Sunday 23 June 2019

Saturday of Week 22 Year 1

Living a Christian life in the world is certainly not easy. We face all sorts of challenges and temptations, especially since quite often, the ways of the world are not the same as the ways of Christ. We are often faced with choices: to do what is right and just, or to do what is expected of us so that we can maintain our livelihood. For example, some of those in the medical field may have been challenged to perform an abortion, or risk losing their job. When faced with such a choice, what would you do? Would you be willing to find work elsewhere, even if it means that one may possibly not be able to get a job for a while?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure and blameless – as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News..." The reading here reminds us to persevere and stand firm. This means that we must do our very best and not give up, even if it means we may face persecution or challenges. It also means that we must remain steadfast in our faith, and not allow the ways of the world to influence us into watering down or even abandoning the ways of Christ. May we continue to trust and depend on Jesus, and let Him be our help and guide.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Friday of Week 22 Year 1

We sometimes come across certain faithful who are stuck with doing things according to a certain previous parish priest's way of the past. Even though such ways of doing things are already outdated or no longer relevant in today's context, such faithful would stick to their belief that such ways are the only ways to get things done. But the reality is that things change, and what worked in the past would no longer work in the present or even in the future. For example, in the past, people, especially adults, were taught catechism on a one to one basis, before baptism is given; nowadays, people are taught through RCIA before they are considered for baptism.

In today's Gospel, Jesus speaks about not putting a new cloak to patch an old cloak, and using only new skins to store new wine. Jesus is telling us to move on from old ways to new and better ways of being disciples and of growing in relationship with God. He is telling us not to be like the scribes and Pharisees, who focused in only meticulously observing the law, but to refocus in the law of loving God and loving neighbour, which was the whole idea and purpose of the law in the first place. Jesus was showing us a new and better way of living, by living the way of love.

Sometimes we too could be guilty in following the ways of the scribes and the Pharisees, or the ways of certain faithful who are stuck in old ways. May we be humble and willing to change, so that we would be free to listen to God's voice again, and grow deeper in relationship with Him, while using new ways and methods to do His will and glorify Him..

Saturday 15 June 2019

Saturday of Week 21 Year 1

God has given us gifts, talents and capabilities, and such gifts, talents and capabilities are meant to be put to good use, especially to glorify God. But are we putting such gifts, talents and capabilities to good use, or have we become lazy and let our gifts, talents or capabilities go to waste, even to the point of one day losing such gifts, talents or capabilities, as a result of neglect or lack of practice?

In today's gospel, the servant who buried his one talent in the ground was called "wicked and lazy" by his master.For some,  the master seemed rather harsh with his words and in his treatment of that servant, but we must remember that the servant had been given the one talent not for him to do as he pleases or to boost his ego, but to benefit the master. Since the servant chose not to be bothered about what his master expected, he suffered the consequences.

What about us? Are we putting our gifts, talents or capabilities to good use for the glory of God? Let us not end up like that "wicked and lazy" servant, and end up being "thrown into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth."

Tuesday of Week 21 Year 1

As Christians, we are commanded to go forth and preach the Good News. But when we go and preach the Good News, what is our true purpose or agenda in doing so? Are we doing it for the greater glory of God, or are we doing it for our personal gratification or personal gain, and to boost our reputation and ego?

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds the Thessalonians and us: "We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts."

What does this mean to us? It means that we need to check our motives and see whether we are truly preaching the Good News with right motive, right intention and right disposition. May we go forth and preach the Good News, with humility and joy, not for ourselves or to show how capable or great we are, but for the greater glory of God.

Monday of Week 21 Year 1

What sort of lives are we living as Christians? Do we walk the talk and practice what we preach? Or do we merely utter words and lord it over others, and expect others to do as we say but not do as we do? When we merely say things without showing example, then we may be hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees in today's Gospel, who Jesus condemned with harsh words: "Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who shut up the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces, neither going in yourselves nor allowing others to go in who want to. Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You who travel over sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when you have him you make him twice as fit for hell as you are."

So what does this mean to us? It means that we should be careful of our words and actions. May we not end up as hypocrites like the scribes and Pharisees, easy to say lots of things or make comments, but unwilling to take ownership of what we say and practice what we tell others to do. Word are cheap and meaningless, unless we are willing to walk the talk and show good example.

Tuesday of Week 20 Year 1

Some of us may have, from time to time, felt as if we are powerless and incapable of doing God's will, especially when the problems and issues we face seem too big or too difficult to handle. When we are faced with such a situation, what do we do? Do we continue to struggle and persevere in doing our task, without being too concerned about whether we are successful in completing such a task? Or would we give up on the task or avoid it completely?

In today's reading, the Lord turned to Gideon "and said, ‘Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Do I not send you myself?’ Gideon answered him, ‘Forgive me, my lord, but how can I deliver Israel? My clan, you must know, is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least important in my family.’ the Lord answered him, ‘I will be with you and you shall crush Midian as though it were a single man.’" Even though Gideon felt that he was helpless and incapable of accomplish such a task, God assured him that he would be victorious, since God is with him to see it through.

What about us? Are we willing to trust in God's providence and let God use us to see the task through? If God is helping Gideon to be victorious, even though Gideon felt weak and least important, just imagine what God would do for us if we put our full trust and confidence in Him.

Friday 14 June 2019

Saturday of Week 19 Year 1

How is it possible for some of us to fall into the sin of serving other gods? When we begin to treat wealth, property and other things as more important than God, then we would be falling into the sin of serving other gods. We say we love and serve God, and yet some of us seem to find it difficult to take time off from our work to come to church on Sunday; or we seem to spend more time in pursuing our personal interests, instead of church or charitable activities to give glory to God. When we have such attitudes or excuses, then are we really loving and serving God, or have we strayed away from God or even rejected God outright?

In today's reading, "The people answered Joshua, ‘No; it is the Lord we wish to serve.’ Then Joshua said to the people, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.’ They answered, ‘We are witnesses.’ ‘Then cast away the alien gods among you and give your hearts to the Lord the God of Israel!’ The people answered Joshua, ‘It is the Lord our God we choose to serve; it is his voice that we will obey.’"

Notice that in the reading, Joshua challenged the people to "choose today whom you wish to serve." And the people made a clear and firm choice in choosing to serve God, and not some other foreign god. Are we willing to commit ourselves just like the Israelites did? Or have our hearts become divided, or even rejected God, in pursuit of other gods such as our wealth, our property, our fame and popularity, and other things?

Monday of Week 19 Year 1

Is it so difficult for some of us to grow closer to God? Actually, the simple answer is no, it is not difficult, since growing closer to God requires that we be willing and humble enough to, as today's reading tells us: "...fear the Lord your God, to follow all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, to keep the commandments and laws of the Lord that for your good I lay down for you today."

When we fear the Lord, and also follow all His ways, love Him, and serve Him, then we should also love and serve others, especially by keeping God's commandments and laws. This is where it gets difficult for some, since loving and serving God appears to be easier since we do not see Him; but loving and serving others may seem harder since we may see them often, and we are required to love and serve not just those whom we like, but also those whom we find difficult or not like.

As Christians, are we willing to show what it really means to be a Christian by following His ways, love Him and serve Him, as well as being loving and offering service to others, without prejudice or favouritism? It is easy for us to call ourselves Christians, but are we Christians only in name, or are we also Christians by example? May we always be mindful of what is asked of us as Christians, and do all we can to love and serve the Lord.

Thursday of Week 18 Year 1

In today's reading, "the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe that I could proclaim my holiness in the eyes of the sons of Israel, you shall not lead this assembly into the land I am giving them.'" If one were to read this out of context, one would think that God was not being fair to Moses and Aaron, especially since it was the Israelites that were being stubborn and difficult to deal with. But why did the Lord make such a drastic decision?

When we look at the reading, we would discover that the Israelites had been behaving like spoilt brats, complaining about being taken out of Egypt even though it was for their own good. Moses and Aaron, being leaders of the people, were supposed to remain calm and patient with the people, since God had assured all that He would eventually lead them into the land He is giving them. But in the reading, we can see that in Moses and Aaron's disgust and resentment with the complaints of the rebellious Israelites, Moses taunted them before he struck the rock twice to make water flow from it.
It seems like Moses had reached the limit of his tolerance and patience and had only harsh and heated words for the people. Such a response by Moses was intolerable to God, as his duty and responsibility was to be God's mouthpiece, and do what God instructed with humility and patience. Because of this, Moses and Aaron were punished by not being allowed to lead the people into the promised land.

What about us? Have we misused our duty and responsibility, instead of serving with humility and patience? May we come to realise that what God expects of us is obedience and patience, since He will know what to do with the people, and all that is expected of us is to do His will. May we not allow pride and arrogance to affect our tasks, and ultimately leave it in the hands of the Lord.

Thursday 13 June 2019

Thursday of Week 18 Year 1

I used to occasionally visit an elderly man who was homebound to give him Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion. He was frail and bedridden but I observed that whenever he noticed I came, he would gather whatever strength he could to sit down for Holy Communion. One important thing that I noticed about him was he never complained why he was suffering; never did I hear him complain about anything. He carried his suffering without questioning God. Perhaps he knew that to suffer was part of him being a disciple of Jesus. Eventually, the elderly man died.

In today's Gospel, Jesus told Peter and the disciples that He must undergo suffering to accomplish His mission and Peter reacted with indignation. Perhaps Peter could not accept the fact that a powerful and influential person like Jesus would suffer. Perhaps Peter thought that Jesus was immune to suffering. But the reality is that Jesus was not exempted from suffering, and He went through it for it was part of His destiny and mission.

What about us? Would we follow the elderly man's example, and especially Jesus' example, in taking suffering as part of being a disciple? Would we be humble and willing to embrace whatever suffering that may come our way, to witness to Jesus and to give glory to God?

Monday 10 June 2019

Saturday of Week 17 Year 1

We sometimes come across persons who are constantly worried or afraid about what other people think of them. Some of such persons crave attention or good feedback, and what others think or say about them affects them tremendously. When such persons crave such attention, they may be doing so to feed their ego and inflate their pride. When they do not get the attention or good feedback they crave, they may become despondent, paranoid or insecure. Some even end up having anxiety and sleepless nights, affecting one's health all for the sake of getting such attention or good feedback.

In today's Gospel, King Herod cared more about his reputation and the opinions of others, instead of doing what is morally right and just. As a result, John the Baptist lost his head, so that King Herod could keep what he thinks is his good reputation and the good opinion of others. In other words, King Herod was more interested in "saving face." What about us? Are we more worried about getting what we think is good reputation, even to the point of committing heinous or despicable acts? Or are we willing to lose face or our reputation, to remain in good standing with God?

Wednesday of Week 17 Year 1

Some of us go to great extent to achieve or attain something of great value or significance to us. For example, some are willing to pay huge sums of money to buy a piece of land, which we think would later increase tremendously in value, and enable us to rake in a tidy profit when we sell the land. Some are very attracted to a significant other, and would try all ways and means to woo the person's heart, with hope the person would one day become one's spouse. Some are willing to sacrifice much time and money to earn a degree, hoping that such a degree would enable one to attain better job prospects and better standard of living.

But when it comes to attaining admittance to the Kingdom of God, and remaining with God for all eternity, how many of us see great value in that? In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is like treasure hidden in a field, or even a fine pearl of great value. If the Kingdom of God is so much more valuable than anything we desire or hope to attain on earth, then how many of us are willing to make effort and sacrifices to attain it? May we come to realise what is truly valuable to us in the end, and make more effort in attaining what is permanent or eternal.

Sunday 9 June 2019

Saturday of Week 16 Year 1

Over the years, I have come across people who say they do not go to church any more because they have a problem with certain persons in church, or they think that the church is full of hypocrites, or they think that the church is full of sinners. Such persons think that only good people or saintly people should be in church, and everyone else is damned or condemned. But if we understand what being church means, we would realise that the church is for both saints and sinners, and all are called to holiness, all are called to repentance.

In today's Gospel, we come across the parable of the wheat and darnel. Instead of having the darnel removed quickly and in doing so, risk removing the wheat as well, the landowner allowed the wheat and darnel to grow together, until the time of harvest came. Once it was time to harvest, then only was the wheat and darnel separated. In the same way, God allows the church to have both saints and sinners present, and both are given ample chances to grow in relationship with Him. But God is not going to wait too long for us to change our ways. When the harvest comes, would we be among the wheat, or would we end up among the darnel? Ultimately, it is our choice to make.

Friday 7 June 2019

Tuesday of Week 16 Year 1

It is easy for us to claim that we are related to Jesus, especially since we call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God. But being related to Jesus is not enough, since Jesus in today's Gospel reminds us that having a relationship with Him is more than just familial or blood-relationship. In the Gospel, He says: "'Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?' And stretching out his hand towards his disciples he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.'"

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: Are we claiming "relationship" with Jesus only in name, while we lord it over others or feel proud about being such a relationship? Or have we learnt to be humble, and do the will of God? Relationship with Jesus is more than just words; may we put into action our "relationship" with Jesus through our words and deeds.