Monday, September 24, 2018

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 25-09-18

Proverbs 21:1-6. 10-13 / Luke 8:19-21

The Old Testament is divided into a few sections. There is the Pentateuch or the Torah which is the first five books of the Bible.

Then there are the historical books, the prophetic writings and the wisdom books or wisdom literature.

The wisdom books consists of the Book of Wisdom, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), and Sirach.

The 1st reading is taken from the book of Proverbs and we may consider it rather easy reading because of its practicality and easy comprehension.

As we can see from the 1st reading, the truths of life are clearly and simply spelt out - act virtuously and with justice, be hardworking, be compassionate and charitable.

Yet, what is clear and simple may not necessarily be easy to carry out, as we are often fooled into thinking that what is simple is easy.

In the gospel, Jesus said that those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice are the ones who are closest to Him.

Yes, reading and hearing about the wisdom of life is one thing. Putting it into practice is another thing.

Certainly we want to live a meaningful and a God-centered life with the wisdom that is already found in the Bible.

May we become what we read, and in doing so may we become more and more Christ-like to others.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 24-09-18

Proverbs 3:27-34 / Luke 8:16-18

It is not very comfortable to know that you are being watched.

Even the feeling that you are being watched can be quite creepy.

With the emphasis on security concerns, there are closed-circuit cameras in public as well as private buildings and in lift-lobbies and corridors.

Yet as much as we know that we are being watched, we do not know who is watching us.

But being Christians, we must accept the fact that we are being watched whether we like it or not.

Because people will watch us when they know we are Christians.

They will look at us to see if we live up to our identity as Christians.

Yet Jesus did not tell us to be prepared to be watched by others.

In fact, He says that we should be like the light that makes people see.

As children of the Light and Truth, our thoughts, our words, our actions should be transparent, sincere and honest for all to see.

The 1st reading from the book of Proverbs gives directions in life that might sound rather basal and banal.

Yet these directions form the wisdom of life that ask us this basic question:

What will we choose to do if we know that no one is watching us?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 23.09.2018

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 / James 3:16 – 4:3 / Mark 9:30-37
When we were in primary school, especially in the lower primary, there were two ways to gauge our language proficiency.

One was spelling.  The teacher would dictate a word or a phrase, and we would scramble to spell it out.

As we moved on, we will come to composition. The teacher would give us a topic or subject to write on, with a quota of words, and with a given time limit.

Among the many topics that are given for composition, there was a common one, and the topic was:  What do I want to be when I grow up? What is my ambition?

Of course that topic was meant to help us to be imaginative and to think about our future career.

So there will be those who would say that they want to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, manager, and pilot.

The more imaginative and adventurous ones would say that they want to be a footballer, actor, singer, wrestler or even an undertaker (must be joking).

But jokes aside, nobody ever said they wanted to be the Pope, a priest, or a religious.

So it is interesting to see that even in primary school, we were already influenced and programmed to be ambitious, to be the best and nothing less, and to aim for the top.

Nothing really wrong with that actually, except that it is not just a cliché, but it is like a law in itself. Just like when it is said “When you drink, don’t drive”.  It is not a cliché; it is a law.

To be the top, to be the best, that is the unwritten but understood law of survival in our society.

Right from a tender age, we are programmed to go for No. 1. Nothing wrong with that, except that it can breed some bad attitudes.

Surely, as we all know, there is only a limited place at the top.

So inevitably, there will be competition, and the 2nd reading from the letter of St. James tells us of the consequences.

St. James said: “Whenever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony and wicked things of every kind being done.”

And then he moves to something more serious:  “Where do these wars and battles between yourself first start?”

And he points out:  “Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves!  You want something, and you haven’t got it, so you are prepared to kill, and to get your way by force.”

In a way, that was what the disciples were doing in today’s gospel. They were said to be arguing among themselves, but it encompasses jealousy, ambition and desires.

They were arguing among themselves to see which of them was the greatest. They too, like ourselves, were programmed to be ambitious, and to go for the top, even if it means pushing others aside, even if it means to step on others.

And Jesus took the opportunity of the situation to teach a lesson, a lesson of life.

A lesson in the form of a child. Putting a child in front of them, Jesus said:  “Anyone who welcomes a child in my name, welcomes me.”

To welcome means to be open; to welcome means to be teachable.

A child is open and teachable.  So the question is “What are we teaching our children?”

A catechist was recalling this instance when she overheard a young girl using a four-letter word (obscene).
So she thought she better have a word with her.  So she said:  Hey, where did you learn that word from? The girl replied: “From a movie.” “And why did you watch that movie?”
The girl replied, “My father was watching it.”

So what can we say?  If we mourn about the values of the young, it is simply that we are reaping what we have sown.  They are only doing what we have taught them.

The children are taught all the skills to make a living.  In school, the “Primary Threes” are taught how to use power point.

But if our children are just taught how to make a living but not how to live life, then it may just be power but no point.

So what values are we teaching our children?

Children learn a lot from story-telling.  So what stories are we telling our children?

Sometimes, the only stories we ever tell our children are ghost stories. But telling ghost stories only create fear in the hearts of children. And not only that, ghost stories glorify the devil.  It makes the devil look powerful. 

Yet, do we tell our children stories about Jesus, or stories about the saints?

Looking at the week ahead, there is the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. There are many inspiring stories about them that we can share with our children.

For example, the story of St. Raphael and how he was sent by God to the young Tobias to guide him and help him along the thorny difficulties and also brought healing to the eyes of the older Tobias.

So archangels also teach us and that though they stand before the throne of God, they also walk humbly with us as our servants. In them we see what it means when Jesus said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last and servant of all.”

Let us teach our children to be like angels, so that in turn we can learn from them how to welcome Jesus.

Friday, September 21, 2018

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 22-09-18

1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49 / Luke 8:4-15

It is not exactly easy to illustrate a gospel teaching by using stories or examples.

There are times when the gospel teaching is clear-cut but to find an example or story to illustrate it requires time and reflection.

The parable of the sower and the seeds is indeed an excellent story with a divine message.

It is a story in which we are invited not only to listen to it but also to find ourselves being part of it.

It is not a story that we can listen to and go away unchallenged, unchanged and unmoved by what we heard.

Even though we may not be from an agricultural background, yet we can still understand what the parable means to us.

Because every time we read the Bible or hear the scriptures being read and shared, the Word is being sown in our hearts.

How much of God's Word will take root in our hearts and bear fruits in our lives depends on how deeply we want to reflect on the gospel parable we have just heard.

When we are able to reflect upon the truth in the parable, then we will also see the truth about ourselves and also the state of our hearts.

But the fundamental truth is this: Just as God cares about what happens to His Word, He cares more about us who hear His Word.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Friday, 21-09-18

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 / Matthew 9:9-13

Have we ever wondered what were the thoughts that crossed the mind of St. Matthew as he got up from the customs house to follow Jesus?

Was it apprehension or uncertainty because he was walking away from a stable and profitable job, although it is not a respectable one?

Or was it a sense of insecurity and anxiety that from that moment on, things are not going to be the same anymore in that nothing can be taken for granted anymore?

But over and above all these thoughts was the great up-lifting feeling that someone had given him respect, dignity and self-worth.

In Jesus, St. Matthew saw the mercy and love of God, who came not to call the virtuous, but sinners.

What St. Matthew saw in Jesus, he too wanted to emulate, he wanted to follow, he wanted to become

That is also what the 1st reading is telling us: that united in faith and knowledge of the Son of God, we strive to be the Perfect Man, the perfect person, fully mature with the fullness of Christ.

Jesus showed St. Matthew who and what he can become.

In turn, St. Matthew showed us in his gospel who and what we can become.

As the call of Jesus crosses and echoes in our hearts, let us answer the call like St. Matthew.

Because it is a call to the fullness of Christ Himself, who came to call sinners so that they can become virtuous.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-09-18

1 Cor 15:1-11 / Luke 7:36-50

To persist and to persevere is really hard work and it takes a lot out of us.

And if we were to continue persisting and persevering, then we also need to keep on believing in what we are doing it for.

More so if we say that we believe in God. Then our persistence and perseverance will be put to the test.

Today as we remember the Korean martyrs, St. Andrew Kim and St. Paul Chong and their companions, as well as the missionaries to Korea like St. Laurent Imbert, we see how their faith persisted and persevered in the face of persecution as they laid down their lives in witnessing to Jesus.

In other words, they kept believing till the end, but the faith of those Korean martyrs became the seed that led to today's flowering of the Church in Korea.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul urged the Corinthians to keep on believing in the gospel as it will save them.

Strangely, it was he who had persecuted the early Christians and he had Christian blood on his hands. But converted by the grace of God and also by the faith of those Christians, he preached the gospel far and wide and eventually laid down his life for Jesus.

In the gospel, we see another model of persistent and persevering faith in the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus.

She believed and kept believing in the mercy of God, and for that she was forgiven, and filled with love.

So we have more than enough of models of faith in the Korean martyrs, in St. Paul and in the woman in the gospel.

Let us keep believing, let us persist and persevere in our faith, and we too will experience mercy, forgiveness and love.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-09-18

1 Cor 12:31 - 13:13 / Luke 7:31-35

We know how easy it is to chop off a branch from a tree with a sharp axe, yet we also know it is impossible to re-attach the branch back to the tree.

When power and might are abused and misused, then the consequences are offensive and destructive.

Hence we know that it is easier to break than to repair; it is easier to hurt than to heal; it is easier to hate than to love.

Yes, it is easier to divide and destroy than to unite and reconcile, and with physical power and military might, division and destruction is made very much easier.

Yet the real power and might lies in love and in its work of uniting and reconciling and healing.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul expressed the power of love in humble and simple and quiet ways like patience and kindness, truthfulness and endurance, trusting and hoping, and also not being jealous or boastful or conceited or rude or selfish.

Yes it is with love that we are also able to recognize loving people who speak and live by truth, even though the world might ridicule them or push them aside.

As Jesus said in the gospel, the world is "like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market place" and scorns the simplicity and the humility of love.

Yet just as Wisdom is proven right by all her children, so the power of love to heal and reconcile will prove to be mightier than the sword that just cuts and destroys.

May we always choose the way of love and trust and hope in Jesus, our Lord of love.