Monday 31 December 2018

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Some people think that for a person to be joyful, the person should also be happy. But if we look carefully at what joy and happiness really mean, we would discover that one could be joyful, even when one is poor, hungry, down and out, when one is mourning for the loss of loved one, when one is facing persecution and experiencing suffering. How is it possible for a person to be joyful even when experiencing such difficult situations and circumstances?

In today's Gospel, Jesus exclaims: happy are you... blessed are you... rejoice... be joyful. What sort of joy does Jesus speak of? Is joy something that you get when your needs and wants are fulfilled? Society tries to keep sadness and happiness separated. Consequently, we try to forget about death, illness, our family problems because they seem to keep us from the happiness we hope for. Yet, Jesus shows in his teachings and in his life, that true joy is hidden in the midst of our sorrow. The cross has become a powerful symbol of this reality; it is a symbol of death and of life, of suffering and of joy, of defeat and of victory. In the cross, both joy and sorrow can co-exist. Of course, this is not easy to understand, but when we think about some of our life experiences, such as being present at the birth of a child or the death of a friend, great sorrow and great joy can be seen as parts of the same experience, where we discover joy in the midst of the sorrow.

So what does this mean? It means that true joy is not the same as happiness. We can be unhappy about many things, but joy can still be there because it comes from knowing of God’s love for us. Joy is the experience of knowing that you are unconditionally loved and that nothing; not even death; can take that love away. To be happy, as the responsorial psalm tells us, is to "trust in the Lord." In our spiritual life, joy does not simply happen to us. We have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day. It is a choice based on the knowledge that we belong to God, and have found in God our refuge our safety, and our strength, and that nothing can take God away from us. Let us remain joyful always, no matter how difficult or challenging it may be, as God is with us.

Saturday of Week 7 Year 1

What sort of persons would we expect to be part of the Kingdom of God? In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’" Why would Jesus consider a little child as being part of the Kingdom of God?

A little child is seen as weak and vulnerable in the eyes of society, and yet such weakness and vulnerability is seen as important elements for one to be part of the Kingdom of God. When one is weak and vulnerable, one would trust God more, just a little child trusts his or her parents for care and security. Also, a little child sees life as joy and excitement, and does not take life too seriously as some of us may do. Moreover, a little child shows us simplicity in listening and accepting the truth. Simple explanations of what is right and what is wrong are enough for them.

So when we look at the sort of qualities a little child has, we can begin to understand what Jesus is trying to tell us. In a nutshell, we should become like little children, always depending on God's providence; being joyful in His care; and being simple in receiving His teachings. When we become like little children, we learn to let go of our pride, ego, and prejudices, and grow closer towards being part of His Kingdom.

Saturday of Week 7 Year 1

We know how vast the universe is, and there are still many things about the universe that remains a mystery. Due to many limitations in our present technological state, there are still many things about the universe that are unknown, or little is known. When we look at how immensely vast the universe is, some of us may feel small or insignificant, since there seem much more around us. However, are we really that small or insignificant as some of us may feel?

Today's reading drives home an important point which some of us may not be aware of. The reading tells us that we are much "more" than we think, even to the extent of being "more" than the universe which some of us are so eager to explore. This is because, as the reading tells us, God our creator clothed us with strength like His and made us in His image; He filled us with understanding and knowledge; and He put His own light into our hearts to show us the magnificence of His works.

So if we are significantly "more" than what we think we are, then what does this mean to us? It means that we should not look ourselves down, and "beware of all wrong-doing," especially when it comes to how we treat ourselves and how we treat our neighbour. Thus, let us be humble and grateful that God is lifting us up to "more" than what we think we are, and continue to serve him and glorify Him in all we say and do.

Friday of Week 7 Year 1

A true friend is always there to help, in both times of triumph and crisis. However, there are some friends who appear to be true friends, only to be exposed as those who are only there in fortunate circumstances. Such friends are known as fair-weather friends, where someone is a good friend when it is easy to be one and who stops being one when you are having problems, or someone who can be depended on only when everything is going well. Such fair-weather friends are often friends with us only for their advantage, benefit and convenience.

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..." The reality of 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 be discerning and careful in choosing our friends, so that we may find true, dependable, intimate and loyal friends, and may we be true, dependable, intimate and loyal as well.

Sunday 30 December 2018

Thursday of Week 7 Year 1

It seems strange that each of us would go through much effort to smell good. We would bathe regularly, put on sweet-smelling perfume, and maintain good personal hygiene, so that we would not have embarrassing body odour or emit a stench. But how many of us are just as diligent in ensuring that our soul would "smell good," so to speak? When we sin, we are actually causing our soul to become dirty, and when we neglect to clean our soul by going for confession regularly, our soul may eventually have embarrassing "soul" odour or emit a stench.

In today's reading, we are reminded: "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 disastrous for us. May we be mindful and hardworking in keeping our soul clean, and make effort to follow God's ways, so that we would be better prepared to face Him when He calls us.

Wednesday of Week 7 Year 1

We live in an age where things are moving fast in many ways. We have ATMs where money can be withdrawn quite quickly; cars that can go very fast, and even information that can be accessed at high speeds. For example, if we want to know about something, we just need to Google it or use some other search engine to get the information. But there are also some things in life which cannot move fast. For example, we cannot expect a baby to be conceived and born in an instant; and another matter which cannot be fast is attaining wisdom.

Today's reading reminds us that wisdom cannot be attained instantly into our minds and hearts. Instead, the reading tells us that wisdom takes those who seek her "at first through winding ways, bringing fear and faintness on him, plaguing him with her discipline until she can trust him, and testing him with her ordeals..." It is when we persevere, remain humble and patient, and let wisdom guide us that, as the reading tells us, "in the end she will lead him back to the straight road and reveal her secrets to him." Are we willing to slow down and let wisdom guide us closer to our loving God, and walk in His ways?

Wednesday of Week 7 Year 1

Being arrogant, intolerant and judgmental are some reasons or symptoms that prevent us from becoming effective followers of Jesus. When we are arrogant, intolerant and judgmental, we begin to think that only us or those within our circle are legitimate followers, and others are viewed with disdain or suspicion. For example, in church we may come across certain leaders who begin to think and behave as if they are the parish priest, just because they have been appointed to a certain position, or they have been heading a particular ministry for a while. When someone else appears to be doing good or serving the church in other ways, such persons begin to find ways to put others down, so that only they or their group would appear important or indispensable.

In today's Gospel, John saw someone who was not in their group driving out demons in the name of Jesus, and he tried to prevent them. Perhaps John thought that only those in their group could have the monopoly or privilege to drive out demons. But how did Jesus respond to John about this matter? Jesus told John to let the other person do what he was doing for whoever is not against them is for them also. Jesus was teaching John and the other disciples that as His followers, they did not have exclusive rights

What does this mean to us? It means that we cannot be arrogant, intolerant and judgmental when it comes to being a follower of Jesus. Instead, we should remain humble and show the mercy and love of Jesus. When we do so, perhaps others may come to know what it really means to follow Jesus, and hopefully become Jesus' followers as well.

Saturday 29 December 2018


在当今的社会里,美满的家庭已经受到严重的威胁,而到处都可以见到 破碎的家。由于夫妻缺少面对面的交谈或沟通,孩子们更鲜少和父母对话,因此家庭成员彼此间就缺少感情。甚至有需要沟通时, 他们之间都应用智能手机在微信里,面子书 或是其他方式传讯息。结果很多美满的婚姻因此破裂;很多恩爱夫妻也因此各自走向不同的阳关道。很可惜的是他们在婚姻亮红灯时,不及时寻找帮助或尽量挽回将破裂的局面,更可悲的是他们各自寻找不正确的途径,去安慰情绪和满足欲望,形成的一宗宗的离婚案件。很多夫妻把孩子送去安亲班,或是由女佣,年老的父母和托儿所里照顾, 因为夫妻各自工作,或加班或在外寻找刺激和安慰。很多年长的父母被遗弃或被送进安老院而鲜少探望他们,因为孩子们认为老年体弱多病的双亲不适合与他们同住。(虽然他们知道在年幼时父母付出了很大的牺牲,但有些孩子却不愿意付出同样的代价来回馈年老的双亲 )。还有一些现代的父母不愿意或没有耐心去看顾孩子,把自己的责任推得一干二净而让他人去做那种艰难又繁忙的工作。


今天, 我们要特别感谢天主赐给我们那么多美好幸福满的家庭,更希望大家不要轻易地照顾和经营家庭,一定要全心全意负起全责,因为家庭是天主的恩赐。我们也为所有的家庭祈祷,祈求仁慈的天父降福每个家庭,让父母以及各成员务必在生活中以主为中心。当问题出现时,不要轻易放弃,不要失望,让天主来引领我们渡过难关,更要时时刻刻地感谢和光荣祂。

Friday 28 December 2018

Tuesday of Week 7 Year 1

Some people think that being a Christian is an easy thing. Some may have been duped into thinking by certain so called church leaders that all they need to do is call on the name of Jesus and their salvation is guaranteed. What such persons do not realise is that it is easy to claim to be a Christian, but how many are able to remain Christian when faced with persecution or even the possibility of being put to death? Are such persons able to remain steadfast as Christians, come what may?

In today's reading, we are called 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."

The reading reminds us that if we want to be a Christian, we would need to serve the Lord and be prepared for trials and tribulations. Are we prepared to face any obstacles, persecution, torture or even death? Let us not abandon our resolve to remain in Christ, no matter what happens, and give glory to God with our lives.

Monday of Week 7 Year 1

Human criteria of being wise and God's criteria are quite different. For us humans, we are wise according to certain circumstances. For example, a person may be wise due to high education, but the person may not necessarily be wise when it comes to living choices. A person on the street may not seem wise according to academic criteria, but the person may be wise in finding creative ways to survive. Also, even within intellectual circles, one may be wise in certain subjects, but no one can claim to be wise in every subject. So, the question is: are we humans really wise, or do we seem 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." The reading reminds us that only God is wise in all aspects and in all ways, and as such, we should 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.

Saturday of Week 6 Year 1

There are things and situations in this world which we experience through our senses. However, there are also things and situations in this world which we cannot see or understand, since such things and situations often are beyond our control or comprehension. When we are faced with such things or situations, what do we do? Some of us may try to live in denial, but the reality is that such things and situations would not go away or be forgotten so easily. So what then should we do? When we are faced with things and situations beyond our control or comprehension, we should then have faith.

Faith is believing in what cannot be seen and hoping in what cannot be fully explained. Today's reading tells us about faith from the beginning of the reading till its end. It talks about the faith of Biblical characters like Abel, Enoch and Noah. By their faith they came to know who God is, and by their faith they experienced His presence, and it was by their faith they did God's will. These prophets depended in faith in all they said and did, even though they faced things and situations beyond their control or comprehension.

What about us? Are we willing to have faith in God, just as the prophets in today's reading had, come what may? Let us not doubt any longer or be hesitant in doing God's will, but have faith in His providence and care, and give Him the greater glory.

Thursday of Week 6 Year 1

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. Instead of the kind of messiah the disciples thought Jesus was, Jesus 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." This was something which Peter found difficult to accept. In his mind, he thought that Jesus would be some champion who would save the Jews from unjust authorities; not 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? Some of us try to think of Jesus in good terms, but the reality is that Jesus came to save us from our sins, and also to teach us how to live as God intended, not according to our own way or our expectations. Are we willing to set aside our thoughts and expectations, and understand and do what God expects of us?

Wednesday of Week 6 Year 1

As children, and even as adults, we sometimes hear people telling us: "patience is a virtue." In a world where so many things are happening so quickly, and many of us are becoming more and more used to getting things done quickly, having patience is certainly harder for some of us to achieve. But the reality of life is this: some things just cannot be rushed. For example, we want to plant a mango or durian tree in our garden, but we cannot expect the tree to grow immediately and bear fruit. It takes years for the tree to grow, become strong, and eventually bear fruit. Even then, the first few fruits the tree produces may not necessarily be good to eat. It takes much patience, and lots of care, for the tree to eventually bear good fruit. When we exercise patience, we hopefully eventually get good fruit from the tree to enjoy.

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.Whether Noah liked it or not, he had to have patience for the water to eventually subside and the surface of the earth to dry up properly. What does this mean to us?  It means that eventually, we need to have patience and trust in God and wait. Are we willing to have patience, wait with hope, and trust in God's providence and care?

Monday 24 December 2018

Saturday of Week 5 Year 1

Every once in a while, I get certain persons coming to me for confession, and instead of confessing their sins, they begin a tirade of how other people caused them to sin, putting the blame on other people and refusing to admit their own wrongdoing. Such persons seem to try and justify that the wrong committed is not their fault, and that they are the victim. It seems as if such persons are making others a scapegoat and not wanting to own up to the wrong committed.

In today's reading, we come across another example of blaming others, or trying to pass the buck, or not owning up to one's mistakes. In the reading, Adam blamed the woman whom God had put with him, and the woman blamed the serpent for tempting her. Though each was at fault for doing a wrong thing, each of them refused to own up to their sin. As a result, Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden.

What about us? Are some of us still blaming others for our sins? Or have we learnt to own up to them, seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and make more effort to follow God's ways? God is inviting us to take responsibility for what we have done or failed to do, and let Him transform us into something better, for His Glory.

Saturday of Week 4 Year 1

It is easy for us to give praise and thanks to God for all that He has done for us. After all, words are easy to utter and people may say things without necessarily mean what they say. For example, a person may say certain things to sound good, or to flatter another, but how does a person mean what he or she says? Are mere words sufficient?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Through Christ, let us offer God an unending sacrifice of praise, a verbal sacrifice that is offered every time we acknowledge his name. Keep doing good works and sharing your resources, for these are sacrifices that please God." The reading tells us that we should not only praise God with words, we should also do good works and share resources. This means that mere words are not enough, since action speaks louder than words. Are we making more effort to "walk the talk" and give glory to God in all we say and do?

Thursday of Week 4 Year 1

Going forth and preach the Good News is a command Jesus has given to each and every one of us. This command is not to be taken lightly, as it is one of great urgency and importance. Today's Gospel reminds us of this great urgency and importance: "Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.'"

Since we are called to go forth and preach the Good News, we should not allow ourselves to become distracted with all sorts of needs and wants, and lose our focus and concentration in our duty. Instead, we should depend on God's providence, so that we can be effective in bringing Jesus' message to others. Are we willing to trust in God's care and providence, and be faithful in our duty in preaching the Good News?

Monday of Week 4 Year 1

Being possessed by an evil spirit is certainly no laughing matter. A possessed person has little or even no control of himself or herself, and what a relief it would be to be rid of such possession. It is quite understandable then why a person who had been freed from possession would want to stay with Jesus, as mentioned in the Gospel. Perhaps the demoniac felt indebted to Jesus, and he wanted to stay with Jesus to serve Him. Perhaps the demoniac wanted some sense of security in Jesus' presence, since he may have had concerns that he may be possessed again.

But whatever reason the demoniac had in begging to be allowed to stay with Jesus, Jesus would not let him stay. Instead, Jesus said to him, ‘Go home to your people and tell them all that the Lord in his mercy has done for you.’ In this way, the demoniac was preaching the Good News by sharing his story with his people, instead of keeping it to himself and clinging on to Jesus. If we are in a similar situation, would we be grateful and thankful of God's mercy? Would we also be excited to share the Good News with others?

Friday 21 December 2018

Thursday of Week 3 Year 1

Nowadays, most people are living busy lives, and with the cost of living going up, it seems as if there is hardly any time for anything else besides work and earning a living. In the midst of the chaos we experience in life, we also need to deal with family, friends and even members of our church community, especially when it comes to community gatherings within our housing area. The temptation some of us face is to avoid or rarely attend such community gatherings, giving all sorts of reasons and excuses, such as lack of time, busy with other life issues, and so on. But the reality of being a Christian is that we cannot isolate ourselves from the community, since being a Christian means being a community of believers, not just a personal relationship with Jesus.

The reading today reminds us of the need for us to be together in faith as a community in communion with God: "let us be sincere in heart and filled with faith, our minds sprinkled and free from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us keep firm in the hope we profess, because the one who made the promise is faithful. Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works. Do not stay away from the meetings of the community, as some do, but encourage each other to go; the more so as you see the Day drawing near."

As the reading tells us, we should not stay away from our community gatherings, but make more effort to attend and encourage others to do the same. It is when we gather as a community that we learn to share our faith, and show love and concern towards others, especially with others in the community who may be in need. When we do so, then we are witnessing to others, by showing that we are Christians by our love.

Wednesday of Week 3 Year 1

We come across different people who listen or hear news differently, depending on what sort of news is being conveyed. Some people listen or hear in a prejudiced manner. They shut their minds, and may be ignoring what is being said, or even not really listening at all. Some people listen or hear in a shallow manner. They may listen or hear for a while, but their minds eventually wander to something else. Some people listen or hear in a selective manner. They listen or hear only what they want to hear, and ignore the other matters. Some people listen or hear in a proactive manner. They are willing to listen and to learn, and are never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen attentively and with full attention to understand. What about you? How are you listening?

In today’s gospel, the parable of the sower reminds us of the different ways of accepting God’s word and the different kinds of fruits they produce. Just as different people listen or hear news differently, different people also listen or hear God's word or the Good News differently. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: how are we listening to God's word? Are we listening like in rich soil, yielding a harvest, thirty, sixty and a hundredfold?

Saturday 15 December 2018

Saturday of Week 1 Year 1

Every once in a while, we come across people who have mastered the art of putting on an appearance or seem to have a "poker face," where real thoughts and emotions are hidden or buried, and what is shown is merely an illusion. For example, such a person may be angry with someone or something, and the person may be fuming or seething with rage, but because the person does not want others to see the true self, the person may appear calm and pretend as if everything is fine, though in reality, the anger is eating him or her from the inside.

While we may be able to appear in a certain way and give others a false impression, one thing we ought to realise is we cannot fool God. Today's reading reminds us of this fact: "The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves."

So let us not be naive to think that nobody knows our thoughts and actions, since God is watching us. Instead, let us cast aside our falsehoods and be real and genuine, while doing our best to remain in God's care and guidance, for the betterment of our eternal future.

Monday of Week 1 Year 1

It is not easy for some of us to let go of something. For example, some of us find it difficult to let go of our wealth and property; some find it difficult to let go of our children or loved ones; some find it difficult to let go of our habits or certain ways of doing things; others find it difficult to let go of their pride, prejudices or pre-conceived notions. But what do we Christians need to let go of?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to Simon and his brother Andrew: ‘Follow me and I will make you into fishers of men.’ And at once they left their nets and followed him. Jesus also called James son of Zebedee and his brother John at once and, leaving their father Zebedee in the boat with the men he employed, they went after him. Notice that when Jesus called, these men were willing to let go of all, including their families, relations and livelihood to follow Jesus.

What about us? If Jesus were to call us to follow Him, are we willing to let go of certain things, even to the extent of letting go of all, or are we still clinging on to certain things, come what may? May we be willing to let go of our old lives, and put on a new life in Christ, trusting in His providence and care, and glorifying Him in all we say and do.

Saturday 8 December 2018

Saturday after Epiphany

How many of us have trust and confidence that God listens to our prayers? Perhaps we may say that we have trust and confidence, but how many of us would have trust and confidence that God would answer our prayers? Perhaps this is where our trust and confidence may be tested, since God does not necessarily answer our prayers according to our expectations or demands, but according to His will and for His purposes. When God answers our prayers in a way quite different to what we hope for or expect, would we still let His will be done?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us; and, knowing that whatever we may ask, he hears us, we know that we have already been granted what we asked of him." The reading tells us that God listens to our prayers in accordance with His will, not ours, and that if we ask for something in accordance with His will, then we can be confident that He will hear us. The question is: are we asking in accordance with His will, or is what we are asking for laced with self-interests and self-centered desires?






Saturday 13 October 2018

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Advent

Years ago, I recall receiving an e-mail about a lady who was looking for a Mr. Right. In other words, the lady was fishing for a husband. It so happened that the lady came across a building with a sign saying: "Search a Husband Here." Also, there was another sign saying: "You can enter this building only once and stop at each floor only once." The building had 7 floors and the lady excitedly entered the lift at the ground floor. When the lift reached the first floor, the doors of the lift opened and the lady saw a sign in front of her saying: "Enter here for a husband who is handsome and strong." The lady decided to remain in the lift, curious to know what the next floors would be. At the second floor, the sign in front of her said: "Enter here for a husband who is handsome, strong, and a good cook." The sign at the third floor said: "Enter here for a husband who is handsome, strong, a good cook, and loves children." The lady became more and more curious and excited, and she decided to remain in the lift and see what the other floors would reveal. As she reached the fourth, fifth and sixth floor, the sign in front of her on each floor revealed even more fantastic capabilities and attributes of the men supposingly to be found at each floor. Finally the lady reached the seventh floor and when she got out of the lift, all she saw was a flight of stairs going down, and a sign which said: "No men can be found here, since no men could ever meet your expectations at this level."

Today’s gospel tells us about a Mr. Right, the right man to foretell the coming of the Messiah. According to the scribes, the prophet Elijah is the right person to prepare the coming of the Messiah, since they believed that Elijah was the precursor of the Messiah, and that Elijah was a terrible man preaching doom and destruction. Yet when John the Baptist came and announced the coming of the Messiah, somebody greater than him, the scribes did not accept him as Mr. Right. For them, John’s person and message was not up to their expectations. He preached about baptism and personal conversion, not about the terror that will go with the day of the Lord. For them John was not Elijah, not Mr. Right. Yet, the irony is, John actually turned our to be Mr, Right, not according to our expectations, but according to God's plans.

What about us? Have our expectations clouded us and prevented us from accepting the message of John the Baptist, the actual Mr. Right, and prepare the way for the Lord? May we open our eyes, ears and hearts, so that we would be able to let the message of John the Baptist change us, so that we would learn to walk in God's ways and glorify Him in all we do.

Sunday 30 September 2018

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

When we were young, some of us may have seen movies concerning the 10 commandments. We were also reminded in Catechism classes, during Mass and in various church activities about the 10 commandments, and how the 10 could be categorised into two, as Jesus mentioned in today's Gospel: "This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these."

However, if we examine today's readings and Gospel carefully, we would realise that actually, there is really only one commandment: “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God will all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” This is the greatest and only commandment. All other commandments flow from this great commandment, the source of all commandments. If we are able to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength, then we don’t have to worry about the others, since we would naturally obey and follow the other commandments.

But are we really following this great commandment? If we examine our lives, we may come to realise that we may be actually breaking the first commandment of loving God. How so? Whenever we are hit with misfortune, some of us may have run to temples. Others resort to feng shui, or divination and crystals to ward off bad luck or for protection, instead of depending on and trusting in God's help. Also, some of us have made other objects our gods. For some it could be money, while for others possession. There are some who consider power as their god. Whenever, we do any of these, we have broken the first commandment.

So what do we do? Remember what the wise scribe had to say to Jesus in today’s gospel: “To love God 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.” Total unconditional and undivided love for God is what is required of every person. In other words, we let God to be God of our lives.

What about the second commandment then – to love our neighbour as ourselves? We need to realise that it is impossible to love others as ourselves; to love others unconditionally; unless we love them with the love of God. It is only when we place all our love unconditionally with God will we be able to love others as God loves them. Thus, let us pray that we will listen to Jesus' voice, inviting us to love God with all our heart, our soul, our mind and our strength, so that we may truly love our neighbour as ourselves.

Wednesday 29 August 2018

Friday of the 1st Week of Advent

I once sat next to a blind beggar and observed him as he was trying to beg for a few ringgit. I was quite amazed at how this blind beggar had developed a heightened sense of touch, hearing and smell, even though he could not see. Just by the sound of a coin dropping onto his bowl, he could decipher correctly how much it was. By feeling the paper money, he could tell a RM1 note from a RM5, RM10 or RM100.

Today’s Gospel tells us about two blind men following Jesus and crying out. They might not see Jesus, but their heightened sense of hearing led them to Jesus. When Jesus entered a house, they approached him there, since their heightened sense of hearing and smell helped them encounter Jesus directly. Not only that, when Jesus asked if they had faith in him to heal them, they responded positively. Because the blind men had complete trust and faith in Jesus, they were healed of their blindness and their sight returned.

What about us? Would we have faith and trust in Jesus to heal us, especially from our spiritual blindness? Even though we may be able to see clearly, we may be spiritually blind, especially when we sin, when we have ego and pride in our hearts. May we, like the beggars in today's Gospel, have complete faith and trust in Jesus, and be regular in going for confession and receiving Him daily at Mass, so that Jesus can heal us and enable us to physically and spiritually see clearly once again.

Sunday 26 August 2018

Saturday of Week 34 Year 2

A lot of diseases such as heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes can be prevented and controlled. What is important is we need to be disciplined in our diet and keeping our weight and stress levels in control. But for some of us, when it comes to preventive measures, we don't usually see the benefits of being vigilant. So what happens? Some of us begin to slacken and not take care.
Then while we are lying on the hospital bed in pain, then only we start regretting for not taking care of our health and our body.

The same also goes for our soul and our eternal future. Jesus in today's Gospel warns us: "Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life, and that day will be sprung on you suddenly, like a trap." If we are not vigilant; if we slacken in our spiritual health and allow sin to permeate in our soul and neglect to cleanse ourselves from sin by going for confession, we may find ourselves regretting for not taking care of our spiritual health. By then, it may be too late, and we may find ourselves away from God.

So let us not neglect our health and our body, and at the same time let us not neglect our spiritual health, lest we find ourselves suffering physically or even spiritually. Let us remain vigilant and watch ourselves, so that when the time comes, we would be better prepared to meet the Lord.

Monday of Week 34 Year 2

Being a widow or even an orphan during the time of Jesus was no easy experience. Society at the time of Jesus was such that the man of the house was the sole breadwinner, and the wife and children were totally dependent on him. To be a widow meant having to fend for herself and maybe even to depend on public charity, and sometimes little or even no help is given. Thus, being a widow or an orphan meant being part of a vulnerable and defenseless people.

In today's Gospel, we come across a poverty-stricken widow putting in two small coins into the treasury. Despite the fact that the widow was extremely poor, she was still willing and generous to put in, from the little she had, all she had to live on. Jesus in turn gave everything He had, all He could give, just to save us. If the widow and Jesus could give everything, what about us? Would we be willing and generous to surrender it all to God and for the growth of the church?

Friday 24 August 2018

Saturday of Week 33 Year 2

We sometimes here people saying words like: "a thorn in my side."  What they basically mean is that someone or something has been continually causing problems for them, and the sooner they are able to get rid of such problems, the better. For example, some couples may have had money problems as a thorn in their side since the day they got married; or health inspectors are a thorn in the side of most restaurants; or custom officers have been a thorn in the side of crminals involved in smuggling activities due to raids and confiscation of smuggled goods.

In today's reading, we come across another example of a "thorn in my side." In the reading, two prophets who have been a plague to the world, were finally killed by the beast that comes out of the Abyss. This caused the people of the world to be glad about it, since they thought that the "thorn in their sides" have been finally gotten rid of. But God had other plans, and "after three-and-a-half days, God breathed life into them and they stood up, and everybody who saw it happen was terrified; then they heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come up here’, and while their enemies were watching, they went up to heaven in a cloud." The thorn in the sides of the people of the world could not be silenced or stopped, since God is with them.

What does this mean to us? As Christians, we are called to be "a thorn in the side" of others, especially when it comes to doing what is right and just. We may face troubles or presecution, or even put to death, but we should not be worried or concerned, and continue being "a thorn in the side," since what we are doing is not for our own gratification or glory, but for the glory of God.

Thursday 23 August 2018

Saturday of Week 32 Year 2

What does it mean to be a Christian? Some say that being a Christian means following the ways of Christ; some think that being a Christian means praying and observing church laws and precepts; some think that being a Christian means to reach out to the poor, marginalised, destitute, the lost, the little, and so on. All these efforts are good and they have their purpose, but perhaps one area which some of us should look at is supporting the mission of the church, especially in funds contributed and other supporting roles, so that those doing mission could focus on their duty.

Today's reading reminds us that "It is our duty to welcome missionaries and contribute our share to their work." This means that we not only need to encourage and support them, we also need to see to their upkeep and for other works of charity they may endeavour. As we know, doing God's work involves expenses, as nothing is free, and the more we are willing to contribute to missionary efforts, the more people can be sent to reach out to others, especially in areas where some of us may not be able to go ourselves.

Thus, we need to ask ourseves: are we contributing fairly and generously for the growth of the church and for its missionary efforts? Sometimes the little extra we offer could go a long way towards helping the church to continue in its efforts in bringing the Good News to all.

Monday 20 August 2018

Wednesday of Week 32 Year 2

Two angels were sent to gather the prayers of petitions and the prayers of thanksgiving from the people. One angel had a basket to collect the people's needs and requests, and the other angel had a basket to collect the thanksgivings. When both angels had completed their rounds, the angel carrying the basket of people's needs and requests was full and overflowing, whereas the angel carrying the basket of people's thanksgiving was light, as there were very few thanksgiving prayers. Seems surprising, but the reality is that some people are more concerned about their needs and wants rather than the need to give thanks.

In today's Gospel, we see a similar situation. Ten lepers were cured by Jesus, but only "one of them turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked him." The question we need to ask ourselves is this: have we become so accustomed to only asking for help, and expecting to receive help sooner or later or even think that we are entitled to receiving help, that we have taken for granted the help we have received and neglected to give thanks? Have we become demanding in expecting our needs and wants to be fulfilled, and failed to be appreciative and be grateful and thankful when such needs and wants are fulfilled?

Saturday 18 August 2018

Saturday of Week 31 Year 2

A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. Organisations use KPIs at multiple levels to evaluate their success at reaching targets.When it comes to our spiritual life, we also have a form of KPI which we need to watch out for. What sort of KPI are we talking about?

In our spiritual life, one KPI of our spiritual condition and relationship with God, is connected to our relationship with money: do we use money or do we serve money? One good example of how one should use money and not serve money is St. Paul. In today's reading, St. Paul tells us: "I have learnt to manage on whatever I have, I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere: full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty. There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength."

What about us? Have we learnt to be like St. Paul and use money for the glory of God? Or have we allowed ourselves to become enslaved by money and serve money? May we come to realise our spiritual situation, and do something while we have the time and opportunity to do so.

Friday 17 August 2018

Wednesday of Week 31 Year 2

Some people think that following Jesus is easy. Such persons are taught that all they need to do is to accept Jesus as their personal saviour and that is all: no challenges, no suffering, and they think that they have gotten a lifetime membership with Jesus. But the reality is that following Jesus is not as easy as it seems. There are certain conditions attached to following Jesus.

In today's Gospel, Jesus puts three conditions for those who want to follow Him. They are: 1) "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and his mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple," 2) "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple," 3) "anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple." The first condition means that we should never love anyone else or even ourselves more than Him. The second condition gives new meaning to the word "cross," where it means 'suffering. 'Bearing one's own cross' means to be willing to suffer for the sake of Jesus. The third condition does not mean we cannot have wealth, but it means we must not allow the accumulation and possession of things to come between us and God.

All these conditions sound impossible to observe, doesn't it? That is why, as the Gospel also tells us, we need to count the cost and think carefully before we commit to becoming Jesus' disciples. Being a disciple would be difficult, and some of us may be tempted to give up. But let us not give up or despair, as we have Jesus to help and guide us. Let us persevere as Jesus' disciples, as the rewards are out of this world.

Tuesday of Week 31 Year 2

We sometimes come across people who think that their qualifications or social status gives them the right to certain privileges or benefits. Some of such persons even go to the extent of belittling others, or look down on others, just because they think others are not up to their standards or expectations. By behaving in such a manner or having such attitude, are we showing good example as Christians? What sort of attitude should we have as Christians?

In today's reading, St. Paul tells us about Jesus: "His state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross." Even though Jesus was God, he chose humility and to serve others, instead of lording over others and behaving in a proud or conceited manner. Are we willing to be humble and follow Jesus' ways?

Saturday of Week 30 Year 2

What is a dilemma? A dilemma is a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable. For example, we may have heard of the expression, "between the devil and the deep blue sea," or "between a rock and a hard place," where either choice would lead to undesirable results, but at the very least, one result could be less difficult to accept compared to the other.

In today's reading, St. Paul spoke of a dilemma. But St. Paul's dilemma was of a different kind, where there were two options or possibilities and both of which were good for him. St. Paul's dilemma, was like a best case scenario or even a "happy" dilemma, where remaining alive would enable him to guide and strengthen the community, while remaining in Christ; or facing death which would mean that he would be forever with Christ. Though St. Paul would have wanted to be forever with Christ, he also realised that to stay alive on this earth would be a more urgent need for the sake of the community. So, St. Paul chose to survive and stay, and continue to serve for the good of the community and glorify God.

What about us? If we were to face a "happy" dilemma like St. Paul, would we be willing to set aside our personal desire to be forever with Christ, and continue to guide the community entrusted to us? May we continue to humbly walk in God's ways, and help others to do the same.

Thursday 16 August 2018

Tuesday of Week 30 Year 2

We sometimes take for granted small things or small matters in life. We think that such small things or small matters are not worth our time or attention. But sometimes, small things or small matters could later turn out to be big things or big matters. For example, a child misbehaves and throws a tantrum to get what he or she wants, but the child's parents think that it is a small matter, and lets the child have his or her way. Then when the child is already grown up, the parents later realise how rude or demanding the child is, and they are at a lost as to why their child has become like that. But the reality is, by giving in to the child's demands, the parents had sown the seeds of selfishness, entitlement, pride and ego into their child. By then, it is already too late, and the child's attitude and behaviour could not be changed.

Today's Gospel talks about mustard seed and yeast, which at first appear to be small things. The tiny mustard seed grows into a large tree and attracts numerous birds seeking food and shelter. Yeast is a powerful agent of change, and when it is added to dough, transformation takes place and produces rich wholesome bread when baked. God’s kingdom also works in a similar way, starting what seems small in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God’s word.  It works unseen and causes transformation from within.

What do we learn from this? We learn that small things can become great, when we cultivate patience, fortitude and hope. We must be patient and hopeful and with God's grace, wait for the planted seed to grow and gradually become a tree. May we do our part in building God's kingdom, no matter how small our part may be, so that God could transform what seems small into something great, for His glory.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Saturday of Week 29 Year 2

Some people think that they can buy their way to heaven. In certain so-called Christian sects, such persons are taught that the more they give their wealth and property, the more blessings they would get from God, and the more wealthy they would become. Such teaching seems to imply that the poor and the destitute would never have a place in heaven, since heaven seems reserved only for those who have the wealth and clout. But is this true Christian teaching? Does God favour only those who are rich and wealthy?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Then we shall not be children any longer, or tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. If we live by the truth and in love, we shall grow in all ways into Christ, who is the head by whom the whole body is fitted and joined together, every joint adding its own strength, for each separate part to work according to its function. So the body grows until it has built itself up, in love."

The reading reminds us that it is through living by the truth and love that we shall grow in all ways into Christ. The reading also cautions us not to be so easily tossed one way and another and carried along by every wind of doctrine, at the mercy of all the tricks men play and their cleverness in practising deceit. What this means is we should take care to follow the ways of Christ, and not allow ourselves to be influenced by certain so-called Christian sects, who preach contrary to the Gospel. May we be prudent and walk in Christ's ways, glorifying Him in all we do.

Tuesday 14 August 2018

Tuesday of Week 29 Year 2

Some people think that having patience refers to how long someone can wait, but perhaps another way of looking at patience is about how well someone is able to behave and conduct themselves with integrity and with justice and fairness, while they wait. For example, supposing two persons are planning to get married, and one needs to go away for work or for some important reason for quite a while. While waiting, one or even both persons could get involved in another relationship, or flirting may occur, or even cheating may take place. On the other hand, if both persons are serious about their relationship and serious about marriage, then they would lovingly keep on waiting with patience until the loved one returns.

In today's Gospel, Jesus teaches us the meaning of true patience: "See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit. Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes." By waiting faithfully and lovingly, the servants would later discover a reward beyond their expectation - their master will even serve them upon his return.

If those who are faithful to Jesus are rewarded beyond their expectation, then how do we treat those who have been faithful to us? Do we reward them beyond their expectation, and also be just as loving and faithful to them? Or have we taken them for granted, or even taken advantage of them?

Monday 13 August 2018

Saturday of Week 28 Year 2

When important people or VIPs (Very Important Persosn) are invited to a function or an occasion, we often recognise the presence of such important people by saying sentences like: "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are proud to acknowledge the arrival and presence of so and so in our gathering tonight. Let us welcome them with a thunderous applause." We take pride in their being with us not only for their importance and the position they hold in the community, but also for the outstanding works they may have contributed to the community, for the exemplary lives they may have lived and for the difference they may have made in the lives of many.

But when it comes to Jesus, do we have the same pride just like we have with important persons, more so especially since Jesus is our saviour, our Lord and God? Do we acknowledge with pride and conviction Jesus' presence in our lives before others? Do we acknowledge the difference that our Lord Jesus has made in our lives? Or have we become shy or fearful to mention about Jesus, even though He is not shy or fearful towards us?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of men, the Son of Man will declare himself for him in the presence of the angels. But the man who disowns me in the presence of men will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels." May we be enthusiastic and joyful in declaring Jesus in the presence of men, and give Him all the glory.

Sunday 12 August 2018

Saturday of Week 27 Year 2

No matter where we go, we would encounter laws and regulations. Each country, each state, each city, town or suburb would have certain laws that need to be observed, for the good of all. Such laws are supposed to protect those who follow what is stipulated and also deters wrong-doing. Thus, the law is like our guardian and it is expressed in the form of law-enforcement officers, and sometimes the courts may come into the picture.

In today's reading, St. Paul said that the Law was the guardian of the people until Jesus Christ came along and then they could be justified by faith. The Law was there for the people to keep to it and follow it. Yet the problem here seemed like in just keeping to the precepts of the Law, people could be doing so without any faith and only out of fear, instead of out of love and out of a desire to grow closer to God. With Jesus, we are justified by faith and are no longer under the law as our guardian, but we become sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we still stuck in keeping the law out of fear and just to get ourselves out of trouble; or have we grown in faith in Jesus, and keep the law out of love, and also observe the law of love in all we say and do?