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?