Saturday, June 25, 2016

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 26.06.2016

1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 / Galatians 5:1, 13-18 / Luke 9:51-62

Phones were invented for telecommunication. It means that we can communicate with each other over a distance using the phone.

But nowadays, the phone, or specifically the mobile phone, is used not so much for telecommunication, but for messaging. It seems that messaging has become the norm of communication.

And with messaging, it’s not just about words but also with this thing called emoji. Emoji is a small digital image or icon used to express an idea or an emotion in electronic communication.

And emoji has a whole range from smileys to surprised to sadness. 

So instead of using words we can use an emoji to express an emotion.

One unmistakable emoji that we may have used before is that of anger, and the image or icon that is used to express anger is usually reddish and has an unpleasant expression.

If we had used that anger emoji before and used it quite often, then it may mean that we have anger management issues, or maybe we are playing too much of that “Angry Birds” game.

Whatever it is, anger is one of the most common emotions that we have in our lives. 

Anger is a feeling that makes the mouth work faster than the mind, and when we speak when we are angry, then we will make a speech that we will eventually regret, and that others won’t forget.

Yes, anger teaches us many lessons only if we are willing to learn from it.

In the gospel, Jesus gave His disciples a lesson on anger management.

They came to a Samaritan town, and the people would not welcome Him, and seeing this, the disciples James and John said, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” But He turned and rebuked them.

The fact is that anger doesn’t solve anything. It builds nothing but it can destroy everything.

And holding on to the fire of anger is like holding burning coals with the intent of throwing it at someone else; but we are the ones getting burned.

And that was why Jesus rebuked them. He wanted to free them from that anger so that it won’t destroy them.

And as the 2nd reading puts it: When Christ freed us, He meant us to remain free, and not to submit again to the yoke of slavery, which is the slavery of self-indulgence.

When we give in to self-indulgence, we give in to our anger and it destroys and burns up our love for others.

There is a story that a long time ago in China, a girl named Li-Li got married and went to live with her husband and mother-in-law.

In a very short time, Li-Li found that she couldn’t get along with her mother-in-law at all. Their personalities were very different, and Li-Li was angered by many of her mother-in-law’s habits. In addition, she criticized Li-Li constantly.

Days passed, and weeks passed. Li-Li and her mother-in-law never stopped arguing and fighting. But what made the situation even worse was that, according to ancient Chinese tradition, Li-Li had to bow to her mother-in-law and obey her every wish. All the anger and unhappiness in the house was causing the poor husband  great distress.

Finally, Li-Li could not stand her mother-in-law’s bad temper and dictatorship any longer, and she decided to do something about it.

Li-Li went to see her father’s good friend, Mr. Huang, who sold herbs. She told him the situation and asked if he would give her some poison so that she could solve the problem once and for all. 

Mr. Huang thought for a while, and finally said, “Li-Li, I will help you solve your problem, but you must listen to me and obey what I tell you.”

Li-Li said, “Yes, Mr. Huang, I will do whatever you tell me to do.” Mr. Huang went into the back room, and returned in a few minutes with a package of herbs.

He told Li-Li, “You can’t use a quick-acting poison to get rid of your mother-in-law, because that would cause people to become suspicious. Therefore, I am giving you a number of herbs that will slowly build up poison in her body. Every other day prepare some delicious meal and put a little of these herbs in her serving. Now, in order to make sure that nobody suspects you when she dies, you must be very careful to act very friendly towards her. Don’t argue with her, obey her every wish, and treat her like a queen.”

Li-Li was so happy. She thanked Mr. Huang and hurried home to start her plot of poisoning her mother-in-law.

Weeks went by, months went by, and every other day, Li-Li served the specially treated food to her mother-in-law. She remembered what Mr. Huang had said about avoiding suspicion, so she controlled her temper, obeyed her mother-in-law, and treated her like her own mother. After six months had passed, the whole household had changed.

Li-Li had practiced controlling her temper so much that she found that she almost never got mad or upset. She hadn’t had an argument in six months with her mother-in-law, who now seemed much kinder and easier to get along with.

The mother-in-law’s attitude toward Li-Li changed, and she began to love Li-Li like her own daughter. She kept telling friends and relatives that Li-Li was the best daughter-in-law one could ever find. Li-Li and her mother-in-law were now treating each other like a real mother and daughter.

One day, Li-Li came to see Mr. Huang and asked for his help again. She said, “Mr. Huang, please help me to stop the poison from killing my mother-in-law! She’s changed into such a nice woman, and I love her like my own mother. I do not want her to die because of the poison I gave her.”

Mr. Huang smiled and nodded his head. “Li-Li, there’s nothing to worry about. The herbs I gave you were not poison, but vitamins to improve her health. The only poison was in your mind and your attitude toward her, but that has been all washed away by the love which you gave to her.”

Indeed, the 2nd reading tells us: Serve one another in works of love, since the whole Law is summarised in a single command: Love your neighbor as yourself.

When we are guided by the Spirit of love, then we will not be in danger of yielding to self-indulgence and to anger.

Then we will truly be free to follow Jesus and the emotions that will be on our faces will be peace and joy.

Friday, June 24, 2016

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 25-06-16

Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19 / Matthew 8:5-17

There are things within our control and there are also many other things that are not within our control.

We can try to control people if we have any authority or power whatsoever, and we can make them do things the way we want it done.

But even if we can do that, then there are also other areas that we can't control, ie. their thoughts, their feelings, their perspectives, their opinions.

More than that, we also cannot control the state of their health. We cannot stop it if they were to fall ill or if their health deteriorates.

Such was the realization of the centurion in the gospel. He may have authority over his soldiers under his command, and his servants too.

But he can't stop one of his servants from falling ill and in great pain. But he also realized who has authority over that and hence he turned to Jesus.

He not only believed in the authority of Jesus over such matters, he also believed in His power to heal and the spoken word of Jesus was enough for that.

We too, like the centurion, may have realized the power of Jesus to heal sickness and diseases. We too, may have experienced that healing power of Jesus.

But let us also realize that Jesus also fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: He took our sicknesses away and carried our diseases for us.

Let us put our faith and trust in Jesus our Saviour and Healer. Let Him have full control over our lives, and we will have peace of mind and heart.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Friday, 24-06-16

Isaiah 49:1-6 /Acts 13:22-26 / Luke 1:57-66, 80

We might be wondering why the birth of St. John the Baptist is such a big feast-day, in fact a solemnity.

Maybe we can get an idea from the meaning of his name.

John, or in Hebrew "Yehohanan", means "the Lord is gracious" or "the Lord shows favour".

Indeed, in St. John the Baptist, God had shown His favour, not just to Zachariah and Elizabeth by blessing them with a child.

He has shown favour to the whole of humanity.

Because before St. John the Baptist came into the scene, the prophetic voice in Israel has been silent for 400 years.

When St. John the Baptist came into the scene, he breathed fire and preached thunder.

All that was to prepare the way for Jesus the Christ, the Anointed One of God.

So St. John the Baptist prepared the people to receive the graciousness from God.

He prepared the people to receive Jesus who is filled with grace and truth.

What St. John the Baptist did for the people of his time, we too are to do for the people of our time.

We too are to prepare our people to receive the graciousness and the favour of God.

The name John means "God is gracious" and "God shows favour".

We have an even more important name.

We are called Christians. It means the "anointed ones". It means that we are to be another Christ to the world.

May we be filled with God's grace and favour to fulfill our mission.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-06-16

2 Kings 24:8-17 / Matthew 7:21-29

We have certain expectations with regards to a person who is at a position of authority.

For a leader, whether of a country or of a religion, we would expect him to be of a certain age, have a certain kind of disposition, dress in a certain way, etc.

For a king of a country, we would certainly expect no less, and maybe even more of of the status and the prestige attached to that title.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Jehoiachin became king of Judah when he was only 18 years old. Although only a teenager, he already did what was displeasing to the Lord.

And his reign was short, only three months, and it came to an end when he surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.

Not only was Johoiachin no match to Nebuchadnezzar in every aspect , he also did not use his position of authority to call upon the Lord to save his country. On the contrary, he turned away from the Lord and did what was displeasing to the Lord. Hence, he had to bear the consequences.

We may not be in a position of high authority, but we are certainly in a position to call upon the Lord for His help in whatever precarious situation we are in.

But to call upon the Lord's name would also mean that we must listen to the words of Jesus and what He has taught us in the gospels.

So we have the written word of Jesus to reflect and meditate upon and we listen to Him in prayer.

So let us stand firm on the rock of our faith and as we call upon the Lord, let us also listen to His voice and do His will.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 22-06-16

2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3 / Matthew 7:15-20

Every country and every nation has its share of good and bad leaders.

Whilst good leaders were far and few between and they are held in honour for the good they did for their country, the bad leaders had caused much damage because of self-interest and greed.

In the 1st reading, we heard of the high priest Hilkiah and the court secretary Shaphan finding and  reading the Book of the Law and decided to inform king Josiah about it.

The Book of the Law had been hidden in the previous tyrannical regimes that had been unfaithful to the Lord in order to save it from being destroyed.

The high priest and the court officials were bold enough to present the Book of the Law to the king probably because they saw in the king a person of integrity and justice.

Indeed, just as a tree is judged by its fruits, a person is judged by his character.

As Jesus taught in the gospel, a sound tree bears good fruit, but a rotten tree bears bad fruit.

Yes, and also a sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit.

Yet we have to be alert and examine ourselves constantly for corruption and decay, because a sound tree can also become a rotten tree due to negligence and complacency.

When we realize we have stopped bearing good fruits, or even started bearing rotten fruits in our lives, let us immediately turn back to the Lord for healing and forgiveness.

We can't deceive others; they will know us by our fruits.

Monday, June 20, 2016

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-06-16

2 Kings 19:9-11, 14-21, 31-36 / Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Bad news always give us the shudders.

Whether the bad news come in the form of an email or sms or a voice-mail or even in a person, we crumble upon receiving the bad news.

The question is how bad is the bad news.

Is it a letter informing you about the termination of employment, or about debts not paid, or about a lawyer's letter suing you?

Any of these is bad news, and of course there are many other types.

In the 1st reading, King Hezekiah received some real bad news from King Sennacherib of Assyria.

Essentially, it was a preview of the Assyrian invasion of Judah, the chopping up of the inhabitants and the skinning of King Hezekiah alive and they could forget about asking for mercy.

It was a time for immediate panic, but here King Hezekiah showed us a beautiful example and an inspiring lesson.

The time to panic is also the time to pray, and to really pray.

To pray is to surrender to the Lord so that He will fight our battles for us.

To pray is to trust in the Lord and enter by the narrow gate, as Jesus said in the gospel, for the road of panic is wide and spacious but it leads to perdition.

So the next time when bad news send a chill down our spines and our legs go soft, let us do what King Hezekiah did.

Let us go down on our knees and pray to the Lord.

Better to surrender to the Lord than to surrender to bad news.

In the face of bad news, the good news is that the Lord will fight our battles for us...... only if we allow Him.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-06-16

2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15, 18 / Matthew 7:1-5

It was said that during the plague of AD 590, Pope Gregory I ordered unceasing prayer for divine intercession. Part of his command was that anyone sneezing be blessed immediately ("God bless you"), since sneezing was often the first sign that someone was falling ill with the plague." By AD 750, it became customary to say "God bless you" as a response to one sneezing.
(A typical polite response after being told "God bless you" in response to sneezing is to thank the person who has said it.)

There are many reasons why we sneeze and one reason could be that there is something irritating our nose and the natural reaction would be to sneeze in order to expel it.

As we listened to the 1st reading, we get this impression that the Israelites were irritating God time and again with their unfaithfulness and idolatry and behaved worse than their ancestors.

So when Assyria laid siege on Samaria for three years, it was already a serious warning and a long enough time for repentance. Yet the Israelites were stiff-necked and stubborn and refused to turn back to the Lord.

So in the end, the Lord had to "sneeze" them out. He allowed Assyria to capture Samaria and deported the Israelites  to Assyria. Only the tribe of Judah remained in the south.

Using again the analogy of sneezing, none of us can say we have never sneezed before. Similarly none of us can say that we have not judged others before.

More than telling us not to judge, Jesus is also telling to look at ourselves in the eye and to judge ourselves first and to remove that plank in our eyes instead of telling others about the splinter in their eyes.

When we remove that plank in our eyes and sneeze out what is irritating our nose, then God can bless us.