Tuesday, January 22, 2019

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-01-19

Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17 / Mark 3:1-6

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to be in the world but not of the world. We are to bear witness to the love and truth of Jesus and not to assimilate the sinful and immoral practices of the world.

So the wheeling and dealing, and the scheming and stabbing practices of the world have no place in our lives and our work.

It also has no place in the sacred place of worship and prayer.

But as we heard in the gospel, when Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, there were some people who were watching Him to see if He would cure the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath and hence find something to use against Him.

Eventually they went out to plot against Him and discussed how to destroy Him.

What makes it all so shocking and disgusting is that all this was happening in the sacred place of prayer, right there in the synagogue, and from there the evil grew and multiplied.

As we come into the House of God to offer worship and praise and thanksgiving, let us cleanse ourselves of sin and all evil thoughts and that was what we did at the beginning of the Mass.

Let us also let the Word of God purify us with His love and truth as we come into union with His in Holy Communion.

And as we go off, let us keep Jesus in our hearts and bring the Good News of God's love to the world to heal the world of sin and evil.

Yes, we are called to be in the world, but let us always remember that we belong to Jesus.

In this wheeling and dealing, scheming and stabbing world, it is our mission to bring God's love and truth to counter it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 22-01-19

Hebrews 6:10-20 / Mark 2:23-28

One of the reasons why some people do not wish to embrace a religion is because of the obligations to the laws and practices of the religion.

In as much as they may believe in a supreme divine being, they prefer to remain as "free-thinkers" - free from religious obligations, and perhaps, moral obligations.

And we ourselves may at times find our religious obligations and laws rather cumbersome and inconvenient, and we may even think that some are like a nuisance.

But laws and obligations have a purpose. They are meant to help those who need black-and-white instructions to what needs to be done and what needs to be observed.

More than that, they also help us know where we are in our spiritual life, and to find a direction in our relationship with God.

Hence we must remember that our God is not a God of laws and commandments and obligations.

He is a God of relationships, and Jesus is the expression of that relationship.

And if Jesus is the master of the Sabbath, which is a holy day, then He is leading us into a holy relationship with God and with each other.

It is in this holy relationship that we will understand the laws and commandments and obligations.

Over and above, let us be holy, just as our Lord God is holy.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 21-01-19

Hebrews 5:1-10 / Mark 2:18-22

New ways of doing things are interesting and exciting. From cooking with firewood to gas cooking or electric cooking is really a leap of a change.

Yet new ways are not always immediately understood and accepted, even though they may be more effective and productive.

In fact, new ways are often viewed with suspicion and grilled with questions and they will be heavily criticised when a small fault happens.

The way of Jesus in proclaiming the Good News of God's love was certainly unconventional and revolutionary, but it also irked the other religious groups of His time like the scribes and Pharisees.

While the religious attitude at that time was concerned with religious purity and keeping the rituals, Jesus came along and feasted with the sinners and those considered impure.

Jesus made God's love incarnate - people, especially the sinners, could see, hear, touch and feel the love of God, and they were told that God loves them all, sinners or not.

As how the 1st reading described that a high priest is taken out of mankind and is appointed to act for men in their relations with God, so that he can sympathise with those who are ignorant or uncertain.

So Jesus, the Son of God, the high priest of God, feasted with all alike to celebrated God's love for them and to lead them back to God.

Although He was Son and high priest, He learnt to obey through suffering and He became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.

So fasting and penance are still ways to express our love for God; but in Jesus, the way of obedience brings about a deeper meaning to fasting and doing penance.

The way of obedience is not just a new way; it is the way of Jesus who is THE WAY.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

2nd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 20.01.2019

Isaiah 62:1-5 / 1 Cor 12:4-11 / John 2:1-12

There is this interesting and amusing thing that is trending on social media. It goes by the heading #10yearschallenge.

Essentially, it has two photos of the same subject, but the time gap between the two photos is 10 years apart, meaning to say that one photo was taken recently while the other was taken about 10 years ago.

With the two photos placed side by side, we will immediately notice the interesting and amusing change, especially when the subject is a person.

The background may be similar, the posture may be similar, but the difference is in the hairstyle (bushy hair vs receding hairline), the physique (skinny vs pot-belly).

What comes across obviously is change. For better or otherwise, the change is obvious as well as relentless. Almost everything will have to undergo some kind of change.

As much as change is relentless and unavoidable, the question is about the expectation of the change. For example, in a marriage, the wife might expect the husband to change from his bad old habits of smoking, drinking and gambling. But he does not and maybe even change for the worse. Or that the husband might expect the wife to remain pretty, shapely and docile. But whether she remains like that or not depends.

But whether with persons or with situations, change is inevitable. The question is about our expectations about what will happen with the change.

The gospel passage is about the event known as the Wedding at Cana, and among the guests were Mary, as well as Jesus and His disciples.

All was going well and expected to go on well when something happened – the wine ran out. Those four words “They have no wine” were certainly anxious words spoken by Mary to Jesus. 

At the happy wedding celebration, something changed, and that change brought about an anxiety and possible embarrassment for the wedding couple. It was certainly not a good way to start the first day of a marriage.

Other nasty things could also have happened, like finger-pointing, blame-pushing, voice-raising, but none of these would change the fact that there is no more wine.

So how? There were possible options but Mary chose the best option and that is to let Jesus know with those four words “They have no wine”.

The reply of Jesus was quite unexpected – “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come yet.” Jesus was almost saying that He can do nothing about it.

But the response of Mary is even more unexpected, as she tells the servants “Do whatever He tells you”. Just what was Mary expecting?

As it is, change is constant and inevitable, and change is either for the better or for the worse.

To say that things cannot change is like saying that things can only change for the worse.

To say that things can change and change for the better is to have hope. And that hope is in Jesus who changed water into wine at the wedding in Cana when they ran out of wine, although He had said that His hour has not come yet.

But what is it that made Jesus change His mind? So the miracle is not so much the water changing into wine but rather Jesus changing His mind. So what made Jesus change His mind?

One reason could be what Mary said to the servants – Do whatever He tells you. Jesus would have heard that and so maybe He reconsidered His earlier decision. 

The other reason could also be that the servants took the trouble to fill those six big stone jars with water. It was an ordinary and even mundane task but the servants did as He told them to.

And with that Jesus changed His mind and water changed into wine.

What we can learn from the wedding at Cana is that, like Mary, let us have faith and hope in Jesus that things can change and things will change even if we think that Jesus is saying “No” to our prayers. Well, at the wedding in Cana, Jesus showed that He can change His mind.

The other thing that we can learn is from the lowly servants. They did as they were told. In a way, we can say that they helped Jesus change His mind. If they didn’t fill up the water, there will be no wine.

And so we may have prayed and prayed and prayed, but we have no answer. But we must keep on praying. And have we tried all possible means?

How about writing in a petition? It is surprising that some people have desperate needs but did not think of writing a humble petition form to Jesus.

Well, let us keep praying and writing and things will change and change for the better. 

Jesus will not take 10 years to answer our prayers or take that long to change His mind.

He is just waiting for the jars to be filled with water and with our prayers.

Friday, January 18, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 19-01-19

Hebrews 4:12-16 / Mark 2:13-17

It is understandable if non-Catholics have certain assumptions and expectations about Catholics.

Because we are the largest as well as probably the most prominent Church and also the Church that the media will use for its interests.

Hence Catholics are expected to be good people and living saintly lives and doing good deeds.

But when the opposite happens, then Catholics and the Catholic Church are in for bad publicity.

That was what happened when Jesus called Levi the tax collector to be one of His disciples.

The assumption was that if Jesus were a teacher and a holy man, then He should be choosing good and respectable people to be His disciples.

Yet what Jesus said in the gospel reminds us of who He is and what the Church is all about.

He did not come to call the virtuous but sinners.

Hence the Church is also for sinners just as the hospital is for the sick.

Yet the Church is also a sign of salvation.

The Church must always look to Jesus the high priest who has been tempted in every way that we are, though He is without sin (1st reading).

Let us be confident then that we shall have mercy from Him and find grace when we are in need of help.

And let us be that sign of salvation that the world is looking for.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 18-01-19

Hebrews 4:1-5, 11 / Mark 2:1-12

In this fast-paced world, it can be difficult to see what life is all about and it can be difficult to see where life is heading.

It is like flying a jet and trying to figure out where we are on the map at the same time.

But illness and affliction grinds our life almost to a halt.

Then we begin thinking and reflecting.

But for the paralytic in the gospel passage, thinking and reflecting probably only made him more depressed.

Because during that time, illness and affliction were always connected with sin, be it a personal sin or the sin of an earlier generation.

Hence, the paralytic man could only dwell in his own guilt and unforgiveness.

Either he could not forgive himself or he could not forgive his parents or ancestors who sinned and caused him to be in such a state.

But as he came face to face with Jesus, he had also come to acknowledge his sins and to ask for forgiveness.

In our present age, many illnesses and physical afflictions can be cured.

But the illness of the heart, this sin of unforgiveness, whether towards self or towards others, can only be healed by Jesus.

We just have to come before Jesus and acknowledge it and present our burdened and hurting hearts to Jesus.

God wants our hearts to be at rest in His peace.

The 1st reading reminds us that that is God's promise to us.

In God alone will our hearts be at peace and we will rest in His love.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 17-01-19

Hebrews 3:7-14 / Mark 1:40-45

Certain words can bring back memories that we would rather forget and experiences that we would rather not remember.

For example, the word "repeat" may recall that time in school when we had to stay back for another year at the same level to redo that level because we were lazy and didn't meet the mark for the exams.

Or the word "drunk" may remind us of that occasion that we had a drink too many and said and done things we regretted.

In the 1st reading, the word "Rebellion" and that phrase "Day of Temptation in the wilderness" reminded the people of God of how they complained against God and challenged and even tested God.

For that they suffered the consequences and that generation wandered in the desert and never saw the Promised Land.

But if they didn't learn their lesson, then those words will only evoke bitter memories and they will only dwell in shame and regret.

Similarly, when some words make us recall shameful and regretful memories, then we may not have learned the lessons and we are trapped in the past.

But just as Jesus healed the leper and freed him from the past memories and experiences of rejection and bitterness, Jesus also wants to heal our past so that we can learn our lessons from them and move on and grow in love and faith.

We just have to invite Jesus to re-visit those past memories and experiences together with us and we will see His presence there and helping us to come have a closure and be reconciled with those memories and experiences.

Then like the leper who was healed, we too will experience healing and salvation.