Thursday, November 20, 2014

Presentation of the BVM, Friday, 21-11-14

Zechariah 2:14-17 / Matthew 12:46-51

It is not unusual that devout Catholic parents consecrate their new-born baby to the Lord.

That is especially so when they have prayed for a child and the baby was like an answer to their prayers.

But of course more than just consecrating their child to God, they will also baptize the baby in Church.

The feast of the presentation of Mary in the Temple is not found in the New Testament but from sources outside of the Bible.

According to those sources, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne had been childless and eventually having Mary was a heavenly gift from God.

In thanksgiving, they brought the child Mary to the Temple to consecrate her to God and she remained in the Temple till puberty.

The spiritual significance of this feast is that God chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son and He had prepared her since the Immaculate Conception to be ready for this mission.

Hence, the feast of the Presentation of Mary is part of the fulfilment of her mission as the Mother of God.

The celebration of this feast also reminds us of our own baptism, in that we are not just consecrated to God in baptism but we have become God's chosen children.

As His children, we are to carry out and carry on the saving mission of Jesus our Saviour. May Mary our Mother pray for us and help us to fulfill this mission.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-11-14

Rev 5:1-10 / Luke 19:41-44

Tears are words that the heart can't say.

Tears can be how our heart speaks when our lips cannot describe how much we have been hurt.

Or tears can be how our heart feels when we are grieved and sorrowed beyond description.

In the 1st reading, the writer, John, wept bitterly because no one was able to open and read the scroll that was in the hand of the One sitting on the throne.

The scroll represented the secret purposes of God that are to be revealed to the Church in times of persecution and distress.

These secrets and revelations are certainly desirable to be known but as no one could open and read it, hence John wept bitterly.

But he was consoled by an elder that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb who was sacrificed will be able to open and read that scroll and reveal it to the Church.

And yet when this same Jesus who shed tears when His people did not listen to what He said and by their own stubbornness it was hidden from them.

God would not hide His plans for us and make us cry tears of distress and confusion.

But let us also remember that Jesus had shed tears over His people because they refused to listen.

Let us listen to Jesus and He will wipe away the tears from our eyes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-11-14

Rev 4:1-11 / Luke 19:11-28

It is undeniable that we yearn for a beautiful place to live in, to work in and to spend the rest of our days in.

And so we may be searching and looking for that beautiful place, and yet we may wonder if such a place really exists.

Well, some people look for a beautiful place; others make a place beautiful.

In the 1st reading, we are given a description of heaven. Indeed it is a beautiful and wonderful place.

What made it more beautiful and wonderful was the presence of the 24 elders and the 4 animals as they sang continuously "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God the Almighty".

In the gospel parable, we heard of the different attitudes of the servants when they were given the money by their master.

Some made more money for their master. But there was one who did nothing with the money.

So in life, there are some who would make life more beautiful with what they have.

And then there are others who just do nothing and expect things to turn beautiful.

As it is, happiness will never come to those who don't appreciate what they already have.

When we appreciate what we have, we will want to make life more beautiful, so that this world would be a foretaste of the beauty of heaven.

Monday, November 17, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 18-11-14

Rev 3:1-6, 14-22 / Luke 19:1-10

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”(Elbert Hubbard)

When we have already decided what to do, the strength to do it will come consequently and subsequently from the decision.

So it is actually the process in making a decision that a great deal of strength (mental strength) is called upon to decide upon a direction.

In the gospel, the wealthy senior tax collector Zacchaeus was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was.

But he had other things to consider - he was short and the crowd may make things unpleasant for him. Nonetheless he decided to get a glimpse of Jesus, and so he climbed a sycamore tree.

That decision led to other decisions like giving half his property to the poor and if he had cheated anyone, he would pay back four time the amount.

Those were great decisions that he made willingly because he took the strength to make that first decision to see Jesus.

In the 1st reading, we heard of warnings given to the churches in Sardis and Laodicea - "Repent and wake up"  and "I will spit you out of my mouth".

They will have to decide what to do from there. Of course they can decide to do nothing about it but that would lead them into even greater turmoil.

We need to pray for strength to follow Jesus. And we need to pray for even greater strength to decide for Jesus. The strength will come when the decision is made.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 17-11-14

Rev 1:1-4; 2:1-5 / Luke 18:35-43

In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream will eventually win. In fact it will always win.

The stream wins, not through strength, but through persistence. And where the stream wins through persistence, we often fail through lack of it.

We may start off on a project or a direction with zest and fervour, but we are more like a bucket of water than a stream. When we run out of water, so goes our zest and fervour.

In the 1st reading, the church in Ephesus were told that they started off with zeal and with fervour.

They had worked hard, they resisted the wicked, tested the impostors and they were patient in their suffering.

But the complaint that the Lord is making about them is that they have less love now than they used to have.

The church in Ephesus may not have persisted in their love for the Lord. But the blind man in the gospel showed what persistence was all about.

When he cried out for Jesus to have pity on him, the people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder for Jesus until he caught His attention.

There is no need to shout to the Lord to get His attention. We just have to be like the water in the stream that flows persistently and faithfully until we reach the ocean of God's love.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 16.11.2014

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 / 1 Thess 5:1-6 / Matthew 25:14-30

There is one profession that is hardly talked about but at the same time we can hardly do without.

It is also a dying profession, and ironically it concerns the dead.

This profession is the grave digger and there isn’t a more polite term or politically correct term to it.

A newspaper article some time ago mentioned that there are only about 10 grave diggers in Singapore.

Even though cremation of the dead is a more preferred means, there are still some who opt for burials and that is where the grave digger comes in.

Modern machinery like the excavator may make the job easier but the grave digger will be needed to “tailor” the hole for the coffin to go in.

So there will always be a need for this profession though it is not nice to say that they make a living out of the dead.

In the gospel parable, it can be said that the 3rd servant is like a grave digger – both were into digging holes.

But unlike the grave digger who makes a living out of his digging, the 3rd servant lost his living from his digging. It can be said that he dug his own grave.

Whatever talents or money that his master gave him, he dug a hole in the ground and buried it.

In the parable, the talents that the master gave the servants represented something more than money.

It represented a gift – a gift of life and love.

In burying this gift, the 3rd servant exposed his attitude towards life and love.

Not only that, he even defended his attitude by focusing on his master’s hard and demanding expectations.

In doing so, he tried to shift the problem from himself to his master.

But that’s also our tendency, isn’t it? To always say that others have a problem, but not ourselves.

Like the ostrich, we bury our heads in the ground, refusing to look at the reality of our lives.

But as how the parable goes, the master exposed the servant’s attitude.

And we too will be exposed, sooner or later, but exposed for our own good, if we are willing to accept it.

There is a story of a young successful businessman who owns a big company.

Then he came to know a girl and he was attracted by her simplicity, humility, kindness and pleasant personality.

As they entered into a love relationship, the young successful businessman decided to check on her background.

So he called his assistant to engage a private investigator to check on the girl, but of course, without saying that he was the one who wanted the report.

After a couple of weeks, the private investigator’s report came in and the assistant passed it to that young successful businessman.

The report went like this: The girl in question comes from a middle class family. She holds a decent job in a manufacturing company, is hardworking and honest, kind and helpful.

But there is a problem. Lately, she has been going out with this young businessman who is noted for being ruthless in his business deals. He is crafty and cunning, and will resort to any means just to make money.

End of the report. Just a story, but what a twist it had at the end.

The story does not go on to say what happened to the young businessman.

And as in any story, if we were to put ourselves in the shoes of that young businessman, then what would our reaction be.

Would we refute the private investigator’s report and bury our heads in the ground and refuse to see the reality of ourselves?

Would we say that the private investigator is biased against us and tarnishing our reputation? Or worse, would we think that the “young businessman” in the report refers to someone else?

Say what we may, but like the 3rd servant, we have this tendency to bury our heads in the ground and shift the problem towards others.

But on the other hand, we can also be like the other two servants who used their gifts and talents to help others discover themselves in an enlightening and non-threatening way.

Let me share another story to show you what this means.

A boy had a very bad temper that was getting out of hand.

His father prayed about it and came up with this idea to help him.

He gave his son a hammer and a bag of nails, and he told his son: Every time you lose your temper, go to the wall and hammer a nail.

So the boy did just that – every time he lost his temper he took the hammer and hit the nail into the wall.

And if you have tried hitting a nail into the wall, you will know it is not that easy. Because you often end up hitting your thumb

So after a while, the boy thought that it was easier to control his temper than to keep hitting nails into the wall.

Then one day, the boy told his father that he could now control his temper because he had stopped hitting nails into the wall.

The father said: Well done, my son.  Now for every occasion that you felt like losing your temper but managed to control it, pull a nail out of the wall.

The son thought it was strange but did as he was told. So slowly the nails came out of the wall. And after some time, all the nails were pulled out of the wall.

The son told this to his father, and the father brought the son to look at the pock-marked wall.

He said to his son: My son, every time you lose your temper, it is like a nail being hammered into someone’s heart.

You may have apologized and the nail taken out, but the crack and the hurt remains, like this pock-marked wall. But learn this lesson, and you will be a better person.

It is interesting to note what the father did. He prayed first, and then he called upon whatever wisdom and experience he had to help his son overcome his bad temper. 

Today’s Gospel parable reminds us that God has given each of us, all the gifts, talents, wisdom, experience, that we need to make the most out of life.

That’s God’s gift to us. Our gift to God will be to use His gifts to us to help others make the most of their lives.

In other words, we are not called to bury hopes and joys. Rather we are called to share life and love.

Life and love are God’s gifts to us. What we do with that life and love is our gift to God and to others.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Leave

Dear Readers,

I'm on leave and am not able to publish any posts these few days. The next homily post will be for the Mass on Sunday, 16th Nov 2014.

God bless you.