Friday 15 December 2017

Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent

Every once in a while, I come across people who seem to do things half-heartedly. It is as if the task is too difficult or complicated to do, even though in reality, the task is actually so simple that even a small child could have done it well. Such persons seem to drag their feet, or take their sweet time to get it done, but when their boss or superior comes along, they suddenly appear to be hard working or diligent, only to go back to their half-hearted routine once the boss or superior has left. Could some of us be guilty of such half-hearted attitude and behaviour?

In today's reading, "Moses said to the people: ‘The Lord your God today commands you to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul." While some of us could play games in front of authority, and then return to half-hearted ways, we cannot play games or behave half-heartedly when it comes to God. God expects us to observe His laws and customs wholeheartedly, in fact, we are to do so with all your heart and all your soul. Failing to observe such laws and customs wholeheartedly could lead to undesirable or even disastrous consequences. Are we willing to be humble and docile, and follow God's laws and customs, for our good and for His glory?

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Saturday After Ash Wednesday

At some point of our lives, we may have come across persons who seem difficult to love or to be with. The easiest thing for us to do is to just ignore such persons completely, or shun them, or have nothing to do with them, or ostracise them. Some of us may begin to think that such persons are not worth our time, or that they are probably condemned or beyond redemption. But how many of us are willing to accept such persons, and journey with them, depending on God's grace and mercy to help them change and grow closer to God?

In today's Gospel, Jesus called Levi, a tax collector, to follow Him. Not only that, Jesus even had a meal at Levi's house, where with them at table was a large gathering of tax collectors and others. If Jesus was willing to reach out to such persons, who society despises, shuns or considers repugnant or as some may say, "bad company," what about us? Are we willing to follow Jesus' example and reach out to such persons too? Who knows, God has His ways, and by doing our part in showing care and love to such persons, they may return to the ways of the Lord. Let us not let our pride, prejudice and ego get the better of us, and learn to be loving and compassionate, just as God is loving and compassionate to us.

Monday 11 December 2017

Saturday After Ash Wednesday

One reality in life that most of us would need to come to terms with is that, the older we get, the more often we find ourselves visiting the doctor. As we grow older, we may even need to visit different types of doctors, for ailments of different parts of our bodies. Some of us may try to delay or put off seeing the doctor for as long as possible, but we may suffer the consequences of doing so. So whether we like it or not, we would need to accept the fact that we may eventually need to see different doctors for different kinds of ailments, especially if we need medical care from a specialist.

In today’s Gospel Jesus says that "Those who are healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do." What sort of physician is Jesus referring to? Jesus is referring to a physician who heals the soul. The irony of today's Gospel is that the self-righteous likely need Jesus more than those they accuse of sinfulness. But more often than not, the self-righteous fail to acknowledge their need for a spiritual physician, due to their pride and ego.

What about us? Have we come to realise that we need a spiritual physician to heal our soul and restore our relationship with God? Are we willing to let Jesus heal us and shepherd us? May we be humble and docile, and confess our sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and let Jesus, our eternal physician, heal us and guide us.

Sunday 10 December 2017

Saturday After Ash Wednesday

Life is such that if we want to achieve something, we need to persevere and be persistent. For example, a couple who wants to conceive may need to watch out for the signs where the woman may be most fertile, make several attempts, and pray to God that they may be granted a "bun in the oven." To do well in exams, one may need to make sacrifices, and persevere and be persistent in one's studies and preparations. To get a job, one may need to persevere and be persistent in applying to several companies, attend interviews, and hope to receive a favourable response. But if you ponder for a moment, how many of us are just as persevering and persistent in our spiritual life?

In today's reading, the Lord is telling His people to do away with the yoke, the clenched fist, the wicked word, giving bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed. In return, what they will receive from the Lord is far more than they could ever imagine - The Lord will always guide them and give them relief in desert places, they will be like a watered garden, a spring of water, called "Breach-mender" and "Restorer of ruined houses." What the Lord is basically telling His people is this: persevere and be persistent in following the Lord's ways, and they will continue to live and prosper.

What about us? Are we willing to make more effort in persevering and persisting in growing in our spiritual life? May we not waste the many opportunities God gives us to grow closer to Him, and remain steadfast in our efforts, knowing with confidence that He will help and guide us.

Tuesday of Week 6 Year 2

Every once in a while, a person would come for confession and start blaming everyone else for causing him or her to sin. For example, the person may say that his or her elderly mother or elderly father is too slow or takes too much time to eat, and because of that the person gets quite annoyed or angry. Some even blame other drivers on the road for driving too slow, even though the road may be quite congested, there is a speed limit and there is a speed camera present. At the bank, some blame the bank tellers for being too slow in attending to their needs, even though in reality, the amount being banked in is quite small, and could have easily been banked in using the Cash Deposit Machine (or CDM). It seems easy for some to put the blame on others for one's sins.

However, today's reading admonishes us, saying: "Never, when you have been tempted, say, ‘God sent the temptation’; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not tempt anybody. Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire. Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it too has a child, and the child is death." The reading makes it clear that we sin because we allow ourselves to be seduced and we allow ourselves to give in to sin, and not because of others. This means that we should take responsibility for the sins we have committed, and seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, instead of just conveniently trying to past the buck to others. Would we be willing to admit our fault, and make more effort to remain in the Lord's ways?

Saturday 9 December 2017

Monday of Week 6 Year 2

Signs are useful and necessary in our lives. For example, directional signs are there to guide us to where we intend to go. In our natural environment, the "signs of the times" tell us what to watch out for, so that we would be prepared should disaster strike. Non-verbal signs expressed by our spouse, our children, our siblings and our friends, tell us that something is wrong, or the person may be hurt, or the person may be unwell, especially when physical signs such as a rash or a boil appears. So as you can see, signs are useful.

However, in today's  Gospel, the Pharisees came forward and argued with Jesus and asked for a sign from heaven to test Him. Even though there were already many signs making it quite clear who Jesus was, the Pharisees refused to acknowledge such signs. Instead, they wanted signs which jive with their way of thinking or understanding. But Jesus was not going to tolerate such arrogance and narrow way of thinking from the Pharisees, and all He did was, with a sigh that came straight from the heart, said, 'Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.'

Could some of us be like the Pharisees, even though many signs are already present around us? Are we still refusing to believe or accept such signs? God may have given many signs for us to repent, change our ways and return to His ways. But just like the Pharisees, our pride, arrogance, prejudice and ego, may have hindered and blinded us from accepting such signs. May we take heed of the signs around us, and make amends with the Lord, while we have chances to do so.

Friday 8 December 2017

Saturday of Week 5 Year 2

I sometimes come across people who don't like certain church rules, practices or customs. Such persons voice their displeasure over such rules, practices or customs, and some even leave the church to join another Christian denomination, or even join some other faith entirely. This is because such persons expect rules, practices and customs to suit their purposes, or for their benefit. But what such persons fail to realise is that God's commandments, as well as Jesus' commandments of loving God and neighbour, are the basis for such rules and practices, whereas customs are traditional and widely accepted ways of behaving or doing something in the church community. Such rules, practices and customs did not materialise overnight, and they are meant for the good of the entire Christian community, not just for the good of a few.

In today's reading, we see an example of a person who did not like certain rules, practices or customs among the Israelites. That person was Jeroboam who thought to himself, ‘As things are, the kingdom will revert to the House of David. If this people continues to go up to the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, the people’s heart will turn back again to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will put me to death.’ And so, Jeroboam did the unthinkable. He created his own gods, by making two golden calves; he got the people to worship such false gods; "He set up the temple of the high places and appointed priests from ordinary families, who were not of the sons of Levi"; and even dared to "institute a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth of the month, like the feast that was kept in Judah." Jeroboam did all these repugnant things, just because he did not like certain rules, practices or customs among the Israelites, and he wanted to save his own skin. As a result, "such conduct made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth."

What about us? Would we change certain church rules, practices or customs as we please, just because they are inconvenient to us or we feel uncomfortable towards them? Is faith like changing clothes, where we discard things which we are unable to accept? May we continue to be faithful, and walk in God's ways.





Thursday 7 December 2017

Friday of Week 5 Year 2

Blind people may not be able to see, but at least they can still communicate reasonably well with others. A person who is deaf, on the other hand, may experience much frustration and challenges, since such persons depend on sign language to communicate, and sometimes such sign language may be challenging to interpret. Moreover, a person who is deaf may attempt to speak, and what is spoken may be not so comprehensible, since the inability to hear also affects the diction. This may lead to feelings of insecurity and embarrassment for the deaf person, since communication is much harder compared to blind persons.

That is why, in today's Gospel, Jesus took the deaf man who had an impediment in his speech, aside in private, away from the crowd, so that the deaf man would feel less insecure and embarrassed with his condition. Also, Jesus touched his ears and his tongue, and looked up to heaven to let the man feel and see that the healing powers were coming down from on high.

What can we learn from this? Quite often, we may have taken for granted the way we communicate, often using words. But the gospel account reminds us that in order to be understood, we must know what and how the other person can understand, and we must know how to use other forms of communication such as touch, body language and facial expression, to reach out to the other person. May we use our various senses wisely, so that the Good News could be effectively shared to all.

Thursday of Week 5 Year 2

Are old people wiser than others? Some think that just because a person has reached a certain age, or as some say, the person has eaten more salt or rice than others, then that person ought to be wiser than others. But as we have seen throughout history, old people are not necessarily wiser, since they may have not learnt from their mistakes, or they may have fallen away from their original path, and allowed themselves to be influenced by unwise ways.

In today's reading, we see an example of a person who had grown old, and was not wise in his actions and conduct. That person is King Solomon, who at an old age allowed his heart to be swayed to other gods because of his many wives. Even though the Lord had appeared twice to him, he still did what displeased the Lord. King Solomon had gained the reputation of being a wise king. But this gift of wisdom was the fruit of his faith in God. Now that wisdom and faith was lost, since he had turned away from the Lord and "became a follower of Astarte, the goddess of the Sidonians, and of Milcom, the Ammonite abomination. He did what was displeasing to the Lord, and was not a wholehearted follower of the Lord, as his father David had been."

What does this mean to us? It means that, even as we grow old, we must be cautious to remain steadfast, faithful and true to the ways of the Lord, and not allow ourselves to be swayed to other gods. Are we able to persevere in faith, and remain wise in following the Lord's ways?

Wednesday of Week 5 Year 2

I find it interesting and baffling how certain persons can be so particular about what is clean and what is unclean when it comes to certain matters, and yet remain clueless or indifferent when it comes to other matters. For example, such persons can be so particular about certain types of food that can be eaten, even to the point where certain commercial establishments have even gone to the extent of changing the name of a food item, just because the name of the food item appears to contain the name of a certain animal or a certain beverage which is supposingly unclean to certain groups. On the other hand, such persons seem clueless or indifferent when it comes to unjust deeds, corruption and other unfair practices which are happening around them.

In today's Gospel, Jesus is telling us that we should be more concerned about words and actions which comes out of us that makes us unclean, instead of being petty about what we eat or drink, or even the kind of name given to what we eat and drink. In the Gospel, Jesus reminds us that "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." Such words and actions which come out of us not only causes us to be unclean physically, such words and actions also affect us spiritually. Thus, let us open our eyes and hearts, and realise what really matters when it comes to cleanliness, and remain clean in the sight of God.

Saturday of Week 4 Year 2

We sometimes take on more than what we can do, or say more than what is necessary, especially because we want to show how capable we are or how clever we are. At first, it may seem as if we are getting things done without breaking a sweat, but the reality is that, in our zeal and focus to do things and take on more and more tasks, we may end up neglecting other equally important areas in life, such as our health, and our relationship with family and friends. As a result, we may experience burnout, sickness or relationship problems. That is why, one must know what one can do and what one can't, and know one's abilities and lack of it. To acknowledge that requires wisdom.

One example of knowing one's abilities and lack of it can be found in today's reading. In the reading, king Solomon acknowledged before the Lord that he was a young man and unskilled in leadership. He asked the Lord for wisdom so that he could understand how to discern between good and evil; and to be a good king following the ways of the Lord. Because of this, king Solomon was not only given wisdom, but blessed by the Lord with power, wealth and victory over his enemies.

What about us? Are we willing and humble enough to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, and seek wisdom from the Lord, so that we could do His will? Are we willing to strike a balance in our lives, doing what we can while depending on the Lord for wisdom and discernment? Our help is in the Lord, and may we glorify Him in all we do.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Tuesday of Week 4 Year 2

In today's reading and Gospel, we come across two different persons who came to Jesus for help. One came because she had tried all sorts of treatment to cure her haemorrhage, to no avail. The other, Jairus, came because his twelve-year old daughter was at the point of death or already dead by the time of Jesus reached Jairus' house. Both came to Jesus with great faith, and they came in their own unique way. Jairus came publicly, begging Jesus to come to his house to save his daughter's life. The woman came quietly, for fear of being exposed because she was ritually unclean, and inconspicuously touched the tassel of Jesus’ prayer shawl. Because of their great faith, Jairus' daughter was saved, and the woman's haemorrhage was healed.

What does this mean to us? It means that it does not matter what difficulty we are in or who we are; whenever we approach Jesus with sincere and honest faith, He comes to us without condition, to save us and heals us. He does not only heal us from our physical infirmities, from our shame and guilt, and from feelings of insecurities; Jesus comes readily to restore our dignity. Are we willing to make that great leap of faith like Jairus and the woman did, and let Jesus be our healer and guide?

Sunday 3 December 2017

Saturday of Week 3 Year 2

We sometimes come across people who refuse or who are reluctant to admit their guilt. Even when they are confronted with facts and evidence proving their guilt beyond reasonable doubt, such persons would still refuse to admit or accept their guilt, and some even try to find a scapegoat and blame others such as a family member, friend or colleague, and some even go to the extent of blaming God, instead of taking responsibility for the wrong they have committed. Blinded by pride and ego, such persons think that they are never wrong or never guilty. Could some of us be having such a proud or egoistic attitude?

In contrast, today's reading shows us how King David responded when the prophet Nathan confronted him with the many sins he had committed. Instead of trying to worm his way out, or make all sorts of excuses, or deny his guilt, King David was docile and humble enough to admit his guilt and merely said: "I have sinned against the Lord."

What about us? Would we be willing to own up to our guilt, our mistakes, our sins? Or would we rather try to sweep things under the carpet, only to have such dirt exposed at a later time? Let us be humble and docile, just like King David showed us, and admit our guilt. After all, isn't it better for us to remove the stain of guilt earlier, than to let the stain remain and ruin our relationship with God?