Thursday, August 25, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-08-16

1 Cor 1:17-25 / Matthew 25:1-13

The term "simple truths" may give the impression that truth is simple enough to be immediately understood.

That may be the case in a logical truth, like the saying "what you sow is what you will reap". This is clear and simple enough as a truth of life.

But there are also other simple truths that require some reflection in order to understand what that truth is.

Because what initially seems to be foolish from the human perspective may actually have the seeds of divine wisdom.

As St. Paul said in the 1st reading, the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed in terms of philosophy because the language of the cross is illogical from the human perspective.

The Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, and hence the crucified Christ does not make sense to them.

Yet, the foolishness of the cross is the power and wisdom of God, for God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

But to understand this, we have to look at the cross and the crucified Christ as the supreme expression of God's love for us.

When we understand how much God loves us, then we would want to be like lighted oil lamps which shine through the darkness of foolishness in search of God's wisdom.

Then we will also be willing to be like the oil that is being offered to be burnt and give out light for others. And that is indeed true wisdom.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 25-08-16

1 Cor 1:1-9 / Matthew 24:42-51

Quite often we hear this phrase: History repeats itself.

But does history repeat itself? How can history repeat itself?

We can't go back to the stone-age and start life all over again.

No, history does not repeat itself. But the mistakes that were made in history tend to surface again and in a new packaging.

There were many moments in the history of humanity when modern man became like stone-age man.

Just to name a few: World War I, World War II, the Nazi holocaust, Bosnia genocide, Kosovo Conflict, Rwanda genocide.

And many more will be added to the list as the mistakes of history keep surfacing again and again.

Yes, the list of ugly moments of the history of humanity will continue to lengthen as long as we don't heed the call of Jesus to stay awake and to be vigilant.

Because the degradation and destruction of mankind begins with the corruption of the self.

It is the corrupted self who forgets that he is just a creature and a servant, and will one day stand before the Creator to account for his deeds.

Yes we must keep alert and stand ready.

The 1st reading reminds us that while we are waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ, it is He who will keep us steady and without blame until the last day.

Meanwhile as we journey towards that last day, let us make a history of mankind that is known for its beauty and not to make it ugly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, Wednesday, 24-08-16

Apocalypse 21:9-14 / John 1:45-51

St. Bartholomew was one of the twelve Apostles called by  Jesus, and he was listed among the Apostles in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

He is usually identified as Nathaniel in the gospel of John as we have heard in the gospel passage.

He was introduced to Christ through St. Philip, another of the twelve apostles, and in their dialogue, we can see that the enthusiasm of St. Philip was met with the skepticism of Nathaniel.

Even though he didn't think much good can come out of Nazareth and Jesus, yet he accepted Philip's invitation to go along and see this person called Jesus.

And when Jesus saw him, He affirmed his frankness when He said that Nathaniel deserved the name "incapable of deceit".

And more than that, to be "under the fig tree" is a figure of speech to mean that one is reading and meditating on the Law.

So in essence, Nathaniel was a straight-talking and frank person. Yet he was one who keeps faith with the Lord and His Law.

So Nathaniel, or St. Bartholomew, tells us something about what we should be as disciples of Christ.

We may have our doubts or maybe we are skeptical about some things in life and maybe also about our faith.

Yet like St. Bartholomew, we need to be open to the mystery of life, and what we don't understand immediately cannot be thrown out immediately too. We need to "come and see".

Also we need to speak the truth always, and it's the truth that is rooted in Jesus.

Because openness to the truth, and living by the truth, will enable us to understand deeper the mysteries of heaven.

Monday, August 22, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-08-16

2 Thess 2:1-3, 14-17 / Matthew 23:23-26

Whenever we watch a movie or a tv series, or read a book, we should be feeling the build-up of the story line and the excitement and tension.

We won't want to go to the ending first and see or read what it is all about, and then begin watching the movie or the series or begin with the first pages of the book.

Yet, there is always this curiosity and impatience in us that want to know what the ending is.

But to give in to this curiosity and impatience would rob us of the experience and meaning of journeying through the movie or the book.

Going through life is very different from watching a movie or reading a book. We can never know the ending until we get there. So each moment in life is an experience to behold and to be treasured.

That is what the 1st reading is saying - as much as we know that there will be an ending, yet we don't have to hasten it or even leave everything aside and just wait around for it.

What is important is to ask God to strengthen us in everything good that we do or say so that every moment in life is a loving and joyful moment.

And the gospel would highlight a couple of areas in life that would require this goodness - the practice of justice, mercy and good faith.

And equally important are also the virtues of purity and chastity. Good morality is a sign of a life lived in the goodness of the Lord.

So we don't have to be overly worried about the end. Each moment lived loving and joyfully is a preparation for the end and also for eternity.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Queenship of the BVM, Monday, 22-08-16

Isaiah 9:1-6 / Luke 1:26-38

We exalt and glorify Jesus Christ as the "King of kings, and the Lord of Lords".

So for the Church to confer onto Mary the title of "Queen" is certainly fitting, since at the Visitation, Elizabeth called Mary "mother of my Lord", and hence she is also mother of the King.

Indeed from the earliest Church traditions, Mary has been given the title "Queen" and subsequently "Queen of Heaven", and from that title there are other expressions of her queenship.

The feast is a follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast.

God assumed Mary into heaven, body and soul, and in doing so, He bestowed upon her the queenship of all creation, after Jesus Christ who is the King of all creation.

As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving His Father and His fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship by praying for us.

As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time, so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth and she continues to be the mother of the Church.

So as the Church celebrates the queenship of Mary, let us remember what she told the servants at the wedding at Cana - "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5)

But in order to do what Jesus is telling us, we have to have the spiritual sensitivity of Mary who knows what the will of God is for her and submits herself to it.

Let us consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart and unite ourselves in a devotion to her, be it the praying of the Rosary of other forms of Marian devotion.

And like Mary our Mother, we too will say with her: Let it be done unto me according to Your Word.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 21.08.2016

Isaiah 66:18-21 / Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 / Luke 13:22-30

Today the 2016 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, comes to a close. The Games started on the 5th August.

It is a major international multi-sport event with more than 11,000 athletes taking part and 306 sets of medals were given out.

The Olympic Games are held every four years and hence for some athletes, it’s a “now or never” opportunity.

And certainly it can be a great ecstasy to win a medal at the Olympics, and we Singaporeans knows how it feels as Joseph Schooling won for Singapore the first Olympic gold medal.

Singapore won only one medal but it was enough for an overwhelming celebration for our nation.

But let us also remember that Joseph Schooling had to overcome the disappointment of finishing last in the men’s 100m freestyle semi-finals, which was the other event that he competed. So winning the gold in the 100m butterfly in record time is really an achievement for him.

And if we think that Usain Bolt, aka “Lighting Bolt”, has always been the winner, well, he too knows how it feels to come in at last place in a race, although it was due to injury.

Still, to come in last on the world stage is like being an extra in a movie set; you are just there for decoration and it’s like self-humiliation.

In the gospel, Jesus said something interesting about being first and being last.

He said that those now last will be first, and those now first will be last.

He seems to be using a sporting competition as an analogy, where there is a first place and a last place.

And then He seems to be talking about a reversal of fortunes, where the first become last, and the last become first.

He could be talking about a race, a race of another nature, a spiritual race. 

As how 1 Cor 9:23-25 puts it - in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize. They run in such a way as to win the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.…

So it is a race where we want to win but it is not to be in the first position.

It is a race where from the last position we want to encourage others to go on ahead of us so as discover for themselves their own strengths and abilities.

It is a race where if there are others behind us, then we want to motivate them to be better than us so that they won’t feel dejected and rejected.

It is a race where we run but for a very different objective.

And it will take a lot of training in humility to see the spiritual objectives and to do it for a crown that is imperishable.

And this kind of spiritual training in humility is certainly not easy because it goes against our instinct to be in the first position and to be a winner, and not a loser.

But as the 2nd reading tells us: The Lord trains the ones that He loves and He trains all those that He acknowledges as His sons. 

Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as His sons.

The suffering that is part of our training is to help us let go of what is perishable so as to win what is imperishable. 

The race of life is a race uphill. To win it without a struggle is perhaps to win it without honour. If there were no difficulties, there would be no victories. If there is nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to achieve.

And the first race would be in our own thinking. Let’s say that there is a race and there are only three runners and you are one of them. 

You would want to go for the first position, the gold medal, and if not then it will be the silver.

Would you settle for the third position, the bronze medal, which is as good as being the last?

But to accept the third position means that you let two other people go ahead, and that is Jesus, others and then you – J,O,Y. Indeed there is joy in being third, or last. So it’s not about gold or silver or bronze. Rather it is about Jesus, others and then you. J-O-Y. That’s the joy of the race.

Joseph Schooling won an Olympic gold medal but he also brought joy to a 12-year old Pathlight student who dedicated a “mouse with medal” drawing to him.

For 12-year-old Jolie Lim, who is autistic, Joseph Schooling's historic win is an inspirational story about overcoming life's challenges. 

To express how she felt, Jolie produced an A3-sized drawing under the encouragement of her mother.

Jolie had hoped to meet Schooling to pass him the artwork during his victory parade on Thursday, but she had to sit for her PSLE exam in the morning.

After the exam, she and her mum could only rush down to Raffles City Shopping Centre, the last stop of the victory parade, at around noon. However, Jolie is afraid of crowds and was unable to catch a glimpse of the swimming star.

At her mother’s request, The Straits Times helped to pass on Jolie's drawing to Schooling's minders. The drawing, which took Jolie three hours to complete, depicts a mouse with a gold medal, beating its larger competitors including an eagle, a cat and a dog.

On Thursday night, Schooling responded in an 11-second video, thanking Jolie for her drawing. It was a simple gesture, but one that meant much to Jolie.

Schooling is a winner, but he also helps others to be winners. 

The joy of winning is when Jesus and others go before you. It’s a joy that all the medals in the world cannot give.

Friday, August 19, 2016

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 20-08-16

Ezekiel 43:1-7 / Matthew 23:1-12

Whenever it comes to a task, it is always easier said than done. Just looking at something that needs to be done, we may have ideas and give suggestions about how to do it.

But when it comes to carrying out those ideas and suggestions, it may be far from easy and simple.

Sowing a button back onto a shirt may seem simple. But when we can't find the correct needle or thread, then we will just be stuck with a seemingly simple task.

Doing a corporal or spiritual work of mercy may seem simple and we can talk and discuss about it and have profound reflections, but doing it can be another matter altogether.

So when we give ideas and suggestions, let us also put our hands on the task and feel for ourselves what is required of it. It may not be as easy as we think.

In the 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 practice what they preach.

When we don't practice what we preach, then we will just be giving a lot of ideas and suggestions and even comments and criticisms!

Let us be humble and let our actions speak and bring help to those in need.