Monday, July 28, 2014

Presbyterium Gathering 2014

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be away this week for the Presbyterium Gathering. 

As such, there will be no weekday homily postings for this week.  

The next homily will be for the 18th Ordinary Sunday. 

May God bless you!

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 28-07-14

Jeremiah 13:1-11 / Matthew 13:31-35

Our dressing has a significance in our lives. There are some who dress to impress and there are some who dress for success.

But by and large, our dressing has two purposes. We dress to show our respect for others and for the occasion that we are attending.

We also dress for modesty and for our dignity. Because sloppy dressing says a lot about the attitude and the character of a person.

Yes we care a lot about our dressing.  But not that much attention will be given to our internal dressing or our undergarments. Even saying it is rather awkward.

Yet that was the topic of concern in the 1st reading. But what God told Jeremiah to do with the loincloth had a deep spiritual significance.

And the point was so stark that not much is left to the imagination. As the Lord said: For just as a loincloth clings to a man's waist, so I had intended the whole House of Judah to cling to me, to be my people, my glory, my honour and my boast. But they have not listened.

Not much more needs to be said from what the message of the humble loincloth had already given. So even the internal dressing has a hidden significance.

The parables that Jesus told in the gospel passage also pointed out the hidden significance of the mustard seed and the yeast.

For the mustard seed to grow into a tree, it must have deep roots; for the flour to rise the yeast must spread all through it.

For us to grow in the spiritual life and to rise in virtue, we must cling to intimately to God. Otherwise our external appearance will have no significance at all.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 27.07.2014

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12/ Romans 8:28-30/ Matthew 13:44-52

Every now and then we may wonder what life is all about. If we have to answer that question again today, what will our answer be? What is life all about actually?

If we had seen the movie “Forrest Gump” (1994), in the beginning scenes, we may remember what he said to the lady when they were both sitting on the bench at the bus-stop.

“My mama always said: Life is like a box of chocolates; you’ll never know what you’re gonna get”.

That is so simple an illustration and yet so true, isn’t it?

Indeed, life is like a box of chocolates and you’ll never know what you are going to get.

You hope that it’s sweet but it may turn out to be bitter. Sometimes it melts in your hand before it could melt in your mouth.

And some chocolates are like fruitcakes – they have some nuts in them.

There is this joke about a tour bus driver who was driving a bus load of senior citizens. After a while a little old lady came up and offered him a small bag of peanuts, which he gladly munched up.

After a while, she came up again with another bag of peanuts, and after a while yet another bag.

Then the bus driver asked : Why don’t you eat the peanuts yourself? She replied: We can’t chew them because we have no teeth.

The puzzled driver asked: Then why do you buy them? She replied: We just love the chocolate coating on them, and we think that you might like the peanuts.

Well, life might be like a box of chocolates but you may not know where the peanuts came from.

But if we can enjoy the chocolate and also chew on the peanuts, then we are indeed happy.

So actually life is all about happiness. And yet life is also all about the search for happiness.

Some search for it in trying to strike the lottery or 4D. Some look for it in fast cars and living on the fast lane.

And in today’s gospel parables, happiness is in finding a hidden treasure and in a pearl of great value.

But the images of the parables point to a deeper reality and a deeper mystery, and that is the kingdom of heaven.

But the kingdom of heaven is not somewhere out there that is hidden and that we have to search for it.

The kingdom of heaven is here, and in fact it is within us, and happy are we when we realize it.

Yes, the kingdom of heaven is happening around us and even in us.

And the 2nd reading tells us that whatever is happening is turned to our good, turned to our happiness when we have love for God.

Recently something happened to my car and I wasn’t too pleased about it.

I was fetching my father to the hospital (he had passed on since) and in a moment of distraction, I scratched the side of the car against a pillar.

It was not a serious dent but it is quite unsightly and I intended to get it fixed.

Then I came upon this story that made me think about what happened in a different light.

The story is about a young and successful executive who was driving along a neighbourhood street in his new flashy sports car.

As he passed a side lane, he heard something smash into the car’s side door.

He immediately stopped the car and angrily got out and saw that it was a brick and it had caused a deep dent on the car door.

He looked around and saw a boy standing nearby and went up to him and grabbed his collar and shouted: What did you do that for? 
That’s a new car and that brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money!

The boy was quivering and said: Sorry sir, sorry. But I didn’t know what else to do. I threw the brick because no one would stop to help.

With tears streaming down his face, he pointed to the side lane and said: It’s my brother. He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.

Now sobbing, the boy asked the stunned executive: Would you please help me get him back on the wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me. 

Moved beyond words, the young executive tried to swallow the lump that is welling up in his throat. He lifted the handicapped boy to his wheelchair and a quick look told him that everything was okay.

The grateful boy then told the young executive: Thank you very much sir, and God bless you.

Too shook up for words, the young man simply watched the boy push his wheelchair bound brother down the lane and back home.

It was a long slow walk back to his sports car. The damage was quite obvious, but the young man never bothered to repair the dented car door.

He kept the dent there to remind him of this: Don’t go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at you to get your attention.

And neither am I going to fix that scratch on my car because it contains the memories of moments I had with my father.

Well, God won’t throw bricks at us or scratch our cars. Rather He whispers to our souls and speaks to our hearts to tell us what life is all about and what happiness is all about.

Life can be like a box of chocolates and you will never know what you are going to get.

But when we love God, then all things will happen for our good. 

And we will enjoy the chocolate, as well as the peanuts.

Friday, July 25, 2014

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 26-07-14

Jeremiah 7:1-11 / Matthew 13:24-30

Christians deplore the practice of superstition as it conflicts and contradicts the belief in God.

Included in the superstitious practices are consulting horoscopes, fortune-tellers and palm-reading, etc.

But few of us Catholics would admit to having religious superstitions.

For e.g., what are the real reasons for hanging the palm branch on the door post, drink holy water, wear holy medals, etc.

Of course there are valid religion reasons for these practices, but yet we can also concoct our own queer reasons for doing so.

The 1st reading pointed out that the people were using the Temple of the Lord as a kind of religious superstitious object by saying delusive words like "This is the sanctuary of the Lord."

The contradiction was that they know they were in the presence of God and yet they continue with their sinful ways.

Religion becomes a sort of superstition when we say we believe in God and come to church to obtain whatever religious articles and yet there is no change in our sinful ways.

The gospel parable highlights the sinful and superstitious practices in our lives but God is loving and merciful.

May the weeds of our sinfulness slowly diminish and may we produce a rich harvest of true love for God and neighbour.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

St. James, Apostle, 25-07-14

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 20:20-28

During His life on earth, Jesus singled out three apostles out of the twelve apostles to be with Him in the special and unique moments of His ministry.

They were Peter, John and James, whose feast day we celebrate today.

They were with Jesus in His healing ministry as well as at the Transfiguration.

Although James had the privilege of being in the inner circle of the apostles, he did not quite understand the mission and purpose of Jesus.

As we heard in the gospel, he and his brother John had ideas about getting special positions in the earthly kingdom that they thought Jesus was going to establish.

But for all his misconceptions, James wanted to be with Jesus.

He had found the one whom he wanted to follow, even though he had yet to understand fully that his Master came to serve and to eventually give His life as a ransom for many.

Nonetheless, in the end, St. James would be the first among the apostles to give up his life in witness to his Master.

So even though St. James was in the inner circle of the apostles, he was an earthenware jar that holds the privilege of being chosen by Jesus.

The 1st reading reminds us that like St. James, we are also earthenware jars holding the treasures of God.

Like St. James, let us pour out these treasures in love and service to God and neighbour.

We can only inherit the kingdom of God when we give up our lives for others.

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 24-07-14

Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13 / Matthew 13:10-17

Life is not as complicated as it might seem to be. Generally speaking, if we follow some of the basic rules in life then things can be quite clear.

For example some of the simple rules in life might be this:
If you never go after what you want, you will never have it
If you do not ask, the answer will always be no.
If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place.

One of the surprising statements in the 1st reading is this: The priests have never asked, "Where is the Lord?". Those who administer the Law have no knowledge of me. The shepherds have rebelled against me; the prophets have prophesied in the name of Baal, following the things with no power in them.

It must be remembered that the Lord brought His people out of slavery into a fertile country to enjoy its produce and good things.

They didn't ask for it; probably they didn't even dreamed of it. But when they had it, they took it all for granted and even abandoned and rebelled against God who provided for them.

And God had to use these words to describe what His people had done: stand aghast at this, stand stupefied, stand utterly appalled!

So eventually it was taken away from them. Because they don't have the love for God to give thanks for His blessings.

As Jesus said in the gospel: From anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But Jesus also said: For anyone who has will be give more, and he will have more than enough.

The fundamental rule of the spiritual life is to have love for the Lord and to give thanks for His blessings.

Then our eyes will see and our ears will hear all the good things the Lord wants to give us.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-07-14

Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10 / Matthew 13:1-9

Being a male is a matter of birth; being a man is a matter of age; but being a gentleman is a matter of choice.

Of course, similarly, being a female is a matter of birth; being a woman is a matter of age; and being a lady is matter of choice.

Having said that, the prophet Jeremiah whom we heard about in the 1st reading did not choose to be a prophet.

Rather it was God who chose him to be a prophet and it was even before he was formed in his mother's womb.

God's choice goes to show that He has a plan and that things happen for a reason because of that plan.

But it seems that the sower in the gospel parable had no plan. He seemed to be scattering the seeds everywhere - on the edge of the path, on patches of rock, among thorns and finally on rich soil.

That's futile sowing and it's also not productive. So actually the parable does not quite make sense.

Yet God's ways are not our ways; His thoughts are high above our thoughts; we don't understand His plan and what He wants us to do does not make sense.

But someday everything will make perfect sense. So for now, let's laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears and keep telling ourselves that everything happens for a reason. Simply because God has a plan for us.