Thursday, March 23, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 24-03-17

Hosea 14:2-10 / Mark 12:28-34

In our worship, we use very lofty and transcendent names for God.

We say prayers like "I confess to Almighty God ..." or "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty".

It is an expression of who God is and that we are His creatures.

Yet the image of an almighty God was reduced to that of a broken-hearted father who is pleading with his children to return to him, as the prophet Hosea put it in the 1st reading.

God was also portrayed as a father yearning for his children's love.

But how can!? How can God be portrayed as going down on His knees and pleading with His creatures?

Could not God have used His almighty power to work some spectacular signs and bring His people back to Him?

Or just give the ultimatum: Come back or else!

Surely He could. But of course God knows better.

God knows that a forced loved is not a true love.

True love comes from a freedom to love.

As Jesus puts it in the gospel - to love with all the heart, all the soul, all the mind and all the strength.

That is the kind of love that God has for us, and an everlasting love at that.

We know how to love Him in return - and that is by loving others.

God has made His choice to love us. It is now up to us to make our choice.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, 23-03-17

Jeremiah 7:23-28 / Luke 11:14-23

Whenever we say that history repeats itself, we are more inclined to think that it is the mistakes of the past that are repeated.

These mistakes only show that the present generation has not learned much from the preceding generation or from the past events of history.

This was also what the prophet Jeremiah was saying in the 1st reading.

Just about 120 years before, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been annihilated by Assyria.

And now, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was facing the same threat from Babylon.

And God was warning them through Jeremiah. But why were they not heeding? Why were they not listening?

If anything, it is not too much to say that the people did not love God.

Because one of the fruits of love is to listen.

Just like if we love our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends, we will listen to them with a heart of love.

Similarly, when we love someone, we will also speak to that person with a heart of love.

When we listen and speak with a heart of love, then with Jesus we gather others into the peace of God's kingdom.

It is either we gather people into the peace and love of God's kingdom, or we scatter and bring division.

There isn't a third option.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 22-03-17

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 / Matthew 5:17-19

Most homes and offices will have a storage room of some sort and of various sizes. Of course, the bigger the storage room, the more the items there can be.

Some of these items may be things of importance or they may just be ordinary things that we use now and then, or things that we just want to get out of the way and so the most convenient place to put them will be the storage room.

But the problem can be that we may not make a list of what we put in that storage room and also we may not be that discerning and hence, that room will be cluttered with things like boxes and brooms and whatever.

And after a while, we may not remember what we have put into that storage room and when we want to look for something we may also forget that we put it in that room.

Such can be said of our hearts and minds. There are so many things to remember and so many things to think about that after a while, even the important things like birthdays and anniversaries are forgotten.

In the 1st reading, Moses urged the people not to forget the things their eyes have seen, nor let them slip from their hearts all the days of their life. They must tell them to their children and even to their children's children.

In the gospel, Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to complete them.

In effect, He is reminding us of the Law of God that must be taught and kept in our minds and hearts.

The season of Lent is to help us remember what Jesus had taught us and to keep it and also to teach it to our children and also to our children's children.

Monday, March 20, 2017

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 21-03-17

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35

There is a prayer format that goes by acronym ACTS and it stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

That prayer format is interesting because it starts with adoration and supplication is at the end.

It is interesting because usually we would start with supplication, or petitions, first. We would launch our prayer first by asking for this and that.

It is not just a human tendency, but in a desperate time of need or in danger, we would be pleading with God for His help and deliverance.

In a desperate situation, we would even demand that God saves us immediately.

In the 1st reading, what Azariah prayed is indeed surprising. He and his companions Hananiah and Mishael were thrown into cauldron of fiery furnace to be burnt alive.

But he did not immediately launch into a desperate cry of help, instead he praised God for His mercy and admitted the sins of his people that resulted in such a dire state.

He continued by asking God to accept their contrite and humble hearts as an offering.

Of course, if we were to read the story further, we will know that God eventually delivered the three young men from the fiery furnace unharmed.

Azariah's prayer may not have followed strictly the formats of ACTS but he placed his petitions last and he praised God first.

So when it comes to forgiving someone who has done wrong to us and hurt us badly, it is not important to ask about whether we should forgive or how many times we ought to forgive.

Let us begin by praising God for His love and mercy, and admit that we have sinned against Him.

Then we will begin to understand what is meant as we pray "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us".

Sunday, March 19, 2017

St. Joseph, Spouse of the BVM, Monday, 20-03-17

2 Sam 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24 or Luke 2:41-51

There is something interesting about St. Joseph in the gospels.

The gospels described the character of St. Joseph, saying that he was a man of honour, and what he did for Jesus and Mary.

But nothing of what St. Joseph said was recorded in the gospels; just about what he did.

But that was enough for us. From the gospel accounts, we can also see that St. Joseph was of a strong character and a man of faith.

To quote a few instances: Joseph took Mary to be his wife even though he wasn't exactly sure how she became pregnant.

After the birth of Jesus, when Herod was persecuting them, he did not abandon mother and child for his own safety.

St. Joseph also had a keen ear for listening to the will of God, whether it was by dreams or through visions of angels.

So it was his actions that spoke louder than any words.

It was by his actions that he showed his faith and trust in God.

Indeed, as we honour St. Joseph, we must learn, not only from his actions, but also from his silence.

Most of all, let us learn to do God's will, as St. Joseph did.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year A, 19.03.2017

Exodus 17:3-7 / Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 / John 4:5-42

There are some phrases in the English language that we have heard of that sound rather odd. And if we don’t know the meaning, then it would be really amusing.

One such phrase is “to kick the bucket”. It means, bluntly speaking, to die. So, if we say that a person has kicked the bucket, it means that the person has died.

But if we don’t know what “kick the bucket” means, then we might wonder or even ask if the foot was injured.

There are many theories of how that phrase came about. One of those theories was that it originated from the Catholic practice of putting a bucket of holy water at the feet of a dead person so as to bless the body after prayer. But what has it to do with kicking the bucket, that wasn’t clear.

Another term that is connected with “kicking the bucket” is this “bucket list”. The meaning is quite obvious: before one kicks the bucket, one would make a bucket list, i.e, a list of things to do before one dies.

So, instead of saying what the things you want to do before you die, you can just simply say that you have a bucket list. (Sounds nicer right?)

So, do we have a bucket list? And what is in that bucket list? 

It may not be about going to the moon and exploring outer space, but it may be about looking into our hearts and to have inner peace.

Today’s gospel passage is commonly called “the Samaritan woman at the well”. And there is even a hymn about it that goes like this: Like the woman at the well I was seeking, for things that could not satisfy. And then I hear my Saviour speaking, “Draw from my well that never shall run dry.”

This Samaritan woman is interesting as well as mysterious. She is not known by name; she came to draw water at the sixth hour, which is around noon time, and that is the hottest time of the day in that region.

That already tells us that she wanted to avoid people and that her reputation in the town was on everyone’s lips.

She had a bucket with her to draw water, that was when she encountered Jesus and He asked her for a drink.

And with that a discussion about water began between Jesus and her, and then she got interested about the living water so that she may never be thirsty and never have to come to the well again to draw water.

And that was literally her bucket list: that she may never be thirsty again and never have to draw water from the well again.

And Jesus wanted to fulfill her wishes, on one condition – to call her husband here. 

And that was when her bucket started leaking. Jesus had told her everything she had done. She could decide to continue the conversation, or she could tell Jesus to mind His own business.

And here we must give credit to that Samaritan woman for her courage and humility to face Jesus even though she could be embarrassed and ashamed about herself.

And for that she had her bucket list granted, although not in the way she had expected. Because she forgot about her thirst and even hurried back to the town to tell the people about Jesus, the very people she had wanted to avoid. She would still be thirsty and she would still have to come to the well to draw water. But something had changed.

That was the Samaritan woman at the well, and her bucket had a new meaning for her.

And what about us? What is in the bucket of our hearts and do we want to show it to Jesus?

The Samaritan woman in today’s gospel in a way reminded me of a lady who was going through the RCIA journey. I remembered this lady because her attendance in the journey was not that regular because of one issue after another.

There is usually an interview before baptism when I have to ask the catechumens about their decision for baptism.

When this lady came to see me for the interview, I asked her if she wanted to be baptized, and I half-expected her to say that she was not ready for it.

To my surprise, she said, “Yes, I want to be baptized.” And of course I asked why.

Her reply was astonishing and amazing. She said, “I want to be baptized because now I am not afraid to die.”

She explained that one day, her young son looked troubled. When she asked him what was the matter, what her son said shocked her.

Her son said, “I don’t want mummy to die, and I am also scared to die.” Probably he had seen a movie or read something about death and loneliness.

That set her thinking and searching. She came to the RCIA, heard about Jesus, came to know about life after death, and about the eternal life that Jesus wants to offer her.

So despite the issues that hampered her from a regular attendance at RCIA, she heard enough for her to have an answer to death and about life hereafter.

So after hearing her story, what else can I say but a “Yes” for her baptism.

That brings us back to look at our bucket list. What is it that we are looking for and seeking for?

All things will come and go but Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Only Jesus can give us that living water that will turn into a spring and welling up to eternal life.

May we long only for that living water that only Jesus can give. 

Only that can fill up the bucket of our hearts.

Friday, March 17, 2017

2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, 18-03-17

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 / Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

Based on anecdotal evidence, we can say that there is a black sheep in every family.

Usually that is referred to one of the children. That particular child is always out of step with the rest and seems to be marching to a different tune.

That 'black sheep' is the bane and the burden of parents.

Some parents will resort to renouncement of the relationship with that child, others will resort to punishment which may actually be just a way of venting out their frustrations on the child.

In today's gospel parable, we hear of yet another way of dealing with the 'black sheep'.

The father gave in to his younger son's request, but yet further on in the parable, we hear of the father waiting and looking out for him to return.

What made the son came to his senses was that he recalled how kindly his father treated his servants. That was enough for him to get moving.

No matter how far a person has gone over to the dark and destructive side, the memories of love and kindness and goodness can never be erased from him.

It is these memories that will make a person come to his senses and bring him back to the light.

So when we come across the odd one, the black sheep, the sinner, let us be the reflection of God's love to that person.

The 1st reading describes God taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger for ever but delighting in showing mercy.

Let us be that image of God for others to help them come to their senses and return to God.