Saturday, October 25, 2014

30th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 26-10-2014

Exodus 22:20-26 / 1 Thess 1:5-10 / Matthew 22:34-40

There was a piece of news during this week that may not have caught our attention, but it may be of concern to our children.

It's about the schools. A total of 52 schools will get new principals next year.

A new principal would probably mean that the school will embark on a new vision, a new mission and maybe a new direction.

But whatever new things that may happen in a school that has a new principal, the fundamentals won't be changed that much.

Because the fundamental purpose of a school is to provide education for its students.

And the task of the principal is to ensure that the teachers will teach the students well.

It is said that the best teachers are those who show the students where to look, but won't tell them what to see.

In other words, a good teacher will let the students discover what they need to learn.

But there are times when what the student discovers and learns may need some realignment.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching her class about the 10 Commandments in preparation for their First Confession (8 year-olds)

After explaining the Commandment to "honour thy father and mother" she asked the class, " Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?"

Immediately one boy puts up his hand and answered, "Thou shall not kill."   : 0

If we had grown up with siblings, we probably would have agreed with that boy.

And we may have to admit that some people are such a pain for us that we would have done something drastic if not for that commandment.

In the gospel, we heard that the Pharisees asked Jesus about which is the greatest commandment of the Law.

The Pharisees were such a pain for Jesus. As if they don't know what is the greatest commandment of the Law.

But they asked that question not so much for discussion but rather to disconcert Jesus.

To disconcert is to upset or to frustrate or to ruffle or irritate someone. It's certainly not a nice thing to do to someone.

And Jesus could have given those Pharisees a piece of His mind just to shut them up, just as He had silenced the Sadducees earlier.

But being a good teacher, Jesus showed them where to look , and He left it to them to see whatever they want to see or whatever they have to see.

The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

And then it is followed by this: You must love your neighbour as yourself.

So to love God is to see God in your neighbour and that would also mean to see yourself in your neighbour.

Jesus told the Pharisees where to look, but what they want to see is for them to choose and decide.

So we are also told where to look. And what do we see?

As for Jesus, He saw that it would be more loving to give those Pharisees  a bit of His heart than to give them a piece of His mind.

We too would be happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

But when we look at the people around us, those at home, those at work, those in Church, it would be easier to give them a piece of our mind than a bit of our heart.

And here lies the lesson of life - Nothing and no one ever goes away until they teach us what we need to know.

God doesn't give us the people we want. He gives us the people we need - people who will hurt us, people who will leave us, but also people who will help us and people who will love us, so as to make us into the persons we were meant to be.

When we can see that, then we would have understood the lesson of life.

And with that, we will be able to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.

Friday, October 24, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 25-10-14

Ephesians 4:7-16 / Luke 13:1-9

As we look at our world, we may notice a certain disparity.

There are the first world countries, i.e. the developed countries, and then there are the developing countries, and then there are the third world countries.

Some people have come up with this weird thinking that God had blessed the first world countries and left out the underdeveloped countries.

Maybe that idea is implicitly connected to the age-old thinking that misfortune has a certain connection with sin.

It is because of this sin that a person or a nation forfeits God's blessings.

In today's gospel passage, Jesus out-rightly rejects this sort of thinking.

Yet, Jesus went on to say that if His listeners do not repent, then they too will perish.

In other words, a person or a nation that rebels against God is on the road to disaster.

Hence, we have to always look back at the spiritual values of faith and morality.

For us Catholics, the urgency is even greater.

As the 1st reading puts it, each one of us has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.

We should not be tossed one way or another and carried along by every wind of false teaching or deceit.

Rather we should live by the truth and in love so that we shall grow in all ways into Christ.

When we grow in all ways into Christ, then our lives would not be fragmented nor will there be any disparity in our lives.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 24-10-14

Ephesians 4:1-6 / Luke 12:54-59

Drawing parallel lines may not be that difficult when it is drawn on a small piece of paper.

But drawing parallel lines may become more difficult when it is drawn on a large area, e.g. in a room or in a field.

The distance between the two lines has to be consistent, otherwise at one end they will begin to intersect and at the other end they will be further and further apart.

This principle about parallel lines may be simple enough to understand and it is clear enough for us to see if lines are parallel or not.

But when it comes to making decisions in our lives and doing the will of God, it may not be that clear to us and we will certainly need some help with this.

And we already have the help. There is the Bible in which the ways of God are revealed to us. There is the Church teachings that helps us understand the context we are in. There are the stories of the lives of saints that will help us see a similar pattern in the way they answered God's call.

The 1st reading also gives us some foundations of the Christian life: bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience.

So we already have all the resources to help us live a life worthy of our Christian calling.

Let us use these resources to interpret the signs that God is giving us and to make the right judgement and decisions.

Then our lives will run parallel with the will of God and may we be able to help others do the will of God.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-10-14

Ephesians 3:14-21 / Luke 12:49-53

The difference between school and life is that school teaches you lessons and then gives you a test; life would give you a test and then you learn the lessons.

While in school, life seems so simplistic and idealistic and we are quite optimistic in our outlook on life.

But the reality sinks in when we face the hard knocks and hard landings in life and we become realistic and stoic and maybe even get rather pessimistic about life.

In the gospel, Jesus was as realistic as He could be when He said to His disciples: I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already.

And He even added on by saying: There is a baptism I must still receive, and how great is my distress till it is over.

If what Jesus said is not alarming, then at least it should be puzzling, because isn't He the Prince of Peace who came to bring people together and to be reconciled with God?

The truth of what Jesus is saying is that life is not as simple and ideal and perfect as we would like to imagine it to be.

His fire of truth burns away our false perceptions of life and of the world and puts us to the reality test.

But it is with faith that we will learn the lessons of life. And it is also with faith that, as the 1st reading puts it, we will be able to grasp the length and breadth, the height and the depth of the meaning of life.

Faith will help us understand what school has taught us and what life has shown us. But it is with the love of Jesus that we will know what all that means to us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 22-10-14

Ephesians 3:2-12 / Luke 12:39-48

It is said that the best way to avoid disappointment is not to expect anything from anyone.

That may be practical enough if we want to live our lives not bothering about anyone and also not wanting anyone to bother us.

But the fact of life is that we live with others. And in living with others, then they will bother us and at the same time we will also bother them, whether we like it or not.

And that would also mean that they would expect something from us and we will also expect something from them.

In the gospel Jesus said that we must stand ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour we do not expect.

So Jesus is expecting us to be ready at all times, and yet we cannot expect Him to tell us when He is coming. And to make it even more unnerving, He tells us that He will come at an hour we do not expect (Sigh!)

But if we understood what the 1st reading tells us then we would not be afraid or feel stressed about when Jesus will come.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells us that we have been given the Holy Spirit for our inheritance, and that it is according to God's plan from all eternity that we should be bold enough to approach God in complete confidence through our faith in Jesus.

So it means that God is expecting us to come to Him at any time we want. He will always be ready for us and He will not disappoint us especially when we turn to Him in our need.

So there is no need to wait for the Lord. He is waiting for us. So let us communicate with the Lord always. He is waiting for us, and He is expecting us.

Monday, October 20, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-10-14

Ephesians 2:12-22 / Luke 12:35-38

There are many wise sayings concerning the virtue of patience, and here is yet another one.

Patience is not about how long someone can wait. It's about how well they behave while they wait.

An example would be when a loved one is away for a long period of time. While waiting for the return of the loved one, there will be many options available.

While waiting, there can be an involvement in another relationship (otherwise called two-timing). Or flirting. Or cheating even.

Or simply just lovingly keep on waiting until the loved one returns. That would be what true love is.

And that is also Jesus is saying in today's gospel. Those who wait for their master's return can only do it faithfully when they wait lovingly.

And their reward will be beyond their expectation - their master will even serve them upon his return.

If Jesus rewards so abundantly those who are faithful to him, then how do we ourselves treat those who have been faithful to us?

Do we at least make it known to them that their faithfulness to us is a treasure to us and that we can only hope to be equally faithful to them when the time calls for it?

Let us give thanks to the Lord for His faithfulness to us and for those who have been with us through thick and thin. They are indeed "God-sent".

Sunday, October 19, 2014

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-10-14

Ephesians 2:1-10 / Luke 12:13-21

It can be said that life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, without realizing that everyone has a different question paper.

Who among us can say that we never desired to be richer, higher and have more.

We get these desires not out of nowhere, but from looking at others and then wanting to get what they have and even be who they are.

In the gospel, Jesus has a teaching for us that will help us in looking at life when He says: Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man's wealth is not made secure by what he owns even when he has more than he needs.

Then He tells a parable about a rich man who had a bountiful harvest and made plans for securing his future with his wealth.

And he was called a "fool" because he thought that his wealth was the security for his soul, without realizing that his wealth may belong to him but his soul belongs to God.

We can say that the rich man failed in the exam of life because he was foolish enough to think that his wealth can save him.

But as the 1st reading will remind us, that is by the grace of Jesus Christ that we have been saved through faith. Not by anything of our own, but by a gift from God. Not by anything that we have done, so that nobody can claim the credit.

Let us not be so foolish as to fail in the exam of life. We must realize that there is no greater wealth in this world than peace of mind and that God loves us with so much love and He is so generous with His mercy that He has already given us a place in heaven.

We only need to be grateful and thankful to pass the exam of life.