Friday 29 April 2016

Friday of Week 15 Year 1

We sometimes come across people who just do not seem to have anything good to say about others. At the slightest opportunity, such persons would condemn the actions or words of others, sometimes without even bothering to verify the facts. To such persons, only they are right and eveyone else is wrong, no matter how much good others have done. Why do such people behave in this way? It is precisely because of their pride, ego and insecurities, that they cannot stand seeing other people doing what is right and what is just.

In today's Gospel, we see an example of such persons in the Pharisees, who refused to acknowledge the good others do. These Pharisees had so easily forgotten, as Jesus reminded them, that what God wants is mercy, not sacrifice. Because of this, the Pharisees had become so proud, arrogant, full of themselves, and egoistic, so much so that they so easily condemned the blameless. Could some of us have become like the Pharisees, when we treat others with contempt, or we belittle others for whatever reasons, or we think that we are right and others are wrong? May we come to realise our attitude and behavior, and change our ways, and do what is right and just for the glory of God.

Thursday of Week 15 Year 1

I remember in my younger days, I had friends living in a village and I would drop by their house for tea. I recall some of them whose parents were farmers and they owned different farm animals, each animal having a different purpose and function. Among the animals they owned, the ox or buffalo seemed quite fascinating, since the ox was often depended upon to prepare the fields for planting. What would normally be done is to place a yoke upon the shoulders of the ox so that it could pull the plough to dig up the earth to enable seeds to be planted easily. In some cases, the yoke was designed so that two oxen could be used to plough the fields. Why two oxen? Firstly, two oxen are better than one, and the field could be ploughed faster. Secondly, one oxen was usually a more experienced one and the other a new one, so that the experienced one could guide or initiate the new one into the task of pulling a plough. So a yoke which could fit two oxen was preferred, for obvious reasons.

In today's Gospel, Jesus is inviting us to shoulder His yoke and learn from Him. Not only that, His yoke is easy and His burden light. Jesus is beckoning us to let Him lead us and guide us as we plough through the fields of life, and when we are humble and willing to let Him do so, we have no need to worry or fear, for He is there for us. May we take this opportunity to shoulder Jesus' yoke, and let Him show us the way to His Kingdom.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Wednesday of Week 15 Year 1

What is a vocation? A vocation is a calling from God to serve Him in a certain way, and we can choose to respond to the calling or not to respond. God does not force us to respond to His call, but sometimes what God is offering us is far better. Sometimes God could be calling us in a spectacular way, sometimes the call may not seem that out of the ordinary, but when God calls us, are we able to identify His voice and respond? Are we willing to respond to God's call or would we try to ignore it, or make all sorts of excuses to try and escape from doing His will?

In today's reading, Moses was called by God to bring His people out of Egypt. Moses was already living quite a comfortable life looking after the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, priest of Midian. Moses was initially quite reluctant to leave his present life and even said to God, "Who am I to go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?"But God persisted and said: "'I shall be with you,' was the answer 'and this is the sign by which you shall know that it is I who have sent you... After you have led the people out of Egypt, you are to offer worship to God on this mountain.'" With God being so persistent and constant, Moses found it difficult to say no and answered God's call to do as God wanted.

What about us? If God is constantly calling us with such persistence, would we still insist in saying no? Would we try to run away and hide or try to ignore His voice? May we be humble and docile enough to respond to His call and do His will for His glory.

Tuesday of Week 15 Year 1

I like to watch different types or genre of movies, and one type which I find interesting is the "Thriller" or "Drama" or "Suspense" type. Such a genre sometimes gives a twist to the plot or the characters. For example, a character who appears to be good may turn out to be a crook and vice versa. Sometimes, the movie plot could turn out quite differently from what we would expect at the end. This makes such a movie genre unpredictable, interesting, full of suspense, surprising and sort of mysterious, since one could never guess the final outcome.

In today's reading, we see an example of such a movie genre. Moses, as a baby, had been put into a papyrus basket and laid among the reeds at the river’s edge. Many of us would have thought that Moses' mother would have been the one to keep watch, but it was his sister who did it instead. Pharoah's daughter found the child and decided to rescue him and keep him as his own. Then the irony is that in the end, it is Moses' mother who suckled him till he grew up and was given to Pharoah's daughter, who treated Moses as her son. Who would have thought that Moses was rescued in such a dramatic way, and even became a pince of Egypt, but that is exactly what happened.

What can we learn from this? God is a God of suspense and surprises. We sometimes go through life thinking that things would happen or take place in a certain way, and that certain choices would lead to certain outcomes. But God does not follow our rules. He does things according to His plan, and sometimes the outcome is far better or quite different from what we expected. May we be humble and ready for whatever outcome God has in store for us, for His greater glory.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Monday of Week 15 Year 1

I believe most of us would want to remain in good relationship or good ties with our parents and siblings. I do not think we would want to cause unnecessary friction or division in the family. But sometimes, some of us may be faced with a situation where our parents or siblings demand that we perform something or carry out an act which would keep the family honour, but goes against God's commandments. For example, your spouse is with child and the doctor examining your spouse discovers that the foetus has some form of handicap which could make raising such a child quite difficult and expensive. Your parents demand that the foetus be aborted, because they believe and fear that having such a child would bring dishonour to the family name. What would you do? Would you remain faithful to God's commandments? Or would you do as your parents demand?

In today's Gospel, Jesus warns us: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth: it is not peace I have come to bring, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man’s enemies will be those of his own household. Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it."

We know that as Christians, we are reminded to obey and keep God's commandments. But if we obey and keep God's commandments, we would be going against our parents' demands. Likewise, if we submit to our parents' demands, we would be going against God's commandments. Should we be faced with such a difficult situation, may we choose wisely and prudently what is right and just.

Friday of Week 14 Year 1

It is certainly not easy being a Christian. Our beliefs and principles quite often are in contrast with the ways of the world, and when we are faced with a choice, we would face a serious dilemma. It is easy to say that we would follow the ways of Christ, but when the choice involves our livelihood, or involves family relationship, then things become quite sticky and difficult. For example, not all of us come from families which are Christians, especially if some of us in the family converted to Christianity. When our siblings or parents challenge us to do something which is not right according to God's laws, would we stand firm with our Christian way of life? Or if our boss at work asks us to do something wrong or illegal for the benefit of the company, would we still stand firm with our Christian way of life? Or would we succumb to family, work or peer pressure?

In today's Gospel, Jesus cautioned us: "Brother will betray brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all men on account of my name; but the man who stands firm to the end will be saved.'" If we were persecuted for our faith today, would we be willing to suffer and even die for our faith? May we choose to do what is right and just in God's eyes, and be courageous and steadfast in witnessing to the Gospel for the glory of God.

Thursday of Week 14 Year 1

Every once in a while, we come across a situation where disaster seems imminent. We may have thought about how we could come out of such a situation, and it seems to us as if there is no way out. Some of us may begin to think that giving up or surrendering is all that there is left for us to do, and some of us may even despair. Yet, God works in mysterious ways and through His intervention. we have seen throughout history how bad situations have had a good ending.

In today's reading, "Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph. Is my father really still alive?' His brothers could not answer him, they were so dismayed at the sight of him. Then Joseph said to his brothers, 'Come closer to me.' When they had come closer to him he said, 'I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not grieve, do not reproach yourselves for having sold me here, since God sent me before you to preserve your lives.'" Joseph, who was sold to slavery in Egypt, ended up rescuing his family and Israel as a whole. God indeed had a plan from the beginning, and fortunately for Joseph's brothers and the Israelites, God's plan involved turning what was thought to be a bad situation into a good one.

So what does this mean to us? It means that we should not give up or think that all hope is lost. God can transform something which seemed bad into something good at the end. Are we willing to be humble and patient, and let God do what is best for us for His glory?

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Wednesday of Week 14 Year 1

Every once in a while, I come across people who say that they have volunteered themselves to go to some seemingly remote country or place to preach the Good News. While it is commendable for people to offer their services and even their lives in such an endeavour, I sometimes wonder: what about the very people in our community, our own backyard, our own housing area, who may have not heard about the Good News? Have such aspiring missionaries made the effort to reach out to them? Or have some of these aspiring missionaries given up on their own people?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them as follows: 'Do not turn your steps to pagan territory, and do not enter any Samaritan town; go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.' What Jesus is telling us is that basically, charity begins at home. While it may seem commendable to make big plans in  trying to preach the Good News to others, what about reaching out to our own families and friends first? Are some of us preaching the Good News selectively, thinking only of achieving a great success rate? Or are we preaching the Good News for the glory of God, regardless whether we are successful or not?

Tuesday of Week 14 Year 1

Why are some of us unhappy? Some of us are unhappy because we feel that we have not achieved much in life. Some of us are unhappy because we are perfectionists and we constantly want to do even better than before. But for some of us, we are unhappy because we are jealous of others. We want to have what others have, or we want to be the centre of attention. When this happens, we begin to find ways and means to put others down, or to attract attention from others to whet our appetite for power and recognition, as our jealousy consumes us and blinds us to what is true and just.

In today's Gospel, we read: "A man was brought to Jesus, a dumb demoniac. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb man spoke and the people were amazed. 'Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel' they said. But the Pharisees said, 'It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.'" The people loved Jesus for what He said, the healing He did and the casting out of devils he did. The Pharisees were constantly jealous with Jesus' increasing popularity and the words He said hit them hard and pricked their conscience, but they refused to change and risk losing their status and position. The Pharisees had become so jealous, that they even the good that Jesus was doing was, to them, the work of the devil. How absurd! But that is what jealousy does, and the Pharisees became blind to what is true and just.

What about us? Have we allowed jealousy to control our lives? Are we not happy, content and satisfied with the many gifts and talents God has given us? Why do we need to compare ourselves with others and become jealous of others because of what we do not have? God has made us special, unique amd gifted in different ways, and let us celebrate our uniqueness and give God the glory.

Monday 25 April 2016

Monday of Week 14 Year 1

Supposing your child or an elderly parent or relative has just died, and suddenly someone comes and tells you that the deceased is not dead, but merely sleeping, how would you feel and how would you respond? Quite likely you would think that the person saying such things is being mean or absurd, and you may even ask the person to leave before you take stronger measures or actions. Supposing the person saying such things was brought to the house by a sibling or someone close to you, and that sibling or someone has great faith in the person's ability to restore the deceased to life, would you trust your sibling's judgement? Or would you still refuse to believe and get angry or upset?

In today's Gospel, the official had great faith and trust in Jesus. The crowd, and possibly other members of the family did not. It was because of the official's great faith in Jesus that his daughter was brought back to life. Sometimes in our lives, we have become so used to a particular way of thinking, or we think we have seen it all, that we may fail to recognise Jesus in our midst, coming to heal us or bring us back to life. May we learn to discern and discover Jesus' presence, and put our faith and trust in Him, and let Him do what is best for us for His glory.

Sunday 24 April 2016

Friday of Week 13 Year 1

We sometimes do not realise the gravity or significance of certain words used. Sometimes, even the words used have lost its proper meaning, because some of us may have overused or misused such words. For example, when we use the word "love," we may not necessarily mean what we say. Instead, what we may actually mean is we "like" or we"enjoy" but since we are so used to saying the word "love," the meaning may have become lost in translation.

In today's reading, we hear of Abraham making his steward swear an oath to choose a wife for his son Isaac according to his specific instructions. Then we read of something strange or peculiar: Abraham made the steward put his hand under his thigh to make the oath. Why did Abraham make the servant do so? In ancient times, a person who declares something usually makes an oath with the declaration. The declaration is also known as a testimony. The word "testimony" or to "testify" comes from the Latin word "testis," which refers to the glans from which the seeds of life come from, and from which each man's legacy or descendants is spread. So the steward had to reach down and grasp Abraham's manhood, and then swear an oath upon the seed of Abraham's tribe, that he would make every effort to adhere to the promise he was to make. This means that a testimony is so grave, so serious and so significant that it involves even the future generation of the one making the testimony.

Seeing the consequences of what a testimony means, are we careful and prudent with any testimonies we make? May we be fully aware of the consequences of making testimonies, and be willing to stake it all when we testify to the Good News, and give glory to God.

Thursday of Week 13 Year 1

If God were to ask you to give up something to Him, would you do it? Some of us may say that we would be willing to give up our lives for Him, or give up all that we hav to follow Him. But how many of us are really sincere with our words? How many of us would be willing to give up that which we treasure most?

In today's reading, God tested Abraham by asking him to give up his son as a burnt offering. It would have been agonising and difficult for Abraham to give up Isaac, since it was so difficult for Abraham to have Isaac in the first place. But did Abraham show any reluctance or hesitation? No. Abraham did what God asked of him, and because Abraham was willing to give up his most precious son, Isaac, not only did God spare Isaac's life, God also said to Abraham: "I will shower blessings on you, I will make your descendants as many as the stars of heaven and the grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants shall gain possession of the gates of their enemies. All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants, as a reward for your obedience."

Would we be willing to give up something to God, just as Abraham did? Sometimes, God may be asking us to give up something as He has something even better for us. May we learn to be detached and be docile, and let God be our providence and guide.

Saturday 23 April 2016

Wednesday of Week 13 Year 1

Casting out devils and evil spirits is not a task which anyone can do, since it requires extensive preparations, including much prayer and fasting. If we are not properly disposed, prepared and ready, it is best we refrain from attempting such things, since we ourselves could be possessed, or cause more complications to others and even to ourselves, or some could be quite badly injured, or even face the possibility of death.

In today's Gospel, Jesus drove away devils from two demoniacs with little resistance. It is interesting to note that the devils actually pleaded with Jesus to be cast out into a herd of pigs instead of Jesus casting them out and sending them to a fate far worse. Jesus was merciful enough to grant them their request. Jesus is God and He can easily drive devils away. But for the rest of us, we should not straight away jump into conclusions that a person is possessed, since there are certain procedures to be followed and one should consult the bishop of the diocese to determine the next course of action. Ultimately, let us check our intentions. Are we casting out evil spirits to show how great we are, for our personal gratification, or to feed our ego? Or are we truly, humbly and cautiously doing so for the greater glory of God?

Tuesday of Week 13 Year 1

Every once in a while, we hear of massive natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, floods, tsunami, raging fires and much more. When such a massive disaster happens, those affected are often urged to make a getaway as quickly as they can. The authorities would even give advice on where persons should run or take cover, so as to minimise casualties or deaths. But sometimes, we get people who don't want to follow instructions or listen. For example, a massive tsunami happens and people have only moments to run and head for higher ground. Instead of doing so, some people remain where they are and even take a video of the event, only to their peril.

In today's reading, the angels urged Lot: "Come, take your wife and these two daughters of yours, or you will be overwhelmed in the punishment of the town... Run for your life. Neither look behind you nor stop anywhere on the plain. Make for the hills if you would not be overwhelmed." However, "the wife of Lot looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt." Why did she do so? The reading does not tell us specifically. Perhaps Lot's wife had become too attached to her old life, and she looked back in regret for what she was losing. Perhaps she was curious and wanted to see whether everything would be totally destroyed. But whatever the reason may be, she had disobeyed God and suffered the consequences.

What about us? Just as the local authorities may have issued a warning and given instructions to help us get to safety, God is constantly giving us opportunities to follow His instructions, so that our souls would be safe. One instruction that we are being constantly reminded is to remain in good terms and good relationship with God, especially through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But how many of us are taking heed of such instructions? May we not procrastinate or look back, only to find ourselves in a difficult situation, and risk jeopardising our eternal future.

Friday 22 April 2016

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

When we come to church, we come not as strangers or foreigners, but we come because we are supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ. But the question is: are we really brothers and sisters in Christ? Look around you... do you sit with strangers, or quite likely, do you sit only with people you know, or are familiar with? Do you know the persons on your right and left? Perhaps if they are your family members, friends or relatives, you would know them. But what about the persons in the front pews, or the persons at the back pews, or even the persons a few pews away? Do you know all of them? Or do you know most of them? Or do you know some of them? Or perhaps you don't know them at all? We sometimes hear people complaining that the church seems cold and unwelcoming, since they feel as if they come and leave as strangers. The question is: Who do you think should do the welcoming? Do we blame the priest alone? Or should we blame the hospitality ministers?

So who should do the welcoming? The answer should be obvious: It should be each and every one of us. If each and every one of us can show hospitality to just one other person, we will become living witnesses of love and hospitality. What is hospitality? Hospitality means paying attention to another person and making the person feel at home. We want others to pay attention to us, and we get angry, upset and hurt when we are ignored, when others don’t listen to us or treat us as if we do not exist. But do we pay attention to others just as we expect others to pay attention to us?

Hospitality should transform us from being self-centered to being other-centred. St. Paul tells us in the second reading: "When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death; in other words, when we were baptised we went into the tomb with him and joined him in death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life." This living a new life means we are not merely individuals but members of the community, brothers and sisters in Christ. Hospitality also means that we need to break down barriers created by prejudice and suspicion. Life in Christ means that every person is a member of my family and my friend. Jesus reminds us: "Anyone who prefers father or mother to me is not worthy of me. Anyone who prefers son or daughter to me is not worthy of me." What is Jesus telling us here? What he is saying is that we are all to live as one family, as brothers and sisters in Christ, as members of the community called to love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation.

Today, let us welcome each other with open hands and open hearts. When we welcome each other, we are also welcoming Jesus, as Jesus in the Gospel tells us: "Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me; and those who welcome me welcome the one who sent me." The Shunammite woman in today's first reading had no son and her husband is old, and because she was welcoming to Elisha, God gave her a son. In the Gospel, Jesus assures us: "Anyone who welcomes a prophet will have a prophet’s reward; and anyone who welcomes a holy man will have a holy man’s reward. If anyone gives so much as a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is a disciple, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward." May we learn to be truly and sincerely hospitable to all, so that all may know that we are Christians by our love, for the greater glory of God.

Friday of Week 12 Year 1

What would you do if you are already an 80 years old lady and a priest were to say to you that you would soon have a child? Quite likely you might respond: "Come on father... Don't be silly. I am too old to conceive." Some of you would laugh and think that the priest is joking. Some of you may even think that the priest has lost his marbles (in other words, gone crazy), and some of you might even avoid speaking to the priest for a while, hoping that he would not say such things again.

But the irony of ironies is: such things can happen. In today's reading, such a thing did happen. Abram was told that his wife Sarah would conceive and bear him a son. Abram thought that God was joking as he was already 99 years old and his wife Sarah was also quite elderly. But as it turns out, God was not joking at all. Abram did have a son, and the son became known as Isaac, whom God chose and established a Covenant with.

Now, before any of you begin hitting the panic button and worry that God might pull a prank on you and make you conceive, the main point that we can gather from today's reading is not so much about having babies, but having trust and confidence in God, no matter how challenging or unlikely the odds may be. If God could enable a person so old as Sarah to conceive, just imagine what wonders God could do for us, if we depend on Him and let Him be our help and guide. Let us not doubt any longer, for when it comes to God's help and providence, it is certainly not a laughing matter.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Wednesday of Week 12 Year 1

At some point of our lives, some of us may have encountered doubt. Some of us doubt about where we are heading in life, some doubt about our abilities, and some of us even begin to doubt about whether God cares. In our doubt, some of us may have the tendency to look inwards at ourselves, and we begin to ask questions centered on ourselves. The danger of muddling in such doubt is that, for some of us, we may remain stuck in our inward selves, constantly wondering and pondering, and we seem to be not getting any answers or solutions to such doubt.

In today's reading, Abram seemed to be having such doubt and began looking inward. The reading tells us that Abram wondered and questioned: "What do you intend to give me? I am childless and You have given me no descendants!" But God did not let Abram remain stuck in a rut. God took Abram "outside" to look up at heaven and count the stars, to help Abram come out of his introspective and narrow-looking attitude, so that Abram could see further and believe deeper.

In a way, God is inviting and leading us too to come out of our inward looking, and begin looking outside at the heavens and count the stars. Let us not doubt any longer, but come to realise that we are in God's hands, and that we must remain in faith, trust and confidence in His care and providence.

Tuesday of Week 12 Year 1

In this world, some people seem to be only more concerned about themselves. They practice "survival instinct" or "survival of the fittest," and they try to grab as much as they can. Such attitude and behaviour can lead to greed and selfishness, since not only are they grabbing all they can, some would even go so far as to deprive others of their basic needs, so that such persons would benefit or prosper even more. Could some of us Christians be having such behaviour or attitude?

In todays's reading, we see an example of having a "survival instinct." In the reading, Lot and Abraham had a dispute as there seemed not enough place for both of them to co-exist. Abraham was older, but he was generous enough to let his nephew Lot to choose which part of the land to take. Using survival instinct, Lot quickly chose the choice lands (in other words, the part which seemed better or richer in resources). But because of his generosity and his giving way to Lot, God blessed Abram and his land.

As Christians, would we be willing to give way to others and not let our "survival instincts" take control of us? Sometimes what we may be letting go may turn out to be for the better. Would we be willing to check our "survival instincts" and let God be our help and guide?

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Monday of Week 12 Year 1

It is not easy for some of us to move from one place to another. This is because over the years, we may have accumulated many things, made many friends, and become accustomed to the place we are at. For some of us, we may have become older, perhaps a little less mobile due to age or illness. But sometimes, it is good and necessary for us to leave and move on. For some of us who are priests or religious, moving on gives us opportunities to experience new places, discover new things in a new mission or environment, and also give our former mission or parish a chance to grow and transformed with new leadership.

In today's reading, "The Lord said to Abram, ‘Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name so famous that it will be used as a blessing." In a way, the Lord was giving Abram an opportunity for greater and better things, and by obeying and going to where the Lord wanted him to go, Abram received much blessings from the Lord. What about us? Would we be willing to go when the Lord calls us to go some place? May we willing to go to where the Lord leads us, and let Him be our providence and guide.

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Some of us may have heard stories of Christian missionaries going to distant lands to preach the Good News. Some of us may have been influenced by the movies or television, of the adventure and excitement of these Christian missionaries who overcame the odds, climbed mountains, crossed valleys and rivers, and successfully established Christian missions wherever they went. But more often than not, such movie or television scenes do not reflect the reality faced by Christian missionaries. The reality is that being a Christian missionary is a tough and thankless job. Jesus never promised us that it would be easy or smooth sailing, but warned His disciples and us too, that they will face persecution, and face many obstacles, such as objections from family and friends, criticisms, jealousy of others, stubbornness of those we are trying to reach out to, and many more other obstacles. What happens when we are faced with so many obstacles? We are tempted to be discouraged and tempted to give up. This causes some of us to not even want to try, as some are afraid of failure even before they have begun. When we are discouraged, we may be prevented from beginning Christ's mission. Sounds like a dready and hopeless situation, isn't it?

But wait! All is not lost. Today's readings give us lots of hope, assurance and encouragement. God is not saying that all will be well, or that He will solve all our problems, remove all obstacles, and make life easy for us. As witnesses for Jesus Christ, we are sure to meet with opposition, encounter rejection, and face much criticism from others. Why, even Jesus Himself was also rejected by His own people. So what is God's message for us? God's message is: "Do not be afraid." Do not be afraid, for as today's Gospel tells us: "everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear." Do not be afraid of any obstacle or person who seems to stand in the way of your mission in doing God's will, because as the first reading reminds us: "the Lord is at your side, a mighty hero” and He will deliver you.

So what does this mean? It means that we need to take courage. Courage does not mean we believe and rely on our own strengths and capabilities. Courage means we know and trust that God loves us and that we are precious in His eyes. Jesus uses the example of the two sparrows which can be bought for the price of a penny. The penny and the sparrows may seem small and worthless, but in the eyes of God, each sparrow is precious enough for God to take notice. What more of us? Jesus tells us in the Gospel: "You are worth more than hundreds of sparrows… so there is no need to be afraid!"

So let us take heart, do not be afraid, and not be discouraged. In today's second reading, St. Paul assures us: “If it is certain that through one man's fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift." Let us courageously declare Jesus in the presence of all people, and no matter what happens, may we always remember that we are precious in God's eyes. May we never end up regretting not trying in the first place, but be bold in our efforts, and glorify God in all we say and do.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Thursday of Week 11 Year 1

Before we became Christians, many of us who are adults would have gone through the RCIA or Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. This RCIA is a gradual process, usually one year or even two years, to enable us to have some understanding of the Christian faith before we make a decision to be baptised or not. For those among us who were baptised as infants, we would have gone through catechism classes, to gain some understanding of the Christian faith in stages, from childhood to teenage to confirmation. However, what we learnt in RCIA or catechism is only basic stuff. If we want to gain a better understanding of our faith, we need to make effort to attend courses, seminars, sessions, bible study and other activities organised at the parish or diocese level. In some cases, some of us may even be sent to universities or Catholic institutes overseas, to study for a diploma, degree, masters degree or even a doctorate.

Some of us may be wondering: Why do we need to learn more about our faith? It is because we need to be well grounded and learned about our faith, so that we would know what is real Christian truth. Christian principles, Christian living, and not be so easily swayed into changing our faith. In today's reading, St. Paul admonished the Corinthians, because they had become slack or complacent about their faith. In the reading, St Paul said: "But the serpent, with his cunning, seduced Eve, and I am afraid that in the same way your ideas may get corrupted and turned away from simple devotion to Christ. Because any new-comer has only to proclaim a new Jesus, different from the one that we preached, or you have only to receive a new spirit, different from the one you have already received, or a new gospel, different from the one you have already accepted – and you welcome it with open arms." When we are not clear about our faith, we may fall into the trap which the Corinthians faced.

What about us? Are we complacent about our faith also? It is one thing to attend Mass and be devotional to some form of prayer. It is another thing to be steadfast and clear about our faith. May we not be caught off-guard and make effort to know our faith well, so that we would be able to share it well and defend it well, for the glory of God.

Wednesday of Week 11 Year 1

Some people can be quite tight fisted or stingy or calculative with their wealth and time. Such people have no qualms about demanding and expecting the church to give them all kinds of things, or offer them all sorts of services, but they themselves are quite reluctant to give or offer their services in return. Some even put on a monkey face or sour face when giving or offering their services. I recall one incident where a group of people kept on insisting that the church be air-conditioned, since the weather is quite hot and they felt entitled to better facilities in church. When I asked whether they would be willing to sponsor some aircons and even help pay for the electricity bill, they quickly backed down and tried to change the subject. Easy to demand and suggest indeed, but not easy to help or contribute.

In today's reading, St. Paul cautions us: "Do not forget: thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you reap. Each one should give what he has decided in his own mind, not grudgingly or because he is made to, for God loves a cheerful giver. And there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you – he will make sure that you will always have all you need for yourselves in every possible circumstance, and still have something to spare for all sorts of good works."

Are we giving because we are being pressured or forced or coerced to? Or are we giving happily and willingly? God is generous to each and every one of us by being our providence and guide, and what He grants us is far more substantial than what we could ever give. If that is the case, why do some of us still give so culculatively, or grudgingly? Are we not willing to be as generous as God is to us?

Tuesday of Week 11 Year 1

It is interesting to observe how generous some people are with their wealth and time. We sometimes come across people who do not seem to have much, but they are willing to offer as much of the wealth as they can, or as much time as they can to serve the church and the Christian community. On the other hand, we also come across some people who seem to be quite well off, possibly owning a big house and a big car, but quite unwilling to be generous with their wealth and their time. What sort of person are you when it comes to generosity?

In today's reading, we come across the churches in Macedonia that were facing great trials, and yet they were still willing to remain cheerful, and even though they faced tremendous poverty, they were overflowing with generosity. The reading tells us: "Now here, brothers, is the news of the grace of God which was given in the churches in Macedonia; and of how, throughout great trials by suffering, their constant cheerfulness and their intense poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity. I can swear that they gave not only as much as they could afford, but far more, and quite spontaneously..."

If the churches in Macedonia were so generous in their wealth and time, even in the midst of great challenges and trials, what about us? Are we willing to be just as generous with our wealth and time? Or are we more interested in accumulating more wealth, and remain indifferent to the needs of the church and the Christian community?

Monday 18 April 2016

Monday of Week 11 Year 1

Many times in our lives, we may have heard anecdotes like "walk the talk" or "practice what you preach" or "show by example." It is not enough to just say nice words or give advice, we also need to show what we mean or believe in. For example, if we call ourselves kind and generous, then we should show our kindness and generosity to all, not just to only certain persons or communities. This is because our kindness and generosity ought to be for the benefit of all, not for us to demonstrate our prejudice or biasedness. This is why it may seem easy to say things, but it is not so easy for us to follow through and do as we say.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "We prove we are servants of God by great fortitude in times of suffering: in times of hardship and distress; when we are flogged, or sent to prison, or mobbed; labouring, sleepless, starving. We prove we are God’s servants by our purity, knowledge, patience and kindness; by a spirit of holiness, by a love free from affectation; by the word of truth and by the power of God; by being armed with the weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, prepared for honour or disgrace, for blame or praise; taken for impostors while we are genuine; obscure yet famous; said to be dying and here are we alive; rumoured to be executed before we are sentenced; thought most miserable and yet we are always rejoicing; taken for paupers though we make others rich, for people having nothing though we have everything."

Ultimately, all that we do, all that we say, is for what purpose? It is for the glory of God. Being a disciple of Christ means there is no place for personal glory or personal gratification. May we be genuine and humble in who we are and all we do, and may we do it happily and willingly, so that all may know we are Christians by our love.

Friday of Week 10 Year 1

Some of us seem to like to claim credit for what we do, and in some situations, even in what other people do. We have seen many examples of people doing something, and then someone higher up or with more influence gets the credit. In the Malay language, we call such a situation: "lembu punya susu, sapi dapat nama" (roughly translated as "milk from the cow, but the bull gets the praise.") But what sort of attitude should we have towards doing things as Christians? Are we being just like everyone else in claiming credit?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure, to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God and not from us... You see, all this is for your benefit, so that the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be, to the glory of God." What this reading is telling us is that we may have done many things, or worked miracles in Jesus' name, but ultimately, credit should be given to God, since our abilities, talents and healing powers come from Him. May we learn to be docile and humble, and let God use us as His instruments, for His greater glory.

Sunday 17 April 2016

Thursday of Week 10 Year 1

Some of us may appear to be good and holy Christians, but our conduct and behaviour may be different according to circumstances. For example, some of us may behave piously in church, or in the presence of a priest or a bishop, but how do we behave towards others in our homes, in our communities, in our work places, in society? Do we behave as Christians should, and practice Christian values and virtues, in all situations, in all circumstances?

In today's Gospel, "Jesus said to his disciples, If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven." What does this mean? We know that the scribes and Pharisees liked to show off and their piety was only to attract attention, or make them appear to be good and holy, or to boost their pride and ego. Jesus even called the scribes and Pharisees hypocrites, since they did not practice what they preached. When our conduct and behaviour is different according to circumstances, when we try to show off our piety but do not love God and neighbour, then we may be like the scribes and Pharisees. May we come to realise what it really means to be a Christian and truly, consistently and faithfully practice Christian virtues, for the glory of God.

Wednesday of Week 10 Year 1

In each country which practices some form of democracy, there is a set of laws which do not change so easily. We call such laws constitutions, since such laws are fundamental principles or established precedents that determine how a country is to be governed. Such constitutions are there to ensure that all persons, regardless of their faith or upbringing, share the same rights and privileges (at least, that is what it is supposed to ensure.)

In today's Gospel: "Jesus said to his disciples, 'Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them. I tell you solemnly, till heaven and earth disappear, not one dot, not one little stroke, shall disappear from the Law until its purpose is achieved. Therefore, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.'" Jesus said this probably because His disciples were thinking that Jesus was starting a revolution against the religious system at that time, and they were looking forward to some radical change. Instead of the kind of change the disciples expected, Jesus was actually helping his disciples and us too to return to the original meaning of the Law and the Prophets, sort of like the original constitution so to speak, since the original meaning had been diluted and interpreted to suit the scribes and the Pharisees.

What about us? Are we adhering to the original meaning of our faith, in loving God and loving neighbour? Or have some of us tried to change the original meaning of our faith to suit our needs and purposes? May we adhere to the original meaning of our faith, and in all we do, give God the glory.

Friday 15 April 2016

Tuesday of Week 10 Year 1

When we buy an item or product such as a handphone or a computer, we hope that the item or product would last for quite some time. But what happens if the item or product is damaged and cannot be repaired, or the item or product is no longer usable due to advances in technology? Quite likely we would discard them, since such items are considered useless and keeping such items or products around would mean we are accumulating junk.

In today's gospel, Jesus calls us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Salt adds flavour to food, and light enables all to see. When salt becomes tasteless, it become useless and is thrown away. When the light bulb is spoiled, the light bulb become useless as it no longer able to produce light, and it is thrown away. Likewise, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and if we as salt and light do not use our gifts and talents to add flavour to the lives of all, as well as to light up the way, we may end up useless and end up being thrown away. Are we allowing ourselves to become useless through our pride, ego and indifference, and risk being thrown away?

Monday of Week 10 Year 1

Throughout the week, many people would have slogged it out in their work or studies. They would have had to go through many challenges, suffering or even pain. Then when Friday comes, some of such persons would say "Thank Goodness It's Friday" or TGIF. But the excitement of Friday is only for a short while, since eventually, we would come back to Monday again. When Monday comes, some of such persons would then say "Monday blues" since it is back to the grinding mill or back to work. But is Monday really that bad a day? Do we see Monday as going back to suffering?

In the 1st reading, we are presented with two perspectives of "suffering." One perspective is that God will comfort us in all our sorrows (and suffering) so that we can offer others, in their sorrow, the consolation that we have received from God. The other perspective is that when we are "made" to suffer, then it is for the consolation and the salvation of others. What this means is that suffering and sorrow have a redemptive value and it can be a source of consolation. This redemptive value and source of consolation can be seen when we look at the Gospel, where the beatitudes remind us that suffering and sorrow can be blessings.

So what does this mean to us? What this means is that Monday, or any other day for that matter, is not that bad after all. This is because we can receive consolation from the Lord, especially when we are suffering in His Name or for His glory. May we look at each day as a blessing, and offer each day to God, doing all things not for our ego or pride, but for His greater glory.

Saturday 9 April 2016

Friday of Week 9 Year 1

Among the Jews the most common title for the Messiah was Son of David.This title was connected to another, which is the title "the Christ" which means the anointed one. The religious authorities at that time maintained that the Christ must be a direct descendant of King David. However, this posed a problem, since Judah had been conquered by the Persians, and this caused King David's direct line of descendants to be terminated.

When Jesus quoted the psalm from David and explained it, He cleared the confusion and doubts the people had in their minds. Jesus quoted the psalm to show to the crowds and the Pharisees that the Messiah was more than a descendant of David because David calls this descendant of his, “my Lord.” This is to show that David views the Messiah as his Lord and superior. When Jesus said these words, the people were delighted, because they could now believe again. Many of them already accepted Jesus as the Messiah and as the Son of David, and what Jesus explained to them further strengthened their confidence in Jesus.

So what does it mean for us when to acknowledge Jesus as Lord? To acknowledge Jesus as Lord means that we should owe our full submission and loyalty to Him. But do we really give to Him our loyalty? Do we take delight in knowing that we have a Lord who is far greater than any other? May we happily, gratefully and humbly acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and invite him to be the King of our hearts and the ruler of our thoughts, relationships, and in all that we do.

Thursday of Week 9 Year 1

Each and every day, we are faced with a continuous challenge. What sort of challenge is it? The challenge to love. It is easy to say we love, but to put what we say into practice is a different thing altogether. It seems easy to love our friends and family members, but would we be able to love others whom we are not close with, or who have been difficult to us, or who are our enemies? Are we able to observe faithfully the law of love, not just in loving God, but also in loving our neigbour? Or have we become selective in our love?

In today's Gospel, the scribe said: "'Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice." That is what the commandments are all about: loving God and loving neighbour. We cannot pick and choose, as we are required to love both God and neighbour completely. If we say that we love God, and have arguments or problems with our neighbour, then we are actually not really loving, since loving God and neighbour cannot be separated. That is why it is not so easy to love, since love involves both God and neighbour. Are we really willing to love without prejudice? Or have we been loving only when it is easy, beneficial or convenient to us?

Wednesday of Week 9 Year 1

What do you do when you are experiencing difficulty in life? What if you are experiencing misery or great pain or great suffering? For some of us, it would seem easy to give up or end it all, because the misery, pain and suffering seems too great for us to bear. Some of us may try to seek help from other sources, only to discover that these other sources are not much help after all. How many of us are willing and able to presevere, and wait patiently for God to help us?

In today's reading, we come across Tobit's prayer of lamentation. In his prayer, Tobit felt he was all alone in his suffering and said: "Therefore, Lord, remember me, look on me. Do not punish me for my sins or for my heedless faults ..." Also, in the reading, Sarah was insulted by one of the maids, and she grieved and sobbed and even contemplated suicide. Fortunately, Sarah came to her senses and did not go ahead in killing herself, but decided to seek help from God. God indeed heard their cry, and sent Raphael to bring remedy to both of them.

What can we learn from this? We can discover that God indeed hears the cry of the lonely, the lost, the least and the last, because these are the ones who have no one to turn to and they only have God to help them. When we turn to God for help, we are putting ourselves in His care, knowing and trusting that He would do what is best for us. Are we willing to humbly beg for His help and let Him be our providence and guide?

Tuesday of Week 9 Year 1

When we have jealousy and hatred in our hearts, we can sometimes degrade ourselves into committing all sorts of despicable and foolish acts. Pride and ego can colour our vision, and blind us from what is true, what is proper and just, what is truly holy and what is fair; just because we want to win at all costs, and we want to save face.

In today's Gospel, we see an example of what jealousy and hatred can do, in the form of the scribes, Pharisees and the chief priests. Even though these folks were enemies with the Herodians, they were willing to forgo their principles just to find a solution to get rid of Jesus. But these folks failed to realise that they were not dealing with just some ordinary person, and Jesus' answer to their question took them completely by surprise. If we consider carefully Jesus' answer, does anything really belong to Caesar? No! Ultimately, everything actually belongs to God. Unfortunately for the scribes, Pharisees and the chief priests, their jealousy and hatred towards Jesus blinded them to what is evidently truth.

What about us? Have we become more like the scribes, Pharisees and the chief priests or even the Herodians, in the way we conduct ourselves and the way we treat others? Let us be mindful and check ourselves from becoming jealous and harbour hatred, lest we lose ourselves and lost sight of our eternal goal.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Monday of Week 9 Year 1

It seems easy to call ourselves Christians, but to live as Christians in any given situation is a different thing altogether. When times are good and peaceful, being a Christian may seem easy, but when we are faced with grave danger or even the possibility of being put to death for our faith, how many of us Christians would persevere and remain faithful?

In today's reading, we come across Tobit who said: "I, Tobit, have walked in paths of truth and in good works all the days of my life. I have given much in alms to my brothers and fellow countrymen, exiled like me to Nineveh in the country of Assyria." Even though Tobit was in exile in Nineveh, and even though the environment in Nineveh was hostile to Tobit and people of the same faith as him, Tobit was not afraid to practise his faith and be charitable to others. Tobit was willing to take risks and put his life on the line, to show his faith. What about us? Are we willing to do the same, even in the midst of severe persecution? Are we saying that we have faith only in mere words and nothing more? Or are we making effort to show our faith fearlessly?