Thursday, March 26, 2015

5th Week of Lent, Friday, 27-03-15

Jeremiah 20:10-13 / John 10:31-42

There are so many similarities between what the prophet Jeremiah of the 1st reading went through and what Jesus suffered.

Both had so many enemies disparaging against them. Both felt terror from every side and suffered abandonment and humiliation, even from their friends.

Jeremiah called upon God to be his vindicator and to deliver him from the hands of evil men. He even hoped to see the vengeance that God will inflict upon his enemies.

That is also often our reaction to those who do evil and wickedness against us. Whether aloud or under our breath, we will call retribution upon these wicked people.

Like Jeremiah, how else can we react to the ungratefulness for the good we did. How else can we react for being blamed and punished even when we are innocent?

We may not want to admit it, but the thirst for vengeance has a deep root in us.

Jesus also believed in vindication. He believed that His Father is with Him always and will eventually glorify Him.

Yet, Jesus did not ask that vengeance be exacted on His enemies or those who abandoned and betrayed Him.

In fact, He forgave His enemies and those who did Him wrong. He didn't even asked that His enemies be punished.

So there is a difference between vindication and vengeance.

We need to believe that in the end God will vindicate us i.e., God will reward us for our faith and perseverance.

There is no need to ask for vengeance. If we are vindicated, what good will there be of vengeance?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

5th Week of Lent, Thursday, 26-03-15

Genesis 17:3-9 / John 8:51-59

Whenever Jesus uses the phrase "I tell you solemnly ... " it means that He is giving a serious teaching.

It means that what he is going to say must be remembered because it is going to mean a lot to us.

In the gospel, Jesus used this phrase twice.

Jesus said that whoever keeps His word will never see death.

And He also solemnly proclaimed that He is the "I AM" which is the mystical name of God.

God's Word, especially His promises, are eternal, and His Word also gives us the sure hope of eternal life.

Hence, even though we heard in the 1st reading that God made the promise to Abraham, yet Abraham never saw the fulfillment of the promise.

But believing in God who made that promise to him, Abraham knew that there would be life after death because the belief at that time was that the ancestors would have eternal life as long as there are descendants.

So Abraham and the prophets are not dead, as the people said in the gospel.

Yet, it is only in believing and keeping God's word that we will have life.

Jesus promised us that when we keep His word and walk in His ways, we will have life, here and hereafter.

Let us believe in Jesus because His word is spirit and life and they have the message of eternal life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Annunciation, Wednesday, 25-03-15

Isaiah 7:10-14 / Hebrews 10:4-10 / Luke 1:26-38

St. Augustine was quoted as saying: God does not ask of us the impossible. He may ask us to do the difficult thing, but He will make it possible.

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the proclamation of the Good News of salvation.

It is not only a joyful event, it is also a very profound event in God's plan of salvation.

Yet for Mary, it was not just an event; it was for her a mission.

And if she said "Yes" then it was going to be a life-long mission. And it was going to be difficult.

But God assured her it was not going to be impossible.

Mary put her faith and trust in God as she accepted her mission.

We live in difficult and fragile times. We have wars here and epidemics there and all sorts of things everywhere.

Trying to believe and live out the Good News is not only difficult, but seemingly impossible.

Believing that there can be peace that there can be joy, that there can be love, can be difficult.

But let this celebration of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Good News of our salvation, remind us that difficulty is not synonymous with impossibility.

We join Mary to say "Yes" to God because we want to believe that God is greater than any difficulty and impossibility.

Monday, March 23, 2015

5th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 24-03-15

Numbers 21:4-9 / John 8:21-30

For some kind of understanding between persons or between people to happen, there must be a common factor or a common denominator.

For e.g. in Singapore, where there are many races with their own languages and dialects, there must be an official language.

The official language not only facilitates communication, but also in many ways, the official language promotes understanding and racial harmony.

In the gospel, Jesus did not speak a different language to His people.

Yet, as much as they heard Him, they did not understand Him or even misunderstood Him.

Maybe before the last word left the lips of Jesus, the people were already thinking of what to refute or retort.

We all know that this can never lead to a sensible communication or to a deeper understanding.

We may know who Jesus is. But more than knowing about Him, Jesus wants us to understand Him from the heart.

We don't need to be bitten by fiery serpents to know that He loves us deeply and that He wants us to be persons of love too.

When we understand who Jesus is, we will also understand the meaning of love and what it means to be a loving person.

With love in our hearts, we also join our nation in mourning for the founding father of our nation. May the sadness we feel in our hearts over the passing on of Mr Lee Kuan Yew unite us regardless of race, language or religion and continue the work for a society that is based on justice and equality and understanding  so as to grow and progress as a nation.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

5th Week of Lent, Monday, 23-03-15

Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 / John 8:1-11

The name Daniel in Hebrew means "My God is judge" or "My God is justice".

And true to his name, the prophet Daniel brought about God's justice and saved the innocent Suzanna from being executed.

When we talk about God's justice, we often see it as judgement, as in punishment for evil and vindication for good.

Indeed, the two evil men in the 1st reading got what they deserved for trying to harm an innocent woman in order to cover up their evil deeds.

In that sense, it is true that justice means judgement.

But God is a judge, not merely in the sense of passing sentence over our evil deeds.

The biblical understanding of God and His justice is that He looks at the good we do and the good that we are capable of doing.

Because God, in His justice, is essentially mercy and love.

He affirms our goodness with His mercy and love.

With His mercy and love, He increases our capacity for goodness.

Jesus is the true light that brings about God's love and mercy to us.

Let us open our hearts to the light of Christ and reflect it to others in order to help them do good and increase their capacity for goodness.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

5th Sunday of Lent, Year B, 22.03.2015

 Jeremiah 31:31-34 / Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 12:20-33

Whenever we come across this phrase “life-threatening situation” what would we think it would be?

It would certainly be one that would cause bodily harm or that our life is in danger from an external hostile and aggressive force.

One typical example would be that when we are walking alone in a dark alley and a robber jumps out and points a knife at us and growls with that typical line: Your money or your life!

In a situation like this we will have to make a snap decision as to whether it is our money or our life. We won’t have time to say – Let me think about it …

Or if the robber were to say – Give me all your money or I will cut off both your ears, we are certainly not going to bargain by saying “Does it have to be both?”

Whatever it is, let us pray that we won’t have to undergo such a traumatic experience of a life-threatening situation.

It is certainly not a joke when life is being threatened with a mortal danger.

We may not know when we are going to die but if death were to jump at us like a robber and stare at us in the face, then we have to make snap decisions.

It is then that we will realize how precious life is.

Today’s gospel passage begins with some Greeks approaching Philip with the request that they would like to see Jesus.

Probably those Greeks have heard about the great things that Jesus was doing and so they want to see who He is.

And so Philip and Andrew went to tell Jesus about this request.

And from there on we got a bit lost. Because Jesus didn’t give an answer to the request. He didn’t say yes or no, or that He was busy or that He will see them later.

He practically went on a monologue that begins with “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”.

If we were those two disciples, we would have reacted as they might have, with that “Huh?” kind of look. Just what are they going to tell those Greeks.

If those two disciples were confused by what Jesus said, then we have the advantage of context and perspective.

Because by now we should understand that Jesus was facing a life-threatening situation. 

His hour has come and He says that His soul is troubled. It is the agony in the garden told in a different way.

He was like talking to Himself and asking Himself if He should ask the Father to save Him from this hour. 

And He answered His own question – But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour.

So by now we should understand what Jesus meant by saying that unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain. 

By now we should understand what Jesus meant when He said that anyone who loves his life loses it and anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life.

For Jesus, His life was precious to Him. And as He sees death approaching, His soul is troubled. He is distressed by it.

But as He teaches us to die to ourselves, then He too must show us how to do it.

Jesus indicated the kind of death he would undergo when He said – And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself.

Indeed by dying on the cross, Jesus showed us the meaning of life.
A wise man was asked this question – What is the greatest difficulty in life? 

His answer is this – To have no burden to carry.

It may sound rather intriguing, but not to have any burdens in life to carry is like saying that life has no meaning to live for.

Over the past week, we would be anxious, or at least concerned over the medical condition of a politician.

Known as the founding father of the nation, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew’s medical condition had deteriorated and many Singaporeans had expressed their well-wishes and prayers for him.

There is a line that he wrote in his book “Hard Truth”: I have spent my life, so much of it, building up this country. At the end of the day, what have I got? A successful Singapore. What have I given up? My life.

A Singaporean posted this reflection – “My late father raised me. My Church fathers guide me. The founding father had given me a nation to call home.
The first gave me life. The second teach me to live. The third, he gave me a living.”

The point is clear. When we give up our lives for others, when we carry their burdens, and offer our lives as a sacrifice for others, then we are indeed following Jesus who came to serve and not to be served.

The life-threatening danger is that we choose otherwise – we want to be served and not to serve.

To have no burdens to carry is indeed the greatest life-threatening danger.

There is no need to think about it. If we truly believe in Jesus, then we will do like He did. 

We will offer our lives for the salvation of others, as well as for our own salvation.

Friday, March 20, 2015

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 21-03-15

Jeremiah 11:18-20/ John 7:40-52

One of the most convenient ways to come to a conclusion is to make an assumption.

In logic, an assumption is a proposition that is taken for granted, as if it were true based upon presupposition without preponderance of the facts.
So whether it is a correct or an incorrect assumption, we usually begin by saying "I think ..."

But when the assumption is wrong, then the conclusion is also wrong.

In today's gospel, there were a lot of assumptions made about Jesus and specifically about His identity.

In the midst of these assumptions, an unexpected challenge came from Nicodemus.

He challenged the people to give Jesus a hearing and to discover for themselves who Jesus was.

But the assumptions far outnumbered and eventually drowned out the challenge.

We too have our own assumptions about who Jesus is. We also need to verify our assumptions about Jesus.

It is about moving from "I think that Jesus loves me" to saying "I know that Jesus is loves me".

We also need to be careful about making assumptions. For as the 1st reading puts it: But You, Lord of hosts, who pronounce a just sentence, who probe the loins and heart.

Making assumptions are not just out of convenience; we may not want to face the facts that are within us.