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?

Saturday 11 August 2018

Friday of Week 27 Year 2

When it comes to learning music, such as learning to play the piano or guitar or violin, there needs to be study of theory and practical. Without theory, we may not understand or appreciate what constitutes acceptable or good music, and the practical aspect may be compromised. Theory without practice would not bring us anywhere, since we may know the theory of music, but we would not know how to play the instrument. Thus in music, both theory and practical are needed, so that we would be able to harmonise and improve our musical talent.

In today's reading, St. Paul emphasised faith in Jesus Christ over the blind practice of the Law. The blind practice of the Law without having faith in God would result in the meticulous keeping of  rules and regulations, just as one would only be blindly learning music theory without having a clue about why we are doing so and how we could put such theory to good and practical use. It becomes like a "monkey see, monkey do" situation. This would lead to a contradiction on what we say and do, compared to what we are supposed to believe in.

Thus, let us not just blindly follow rules or blindly have faith, but have some proper formation on our faith, so that we would have some understanding of what we believe in and why we believe. In doing so our faith in Jesus would grow and mature as we walk in His ways.

Saturday of Week 26 Year 2

Nowadays I notice more and more people becoming proud and arrogant in their attitude and behaviour. For example, I see people driving on the road as if the road belongs to them, or they think they can weave in and out of traffic to get to where they want, with little regard for the safety of others. Some drive big vehicles or four wheel drive vehicles, and think that the size of their vehicle entitles them to bully other vehicles or cut into other people's lane. All these incidences and attitude make me wonder... have some people lost their sense of politeness, courtesy and especially humility? Humility is the quality of having a modest or low view of one's importance, and it seems as if more and more people are forgetting their humble beginnings, as they become more affluent, or are supposingly having higher education, or they think they have better standing in society.

In contrast, today's reading tells us of Job's humility. The reading tells us: "This was the answer Job gave to the Lord: I know that you are all-powerful what you conceive, you can perform. I am the man who obscured your designs with my empty-headed words. I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand, on marvels beyond me and my knowledge. I knew you then only by hearsay; but now, having seen you with my own eyes, I retract all I have said, and in dust and ashes I repent." Job was willing to remain humble and seek forgiveness from God, instead of sticking to his pride and ego. As a result, the reading tells us that God blessed Job with wealth, property, offspring and other things, much more than Job could ever imagine.

What about us? Are some of us still holding on to our pride and ego, with a sense of entitlement? Or have we learnt to become more like Job, willing to humble ourselves and let God be our help and guide? May we be willing to walk humbly in God's ways, and glorify God in all we say and do.

Sunday 5 August 2018

Thursday of Week 26 Year 2

One reality of doing God's work or preaching the Good News is that we may face much opposition and persecution, even the possibility of being put to death. When we are faced with such opposition and persecution, what do we do? Do we slowly lose our zeal or even give up in our efforts? Do we run away and go only to places which seem safe or where we feel accepted? Do we pick and choose where we want to serve? Or are we willing to serve fervently and with much zeal, come what may?

In today's reading, Job’s friends had initially come to console him but they ended up telling him that he was being punished by God for doing wrong. Instead of being consoled by his friends, his friends persecuted him. When faced with such friends, what did Job do? Job responded to them by these words: "I know that my vindicator lives." Even though there seemed to be no sign that God cared for Job, yet Job had a spirit of abandonment to God, and had absolute confidence and trust in God.

What about us? When we are faced with difficulties or even persecutions in our lives as Christians, would we be willing to follow Job's example in having a spirit of abandonment to God, letting God take control? May we continue to do God's will with zeal and trust, and glorify Him with our efforts and with our lives.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Wednesday of Week 25 Year 2

We sometimes bring more than what is necessary when it comes to a holiday or a trip. I remember many years ago when my grandmother was younger and able to travel, and she planned to visit and stay with an uncle and his family in Singapore for a few weeks. We were at the train station in Kuala Lumpur to send her off and I was quite perplexed to see so many bags being loaded onto the train. My dad remarked: "Wow! Are you moving house or something?" Altogether, she had about 5 big bags and they were quite heavy, and I wondered how my grandmother, who was quite small sized, would be able to managed all that luggage during the trip.

In contrast to the number of luggage brought by my grandmother, Jesus in today's Gospel "called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there."

By not carrying additional or unnecessary luggage or burdens, the apostles were freer to go about doing their duty in preaching, teaching and healing, instead of being saddled or slowed down by such baggage, while being dependent on God's providence and care to keep going. When we get our priorities right and focus on what we are called to do, God would surely take care of us, and often times we may even get more than we need. Are we willing to trust and let God be in control, while we glorify Him in all we say and do?

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Saturday of Week 24 Year 2

I recall reading an article about the burning of paper gifts, paper houses with what seems to be lots of servants in them, even paper modern products such as computer, car and hand-phone, as if such products and facilities would still be needed when one dies and is in what some believe to be the afterworld. In the article, I learnt that the original intention for the burning of such items was not for the afterworld, as some seem to believe, but to remind one of impermanence and detachment from such things, since such things cannot be physically brought with us when we die.

In today's reading, we see a similar situation about not being too concerned with things on earth, as such things are also impermanent and one should be detached. The reading tells us: "Someone may ask, ‘How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?’ They are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit."

Just as a seed dies and transforms into something better, our bodies too will die, decay and eventually turn to dust, but our souls will become better and glorious, especially if we have been maintaining a good relationship with God. This is why we should make more effort in growing in relationship with God, and not be too concerned with worldly wealth and power, since such things won't last. Are we putting our priorities right, and letting God be our guide and happiness?

Thursday of Week 24 Year 2

It is easy for some of us to become attracted and distracted by so called church teaching from various other sources. We sometimes lose focus on what is true, genuine church teaching, because the teaching we read or hear from such other sources appears to come from some so-called authoritative figure, or the teaching itself seems appealing to us, or such teaching seems to satisfiy our interpretation of what being church and being a follower of Christ means. But how do we know for certain whether such teaching is genuine or bona fide?

One way of ensuring that such church teaching is genuine is to read or hear such teaching from certified or official sources, and such teaching should jive or flow from the apostles, as St. Paul reminds us in today's reading: "Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything." As we can read, St. Paul is telling us that he is the genuine authoritative figure, instead of listening to so called other authoritative figures who may only lead us astray.

So what does this mean to us? It means that we must be prudent and discern what we read or hear, and scrutinise the source of such teaching. This is to ensure that we do not lose our way in our faith, and we should also guide others so that they too will not lose their way. May we make every effort to ensure we read and hear only true and genuine teaching, and share such genuine teaching to all.