Friday 22 February 2019

Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter

It is interesting to observe how, from a young age, we begin to compare ourselves with others. We differentiate ourselves according to our intellectual abilities, our talents, our cultural differences, our upbringing, our social status, and much more. Some of us even become quite proud about who we are, where we come from, and what we are, that some begin to look down on others, thinking that others do not measure up to us. But as Christians, do we have such attitude and behaviour? Do we still differentiate ourselves, segregate ourselves, and discriminate towards others?

In today's Gospel, Peter and John are both called disciples of Jesus and each is given a different task to fulfil. But what is surprising and intriguing is when Peter questions John's role. He asks Jesus: 'What about him, Lord?' In response, Jesus answered, 'If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.' This caused the others to think that John would not die, when it was clear that Jesus had not said so. Notice how trying to compare oneself with others could lead to unnecessary confusion, unhealthy competition or even resentment, and as a result, our focus shifts from doing God's will to doing our will?

At the end of the day, we should realise that comparing ourselves with others is a mistake. The Lord prefers that we mind our own business, and focus more on our friendship with Him and on our dedication to preaching the Good News. The inspiring examples of others should push us forward to greater holiness and self-giving. We should rejoice in others' triumphs, seeing God alive in them, instead of allowing jealousy and competition to fester, and disrupt our duty or even ruin our relationship with God and with others. May we make every effort to glorify God in all we say and do, and be joyful and grateful of who we are and what we are, while also being joyful and grateful of who and what others are.

Thursday 21 February 2019

Saturday of the 6th Week of Easter

What is our priority in life? Some of us think that our priority is our career or job, and we spend hours building it or climbing the corporate ladder. Some of us think that our priority is our peace of mind and happiness, and we find ways and means to maintain such peace and happiness. Some of us think that our priority is our family and loved ones, and we making every effort to find the time to spend quality time with them. But as Christians, what is our real priority?

In the four Gospels, we read of several times where Jesus assures us: "Ask and you will receive." But today's Gospel not only tells us: "Ask and you will receive," but also "and so that your joy will be complete." What is this joy that Jesus assures us about? Many a times, we think that our joy would be complete when our wants and needs are fulfilled. But perhaps one way of looking at the word "Joy" is when we prioritise our lives by putting our lives according to this order: J for Jesus, O for others, then only Y for you. When we prioritise our lives in that order - Jesus, others, you - then we will indeed find true meaning and joy in our lives, and then we would find our lives complete.

Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter

Living a life as a Christian in today's world is certainly not easy. There are things in the world which may cause us to commit sin or despicable acts, but such things in the world is considered normal or part of so called "life" according to the ways of the world. For example, in some countries, abortion has been made acceptable or even legal, and those against abortion or are pro-life could be persecuted or even assaulted. Also, some countries have even permitted mercy killing or euthanasia, even though Christian teaching clearly prohibits such acts. So if we as Christians are in organisations that promote or even conduct such acts, either directly or indirectly, which clearly goes against our Christian faith, what would we do? Would we close our eyes and pretend that such acts is not our problem, and we content ourselves into thinking that we are merely doing our job to make a living, or would we go against such practices, even to the extent of losing our jobs to uphold Christian principles?

In today's gospel, Jesus warns us when He said: 'If the world hates you, remember that it hated me before you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you do not belong to the world, because my choice withdrew you from the world, therefore the world hates you.' What does Jesus mean when he says “the world?” The "world" refers to that society of people who are hostile towards God and opposes His will. When Jesus talks of persecutions, He refers to the sufferings and persecutions His disciples, in proclaiming His teachings, would undergo at the hands of such persons in society. Jesus leaves no middle ground for His disciples. We are either for Him or against Him, for His kingdom of light or for the kingdom of darkness.

What about us? It seems convenient and easy when things are fine. But when we have a choice of either following the ways of God, or the ways of the world, and we have no middle ground or option, which would we choose? Are we prepared to choose God's ways each and every time, consistently, wholeheartedly and be willing to face the possibility of persecution or even being put to death?

Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter

Some people can have interesting and even wild imagination when it comes to what they think God looks like. Some think that God looks like Santa Claus, giving us lots of gifts, benefits and other goodies. Others think that God looks like a fierce judge, ever willing and ready to mete out punishment and torture on all who displeases Him. But what does God really look like? Is really that important for us to know? Would we really be satisfied just to know what God looks like?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.' ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him, ‘and you still do not know me? ‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?" Not only that, the Gospel reminds us that we are to believe in Jesus, and by doing so, Jesus assures us: "I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father."

So what does this mean to us? It means that it is not enough just to know what God looks like, though by seeing Jesus we would have some idea of what God looks like. What is more important is for us to believe in Jesus and do the works He did. May we concern ourselves more in preaching the Good News with words and deeds, and give glory to God while doing so.

Friday 15 February 2019

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter

It is easy for us to listen to nice or soothing words from Jesus. After all, we yearn for His love and care, and there are several things Jesus said which appeal to us. However, there are also several things that Jesus said which can be difficult to hear or accept, especially if such things concern us or affect us in some way. When we listen to such words, how do we respond? Do we accept both the good and the not so good that Jesus tells us? Or do we filter out the not so pleasant things, and only accept that which sounds pleasant? When it comes to following Jesus, are we disciples only when it benefits us or we find comfortable?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "After hearing his doctrine many of the followers of Jesus said, 'This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?'" Jesus did not back down or water down what he said, and because of this, "many of his disciples left him and stopped going with him." Yet, the Twelve chose to stay, and "Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to? You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’"

The reality we face is that we cannot have it both ways. If we want to follow Jesus, we must be prepared to accept both the easy and the difficult, the pleasant and the unpleasant. We cannot pick and choose only what we want, but take Jesus' teaching as a whole. Are we willing to let go of our prejudiced hearing, and let Jesus' words dwell and flourish in us, as we let Him lead us and guide us closer to Him?

Wednesday 13 February 2019

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter

Fear is innate in all of us human beings. It is a defensive and survival instinct, and is usually a response to a particular situation. For example, a person may see a snake and experience fear, even though the snake may actually be harmless and not doing anything. We have experienced fear, either real or imagined, limitations and inadequacies in this life; and when we experience fear, what do we do? Quite likely our tendency is to back out, hesitate or even run away from difficult situations.

In today's Gospel, the disciples were frightened to see Jesus walking on water. Why were the disciples frightened? Perhaps they thought they were seeing a ghost. To calm the disciples and reassure them, Jesus said: "It is I. Do not be afraid." It seems strange and ironic that the disciples themselves were still subject to fear, even though they had been with Jesus for a while. By being fearful, the disciples seemed to still lack trust and confidence in Jesus, and to help them, Jesus constantly reassured them not to be afraid.

What about us? Do we still lack trust and confidence in Jesus, and let fear interfere with our duty and mission in preaching the Good News? Ultimately, fear is useless, what is needed is trust; and with Jesus as our help and guide, we should not fear anymore, but continue bringing the Good News to all, and give God the glory while doing so.

Tuesday 12 February 2019

Saturday of the 7th Week of Easter

I believe most of us would have never experienced being in prison or in captivity before. To be in captivity, to lose freedom, and to be kept under surveillance all the time is certainly very stressful; and those of us who have visited the prisons before and spoken to the prisoners could attest to such conditions. Some may wait for the day to come when they could be released, and at the mean time passively wait for such a day. Others would be try to find a way to escape, and if they do and get captured, the consequences could be severe or drastic. There are also some who would turn captivity into an opportunity to see the best and be the best in such a situation.

In today's reading, In today's reading, St. Paul did not lament about being in chains or in captivity, despite his innocence, but he took the opportunity to proclaim the Kingdom of God despite wearing those chains. St. Paul stayed focused on Jesus, doing His will, and depending on His providence instead of wallowing in his predicament or unfortunate situation. In other words, St. Paul turned captivity into an opportunity to continue the task of preaching the Good News, come what may.

What about us? If we are in captivity, would we make the best of the situation and continue our efforts to preach the Good News? Or would we become passive, or even lose hope, thinking that we cannot do anything about our situation? Let us not despair or give up, but continue preaching the Good News no matter what circumstances we are in, and in doing so give glory to God.

Saturday of the 6th Week of Easter

Some people think that only they or certain persons who are in their circle of friends or close group are authorised or capable of doing a task. Such persons would find ways and means to ensure that no one else would have any chance to get involved in such tasks, even though other persons may be quite capable or even better than such persons. It is interesting and ironic that we sometimes hear of such persons complaining that it seems so difficult to find new blood or new persons willing to help, when in the very first place, such persons are the ones who are unwilling to let go or share the task. As Christians, what is our attitude when it comes to preaching the Good News? Are we preventing others from doing so, thinking that only we or persons we choose are capable, or are we encouraging others, who may be just as capable or even better than us?

In today's reading, we are told that: "When Apollos thought of crossing over to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote asking the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there he was able by God’s grace to help the believers considerably by the energetic way he refuted the Jews in public and demonstrated from the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." Instead of preventing Appolos from doing his part in preaching the Good News, the other disciples encouraged him and even sent messages to Achaia asking that Appolos be welcomed. This shows that the disciples were willing to share the task of preaching the Good News with others, instead of clinging on to such a task.

What about us? Are we willing to share the task with others, and encourage them and even giving them our full support, or are we still holding to such tasks and preventing others from helping? Instead of being an obstacle to others in helping in such tasks, let us change our ways and attitudes, and encourage others help, just as the disciples in today's reading did. After all, we do such tasks not for our own glory, but for the glory of God.

Monday 11 February 2019

Saturday of the 5th Week of Easter

One reality about being in mission is that we cannot choose where we want to go or where we want to serve. Ultimately, we are sent according to where the church wants us to serve, where the church finds an urgent or important need, not where we think is urgent or important. This is necessary, since at the end of the day, we are being sent to preach the Good News, and not for our comfort or convenience. Also, our being in mission means we can be taken out of a certain place at any time, and sent elsewhere. This means we need to be prepared to move on, and not be too attached to certain places or persons.

In today's reading, Paul and Barnabas "travelled through Phrygia and the Galatian country, having been told by the Holy Spirit not to preach the word in Asia. When they reached the frontier of Mysia they thought to cross it into Bithynia, but as the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them, they went through Mysia and came down to Troas. One night Paul had a vision: a Macedonian appeared and appealed to him in these words, ‘Come across to Macedonia and help us.’ Once he had seen this vision we lost no time in arranging a passage to Macedonia, convinced that God had called us to bring them the Good News."

From the reading, we see how Paul and Barnabas were told where they were to go, not where they would like to go. Also, the reading shows us how Paul and Barnabas was sent, uprooted, and then sent elsewhere, and they did it without losing any time, instead of grumbling or dragging their feet. This shows us that, when it comes to mission, we should be ready and prepared to do God's will. May we go forth happily and obediently to preach the Good News wherever we are needed, and give glory to God in all our efforts.

Monday 4 February 2019

Saturday of the 4th Week of Easter

Some of us, from time to time, may have shown certain behaviour which can be really childish or even downright stupid. The reality is that we don't really gain anything from such behaviour, and yet we fail to acknowledge how silly we really are. One such behaviour is jealousy. Jealousy occurs due to thoughts or feelings of insecurity, fear, concern, and envy over relative lack of possessions, status or something of great personal value.When we allow ourselves to succumb to jealousy, we become blinded in pursuing what one lacks, leading us to childish or silly behaviour, which could even lead us to the point of committing great evil or despicable acts.

In today's reading, the Jews were so consumed with jealousy, that they began to act childish, silly and stupid, and they began to use blasphemies and contradicted everything Paul said. From acting childish, silly and stupid, the Jews allowed jealousy to turn into violent behaviour, where they "worked upon some of the devout women of the upper classes and the leading men of the city and persuaded them to turn against Paul and Barnabas and expel them from their territory." Such uncontrolled jealousy eventually led to more evil and harm committed, where there is nothing to gain and everything to lose.

What about us? Have some of us become like the Jews, so jealous that we have lost our sense of what is right, just, proper and fair? Has our pride and ego become more important than doing the will of God? May we check ourselves and avoid being entrapped or enslaved by the poison of jealousy, and give glory to God in all we say and do.

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Easter

When we are experiencing a time of peace and security, some of us may begin to take such peace and security for granted and become complacent and lose our alertness. We begin to have a false sense of security; thinking that nothing will happen, since the situation around us seems fine. But the reality is that such peace and security is an illusion, since things could change and escalate very quickly, transforming into a dangerous or even deadly situation. Throughout history, we have seen such transformation happening before, sometimes suddenly, sometimes gradually.

In today's reading, we are told that the churches throughout Judaea, Galilee and Samaria were left in peace. Instead of becoming lax or taking things for granted, these churches made hay while the sun shines, by building and fortifying themselves; by living in the fear of the Lord, with full faith in Him; and by being filled with the consolation of the Holy Spirit while remaining in His guidance.

What about us, especially when it concerns our spiritual lives? Are we building and fortifying ourselves by growing closer to God? Let us not procrastinate and be caught off-guard or unprepared, and make every effort to remain alert and prepared as best as we can, since circumstances can change at any time, and we should be ready to face the Lord when He calls us.

Saturday 2 February 2019

Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter

In any church community, we need to reach out and attend to both the physical and spiritual needs of the community. We cannot ignore one and only focus on the other. For example, if some in the community are poor and have little means to survive, then it is necessary to provide some form of financial and material help. We cannot just wash our hands and say: "Oh! My task is only to preach the Good News", and pretend that such physical help would take care of itself. By providing such physical help, we are also preaching the Good News through charitable actions and by showing God's love and care to others, especially the poor.

However, it is clear that different persons are needed to carry out different roles. We cannot be doing everything and it is necessary to let others do some things, while we concentrate on certain tasks. In today's reading, the apostles realised that it was not possible for them to devote themselves to the spiritual needs of the community and at the same time attend to the physical needs. To solve the problem, the apostles delegated authority to seven men of good reputation, who would see to the physical needs of the community, while the apostles continued to devote themselves to prayer and to the service of the word. By delegating authority in this way, both the spiritual and physical needs of the community could be attended to.

What about us? Are we willing to delegate authority just as the apostles did, so each of us could concentrate on certain tasks, so that the Good News could be shared through different ways? May we learn to delegate, so that the gifts and talents of different members of the community could be put to good use, for the good of the community and for the glory of God.