Friday, October 31, 2014

All Saints Day 2014

Rev 7:2-4, 9-14 / 1 Jn 3:1-3 / Mt 5:1-12

Today's feast of All Saints proclaims a very profound teaching on the spiritual authority of the Church.

With the authority bestowed on her by Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes the bold declaration of the names of those who have attained the reward of heaven.

There are over 10,000 canonized saints and just recently, we also witnessed the canonization of St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II.

When the Church officially canonizes a person to be a saint, the Church also declared that the person is in heaven and in the presence of God.

This feast is also for us a feast of awareness and closeness - an awareness of the spiritual world, and the closeness, the communion, of those saints with us.

As people of God and people of faith, we believe that the saints are canonized not for their own honour but for the glory of God.

And to some of these saints are given a particular mission. For example, on Tuesday, we celebrated the feast of St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of desperate and helpless cases.

And then for lost articles, we turn to that famous saint, St. Anthony of Padua.

And as for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who is our patron saint, she is also the patron saint of the missions and also of florists.

The awareness of the saints and their particular missions will also lead us to be in communion with them.

Because their main heavenly mission is to help us on our earth journey to live the life of holiness and to do the will of God and to grow into a deep love for God and neighbour.

The Beatitudes that we heard in the gospel is the expression of the lives that the saints lived while on earth, and it is also the life that we are called to live.

And as much as the saints want to pray for us, we must ask them for their intercession.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus said in her autobiography that she will let fall from heaven a shower of roses, and that she will spend her heaven doing good on earth.

Yet, she can't do that without our asking her. And neither can any of the saints or even all the saints in heaven do anything for us without our asking.

It is only when we ask them for their intercession, then they can bring our prayers before God.

Yes, we have the power to call upon their intercession, for they cannot do anything for us without our asking.

So let us have a deep devotion to the saints and to ask for their intercession as we journey on in faith to join them in heaven.

The mission of the saints in heaven is best expressed by what St. Therese said: I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.

Indeed, they are in the best "position" to do so. That is the spiritual reality as we celebrate All Saints Day.

And so, for the saints and with the saints, let us give thanks to God, and may the saints help us live holy lives.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 31-10-14

Philippians 1:1-11 / Luke 14:1-6

A telescope, as we know, gives an enlarged view of a distant object.

But that depends on which end of the telescope we are looking through.

Because looking through the wrong end would greatly reduce the size of the object.

Hence, the two different ends of the telescope give two completely opposite views of reality.

In the gospel, the Pharisees seemed to have looked through the wrong end of the telescope and they only saw a narrow, restrictive picture of reality.

They were like saying: To heal is to work, and to work is to violate the Sabbath. See for yourself, look through our telescope!

But when Jesus offers them a view from the other end of the same telescope, they were reluctant to see it; they were silent, because for them there was only one way of looking through the telescope, there was only one way of looking at things and it was their way.

So we can imagine how frustrated and annoyed Jesus was with the Pharisees, to say the least.

Surely Jesus was anguished to see their obstinacy.

Our obstinacy will also cause frustration and anguish and even sorrow in others.

All because we stubbornly refuse to look at things from another point of view.

We only have to let go and ask God to help us see wider and clearer; then we will become wiser.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 30-10-14

Ephesians 6:10-20 / Luke 13:31-35

To fall in love is a beautiful experience. To fall out of love is a lousy experience.

To be in love, however, requires more than just an experience ; it requires a decision.

Because true love and unconditional love require a decision to be in love and to keep loving regardless of the situations and circumstances.

Indeed, to be in love requires a decision, which has to be renewed day by day, and hour by hour, and minute by minute.

But if falling out of love is a lousy experience, then unrequited love is indeed a very painful experience.

In fact, the bitterest tragedy in human life is to give your heart totally to the other party only to have it refused and broken.

That was the experience of Jesus as He laments over Jerusalem. For Jesus, it is not just unrequited love, but also they were going to kill Him if He were to continue with His journey of love.

So Jesus could have given up loving us because of the danger and the rejection. Why did He continue His journey of love all the way to the cross?

It is because God loves us unconditionally and Jesus is the love of God who came to give up His life as a ransom for us.

So nothing can come between us and the love of Christ and nothing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ.

So what kind of response we are going to give to God's love for us depends on us now.

Whatever it is, we have to make a decision to respond to God's love or reject it outright.

We have to exercise our human freedom of choice. Human freedom is awesome. Yet it is also supremely wonderful when we freely decide to love God and love others.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 29-10-14

Ephesians 6:1-9 / Luke 13:22-30

In a written exam, usually there is the question and the answers are marked according to how well the question is answered.

If we think that is difficult, then how about the other way round - the answer is stated, and we have to provide an appropriate question for it.

That may be more difficult, because very often finding the right question is more difficult than finding the right answer.

In the gospel, we heard about someone asking Jesus this question: Will there be only a few saved?

And from the answer Jesus gave, we know that the question needs some rethinking.

Jesus only said what kind of people will be there in the kingdom of God.

It is those who dedicate themselves to the Kingdom of God who will be in heaven.

The 1st reading also stated a particular group of people who will be saved.

They are children who are obedient and honour their parents.

It even highlighted that it is a commandment that has a promise attached to it.

So the answers to salvation and eternal life can be found in the Bible.

It is for us now to ask ourselves some questions about what we want to do with the answers that we have.

Because the answer is as important as the question.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles, Tuesday, 28-10-14

Ephesians 2:19-22 / Luke 6:12-19

Not much is known about the two saints whose feast we celebrate today.

Simon was called the Zealot probably because of his zeal for the Jewish independence before he was called by Jesus.

Jude or Thaddeus is the author of the letter in the New Testament in which he warned Christian converts against false teaching and immorality.

He is also venerated as the patron of "impossible cases"

Traditional sources had it that both of them were together in their missionary work in Persia and there they were martyred.

Both of them also tell us something about the people Jesus chose to be His disciples.

Both of them, as well as the rest of the apostles, were insignificant people from insignificant backgrounds.

But both of them had  a purpose in God's plan of salvation.

Both of them became zealous for Christ and for the Kingdom and they also became channels of God's grace for those who were seeking God's love and forgiveness, or when they seek God's help when their problems in life seemed hopeless or impossible even.

We may think that we are insignificant persons and hence we think we have no purpose in God's plan of salvation.

But let us ask for the prayers of St. Simon and St. Jude that we will discover our purpose in life and also our purpose in God's plan of salvation.

We may be insignificant but it does not mean that we are impossible. Because with God, everything and everyone is possible.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27-10-14

Ephesians 4:32 - 5:8 / Luke 13:10-17

If we had seen someone when he was a little baby and then the next time we saw him was when he was 18 years old, we would be amazed at his growth and development.

We will be amazed at how much can happen during the period of 18 years.

We may even say that 18 years just passed by just like that and that baby has become a fine young man.

But for the enfeebled and double bent woman in the gospel, 18 years did not pass by just like that.

And things did not get better along the years; in fact it may have gotten worse and worse with each passing year.

It may not be the story of just that woman in the gospel.

We too may have been bent with pain - physical, emotional, spiritual. We feel burdened and hence we too are unable to stand firm and upright.

Jesus came to lift us up from the pains and burdens of life so that we can raise our minds and hearts in thanksgiving to God.

Physically, we may stand upright, but emotionally and spiritually, we may be double bent and the only thing that we can see is the dirt and the sludge on the ground.

Let us ask Jesus to heal us and lift us up. He will do for us what He did for the woman in the gospel because He is our Healer and Saviour.

We don't have to wait another 18 years. We don't want to suffer that long. Nor does Jesus want to see us suffer for that long either.

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.