Saturday, July 4, 2015

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 05.07.2015

Ezekiel 2:2-5 / 2 Cor 12:7-10 / Mark 6:1-6

Today being a Sunday, for most of us, it would be a day of rest.

But more often than not, it is quite the opposite. Not that today is a day of unrest. But resting might be the last thing we can ever do today.

Sunday can be called the busiest day of the week. We bring our children over to church for catechism class and then to whatever class we can think of – swimming, music, tuition, etc.

Or we would doing our groceries, visit the in-laws, going shopping (it’s the Great Singapore Sale!).

But no matter what we need to do and where we need to go, at the end of the day, we need to go back to where we started from, and that is - home.

Going home may seem to be like quite a comforting thought. After all there is no place like home. But that depends on how we say it – it can have a two different meanings. Maybe the following might show us what it means.

A man is stopped by the police around 1 am and he is asked where he is going at this time of the night. 

The man replies, "I am on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse and the effects it has on the human body, as well as smoking and staying out late." 

The police officer then asks, "Really? And who is giving that lecture at this time of night, and where will it be held?" 

The man replies, "That lecture would be given by my wife, and it would be held at home." 

So no matter what, and whatever the time would be, and no matter who is there, and whether it is a comforting feeling or not, we still will have to go home.

In today’s gospel passage, we heard of Jesus going back to His home town with His disciples.

Having been away for a while, it would have been a good feeling to be back home again, to see His mother, to catch up with friends and to be back to familiar surroundings.

Things at the home town may not have changed much, but something has changed. Jesus had changed. 

From the time He left and now that He had come back, He had certainly changed.

Because with the coming of the Sabbath, Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, and that astonished the people of His home town. 

Obviously that was something that He did not do before He left.

They wondered at His wisdom and His miracles. They traced out His family connections. And finally they came to a conclusion – they would not accept Him.

Jesus had changed, but to them He was still a carpenter.

And carpenters are not teachers and they cannot be teachers. For the people of His home town, that was the opinion as well as the conclusion. 

And the last line of the gospel passage tells us the reaction of Jesus – He was amazed by their lack of faith.

We would have thought that the people of His home town was rather biased against Him, their minds were probably as small as their town, their minds were closed even though they admitted that there was wisdom in Jesus.

But Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. Because faith would help us see realities, spiritual as well as rational, and faith would also open the heart to accept these realities. 

And one reality is that home is not necessarily home sweet home. The following dialogue may show us what this reality is.

Wife was busy packing in her clothes. Husband - Where are you going?
Wife - I'm moving to my mother’s. Husband also starts packing his clothes.
Wife - Now where are you going? Husband - I'm also moving to my mother’s.
Wife - And what about the kids? Husband - Well I guess ... If you are moving to your mother’s and I'm moving to my mother’s ... They should move to their mother’s.
Clothes unpacked… (hopefully…)

The reality is that the home, the family, as well as society is not as rosy as we might want to see it.

And from some of the petitions that I read (so that I can offer a prayer for them) it is quite obvious that the home can be a stressful place and family members are living in tension, and this in turn affects society at large.

The family and society has gone into two disturbing directions.

The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, whether it is a sexual orientation, or a religious direction, or a habitual addiction, you must fear or hate them.

The second is that to love someone, you must agree with everything they believe or do, even if it is morally wrong.

Both directions are wrong but the reality is that they don’t seem to be so obvious.

So even within the family there is fear and hate among members because they can’t agree with and accept each other. And what happens in the family is reflected also in society.

And when it comes to loving their children, parents may want to suppress discipline and morality and be silent when it comes to pre-marital sex and other sexual issues.

These are disturbing issues and we don’t feel comfortable about it and we would rather not talk about it.

But when Jesus taught in the synagogue, His teachings would have disturbed His listeners so much so that they would not accept Him.

But as the 1st reading puts it, whether they listen or not, they must know that there is a prophet among them.

A prophet is like a thorn in the flesh and the prophetic voice is not comfortable to listen to.

Because it awakens in us God’s law that is engraved in our hearts. 
God’s law is the law of love, and it is a love that has moral principles.

May God’s law of love be proclaimed and practised first and foremost at home and in the family. 

Then the family will truly be at home and society will in turn practice what is right and just.

Friday, July 3, 2015

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 04-07-15

Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29 / Matthew 9:14-17

It is easy to find the drama of deception and trickery in fiction literature as well as in real life stories.

But to find it in the Bible (of all books) would be rather surprising to some, yet it shouldn't be that surprising at all.

Because the Bible is about the book of life and how God has loved and saved a sinful humanity from self-destruction.

Nonetheless, we read about deception and trickery in the 1st reading. Whether it was Issac or Rebekah, or Esau or Jacob, none of them can say they were truly honest or truthful.

Earlier in Genesis 25:29-34, there is the account of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob over some stew that Jacob had just made. Jacob offered to give Esau a bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright, to which Esau agreed. So already Esau was not true to his word.

Isaac also wanted to bestow the birthright to Esau, but he knew he was not doing the right thing because he wanted it done privately and secretly.

That was probably because he had known that Rebekah had received the prophecy that the twins Esau and Jacob were fighting in her womb and would continue to fight all their lives, even after they became two separate nations. The prophecy also said that "the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger;" (Genesis 25:23)

Yet, Rebekah also took things into her own hands and not leaving it into the hands of God.

So it was a really messy story of God's chosen people resorting to deception and trickery and even committing grave sin just to have their way and get what they want.

Yet, despite the crookedness of His people, God still made things straight for the coming of His only Son to save the people from their sins.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. May we walk the ways of God in truth and love so that we will  live a meaning life of honesty and integrity.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

St. Thomas, Apostle, Friday, 03-07-15

Ephesians 2:19-22 / John 20:24-29

The attitude of St. Thomas in today's gospel gave rise to the term "Doubting Thomas".

That term, undoubtedly, has a negative connotation, and may not be that fair to St. Thomas.

Nonetheless, the disbelief of St. Thomas has done more for our faith than the belief of the other apostles.

We can surely relate with St. Thomas especially when he showed his human limitations about his faith.

We can surely relate with him especially in his asking for a sign, not just seeing the Risen Christ, but very realistically putting his finger and hand into the wounds.

St. Thomas did not take his faith in Jesus lightly. What he asked for was nothing short of a deep experience of the Risen Christ.

Finally, his response to this God-experience was his profound proclamation - My Lord and my God.

We too, should not take our faith for granted not take it too lightly.

God will show Himself to those who deeply desire to deepen their faith in Him.

As we pray for a deepening of our faith, let our prayer also be "My Lord and my God".

And blessed are we who have not seen, and yet believe.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 02-06-15

Genesis 22:1-19 / Matthew 9:1-8

When what we have is sufficient and even in surplus, it is easy to think that God will provide for our needs.

But when we are down to nothing, can we believe that God will come up with something?

Abraham was blessed by God with almost everything and the most precious was an heir, a son in his old age.

But in the 1st reading, we heard God telling him to take his only son Issac and to offer him as a burnt offering!

What were Abraham's thoughts and emotions, we were not told. 

But without any delay, he set off the next morning to the place of offering, bringing along Issac and two other servants.

Along the way when Issac asked him where was the lamb for the offering, Abraham replied with this profound faith statement: God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.

Yes, to believe that God will provide is something we need to learn from Abraham.

But from Jesus, we learn something more about God. We learn that God loves us, that God will forgive us, that God will heal us.

God does not just provide for us. God has given us His only Son to be sacrificed on the cross so that we can be saved from our sins.

God has given us everything. Hence, we can never say that we are down to nothing. Let us give thanks, let us praise the Lord, and let us offer ourselves whole-heartedly to serve Him.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 01-07-15

Genesis 21:5, 8-20 / Matthew 8:28-34

A child may not have a big lung capacity. But its cries can make heads turn, especially in a restaurant or in a hall or even in church.

Somehow when a child wails and weeps, we just can't ignore it and we will attend to it especially if it is our child.

In the 1st reading, we heard of Hagar being sent away with her young son into the wilderness with just some bread and a skin of water.

When the skin of water was finished, Hagar abandoned the child under a bush and she went off at a distance because she couldn't bear to see the child die, while the child wailed and wept.

But God heard the cries of the child and sent an angel to rescue mother and child from death.

Indeed, God hears the cries of His people, especially children, and will come to their rescue.

In the gospel the two demoniacs were shouting angrily at Jesus, but their shouts turned to pleading as they asked Jesus to send them into the herd of pigs.

Over and above the shouting, Jesus heard the cries of the two possessed persons for healing and freedom. And He healed them and set them free.

So whenever we hear cries of distress or shouts of anger, let us also hear, over and above those cries and shouts, a plea for a need.

It's actually a cry and even a wailing for healing and for freedom.

God heard the cries of Hagar's child and the two demoniacs. May we also have the ears to hear the cries of those in need.

Monday, June 29, 2015

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-06-15

Genesis 19:15-29 / Matthew 8:23-27

The 1st reading gives the account of the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

It's a well-known Bible story, partly because it is a fire and brimstone kind of story about destruction and punishment for sin.

But it is also a story that has a mystery to it that would raise immediate questions. It is about Lot's wife who turned into a pillar of salt just because she looked back. Several reasons were given for this.

One common view of Lot's wife turning to salt was as punishment for disobeying the angels' warning. By looking back at the "evil cities" she betrayed her secret longing for that way of life. She was deemed unworthy to be saved and thus turned to a pillar of salt.

Another view is that when Lot's wife looked back, she turned to a pillar of salt upon the sight of God who was descending down to rain destruction upon Sodom and Gomorrah.

One reason for Lot's wife looking back, and that was to check if her daughters, who were married to men of Sodom, were coming or not. Instead, she saw God descending to rain fire and brimstone upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Thus, the sight of God turned her into a pillar of salt.

Another view has it that because Lot's wife sinned with salt, she was punished with salt. On the night the two angels visited Lot, he requested of his wife to prepare a feast for them. Not having any salt, Lot's wife asked of her neighbours for salt which so happened to alert them of the presence of their guests, resulting in the mob action that endangered Lot's family.

Whatever reason it might be, the fact is that our lives must be directed towards God. If not then we will be easily distracted and lose focus and lose our directions.

Especially in the storms of life, we must keep our focus on Jesus and keep heading towards Him. Only Jesus can keep us from danger and from sinking into the salty waters.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Monday, 29-06-15

Acts 12 : 1-11 / 2 Timothy 4 : 6-8, 17-18 / Matthew 16 : 13-19

St. Peter and St. Paul are two great apostles who strengthened the faith of the early Church and kept it in unity.

But these two saints were as different as night and day and they even had their differences recorded in Galatians 2: 14.

Although it was St. Peter who affirmed the identity of Christ, his character and actions did not quite reflect the meaning of his name, which means "rock".

St. Peter was rash and impulsive and we can certainly remember his triple denial of Jesus.

St. Paul was a brutal opponent of Christians before his conversion and he had a fiery character.

But it was strange that Jesus chose these two men who were far from perfect or even suitable to be the leaders of His Church.

Yet, that showed who was the spiritual and guiding force behind the Church.

In spite of their differences and shortcomings, Sts. Peter and Paul were united in a common goal and mission.

Both died as martyrs, an act which showed that the purpose of their lives were not for their own glory but for the glory of God.

This feast of Sts. Peter and Paul shows us that despite the differences and failures in personalities and characters, the Church can be united for a common goal and mission.

The lives of Sts. Peter and Paul show us that God can choose the weak and imperfect persons to be the leaders of His Church.

Because it is through these imperfect human instruments that God shows the Church and the world that what is impossible for man is not impossible for God.