to grow closer in relationship with Him, and it is up to us to seize such opportunities, or end up being left behind.

In today's Gospel, Jesus shed tears over Jerusalem because the Jews had heard His message but His message of peace did not sink into their hearts. The Jews did not heed the signs that God gave them because of their stubbornness and refusal to change. As a result, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, and the Jews who attempted to revolt against the Romans were destroyed and crushed.

We too may suffer a similar fate, if we procrastinate or remain obstinate in our ways, if we do not hear Jesus' message and let His message of peace sink into their hearts. God is patient and loving to all of us, and He gives us many opportunities to build a deeper and closer relationship with Him. We can choose to walk humbly in His ways, or choose to do things our way. Let us be mindful of the consequences of our actions.