Tuesday, December 1, 2015

1st Week of Advent, Wednesday, 02-12-15

Isaiah 25:6-10 / Matthew 15:29-37

"I have found the paradox of life: that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only love." (Blessed Mother Teresa)

Indeed a paradox, and indeed something to think about and will keep us thinking.

But a paradox is not about a theory for us analyse and only to think about.

It is a description about a reality that we must experience before we can embrace the truth in the paradox.

The disciples in the gospel passage faced a food shortage situation when Jesus told them He wanted to feed the crowd.

The reaction of the disciples was "Where could we get enough bread in this deserted place to feed such a crowd?".

But from the little that they had given to Jesus they saw what was the outcome and it certainly baffled them.

From that we can say that when you give till you have nothing, God will in turn give you something.

Maybe the paradox here is that when we give till it hurts, then there will be no more hurt, we will only give with love.

May we understand this as we prepare during this Advent season to experience of self-giving of Jesus at Christmas.

Monday, November 30, 2015

1st Week of Advent, Tuesday, 01-12-15

Isaiah 11:1-10 / Luke 10:21-24

People change for many reasons. But there are usually two common reasons.

Either their minds have been opened or their hearts have been broken.

In the 1st reading, the words of the prophet Isaiah were for his people who have been disappointed time and time again by their kings.

With their hearts either broken or close to breaking, their minds have also closed up and not thinking much about the future.

But the prophet Isaiah tried to open their minds with the imagery of a humble shoot and a lowly scion.

If a shoot or a scion can spring from the stump, then growth is a possibility and a reality.

Where there is growth, then there can be change for the better and the broken heart can be healed.

But it is for hearts that are humble and simple and childlike to see what others can't see and to hear what others can't hear.

May our minds be opened to the Word of God and may our hearts be sensitive to the Spirit's promptings so that we will be opened to change into what God wants us to be.

St. Andrew, Apostle, Monday, 30-11-15

Romans 10 : 9-18 / Matthew 4 : 18-22

Most of us would shy away from the limelight and rather work behind the scenes.

Well, that is until we have basked in the limelight and gotten a taste of the attention and the applause.

 After experiencing the taste of the limelight, it might be difficult to step back into the background and go back to being behind the scenes.

We often call it "cannot let go".

St. Andrew was always referred to as the brother of St. Peter.

That title gives the impression that St. Andrew was someone who was always behind the scenes, someone who tags along behind St. Peter.

Even today's gospel seemed to imply that idea when it tells of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, in that order.

But in the gospel according to St. John, it was Andrew who first followed Jesus, and it was Andrew who told Peter that he had found the Messiah.

St. Andrew's role in the gospels may be few but nonetheless significant.

Besides being the first to follow Jesus and leading Peter to Him, St. Andrew was also instrumental in pointing out the boy with the barley loaves and the fish that later led to the miracle of the multiplication of loaves.

In St. Andrew, we see a reflection of ourselves and our mission.

Following Christ is our top priority and leading others to Christ is our mission.

But stepping back in order that God can continue to work through us must also be our conviction.

When we can do that, then we know what it means to let go and let God.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C, 29-11-15

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C
Jeremiah 33:14-16 / 1 Thess 3:12 – 4:2 / Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

The word terror means a very strong feeling of fear, or something that causes very strong feelings of fear, or something that is terrifying.

It is certainly not a new word. Neither is the word terrorism. But terrorism has become profoundly significant, especially since September 11th 2001.

Ever since then, terrorism and the use of violence or the threat of violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of so-called political goals, has resulted in the loss of many innocent lives.

The spread of terrorism has certainly caused fear and raised security measures, and as what we heard from the gospel “men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world”.

But looking at the root of terrorism is something that is actually quite common that happens in schools, at the workplace, over the internet and even at home and at playgrounds.

It is called bullying. A bully is a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

And just like terrorism, bullying also has dreadful consequences – people are scarred by it and some even die from it.

Often it comes in the form of violent actions, but it usually begins with hurtful words that are aimed at humiliating the other person.

But the fact is that calling someone ugly won’t make you pretty. Calling someone fake won’t make you real. Calling someone dumb won’t make you smart.

In other words, those who are war with others, are not at peace with themselves.

Jesus said this in the gospel: Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.

To be coarsened means to become rough, or to become vulgar and unpleasant.

For the heart to become coarsened means that it has become rough, vulgar and unpleasant. It is layered with hate and anger.

And that’s what a bully is all about. A bully hates himself. And the more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer by bullying them.

But if we love ourselves, we won’t want to hurt others or harm them or make them suffer.

And more than that, we would also want to prevent others from being hurt and from being harmed.

Yes we want to love ourselves and we want to love others, as Jesus had taught us to do so.

But we have had our own share of being bullied. People say all sorts of nasty things against us and even do nasty things against us.

Our hearts are coarsened by such things and hate may even consume our hearts and in turn we may become bullies and cause hurt and harm to others.

But it has to stop somewhere otherwise bullying will just grow into terrorism and lead others to think that violence is the solution to problems.

The famous actor Jackie Chan has starred in dozens of martial arts movies and is famed for his combat skills.

When he was younger, Jackie admits he wasn't so brave, and was often picked on by the other children at his school because he was such an easy target and he was "too scared" to stand up for himself.

Jackie endured years of torment, only learning to defend himself after he stood up for another child.
"I was bullied quite a lot when I was growing up in my Peking Opera School," he explained.

"I allowed myself to be bullied because I was scared and didn't know how to defend myself. I was bullied until I prevented a new student from being bullied.

"By standing up for him, I learned to stand up for myself."

By the way, the bully that Jackie Chan stood up to was that big burly Sammo Hung, another kung fu actor.
The kid that he stood up for was Yuen Biao. But somehow the three became friends and did movies together. So it was a happy ending to all that bullying.

Jesus told us to keep praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen.
What is going to happen is that there will be people who will hurt us over and over again. We need to pray so that we will think of them as sand paper. Why sand paper?

Like sand paper, they will scratch and hurt us, but in the end, we will end up polished and they end up as paper without the sand.

And as we begin the season of Advent, we also light the first candle of the Advent wreath.

That is a sign of our faith that the light will scatter the darkness of fear and the evil of terrorism.

That is also a sign of the promise that Jesus will come with power and great glory.

Let us continue to pray that we will be liberated from fear and that our hearts will be cleansed from hatred so that we will be at peace with ourselves and be at peace with others.

Friday, November 27, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 28-11-15

Daniel 7:15-27 / Luke 21:34-36

During the celebration of the Mass, we are often reminded of the presence of God, with this phrase : The Lord be with you

Maybe some of us may ask : why not say - the Lord is with you. After all the Lord is here, isn't it?

True, the Lord is here, yet so often, even as we are greeted with the presence of the Lord, our hearts may not be that aware that is Lord is indeed truly here.

Maybe that is why it is necessary to reflect on just that simple greeting : The Lord be with you.

Because that phrase call us to pay attention to the Lord, to pay attention to the Lord who is here and with us now.

In the gospel, Jesus says : Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened and hardened.

If we are not aware of God's presence in the Mass, how would we be aware of His presence during the course of the day.

Being with the Lord moment by moment, will help us to be ready to be with Him in eternity.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-11-15

Daniel 7:2-14 / Luke 21:29-33

It is often said that what we see is what we get. But on the other hand, there is always more than meets the eye. 

What we see will give us first impressions and opinions. But when we start to think about it, we will discover deeper meanings and even the mystery behind it.

The 1st reading talked about Daniel seeing visions in the night. That might already give us some ideas of the meaning of those visions might be.

For one, it would not be that clear in its meanings because the night has always been mysterious and things cannot be seen clearly and there is always something hidden.

But what is obvious is the power struggle of the earthly kingdoms and the rise and fall of empires.

But as Daniel gazed into the visions of the night, he saw something more than just earthly. 

Coming from the clouds of heaven was one who was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and his empire shall never pass away nor will it be destroyed.

It was like a vision within a vision, something more than meets the eye.

In the gospel, Jesus used the buds of a fig tree to tell us that there is something more than just summer is near.

It is the kingdom of God that is breaking forth and manifesting itself in the midst of the ordinary.

Yes, there is always something more than meets the eye. If we don't see a deeper meaning in it, if we don't see the kingdom of God happening in it, we may just be settling for something less.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-11-15

Daniel 6:12-28 / Luke 221:20-28

The story of Daniel in the lions' den which we heard in the 1st reading is indeed a famous and well-known story from the Old Testament.

It was another account of how God protected those who were faithful to Him and trusted in Him.

In that story, the other character, king Darius, was often seen just as a sort of supporting character.

Yet he is the character that we would look at today.

He ordered Daniel to be thrown to the lions, but he did it much against his own will.

He was trapped by his own edict and by the pressure of Daniel's accusers.

King Darius knew what he wanted to do ; he knew what he should do.

But he just couldn't do it without losing face or seen as weak.

So he finally succumbed to pressure, just like many others before him and many others after him, e.g. Pontius Pilate.

Acting under pressure from others, or to please others, or to meet the expectation of others, or afraid to lose face, or being called a softie, or no backbone, are things that we have all experienced.

We know what we should do, but to do it requires the courage to enter the lions' den.

That courage can only come about if we are faithful to God and trust like Him, like Daniel did.

The only lions that we need to fear are our lack of faith and trust in God.

But when fear seems overwhelming, let us remember these words of Jesus in today's gospel : Stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is at hand.