Friday 26 July 2019

Thursday of Week 34 Year 1

From time to time, we may have found ourselves in a difficult or dangerous situation. When we are in such a situation, some of us may try to live in denial, thinking that such a situation is just our imagination, though the reality is that it is not. Some of us may even feel as if we have no way out and we may be tempted to give up or despair. How many of us are willing to put our full trust in God, knowing that He will do what is best for us?

Today's reading reminds us that with God, there is no problem too big, no situation too difficult or dangerous which He cannot help us out. In today's reading, Daniel had full confidence and trust in God's help and God saved him from the lions. This caused King Darius, who initially thought that there was no hope or way or solution to rescue Daniel, to joyfully exclaim: "He is the living God, he endures for ever, his sovereignty will never be destroyed and his kingship never end. He saves, sets free, and works signs and wonders in the heavens and on earth; he has saved Daniel from the power of the lions."

What does this mean to us? It means that if God is on our side and watching over us, there is no reason for us to fear. It also means that we must continuously and consistently trust in God, knowing that our salvation is in Him, and not in some other form or means. Let us therefore continue to build our relationship with Him and trust Him just as Daniel did.

Wednesday 24 July 2019

Saturday of Week 33 Year 1

What sort of expectations do we have in life? Are our expectations only concerning wants and needs of this world? What if our expectations are not met, either partially or entirely? Some of us may just shrug off such unmet expectations and carry on our merry way, thinking that it is not that big a deal. Some of us may complain or get angry since what we expect is not fulfilled. Some of us may even end up bitterly disappointed, like what happened to king Antiochus in today's reading.

In the reading, we are told that king Antiochus threw himself on his bed and fell into a lethargy from acute disappointment, because things had not turned out as he had planned. He had planned and achieved many things, and even planned to conquer the city of Elymais and sack its renowned riches. Unfortunately for king Anthiochus, his plans failed, and he suffered from deep and recurrent fits of melancholy, until he understood that life was slipping away from him, in other words, he was dying. King Anthiochus' life of worldly expectations, ended up in disappointment.

What about us? Have some of us become like king Anthiochus, when our expectations are not met? As Christians, our expectations ought to be eventually be in God's presence. If we focus only in fulfilling our expectations in this world, we may find ourselves quite disappointed, since our expectations may never be satisfied. May we strive more towards expectations which would guide us closer to God and be with Him, instead of just focusing on expectations which are merely temporary and may end up in disappointment.

Tuesday of Week 33 Year 1

How many of us are willing to have courage and willingness to sacrifice one's life to glorify God? Some of us may say that we are willing and ready to do so, but if we are really and actually put to the test or face a real possibility of being put to death, would we remain steadfast in our faith, and give glory to God? Would we be willing to lose our lives and even the lives of our families by remaining faithful? Or would we abandon our faith to save our skin or to save our families from annihilation?

Today's reading shows us an excellent example of courage and willingness to sacrifice ones life to glorify God. The reading tells us that "Eleazar, one of the foremost teachers of the Law, a man already advanced in years and of most noble appearance, was being forced to open his mouth wide to swallow pig’s flesh. But he, resolving to die with honour rather than to live disgraced, went to the block of his own accord, spitting the stuff out, the plain duty of anyone with the courage to reject what it is not lawful to taste, even from a natural tenderness for his own life."

What about us? Would we be willing to follow the example of Eleazar in today's reading, preferring to die than to commit sin? While it is easy to say that we would remain faithful, it is certainly not easy to do so, especially when it involves our families. Let us pray and continue to depend on God's help to stay true, just and faithful to our duty as Catholics.

Tuesday 23 July 2019

Saturday of Week 32 Year 1

Many of us are so used to having things or services done quite quickly, so much so that when we have to wait for a few minutes or for a while to get what we want, some of us may become quite impatient, or angry, or even give up waiting and go elsewhere, thinking that other places would be faster in their services.But the reality is that there are also many situations in life where we have no choice but to wait patiently, since such situations take time. For example, if we want to renovate our house, we need to wait for materials and manpower to arrive, and then for the renovation to be completed properly. Also, when a couple wants to conceive a child, they need to be patient and persistent in their efforts, with hope that they would be successful.

The same situation also happens when it comes to prayer. In today's Gospel, Jesus taught His disciples to "pray continually and never lose heart." When we pray, we cannot expect God to answer our prayers quickly. We need to be patient and persistent in our prayer, with hope and confidence that God would answer our prayers according to His purpose and for His glory. May we never lose heart, and pray patiently, humbly and continually, and let God do what is best for us.

Monday 22 July 2019

Monday of Week 32 Year 1

We often hear of people spending a lot of time and effort in building their career, their wealth, their families, etc. This is because the cost of living has increased a lot, compared to the past, and the working environment has become more competitive. While our efforts to survive in this world is good and necessary, how many of us are also making effort to build our relationship with God? Have some of us allowed the need to survive and prosper in the world become more important than building our relationship with God?

Today's reading reminds us that we should "love virtue, let honesty prompt your thinking about the Lord, seek him in simplicity of heart; since he is to be found by those who do not put him to the test, he shows himself to those who do not distrust him." Instead of just focusing on our needs in the world which is temporary, we should also pay more attention to growing closer to God, which would be for our eternal future. Let us not be caught off-guard, and be prepared to meet the Lord.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Thursday of Week 31 Year 1

Some of us may think that losing something which seems small or insignificant may not be a big thing, especially when we have plenty to spare and we find that it is not worth worrying or fretting about such a lost. However, sometimes what seems small and insignificant could be just as important or serious. For instance, a small lump may seem insignificant, but if we are not careful and see a doctor for diagnosis and quick treatment if necessary, we may be in big trouble as that small lump may turn out to be malignant.

Today's Gospel shows us that, when it comes to saving us, God takes everything seriously, even what seems small and insignificant. He wants each and every one of us to be with Him, even if it is one sheep, or one drachma, or one whatever. Each and every one of us is important to God, and when we confess our sins and make more effort to return to His ways, "there is rejoicing among the angels of God over one repentant sinner." May we follow God's example and treat all things, big and small, with love and care, so that none would be lost.

Monday of Week 31 Year 1

In life, some of us like to do things or favours for others, with the hope that others would do the same for us. For example, in business, some of us may take a client out for a nice meal, with hope and expectation that the client would buy more things from us, or even consider us as a long-term supplier. Some of us do this because we follow a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" principle, where we hope to receive what we give, and help each other benefit. But how many of us are willing to give, without expecting to receive anything in return?

In today's Gospel, Jesus said to his host, one of the leading Pharisees, ‘When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not ask your friends, brothers, relations or rich neighbours, for fear they repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No; when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; that they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because repayment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.’

What Jesus is telling us is that we should give freely, generously and happily, without expecting anything in return. By doing so, our giving would be sincere, without strings attached, without any terms or conditions, not for our own benefit, not to boost our popularity or ego, and not for our glory, but for the glory of God.

Wednesday of Week 30 Year 1

A man was riding his motorcycle along the highway, when all of a sudden, he lost control of his motorcycle and met with an accident, which left him near dead. He ended up in a hospital in a coma, in a vegetative state. He had a girlfriend whom he had planned to marry, and despite the doctor's advice that the man may eventually die, the girlfriend chose to give up her job and her time to nurse him, with hope that he would some day recover. For several months, there seemed to be no response from the man, but the girlfriend did not give up. Slowly, some signs began to appear, as the man gradually was able to move his eyes, then he began to try to speak, and after much care and love, he was able to walk. It was a miraculous and joyful moment, when the man was eventually united with his girlfriend in marriage.

What the girlfriend went through and did for the man, is what the spirit would do for us in today's reading. In the reading, "The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God." Even though the situation initially seemed helpless and hopeless, the man was able to make a reasonably good recovery with tremendous help from his girlfriend. Likewise, even though we may have experienced some sort of helpless and hopeless situation, the Spirit would help us recover and move on. Are we willing to have much trust and faith in the Spirit, and let Him be our help and guide?

Friday 12 July 2019

Saturday of Week 29 Year 1

What sort of achievements are we looking for in life? Are some of us only looking for money, wealth, fame, property, recognition, higher status and so on? How long can we really hold on to such things? Perhaps some of us may be able to hold on till old age, but the reality is that all these things will be lost, or end up being taken by others, when we return to the Lord. Then what would happen to us? Would we be with the Lord, or would we end up away from the Lord?

In today's reading, we are cautioned: "The unspiritual are interested only in what is unspiritual, but the spiritual are interested in spiritual things. It is death to limit oneself to what is unspiritual; life and peace can only come with concern for the spiritual. That is because to limit oneself to what is unspiritual is to be at enmity with God: such a limitation never could and never does submit to God’s law. People who are interested only in unspiritual things can never be pleasing to God."

The question is: are we still going after unspiritual things here on earth, thinking that such things would benefit us for the long term? Or have we made more effort to strive for more spiritual pursuits, to grow closer to God? May we come to realise what is really important in the end, and strive more towards what is spiritual, for our eternal good.

Thursday 11 July 2019

Saturday of Week 28 Year 1

In today's gospel, Jesus says, "Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." What is this sin that could not be forgiven? This unforgivable sin is our attitude when we say, "There is no hope, God cannot forgive me." When we have such an attitude, we are commuting the grave sin of despair, where we say that God cannot or is incapable of forgiving us. It is as if the Holy Spirit cannot do anything to change us or help us, and that we are doomed. This is blasphemy, since it denies the very core of God's being: His love and mercy.

So what should we do? We should remember of God's immense mercy and not have any thought of despair, since God shows His love to us even if we are sinners, His mercy is without end and greater than our sinfulness. May we not doubt God's mercy towards us, and grow closer to Him with confidence, knowing that we have a loving and merciful God, who will care and provide for us.

Wednesday of Week 28 Year 1

Every once in a while, I get someone coming to me for confession, but all they are saying is what others have done wrong, and they seem blameless. But are such persons really faultless, or are such persons merely being self-righteous and judgemental towards others? Some of us still fail to realise that all of us are human, and we may not know the full facts or details. Thus, why do we still insist in looking at or judging others with coloured eyes?

In today's reading, St. Paul warns us: "No matter who you are, if you pass judgement you have no excuse. In judging others you condemn yourself, since you behave no differently from those you judge. We know that God condemns that sort of behaviour impartially: and when you judge those who behave like this while you are doing exactly the same, do you think you will escape God’s judgement? Or are you abusing his abundant goodness, patience and toleration, not realising that this goodness of God is meant to lead you to repentance?"

When we judge others, even though we may have at some point of time done the same thing as what others have done, we are merely being hypocrites. May we be humble enough to admit our own failings, and learn to be compassionate and encouraging towards others, instead of trying to be self-righteous and judgmental.

Saturday of Week 27 Year 1

I sometimes come across persons who like to make lots of suggestions or complaints, but when they are asked whether they would be willing to get involved and improve things, they begin to make lots of excuses and dare not commit themselves. They prefer to remain as keyboard warriors or only talk or complain, but are unwilling to offer themselves to bring about change and progress. I recall several people asking when a building complex would eventually be built, to provide more classrooms, meeting rooms, and facilities for the parish. When asked whether such persons would be willing to be part of the building committee, and work towards gathering funds so that such a building complex may eventually be realised, such persons would quickly excuse themselves from being involved, or even try to change the topic altogether.

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!" It is fine and good to hear the word of God, but just hearing the word of God won't mean anything, if we do not internalise it, ponder upon it, and share it with others. In other words, we should not just talk or hear without action. May we not keep the word of God to ourselves, but go forth and preach the Good News, just as what Jesus commanded us to do.

Wednesday of Week 27 Year 1

It is easy for many of us to seek forgiveness from God, especially when we have committed sin or wrong doing. Some of us make it a point to go for confession, asking God to forgive our sins and we have trust and confidence that He would do so. But what about when it comes to others who have sinned against us? Are we just as forgiving towards others, just as we ask God to be forgiving towards us? Do we expect forgiveness only from God, and remain vengeful towards others or even shun them?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded: "and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us." This means that forgiveness is not a one way street, where we expect forgiveness from God, but we can ignore others, or remain vengeful, or dwell in hurt towards others. Forgiveness, rather, works both ways, where we are expected to forgive others, just as we expect God's forgiveness. Are we willing to make forgiving a habit, and forgive others just as God forgives us?

Sunday 7 July 2019

Saturday of Week 26 Year 1

Are we being tempted to go astray from God's ways to the ways of the world? The ways of the world have many attractions and benefits which try to lure us into alienating ourselves from God, and that is why we need to take courage and try hard to avoid going astray. When we fall into temptation, it is not the end yet, since God gives us many opportunities to seek forgiveness through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, change our ways, and remain in God's path.

In today's reading, the prophet Baruch gives us a message of hope: "Take courage, my children, call on God: he who brought disaster on you will remember you. As by your will you first strayed away from God, so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard; for as he brought down those disasters on you, so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy." Baruch reminds us not to give up or give in to despair, but to keep on trusting in God and walk in His ways, trusting and knowing that He will help us. Are we willing to be humble and patient in our journey towards eternal joy with Him?

Friday of Week 26 Year 1

How many of us are willing to take responsibility for what has happened, especially if something bad has happened? Some of us may do so, and learn from our mistakes and move on, but there are also those who refuse to admit they have done wrong and try to play the blame game and put the blame on others, or even find a scapegoat to take the blame, because they are more concerned about their pride and ego, instead of what is just and right.

In today's reading, Baruch reflected upon the disastrous events that had happened to the Israelites, especially the destruction of Jerusalem, and exile in Babylon. He came to a conclusion: "To us, the look of shame we wear today, we have sinned in the sight of the Lord, we have disobeyed Him, we had not listened to the voice of the Lord our God."

Everything that went wrong and all the disastrous events that happened, Baruch pointed the finger at himself and his people, instead of trying to put the blame on others. Are we willing to be humble and admit our mistakes, seek forgiveness from God and from others, while being willing to forgive others too, when they have wronged us? Are we willing to learn from our mistakes and wrongdoings, and let the Lord guide us so that we would become better?

Thursday of Week 26 Year 1

As Christians, we should never forget who we are and what God has done for us. When we forget who we are, we may end up doing and saying things which offend God and hurt others. That is why we need to be reminded as often as possible, especially through the reading of the scriptures, who we are and how we are supposed to live. When we read the scriptures, or when we hear it being read, are we moved with what we hear? Or have we begun taking the scriptures for granted; or even ignored its message and succumbed to distractions and attractions of the ways of world?

In today's reading, Ezra gathered the men, and women, and children, and read to them from the Torah. He stood, on a raised platform in the rebuilt Temple, and from morning until midday read the Torah, from beginning to end. The men, women, and children listened to their story, their family history, the laws which God had given them; and they discovered who they were. They raised their hands in the air, and proclaimed, “Amen, Amen” and they wept for joy. Why were they so moved?  Because they understood who they were and who God had called them to be.

What about us? Do we really understand who we are? Have we read the scriptures and finally understood what it means to be brothers and sisters in Christ? May we begin to understand and appreciate the significance of who we are, who we are called to be, and let the Lord be our help, providence and guide.

Saturday 6 July 2019

Tuesday of Week 26 Year 1

How do we Christians bring the Good News to others? Do we expect others to accept the Good News from us immediately or quickly? What if such persons are resistant or slow to accept the Good News, then what do we do? Do we begin to use coercion, threats or force on such persons? The reality is that we cannot expect others to accept the Good News according to our agenda or schedule, since ultimately the gift of faith is from God. Are we willing to be patient and persistent in our efforts, with hope that others may accept the Good News according to God's time?

In today's Gospel, the brothers James and John said to Jesus: “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” This is because the people of the Samaritan village did not receive them well. But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village. Jesus showed His disciples, and us too, that using coercion, force or threats is not the way to preach the Good News. What is required of us is to do our part with Christian love, concern and care, then leave the rest in the hands of the Lord.

Monday of Week 26 Year 1

Some of us like to feel proud or great about our achievements. Though there is inherently nothing wrong about feeling proud and great about our achievements, especially when it concerns self-esteem or self-worth, the problem that some of us may fall into is when we allow pride to get over our heads; when we begin to become arrogant, egoistic or look down on others; or when healthy, humble delight in one's accomplishments have easily transformed into unhealthy, arrogant over-valuing of oneself.

In today's Gospel, we are told: "An argument started between the disciples about which of them was the greatest. Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and then said to them, 'Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.'"

A little child is great because the child is docile and dependent on his or her parents, instead of trying to boost one's ego; or developing a proud, unhealthy, arrogant over-valuing of oneself. We too can be great, when we learn to humble ourselves and be dependent on God's help and providence. We are also being great when all we do is for the glory of God, and not for our personal gratification. May we set aside any unhealthy, arrogant over-valuing of oneself, and strive to walk more in God's ways.

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Saturday of Week 25 Year 1

What sort of security do you seek in life? Some of us seek plenty of wealth and property as a form of security. Some seek fame, popularity and recognition as a form of security. Some seek knowledge and power as a form of security. But the reality is that these forms of security are only temporary and one day, we will lose them. How many of us are truly and consistently seeking God as our security, instead of all these temporary forms of security?

In today's reading, the prophet Zechariah, in a vision, said that Jerusalem was to remain unwalled. The reading assures us that God would be the wall of fire for her all round her, and He will be her glory in the midst of her. Jerusalem, by remaining unwalled, reminds us that, instead of relying on human forms of security, we should rely more on God for our security. Are we willing to let go of or be detached from any form of of temporary security, and let God be our true and permanent security?

Monday of Week 25 Year 1

Have some of us ever doubted whether God really cares or listens to our prayers, especially when we do not seem to be getting any answers or solutions? When this happens, how many of us are willing to wait, with patience and perseverance, knowing that God would do what is best for us, in His time and for His glory?

In today's reading, the Jews were in exile in the foreign land of Babylon and they had been in exile for 70 years, but as we can see from the reading, God did not abandon His people. Instead, He roused the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia to let the Jews go back to their homeland and Cyrus even offered to help them rebuild the Temple. 70 years of darkness, uncertainty and hopelessness gave way to the long-awaited light.

What does this mean to us? It means that we should never doubt God. We should be patient, persevere and be persistent; knowing and trusting that God would do what is best for us, in His time and for His glory. Let us be humble and willing to let God be in control, and let Him be our providence, help and guide.

Thursday of Week 24 Year 1

Nowadays, we can get all sorts of comments, opinions and information about certain church teaching or certain church practices. But the reality is that truth and church teaching has to be definitive and absolute. Otherwise, we may end up in relativism, where anything and everything goes, as long as it fits in with a certain culture, society, or historical context. This is why those of us who are teachers of faith and morals, including clergy, religious and even lay persons, have a heavy responsibility to ensure that matters concerning faith and morals are taught faithfully according to what the church teaches, not according to one's preference, opinion or way of thinking.

In today's reading, St. Paul cautions us: "Take great care about what you do and what you teach; always do this, and in this way you will save both yourself and those who listen to you." Having an opinion or preference about a matter concerning faith and morals is fine, it is not wrong. But it becomes a problem one begins to treat one's opinion or preference as truth, and one begins to teach one's opinion or preference, instead of what the church teachers. Let us therefore be responsible in what we teach, and teach the truth, not what we like or prefer.

Tuesday of Week 24 Year 1

During Jesus' time, widows were considered helpless and powerless, as they had no one to protect or support them in their needs. In today's Gospel, the widow was considered practically dead too, since without her only son, she had no means to provide for herself. But then she encountered the compassion of Jesus. Jesus was moved with pity for her, saw her pain and grief, and felt her sorrow and helplessness. By restoring her only son to life, Jesus showed his love and concern, giving back to her hope and new life, and restored her to her community.

What about us, if we see someone who is helpless and powerless, would we do our utmost best to help the person, so that the person would get back hope and new life? Or would we mind our own business and look the other way, or simply wish the person well and not get involved? May we learn to imitate the love and compassion that Jesus shows us, so that all may know what it really means to be a Christian.

Monday of Week 24 Year 1

When we pray, what do we pray for, and who do we pray for? Do we pray only for our needs or perhaps the needs of those we care about or love? Have we ever prayed also for others, especially those we do not know, or we do not like, or those who have been hurtful towards us in one way or another? Do we keep everyone in our prayers; or do we pick and choose who we pray for, or do we pray for only certain reasons?

In today's reading, we are told: "My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone – petitions, intercessions and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet. To do this is right, and will please God our saviour: he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth."  May we remember all around us in our prayers, for the good of all and for the glory of God.

Tuesday of Week 23 Year 1

We sometimes come across someone who seems to be teaching Christian faith and values. But if we scrutinise such persons carefully, we could discover that such persons are not really teaching Christian values and faith, but values and faith based more on the ways of the world, instead of the ways of Christ. Such persons often preach or teach in this way for their benefit, and are not really concerned about their followers spiritual well-being. Once they have achieved their objectives or goals, they may just make themselves scarce, and leave their followers in a lurch.

That is why, in today's reading, St. Paul cautions us: "Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some second-hand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ." The reading cautions us to not allow ourselves to be fooled into accepting such empty teachings of such persons, since doing so would only lead us astray. May we be discerning and careful in what we hear, and ensure that our community remain faithful to true teaching for our spiritual growth and to grow closer to God.