Tuesday 20 June 2023

Saturday of Week 12 Year 1

Years ago one Monday morning, I was just about to leave my parish after the morning Mass to go home to visit my folks. As I was about to get into my car to drive off, I noticed a car enter the compound of the church. A couple came out of the car and rushed towards me. They looked distressed and the wife said, "Father, I am Catholic and my husband is not. Our son, who is not baptised, was just involved in a serious road accident, and he is now at hospital. The doctors have told us that he has little chance of survival. Could you come and say a prayer for him please?" The husband interjected: "Please father, pray for him. Ask God to heal him." I could see the anxiousness on their faces. So I obliged and met them at the hospital. While praying for the young man, all of a sudden, his breathing began to stabilise and he began to drift back into consciousness. His parents were shocked and overjoyed when their son opened his eyes and his condition improved. When the doctor came to examine him, the doctor was speechless, as the young man, though still injured, seemed to be on the road to recovery. Shortly after, the young man made a full recovery. The young man and his father attended RCIA and were baptised on Easter Vigil.

In today's gospel, Jesus was amazed at the deep faith of the centurion who was a Gentile. Even though the centurion was not a follower of Jesus, he still believed that Jesus can heal. Because of such faith, Jesus healed the centurion's servant. Just like in the Gospel, the parents of the young man had faith that Jesus would heal the young man, especially the young man's father who was not a Catholic or even a Christian at that time. Because of such faith, the young man was healed.

What can we learn from this? When we have faith in God, God can make many things possible. All we need to do is to trust and believe that God will help us, not according to our time and our way, but in His time and His way. May we have faith like that centurion, a faith that continues to rely and trust in God’s power even if things do not happen the way we want and the time we expect.

Saturday 17 June 2023

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

When we look at our identity, what comes to mind? Some think that identity means the name given to us. Others think that identity refers to our status or popularity. But what is our identity? Who are we really? We are, as the First Reading reminds us, “a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.” Such an identity may make us feel great or even proud. But the reality is that this identity is given to us not merely as an honour, or to “syiok sendiri” or a privilege. This identity is given to us with terms and conditions: it comes with responsibility and mission. In today’s Gospel, we are called by Jesus to take up responsibility and mission and become the labourers in his vineyard: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.” Notice that we are called to become labourers in his vineyard, and this means each and every one of us are called, not just the priests and the religious.

When it comes to receiving titles and positions such as a Datuk, or Tan Sri, or even Tun, many of us are more than happy to do so. Many of us are also more than happy to receive other peoples’ respect and honour. But how many of us are actually prepared and willing to volunteer ourselves for the work that needs to be done? When the parish or the priests ask for volunteers; when we ask for support from parishioners, how many of us are willing to come forward and help? It seems as if many of us may be proud to be called a Catholic, or proud to be known as a son or daughter of God. But how many of us are prepared and willing to take up the challenge and responsibility of the mission, to be sent as labourers to his harvest? There are people who are always ready to complain and criticise, saying: this is bad; or that is bad, or this is how it ought to be done. There are people who easily give all sorts of suggestions: why don’t we do this or that? But how many people are prepared to do the carry out the tasks or mission, seeing it through with gusto and enthusiasm?

Jesus in today’s Gospel challenges us to participate in his mission to build up God’s kingdom: “to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.” When we work for Christ, we should not expect anything in return, such as praise, honour, or even benefits. In fact, we often receive criticism and some of us may even face persecution or even be put to death. Jesus in today’s Gospel also tells us: “You received without charge, give without charge.” Are we prepared to take up this challenge? Are we willing to be sent as labourers to his harvest?

Tuesday 30 May 2023

Saturday of Week 10 Year 1

We sometimes comes across certain persons or cultures that find it hard or even disrespectful to speak frankly. Such persons or cultures have been conditioned to think that the 'face' or 'saving face' is paramount, and that speaking frankly or telling it like it is could cause another person to "lose face" which is incomprehensible, unimaginable or even a taboo. This can lead to much miscommunication or misunderstanding, because one could never be too sure what such persons or cultures really mean, since a yes could mean a no or even a maybe.

As Christians, we too have a 'Christian culture' as shown in today's Gospel. The Gospel tells us: "Do not swear: All you need say is “Yes” if you mean yes, “No” if you mean no." When we swear, we may be trying avoid another from 'losing face' but in doing so, we may sometimes find ourselves unable to fulfil what we swore; or we may even end up telling lies. May we come to realise the importance of saying what we mean and meaning what we say, and all that we say and do, we give glory to God.

Saturday of Week 9 Year 1

We sometimes come across persons who do things to attract attention, or to gain popularity, fame or recognition from others. For example, we may have come across certain persons who are quite nasty towards others, but when a priest or even a bishop asks them to carry out a task, they suddenly appear to be friendly or docile, and they seem to go out of the way to get the task done, especially in front of the priest or bishop, perhaps with the hope of gaining brownie points or to get on the good side of the priest or bishop. But when the priest or bishop is not present, they go back to their nasty ways.

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? Do we perform a task only to gain brownie points or to get on the good side of what they think are important persons or persons of authority? 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?

Monday 29 May 2023

Saturday of Week 8 Year 1

In today's Gospel, we see an example of what happens to people who will not face the truth. They have to twist and wriggle and in some cases even tell lies in an attempt to save face, and in the end get themselves into an embarrassing position in which they have nothing to say or they end up saying even more silly things, or stupid things or nonsense. The person who will not face the truth has nothing but the prospect of a deeper involvement in a situation that renders him helpless and ineffective.

The question that we perhaps may want to ponder is this: do we want to live peacefully and joyfully in truth, or are we continuously preferring to live a lie? Why do some of us choose to live a lie when we have been reminded so many times that the truth will set us free, and a lie will continue to enslave us and could even cause us to ultimately lose our relationship with God? May we choose wisely which path we take, and be ready to face the consequences accordingly.

Thursday 16 February 2023

Friday of Week 6 Year 1

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us: "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to win the whole world and ruin his life? And indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life? For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

From the Gospel, we can see a few key qualities of being a follower of Jesus:

  1. If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. Here, a follower of Jesus chooses to renounce himself, takes up his cross, and follows Jesus. It is not enough to just renounce oneself, but one also needs to take up his cross and follow Jesus.
  2. But anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. Here, a follower of Jesus not only chooses to lose his life for Jesus' sake, He or she also chooses to do so for the sake of the gospel. Both Jesus and the gospel must be involved.
  3. For if anyone in this adulterous and sinful generation is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Here, one must be willing to stand up for Jesus and His words. If one is ashamed of Jesus' words, especially those words which may seem difficult to understand or accept, then how can one stand up for Jesus?
So as we can see, being a follower of Jesus is not so simple. Anyone can claim to be a follower of Jesus, but claiming to be a follower of Jesus means nothing if there is no action or personal sacrifice. May we strive towards being true and genuine in following Jesus completely, and give glory to God in all we say and do.

Saturday 28 January 2023

Saturday of Week 6 Year 1

In today's Gospel, Peter, James and John experienced the presence of God when they saw Jesus transfigured. They had never experienced their master in this way before. In the Gospel: "Then Peter spoke to Jesus: ‘Rabbi,’ he said ‘it is wonderful for us to be here; so let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ But things did not quite work out that way. They were only being prepared for what is to come. With Jesus they descended the mountain to the valley below and on to the garden of Gethsemane and Calvary. On the mountain, they didn’t want to leave. In the Garden of Gethsemane, they didn’t want to stay. When Jesus was arrested they all fled in fear.

We can all identify with the apostles because in our mountain-top experiences of joy and consolation we also want to stay. We want the experience to go on forever. And then in the moments of trial we want to flee. We forget that our Lord did not promise us a rose garden, but a garden of olives and a crown of thorns. We also forget that we need to face reality and go forth to proclaim the Good News, not just remain up in the mountain. The question we need to ask ourselves is: Are we still clinging on to the mountain top? Or are we willing to pick up our cross and leave to face the trials of the day.

Monday 16 January 2023

Saturday of Week 3 Year 1

Faith is something of a mystery, since there are times what is happening is not natural or logical to us. For example, we sometimes come across certain persons who seem to be in a hopeless situation, such as an illness or taken a bad turn in life and seem heading towards doom. But such persons do not give up or give in to their predicament, and place their faith in God to be healed and change for the better. Then when all seems lost, such persons actually recover, or change and turn into a new leaf.

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." What seems lost or doomed can actually be found or rescued, when we have faith in God and let Him take control. May we not despair or doubt, knowing that God will deal with the situation according to His purposes and for His glory.

Saturday of Week 2 Year 1

It is easy and convenient for some of us to become very calculative with our time and wealth. We begin to have a "what's in it for me" attitude, and whatever we do must be beneficial to us in one way or another. We begin to take on tasks or responsibilities which may be advantageous to us or to make us look good, and we expect to be recognised, rewarded and appreciated for our efforts. But is such attitude compatible to being a follower of Jesus? Are we really following the ways of Jesus, or are we becoming engulfed in the ways of the world?

In today's Gospel, Jesus was home. A crowd had gathered and Jesus could have been calculative in giving his time towards the crowd, since some would have thought that Jesus ought to have some privacy and rest. However, to Jesus, being generous knows no bounds or limits, especially when it comes to doing the will of God. Instead of being calculative, Jesus was generous even to the point where it hurts.

What about us? Are we able to follow Jesus's example or have we become more and more worldly in our attitude and behaviour? Have we become so calculative to a point that everything has a price and a purpose for our own benefit and gratification? May we come to realise that whatever we say and do ought to be to give glory to God, and not to boost our pride and ego or gain prestige.

Thursday 5 January 2023

7 January

“There is no more wine,” Mary says to her Son. It is neither a demand nor even a request. It is just a description of the situation at hand, which could turn out to be quite an embarrassing situation for the newly weds, and especially for the master of feast who ought to have been on top of things. She does not put Jesus in a spot. Nor does she pester Him to perform a miracle. She gives Jesus space to think and decide. She is very prudent, wise and considerate. Not only that, she knows her Son deep in her heart. Acting on her mother’s instinct at the first sign of Jesus’ willingness to deal with the situation, she immediately instructs the servants. “Do whatever he tells you,” and she does not interfere further.

Mary’s intercession clearly illustrates her role as our mediator to the Lord. She brings people to her Son and she lets Him take it from there. It also highlights her profound faith in Him - knowing fully well that whatever He tells us is wise, good, and just. When we pray and ask for Mary's intercession, let us pray with confidence and be ever ready to “Do whatever he tells you,” so that whatever we pray for will be to do His will and glorify His name.

7 January

It is very easy for us to get caught up with praying for all kinds of needs and wants, and we make much effort to pray persistently, asking God to grant our prayers. However, when our prayers are not answered, do we reflect on why our prayers are not answered? Or do we begin to think that God is not interested in our prayers, or even think that God is being very selective with answering prayers? Would some of us even give up trying to pray altogether, and turn to other so called deities for help?

In today's reading, we are reminded: "We are quite confident that if we ask the Son of God for anything, and it is in accordance with his will, he will hear us." Notice that the reading does not say that our prayers will be answered come what may, but if "it is in accordance with his will." This clearly shows that we need to pray in such a way that our prayer would jive with God's will, not our will. After all, when we pray the Our Father, we say: "Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done" and not "my Kingdom or my will." May we learn to pray earnestly to do God's will, and give Him the glory.