Friday, September 4, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 05-09-15

Col 1:221-23 / Luke 6:1-5

We live in this world and hence we are very much influenced by what and how the world thinks and acts.

Very often the world dictates how we should think and how we should act and even though we might think differently we end up conforming to the world's ideas.

It seems like a case of if you can't beat them then join them.

But St. Paul reminds us in the 1st reading that because of Christ, we must persevere and stand on the solid base of the faith and never let ourselves drift away form the hope promised by the Good News.

So in this world we walk by faith, and faith must guide us in how we think and act, so that what we do before God will be holy, pure and blameless.

Yes, we are in this world, yet we are not of this world; we are of Christ, and it expresses the relationship between a part and a whole.

In the gospel, Jesus proclaimed that He is master of the sabbath, which is a holy day.

Jesus is our Master, and He is also the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

May we be His faithful disciples and servants so that we can sanctify the world by living holy, pure and blameless lives so that the world can see what salvation is all about.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 04-09-15

Col 1:15-20 / Luke 5:33-39

Whenever people say that "God is everywhere", do they mean it literally or is it just a figure of speech?

If God is everywhere, then where and how can He be seen clearly and obviously?

Some people in the Old Testament were privileged to have seen God face-to-face (Abraham, Moses).

In the New Testament, Jesus is the image of the unseen God, and the people saw that "many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Lk 10:24)

But as much as the people saw Jesus, heard Him and even touched Him, what was their perception of Him? Were they able to see beyond His humanity that veiled His divinity?

The 1st reading states that Jesus is the Head of His body the Church. So where do we see the presence of Jesus in the Church and more so in the Eucharist?

In the Eucharist, we see the presence of Christ in the sacred species of His Body and Blood; in the priest who stands in the person of Christ as he offers the sacrifice on the altar; in the Word that is proclaimed as God speaks to His people; in the faithful who are gathered as the Body of Christ for the Eucharist.

Yes, these are the sacramental signs of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Yet, we need to look deeper in order to see Christ in these sacramental signs and also to see Christ in the people around us.

We pray that our eyes will have the spiritual vision to see that God is everywhere and in everyone.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 03-09-15

Col 1:9-14 / Luke 5:1-11

Menial work is considered as  unskilled, lowly, humble, low-status and inferior, as compared to the other skilled and higher professions.

Consequently, menial workers are considered to be among the lower rungs of society and their opinions and suggestions are not usually considered valuable in the discussions and debates at the intellectual level.

Though their contribution to society is essential, they are often overlooked and forgotten and not much is expected of them other than the essential services that they provide.

Being a fisherman in the time of Jesus may be considered as menial work and fishermen were classed among the lower rungs of society.

In the gospel, Jesus sat on a humble fishing boat and that was where He taught the crowds.

And from the humble fishing boat, Jesus told Simon Peter to do something that was against his fisherman sense - to put out into deep water and pay out the nets for a catch.

Simon Peter was hesitant but nonetheless he complied and then he was confounded.

Simon Peter was confounded because he didn't expect the miraculous catch of fish and more so for it to happen to him.

But that is God's way of revealing Himself - He looks upon the humble and raises the lowly.

When we humble ourselves and not think too highly or proudly of ourselves, then God will show us great and wonderful things.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 02-09-15

Col 1:1-8 / Luke 4:38-44

All men are created equal. In principle that is true. But it also cannot be denied that some are more gifted that others.

These are certainly a minority and in a way it can be said that they are a special breed.

Some are gifted with endurance, others with speed, others with stamina that defy age, others with intelligence that would categorize them as geniuses.

But the majority are certainly mere ordinary mortals who succumb to age and illness and even dementia.

Most people would think that Jesus could do all that teaching and healing and miracles because He is divine.

Though He is also human, yet in most instances His divinity was more emphasized than His humanity.

In the gospel, it was obvious that Jesus had a very busy time. Earlier on in the synagogue, He had driven out an evil spirit that possessed a man.

Then as He came out of the synagogue, He went on to Simon Peter's house where He healed the mother-in-law of her fever.

Then at sunset, all those who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another were brought to Him and He cured them.

It was amazing that He had that kind of energy and charity. We would say that we don't have that kind of energy and charity and we would add on to say that it is also because Jesus is God.

But the gospel also did mention that when daylight came, Jesus made His way to a lonely place, obviously to pray.

It was prayer that empowered Him to continue His mission of preaching and healing.

If it is so for Jesus, then it is all the more for us. Prayer must be our priority. All things being equal, but prayer must take first place, because that is how we get connected to our Creator.

Monday, August 31, 2015

22nd, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 01-09-15

1 Thess 5:1-6, 9-11 / Luke 4:31-37

It is when people are saying "How quiet and peaceful it is" that the worst suddenly happens. That is one of the statements from the 1st reading.

That may be similar to what they say about the lull before the storm. It is also a strategy used in warfare to attack the enemy when the enemy is most unprepared and not alert.

It seems to be such a drastic contrast that when things are quiet and peaceful, it is also a time that chaos and havoc can spring up suddenly.

The point in the 1st reading was the call to stay awake and sober, and not to slide to complacency and carelessness and forget that we are called to greater and higher things in life.

The urgency of the call is not for a later time or to be postponed, but it is for an immediate response.

In the gospel, as the people came to the synagogue for a time of prayer, they were expecting a time of quiet and peace.

But that was shattered when a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil shouted at Jesus with the top of its voice.

The people could be shocked by it, or perturbed or irritated or agitated by it, and the initial reaction would be to drag that possessed man out of the synagogue and restore the quiet and peace.

But let us remember that peace is not the absence of disturbance. Rather peace is about being aware of THE Presence.

In the gospel, the presence of Jesus drove out the evil from the possessed man. May the presence of Jesus also bring about peace and quiet in our hearts amidst the chaos and havoc around us.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 31-08-15

1 Thess 4:13-18 / Luke 4:16-30

Life and death may sound like opposites. But there is also a ironic connection between life and death.

That connection is put into quotes like: If you don't live for something, you will die for nothing.

So as much as the finality of life ends with death, yet life without a purpose is also a life that is meaningless. In that sense death has already taken place.

With that we may understand what St Paul said in the 1st reading: We want you to be quite certain about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope.

He was referring to those who have come to believe in Jesus during their lifetime and have died.

It was because of their faith that they had the hope that death would be the passage to the glory that Jesus had promised them in the afterlife.

And Jesus Himself, in the gospel, had this great vision to live for as He proclaimed that passage from the prophet Isaiah.

It was really something to look forward to, something great to live for and Jesus knew that He was the one who is to bring and as well as to be the Good News to the poor.

So the rejection from the people of His home-town was not going to deter Him nor was He going to let them end His life just like that.

Jesus had something great to live for, and in the end He had something even greater to die for.

He died in order to save us so that in turn we can bring the Good News to others and even be the Good News for others. That is really something to live for. To wait further is to let death push us down the cliff.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 30.08.2015

Deut 4:1-2, 6-8 / James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 / Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The word “smart” is generally used to describe the intelligence level of some people.

When we say that a person is smart, it would mean that the person is clever, bright, intelligent, sharp-witted, quick-witted and maybe even shrewd and astute.

And if we say that a person looks smart, it means that the person is neat and well-dressed and maybe even stylish. But that’s only for the looks; it does not say much about the intelligence.

Nowadays the word “smart” is not just used to for people but also for devices and appliances.

So there is the smart phone, the smart TV, the smart car, and whatever they could make smart and smarter.

But no matter how smart things can become, they depend on one thing – that little chip that is called the CPU (central processing unit).

So smart devices or appliances can’t choose to do whatever they like. They can only do what they are programmed to do, and we can’t tell them to do otherwise.

So there is no point shouting at the computer or handphone or calling it “stupid”. They are only following their programmed instructions and they will stick to it.

In a way we can call them “robots of habit” – they will just do what they have been programmed to do and they won’t ask why. They can’t.

In today’s gospel passage, we heard the Pharisees and scribes asking Jesus why His disciples do not wash their hands before eating, and hence not respecting the tradition of the elders.

Jesus called them hypocrites, because they were only interested in regulations and traditions.

Putting it in another way, the scribes and Pharisees are like “robots of rituals”.

They have been programmed by human regulations and human traditions which they follow meticulously.

And these “robots of rituals” can also talk – they criticize others for not following the programmed regulations and traditions.

And the quotation from the prophet Isaiah sums up the crux of the matter : These people honour me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.

In other words, the scribes and Pharisees follow the regulations and traditions like “robots of rituals” and they can even criticize others for not doing so.

But the heart is not there. Just like robots have no heart; they only a CPU that runs the program.

While regulations and traditions have a useful purpose and rituals can help to sanctify, it is the heart that matters.

Because it is the heart that gives life to regulations and traditions and rituals, and then they become expressions of love.

Without the heart, we become like “robots of rituals” that only look smart but with no meaning or understanding.

There was once a monastery, where the abbot had a very punctual cat. Every morning, just before prayer, it would begin wonder around and distract the monks.

After a few weeks of this irritating habit, the abbot gave permission for the cat to be tied up. After a few years, the abbot died, and the cat outlived him, and the practice to tie up the cat continued. Eventually, the cat died.

The monks of the monastery, upon realising that there was no cat to tie up before prayer, brought in another cat, and so, every morning, the cat would be tied up so that prayers could go ahead.

The tradition continued and original cord that was used to tie up the cat was revered as a relic. Books on devotions and novenas were written on the spiritual significance of tying a cat before prayers. 

Prayers to the “holy cat” were compiled and studied devotedly and pictures of the cat were being mass produced.

Just a story to show how absurd traditions can become and people can turn into “robots of rituals”.

And this can even happen at Mass. We come for Mass and a programme kicks in and we become “robots of rituals”.

We know when to stand, when to sit, when to kneel, when to say “Amen” and when to take out some money to put into the collection bag.

But is there anything happening to our hearts? Do our hearts feel the love of God that makes us aware of the sinfulness that is lurking in our hearts?

Jesus pointed out what could be the sinfulness of our hearts – fornication, theft, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.

All these make our hearts unclean but we come before the Lord in the Mass so that He can cleanse our hearts with the precious blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross.

When we want to be cleansed, then our hearts will change. We won’t be “robots of rituals”; we become God’s holy people and we offer a worship that is pleasing to God as we offer to God a humble and contrite heart.

We are not called to be smart. We are called to be holy so that we will be holy in our worship and in our relationships and we become truly human and we will also become truly loving.

Then we will be able to cleanse this world of sin and evil, and we will also help to turn robotic human beings into persons of love.