Saturday 28 August 2021

Saturday of Week 34 Year 1

It is easy for us to become complacent in life. When times are good and we seem to be dong well, we may begin to think that nothing is going to happen to us and we carry on our merry way. But the reality is that what seems to be good and well could very quickly escalate into a dangerous or deadly situation. Many things can happen so quickly that we may not be ready or prepared for it. If we are suddenly put in such a situation, would we be ready physically and especially spiritually for it?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded: "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. For it will come down on every living man on the face of the earth." The Gospel is not trying to scare the living daylights out of us, or make us paranoid. Instead, we are being reminded that our time on earth is short and we are merely pilgrims here. Instead of becoming complacent in life, we should make effort to grow closer in relationship with God. Are we slowly and surely making effort to do so, so that we would be with our loving God?

Saturday of Week 31 Year 1

What do we ultimately look for in life? Do we look for a happy and prosperous life here on earth, or do we seek eternal life? We say that we seek eternal life, but sometimes we may end up focusing a lot on our lives here on earth, and neglect our relationship with God. When we do so, we end up becoming more and more accustomed to the ways of the world, and drift away from the ways of Christ. At the end of the day, is this what we really want? Do we seek only what is temporary, and risk being alienated from God?

In today's Gospel, we are reminded, "No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money." The Gospel reading is not trying to tell us that we should forget about our lives here on earth, since we still need to survive and care for our loved ones and ourselves. What the Gospel reading is telling us is this: if we choose to serve God, then we should focus our priorities on growing in relationship with God, while not neglecting our responsibilities here on earth. May we choose our master wisely, since what we choose would have temporal or eternal consequences.

Thursday 19 August 2021

Saturday of Week 30 Year 1

I remember years ago when I had just been ordained a priest and I was invited to a wedding dinner. Normally, I would hesitate to go for wedding dinners, because they rarely begin on time, and follow "Malaysian Time" which could drag on for hours waiting before things get started. But since I knew the families well even from the time I was a seminarian, I agreed to attend the wedding dinner. When I arrived at the restaurant, I quickly looked for a place away from the main table, so that I could take leave unassumingly without anyone noticing, when the need arises.

However, before I could warm a seat at a table quite some distance from the main table, the father of the bride spotted me. Just my luck, he caught me in the arm and said, "Father, this is not a suitable place for you, move up to the table next to the main table." I felt humbled and a little embarrassed as the father of the bride firmly held my arm and escorted me to the proper place, and I was taken aback that my name was even printed on a label at the seat reserved for me, where I could get a good view of the proceedings.

This experience is exactly what happened in the Gospel today, where Jesus said, ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour. A more distinguished person than you may have been invited, and the person who invited you both may come and say, “Give up your place to this man.” And then, to your embarrassment, you would have to go and take the lowest place. No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there, so that, when your host comes, he may say, “My friend, move up higher.” In that way, everyone with you at the table will see you honoured. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’

At the end of the day, I realised that what Jesus taught us in today's Gospel is very real even today. When we try to show off or tell people how great or capable we are or when we look for titles or honour, we may actually end up eating humble pie. May we learn to remain humble in all we say and do, and give God the glory.

Wednesday of Week 30 Year 1

In today's Gospel, we are told that being merely a member or follower of Jesus does not automatically mean we will enter God’s Kingdom. Also, being acquaintances to Jesus does not automatically qualify us to share eternal life with Him. Besides that, Jesus reminds us that calling on the name of the Lord, ‘Lord, Lord,’ is not enough to enter the kingdom of heaven but listening and then doing God’s will is a necessity. Moreover, Jesus asserts that many from the gentile nations will enter God’s kingdom. God’s invitation to salvation is open to Jew and Gentile alike. People whom we never thought or expect to be in the Kingdom of heaven, will be there.

What does this mean to us? It means that entering into God’s Kingdom is not an automatic or guaranteed thing. It also means that being a member or follower of Jesus or even an acquaintance to Jesus does not mean that we are entitled to Heaven. Instead, we must struggle against the forces of temptation and whatever which would hinder us from doing His will like apathy, indifference, and compromise. Do we trust in God’s grace and help especially in times of testing and temptation, with hope that with His help and guidance, we would be with Him?

Tuesday 3 August 2021

St. John Vianney - Memorial

What does it mean to be a shepherd? A shepherd guides and guards the sheep under his care, even to the extent of dying for his sheep by defending the sheep when being attacked by wolves and other predators. Being a shepherd is certainly a great responsibility, and that is why finding young men and women who are willing to be shepherds to their communities is no easy task. One needs to constantly pray for God's help so that more and more young men and women would answer God's call to work in God's vineyard as shepherds. Not only that, one also needs to encourage one's own children to discern and consider a vocation to the priesthood or religious life.

In today's Gospel, "Jesus made a tour through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness. And when he saw the crowds he felt sorry for them because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’" Jesus invites us to come forward and labour as His shepherds, but how many of us are willing to respond? As time goes by, many of our present shepherds are getting old or have retired from active service. This means that new shepherds are needed to continue labouring in the harvest.

Today we celebrate St. John Vianney, patron of parish priests. Let us not only pray for our parish priests and give them our encouragement and support, but also encourage more and more young men to answer God's call to become priests. Many of our present priests, some of which are parish priests, are not so young any more, no longer "spring chicken," but they still continue serving in God's harvest as best they can. May the Lord grant us more labourers to his harvest, to build His kingdom and give Him the glory.

Monday 12 July 2021

Saturday of Week 29 Year 1

Do we eat to live or do we live to eat? If we say that we live to eat, that means we want to enjoy food and other attractions of the world as much as possible. Some may think that the world is all there is, and after that, they would cease to exist. So such persons would enjoy what this world has to offer to the fullest while they still can. On the other hand, if we eat to live, then we know that our lives on this earth are only temporary, and the choices we make would have eternal consequences. So we try our best to strike a balance in living in this world, with our focus in the next.

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, by living to eat and concerning ourselves only with this world, thinking that this world is all there is? Or have we made more effort to strive for more spiritual pursuits, by eating to live so that we could 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.

Saturday of Week 26 Year 1

Life as Christians is never easy. We face all sorts of challenges and difficulties, especially since we may need to take a stand or a position which is contrary to the ways of the world. For example, at work we may be asked to promote goods or services which may bring in huge profits and possibly a big bonus or a big pay raise or even a promotion, but such goods or services may be at odds with the teachings of our faith. When this happens, would 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. Even though we may be facing challenges, ridicule and persecution for holding steadfast to our faith, we know that God will not abandon us. Are we willing to be humble and patient in our journey towards eternal joy with Him?

Sunday 11 July 2021

Wednesday of Week 26 Year 1

Being a follower of Jesus is not so easy. Some people think that we can follow Jesus and live our lives as before, but the reality is that there are times we would be faced with difficult decision of whether we want to follow Jesus completely and faithfully, or we only follow Him when it is convenient to us. For example, we claim to follow Jesus, but if we answer God's call to serve as a missionary in a foreign land where it may be difficult for us to return home, we may have to sacrifice being with our family in their time of need, such as an illness or even death. Also, there may be situations where we may have to go against our family's demands, especially if such demands go against the teachings of Jesus. When faced with such difficult situations, would we still be able to follow Jesus?

In today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us that following Him comes at a cost and sometimes the cost can be quite high, heavy or challenging to bear. We should be ready to give up everything we hold so dear, take up our cross and follow Him. This includes having to be detached from people and things, so that we could be free to do God's will. Would we be willing to surrender all to follow Jesus, or have we become so attached to persons and things around us, so much so that such persons and things have become obstacles preventing us from becoming true disciples of Jesus? When we sing: "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back," do we really mean what we sing?

Saturday 10 July 2021

Saturday of Week 25 Year 1

We can sometimes fall into a false sense of lull or complacency when we receive a lot of praises from others. We begin to think that we are ok and that things are going our way. But just as we could receive praise and admiration from others, we could also end up being condemned or shunned by others even for the slightest reason. Human praise and admiration can be very fickle, and people who were once allies or friends could become rivals or enemies when the circumstances do not benefit them.

In today's Gospel, we are told: "At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind: “The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.”’" Jesus Himself, who performed a lot of miracles, healed many, and said many inspirational and good things, was eventually condemned, despite of all He had said and done. This shows that as followers of Jesus, we should not rest on our laurels and bask in human praise and admiration, since such things are temporary and could change so easily and quickly. Instead, let us take up our cross and follow Jesus, not seeking human glory, but by giving God the glory.

Friday of Week 25 Year 1

What sort of leader would we want to follow? Quite likely, we would want to follow a leader who is important, or a leader who has a great track record, or a leader who is a winner, or even a leader who can produce results which could help or benefit us. How many of us would follow a leader who is going to be mocked, persecuted or even put to death? If we observe the the ways of the world, such a leader would only bring disaster to us, and should be avoided at all cost. However, as Christians what sort of leader do we really follow?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "'The Son of Man' he said 'is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.'" From a worldly point of view such a leader would end up dead and would not benefit or help us. Moreover, such a leader would be raised up on the third day? The world would laugh and say that such a thing is ridiculous, illogical or impossible. But Jesus proved to all that He did die and He rose again, as His purpose as a leader was not to gain fame or recognition from the world, but to save us from our sins.

Today we as Christians are called by Jesus to follow His example and His leadership. We are called to take up our cross and follow Him. Ultimately, we have a choice: to follow the ways of the world and its ideas of leadership, or to follow the ways of Christ and His way of leadership. May we learn to lead the way He leads us and let Him be our help and guide.

Saturday of Week 24 Year 1

As Christians, we have been taught many things about the deeds and teachings of Jesus. We would have gone through Catechism classes and for some RCIA classes, so that we would know and understand what being a follower of Jesus is all about. This means that we know or ought to know what our duties and responsibilities are as Christians. It also means that we cannot simply claim ignorance or pretend that we do not know, since such teaching was received not only during Catechism or RCIA classes, but through various formation sessions, classes or workshops made available to us, and also even at Mass, where the readings of the Sunday and the homily contains teachings for us to reflect on and act upon.

In today's reading, St. Paul reminds us: "Before God the source of all life and before Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures..." St. Paul is reminding us that being a Christian means witnessing for the truth and "doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures..." and not just simply listening without any action. May we take initiative and make effort to "do whatever He tells you" as what Mother Mary did, and do our duty for the glory of God.

Friday 9 July 2021

Saturday of Week 23 Year 1

 It is easy for us to say that we are Christians, but how many of us really follow Jesus' teachings and commandments faithfully and completely? Some of us may be Christians only in name, but we want to do our own thing and according to our own way. Some of us may be Christians, but we follow only those teachings and commandments which are beneficial or convenient to us. How many of us are humble and willing to accept and follow Jesus' teachings and commandments in its entirety, even those teachings which are hard or challenging for us to follow?

In today's Gospel, Jesus challenges us: "Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord” and not do what I say?" It is easy to say that we are followers of Christ, but it is certainly not easy for us to be steadfast and faithful in following all that He has told and taught us. Being a Christian is not just accepting Jesus and listening to Him, but also acting on His words and growing in His ways. May we act upon His words, and help others to do the same, for His glory.

Friday of Week 23 Year 1

It is easy for some of us to find fault with other people. One reason why some of us only know how to find fault with others is because some of us are insecure and unwilling to come to terms with one's own faults. So to try and cover up our own faults, we would project such faults on others. This stems from the fact that some of us are too proud or egoistic or even having some sort of inferiority complex, making it difficult for some of us to be humble enough to admit one's faults and change for the better.

In today's Gospel, Jesus admonishes us when He says: "Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye," when you cannot see the plank in your own? Hypocrite! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye."

Perhaps we need to take a good look at ourselves and discover whether we are willing and humble enough to admit our faults, before we look at others' faults. If we are aware of our faults and admit them, instead of trying to hide them or focus only in finding fault with others, then we would realise that, at the end of the day, we are all imperfect and we all need help to become better. Let us present our faults to God, asking Him to heal us and guide us, and give Him the glory.

Thursday of Week 23 Year 1

For some of us, our relationship with others could sometimes be seen as if it is some sort of barter trade. We do something for others, or we love others, but there are terms and conditions attached. We expect to receive something in return for what we have done for others. There's no such thing as a free lunch, seems to be the way things are for some. But as Christians, what sort of relationship should we be practising? Do we expect or do we feel entitled to receiving something in return just like others do?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly." All these sound like insane things expected of us, but what Jesus is telling us is we need to go beyond basic humanity and love beyond how the world loves. This is because if we only love the way the world loves, with terms and conditions, then we are no different from the world. We as Christians are tasked to love just as God loves, and He loves all without fear or favour, and as the Gospel reminds us, He "is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked."

What does this mean to us Christians? It means that to love as God loves is indeed tough and challenging, since it goes beyond our human nature and the ways of the world. But when we do so, God's love will also grow in us, His love will strengthen us and comfort us, and the love of Christ will find a home in us. Are we willing to take up the challenge to love as God loves, trusting that God would help us to do so, and give Him all the glory?

Saturday of Week 20 Year 1

Every once in a while, I come across people who seem to have so many ideas and suggestions to make, and yet when they are asked to carry out such ideas and suggestions, they would suddenly back off and say that they are too busy, no time, unqualified and so many other excuses made. For example, there are people who have suggested that the church needs to have a funeral parlour, since more and more people are staying in apartments or condominiums, and such housing may not have a suitable place for a wake. However, when such persons are asked to take charge of such a project and see it through, they all of a sudden have cold feet and try to push the task to others. Indeed, coming out with lots of ideas and suggestions is easy, but carrying them out is a different matter.

In today's Gospel, Jesus told the people to listen to what the scribes and Pharisees tell them since they occupy the chair of Moses, but not to be guided by what they do, since they do not practise what they preach. The scribes and Pharisees knew how to talk, and everything they did was to attract attention and make them appear as if they were holy and pious. But being holy and pious is not just about words, but also about action, or action speaks louder than words, or walk the talk, so to speak.

What about us? Do we know only how to talk and make all sorts of suggestions and demands, without any further action? Or are we willing to do our part in seeing that what we suggest is carefully considered, planned and eventually materialised? May we learn to be humble and zealous in doing what is right, and glorify God in all we do.

Thursday 8 July 2021

Thursday of Week 20 Year 1

I sometimes wonder whether some of us have begun taking Mass or Holy Communion for granted. How many of us are properly prepared to come and participate at Mass, and receive Holy Communion properly and worthily? Do we observe important preparations such as the 1 hour fast before Holy Communion; and how many of us are regular for the Sacrament of Confession, in an effort to try receive Holy Communion in the state of grace? Do we assume that we have the right or entitlement to receive Holy Communion, come what may? Also, are we coming for Mass just for the sake of fulfilling the Sunday obligation?

In today's Gospel, which is about the Parable of the Wedding Feast, we could pick up three important "I's" for us to reflect on. The first I is Invitation. The Lord invites us every day to come to his banquet. He has it all prepared; but it is up to us to accept his invitation. We must be prepared to come when it is ready, instead of making all sorts of excuses or conditions. Are we willing to come with sincere and honest acceptance, at the moment he calls? The second I is Indifference. Those invited were indifferent. They ignored the invitation and went about their own businesses and works. They ignored the Lord. Just imagine, God Himself inviting us and then we have the audacity to say “No” to his invitation because we have other things to do. Have we become indifferent towards Mass and even indifferent in preparing before Mass? The third I is Inappropriate. Here, the concern is not so much on how we dress for the Eucharistic celebration, though this does not give us any excuse not to dress our Sunday best. The main concern here is more on how we are in Church: our inner disposition; whether our hearts are properly dressed. We may be physically present in church, but in reality some of us may actually be mentally absent.

The question that we need to ask ourselves sincerely is this: the Eucharistic celebration is like the Wedding Feast in today's Gospel. We are already invited to come to God's banquet, and we are expected to come and be properly disposed to come. But are we really ready and properly disposed to come? May we take seriously our inner disposition, lest we end up "bound hand and foot and thrown out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth."

Saturday of Week 18 Year 1

Some of us are so used to doing so many things, but how many of us take time to listen to what we are doing, and ponder whether what we are doing is really God's will or our own will? We may appear very busy doing so many things, but sometimes what is being done may not be necessary or just a waste of time; or what is done may turn out to be just to boost our pride and ego. Even when it comes to loving God, some of us may be loving God through lots of actions, but are these actions really necessary and according to His will?

In today's reading, "Moses said to the people: ‘Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart." Notice that in the reading, the first and foremost thing that the people need to do is not to carry out lots of tasks to show their love, but simply to listen. When the people listen carefully to God, they would come to realise that loving God means to love totally and completely and this includes discerning His will.

What about us? Are we really listening to God and doing His will? If we say that we love God, then we must be prepared to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength; and the very first thing we ought to do is to listen. Let us listen carefully and attentively to God's promptings, and glorify God in all that we say and do.

Wednesday 7 July 2021

Saturday of Week 16 Year 1

Words spoken can be misinterpreted or misheard. Sometimes certain parties could take what is said, and twist or change the words according to their interpretation or for their benefit. This is is especially true when it comes to agreements or contracts, since what is said by one party could be heard differently by another, leading to misunderstandings or even legal action. That is why, no matter what, it is necessary for words to be put in writing, and to further reinforce what has been written, such written words are signed by parties involved, to seal the deal, so to speak.

In today's reading, "Moses went and told the people all the commands of the Lord and all the ordinances. In answer, all the people said with one voice, ‘We will observe all the commands that the Lord has decreed.’ Moses put all the commands of the Lord into writing... Then Moses took the blood and cast it towards the people. This’ he said ‘is the blood of the Covenant that the Lord has made with you, containing all these rules.’ From the reading, we can see that Moses not only told the people the commands of the Lord, he also had the covenant signed on the people with the blood from the bullocks. This means that the people had "sealed the deal" with the Lord in writing, and they had no longer any excuse to misinterpret or misunderstand the terms and conditions of the Covenant.

In our situation, we had "sealed the deal" with God when we were baptised. We even went through catechism classes or RCIA to make sure we understood the terms of God's Covenant. Moreover, we reinforced our Covenant with God when we received Confirmation. This means that we have no excuse to misinterpret or misunderstand the terms and conditions of the Covenant. May we observe all God's Covenant without excuses or neglect, and encourage others to do the same.

Sunday 4 July 2021

Saturday of Week 15 Year 1

In today's reading, we are told that "The sons of Israel left Rameses for Succoth... People of various sorts joined them in great numbers; there were flocks, too, and herds in immense droves. They baked cakes with the dough which they had brought from Egypt, unleavened because the dough was not leavened; they had been driven out of Egypt, with no time for dallying, and had not provided themselves with food for the journey."

For some, being driven out of one's country may seem like a tragic or terrible thing. But in the case of the sons of Israel, the reason was to rescue them from Pharoah and Egypt, and as such, it was actually a better thing. We too may have experienced being driven out of a bad or even sinful situation, even if it means we have no time for dallying. By being driven out in this way, it no longer becomes a tragic or terrible situation, but a situation meant to rescue us from evil, and to help us remain in God's ways. Are we willing to be driven out and led by God? Or are we still insisting to remain in servitude in Egypt?

Monday 28 June 2021

Monday of Week 13 Year 1

If we are told by Jesus to let go of things and people for the sake of the Gospel, would we be willing and humble enough to do so? It is easy to say that we would be willing to do so, but when it comes to having property or possessions, titles or positions, or even people who mean a lot to us or are close to us, would we still be willing to let go of them?

In today's Gospel, Jesus challenges us to consider exactly that. He said: "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Jesus also said: "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their dead." Would we be willing and able to be detached from what we have, even to the extent of being detached from family relationship, so that we would be free to follow Him and preach the Good News? It is certainly not an easy thing to do, but if Jesus calls us to leave everything behind and follow Him, how would we respond? Would we do so happily, sincerely and wholeheartedly?

Sunday 6 June 2021

Saturday of Week 12 Year 1

Imagine you are a childless couple and are already getting on in years, and you had guests at your house. While having a meal, one of the guest suddenly says: "I shall visit you again next year without fail, and your wife will then have a son." How would you respond? Quite likely some would say, "don't be silly, my wife and I are too old"; some might say, "oh come on, don't talk rubbish, factory closed long time ago (the 'factory' here refers the fertility period of a woman, before she hits menopause)."

This is exactly how Sarah in today's reading responded when she heard such words. In the reading, "Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, ‘Now that I am past the age of child-bearing, and my husband is an old man, is pleasure to come my way again!’" Yet, the guest in the reading did not take it as a joke or a laughing matter and re-emphasised, "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the same time next year I shall visit you again and Sarah will have a son."

Now, this does not mean that elderly childless couples should get worried or concerned about conceiving at an old age and bearing a child. If it really happens, then we should praise God for such a miracle. But what it means is, if God can enable Sarah to conceive at an old age, just imagine what He can do for us if we are to consistently pray and ask Him. May we not laugh or scoff at such things, since God can make a way, even though there seems to be no way. May we put our trust in Him, and let Him do what is best for us, for His purpose and glory.

Saturday of Week 11 Year 1

Today's Gospel tells us not to worry, since worry would not solve anything. Instead, worry could cause us to do things in a rash manner or in a way which could make things worse. The problem with some of us is we worry and fret about so many things in life, that we neglect to trust in God and walk in His ways. We fail to realise or even admit that many things in life are beyond our control and worrying and fretting will not solve anything.

Instead of worrying or fretting, let us leave it in the hands of God, be grateful and thankful for the many things God grants us, and remain in His care. Let us not one day end up with regrets later for not taking things as they come and letting God take care of things. After all, if God can provide the many things around us with what they need, surely He would provide us with what we need at the right time and at the right place, according to His plan.

Immaculate Heart of Mary

How many of us actually try to take the time to ponder about the many things that have happened in our lives? Do we ponder about things good and bad, or have we been living life day in day out without much of a thought? Sometimes a certain significant event or situation has happened. Do we stop to ponder or think about such a situation or event?

Our mother Mary, whose feast of the Immaculate Heart we celebrate today, did not just remember things; she pondered over the events and experiences in her life. Mary would have pondered over the joy of the first Christmas, and also the sorrow and grief at Calvary. In today's Gospel, it was the worry and anxiety of looking for Jesus and after finding him at the temple, the surprise at the answer He gave, that Mary also pondered in her heart. Mary remembered and pondered in her heart all these events and experiences and much more.

Today, just like mother Mary did, we are invited to ponder about the many times we have experienced God in our lives. When we remember and ponder in our hearts, we become more aware of God's presence in our lives, and we begin to deepen our hope and confidence in God. The many things that have happened in our lives no longer become normal or insignificant, since through such things, we learn to encounter God in many different ways.

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Saturday of Week 9 Year 1

Why do we get involved in various church activities and ministries? Do we do so because we want to serve God and His people? Or do we do so because we want to gain some recognition or fame? Do we serve because we want to glorify God in all that we say or do? Or are we trying to gain glory to boost our pride and ego? Are we serving because we want to be respected and noticed? Or are we humble enough to serve quietly, sometimes unknown and unappreciated, but nonetheless continuing to serve with dedication and commitment?

In today's Gospel, "Jesus said, ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers. The more severe will be the sentence they receive.’"

Have some of us become like the scribes, who appear to be serving but expecting to be noticed and recognised? Or are we able to resist the need to be recognised and admired, check our motives and intentions, and serve not for ourselves but for the glory of God?

Saturday 22 May 2021

Saturday of Week 8 Year 1

When we successfully complete a task or a job well done, some of us would try to grab credit or glory. Some may try to claim that the task or job was done through one's own effort, and in some cases, put others down to lift oneself up. While it may be good to give credit where credit is due, how many of us would be willing and humble enough to give God the glory for the task or job done?

 In today's reading, we see how credit and glory is given to God for the gift of wisdom. The reading tells us: "Thanks to her I have advanced; the glory be to him who has given me wisdom! For I am determined to put her into practice, I have earnestly pursued what is good, I will not be put to shame." Not only credit and glory is given to God, the wisdom received would be put into practice. Wisdom is not meant for one's gratification or to show how capable or great one is, but ultimately to give glory to God. Are we using wisdom properly for the good of others and for the greater glory of God?

Friday 21 May 2021

Friday of Week 8 Year 1

In today's Gospel, we come across Jesus cursing a fig tree which had no figs on it. Some of us may initially wonder whether Jesus was acting irrationally or weird, since the Gospel tells us that Jesus felt hungry and seemed annoyed that He could not find any figs, only leaves, since it was not the season for figs. However, if we look carefully at the text, we would discover that Jesus was actually using symbolic language to mean Israel, especially the scribes and Pharisees, who had so stubbornly held to their ways of doing things and their self-righteous behaviour and attitude, instead of repenting and returning to God's ways.

If we look at ourselves, have some of us become like the scribes and Pharisees? Have we so stubbornly held to our ways of doing things and our self-righteous behaviour and attitude, instead of repenting and returning to God's ways. Have we been like the fig tree, which produces fruit only according to season, and at other times we can behave and do as we please? Let us be mindful, lest we end up like the fig tree, withered to the roots; because of our pride, prejudice, selfishness, lack of forgiveness, and stubbornness; as well as our refusal to truly, consistently and wholeheartedly do all things for the glory of God.

Thursday of Week 8 Year 1

It is easy for some of us to feel as if we are useless, or not good enough, or not capable enough, or some other reason. When we feel this way, we begin to think as if God had made a mistake in creating us, and some of us even think that we should not have been born. Some even go to the extent of having suicidal thoughts, and tragically some even go to the extent of making such thoughts a reality.

But today's reading reminds us that we are part of the works of the Lord, and that "the work of the Lord is full of his glory." Not only that, the reading reminds us: "How desirable are all his works, how dazzling to the eye! All things go in pairs, by opposites, and he has made nothing defective." This shows that God does not make a mistake and each of us are special and have got a purpose, which is ultimately to glorify Him. Perhaps we may not have fully realised our purpose, so let us not dwell in pity or even despair. Instead, let us focus on God and let Him guide us, so that in all we do we give Him the glory.

Wednesday of Week 8 Year 1

Learning a new language could be a challenging experience, especially if one is learning the language as an adult. At times, the language itself could be, by nature, difficult to learn; or it could contain words specific to a certain gender, making it a challenge to know when and how to switch the words according to the gender. Because of this, we sometimes could end up seeing stars, or are in a daze, when we are struggling to pick up the basics of the language. However, after a while, we begin to get a hang of it and we may soon find ourselves becoming more and more proficient in the language.

In today's Gospel, the disciples who were following Jesus were dazed and were apprehensive. They had heard a lot of heavy teaching from Jesus about the cost of following Him, about persecutions and about service. What Jesus had been teaching the disciples is a different kind of language - the language of love and service. At first, the disciples could not comprehend what Jesus was constantly trying to teach them, since the language of love is not so straightforward. But eventually, they began to get a hang of it, and became more and more proficient in the language.

What about us? Have we become more proficient in the language of love? Are we able to communicate the language of love in the same way and manner Jesus taught His disciples and also us? May we make effort to get a good understanding of the language of love, practice it constantly, and encourage others to do the same, while giving glory to God.

Sunday 31 January 2021

Saturday of Week 5 Year 1

Life can be seen from an optimistic or pessimistic point of view. I recall a story of twin boys who were given their birthday gifts, and both were given the same thing: a huge pile of dung. One boy sobbed bitterly saying, "Oh what a mess. What a useless pile of dung. What can I do with this pile of dung? I don't want this useless pile of dung." The other boy was very excited and exclaimed, "Yahoo! If there's this pile of dung, there must be a horse somewhere nearby!" If we received such a gift, how would we respond?

In today's Gospel, we are told: "His disciples replied, ‘Where could anyone get bread to feed these people in a deserted place like this?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves have you?’ ‘Seven’" The disciples seemed pessimistic about feeding the crowd, but Jesus was optimistic and even gave instruction for the crowd to sit down on the ground. In the end, Jesus fed the crowd and even seven basketfuls of the scraps left over were collected after that.

What can we learn from this? We can learn that Jesus was not looking at limitations; rather He was more interested in possibilities. When we look at life from an optimistic point of view, we begin to see the many possibilities that could happen, if we are willing to consider such possibilities no matter how small they may seem and take time to make it happen with God's help. May we seize such opportunities with enthusiasm, and glorify God in all we say and do.

Thursday 28 January 2021

Saturday of Week 4 Year 1

It is good to have zeal and make effort to preach the Good News. After all, we Christians are commissioned and sent forth to do so by our Lord Jesus. However, as with many things in life, there needs to be a time and place for everything. If we spend too much time in one thing, we may end up neglecting another thing, to our detriment. For example, in our efforts to preach the Good News, we may neglect taking care of our health, and as a result, we may face serious health consequences. Such health consequences could cause us to be unable to continue preaching the Good News, whereas if we had been balanced in taking care of our health while preaching the Good News, we would be able to preach the Good News for a longer period.

In today's Gospel, we are told: "The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves."

From the Gospel, we can see that even Jesus and the apostles would take a break whenever they can, to take care of other matters while being diligent in preaching the Good News. This means that we should not be extreme in our efforts, but do things in a balanced way, so that we could continue fulfilling our duty harmoniously. May we learn to know the right place and the right time to do different things, so that we could continue to give glory to God in all we say and do.

Thursday 14 January 2021

Saturday of Week 3 Year 1

How much faith do we have in God? Do we have faith that God will guide and help us according to his ways and terms, or are we expecting faith to be according to our own terms? We sometimes say we have faith, but we want faith to be according to our expectations and convenience. How many of us are willing to have faith in God, and surrender to His thoughts and His ways, even though at times it may difficult for us to accept?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of the realities that at present remain unseen. It was for faith that our ancestors were commended." The reading reminds us that we should have faith that God will take care of things, and let His will be done, instead of constantly trying to have things our way. May we let God be in control, and glorify Him in all we say and do.

Wednesday 13 January 2021

Saturday of Week 2 Year 1

I believe many of us would want to keep clean and maintain good hygiene. After all, who among us would want to emit an odour or stench? We make so much effort to clean ourselves by bathing regularly, and even spend time grooming ourselves and putting on all sorts of sweet smelling perfume, so that we would look and smell good. All these efforts are to put on a good external appearance. But how many of us have spent an equal amount of time and effort to keep our internal appearance clean, especially in our spiritual life and our soul? Have we been regular in going for confession, and growing in relationship with God, or have we been focusing only on the externals?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer are sprinkled on those who have incurred defilement and they restore the holiness of their outward lives; how much more effectively the blood of Christ, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to God through the eternal Spirit, can purify our inner self from dead actions so that we do our service to the living God."

When we are regular in attending Mass, receiving Holy Communion, and going for confession regularly, we are letting the blood of Christ purify our inner self, our soul. We are inviting Christ to take control of not only our outer selves, but especially our inner selves. May we not waste the many opportunities given to us to let Christ purify us, so that we would learn to grow closer to God, and glorify Him in all we say and do.

Sunday 10 January 2021

Saturday of Week 1 Year 1

We sometimes come across persons who seem to be quite adept in putting on an appearance, so that others may think that such persons are a certain way, but the reality is that their true self could be quite different from what is perceived. For example, we see some persons behaving one way when it comes to persons of authority, but with others, especially with subordinates or even with certain colleagues, their attitude and demeanour could be quite different.

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

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: are we willing to cast aside our falsehoods and be real and genuine? Or are we still insisting in sticking to our masks or appearances? Let us not forget that God sees all and knows all. Instead, let us make more effort to remain true and grow in relationship with God.