Tuesday, August 4, 2015

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 05-08-15

Numbers 13:1-2, 25 - 14:1, 26-29, 34-35 / Matthew 15:21-28

When a promise is kept and delivered, it is an expression of the character and integrity of the person who made the promise.

But on the other hand, if the promise is not kept or broken, it says so much about what the person thinks of making promises.

In the 1st reading, we heard that God told Moses to send a reconnaissance team to the land of Canaan which He was giving to the sons of Israel.

This reconnaissance team was made up of the leaders of each tribe of Israel. The team was tasked to give a report of the land that God had promised to give to Israel after 40 days of reconnaissance.

When they came back, they showed the people the produce of the land and indeed it was a good and fertile land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

But they also said that the people in that land were a powerful people, that they were no match against them, and they began to disparage the land.

As the people began to raise their voices and cry aloud and wail in despair, they also forgot that it was a land that the Lord had promised them.

They forgot that what the Lord had promised, He will deliver. On the contrary, it was the people who didn't want to believe in the promises God made to them. God did not break His promise; rather it was the people who broke faith in God.

In the gospel, it was a Canaanite woman who came before Jesus, a woman from the land that God had promised to His people.

She had no promises to rely on. In fact the promises were somewhat against her people. But she had faith in Jesus that God can do more than He promised.

May we have that faith of the Canaanite woman that God will not only keep His promise but He will have great things in store for those who believe and trust in Him

Monday, August 3, 2015

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 04-08-15

Numbers 12:1-13 / Matthew 14:22-36

There are many stories of why St. John Vianney became the patron saint of priests, and especially priests who serve in the parishes.

One particular story is about St. John Vianney and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He was noted as a confessor who spent many hours in the confessional. But there is something else about his ministry in the confessional.

When St. John Vianney was asked about his method in the confessional which caused even hardened sinners to melt, he replied, "My recipe is to give sinners a little penance and do the rest myself."

So St. John Vianney practiced penance not as his own work but as a minimal participation in Christ's sacrificial offering of His life on the cross for the salvation of sinners.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, even though Moses was the humblest of men.

The punishment was that Miriam became a leper, and when Aaron saw her turned into a leper, he begged Moses to intercede for them to the Lord.

And Moses cried out to the Lord and begged the Lord to heal Miriam. He did this as though he had sinned, although he was innocent.

That is the spiritual attitude of St. John Vianney and the saints. They took on the sins of the people and did penance for them in order that they may be saved.

In that way, they followed Jesus who came to save sinners and offered His life in sacrifice for their salvation although He was without sin.

So praying for the salvation of sinners must also be followed by doing penance for them. May we follow Jesus who died on the cross for sinners, and like St. John Vianney continue the work of salvation.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 03-08-15

Numbers 11:4-15 / Matthew 14:13-21

We often hear this phrase: A hungry person is an angry person.

Quite true, hunger has that ability to diminish our rationale and even contort our spirituality, so much so that we can even end up doing something crazy and stupid.

But being grumpy is another story altogether.

We can be grumpy not because we are hungry, but because we are fussy.

In the 1st reading, we heard how the Israelites began to be grumpy, not because they were hungry but because they were tired of eating manna, day in day out.

And their complaints burdened Moses to the extent that he in turn complained to the Lord.

But what Moses felt about the people's complaints was a much lesser intensity about how Jesus felt over the execution of John the Baptist.

For Jesus, it was a personal tragedy, it was a time to drop everything and spend some time in great grief.

But when people came to Him with their needs, He put aside His grief and even took pity on them and healed their sick.

Moses was burdened by the people's complaints. Jesus was grieved over the death of John the Baptist.

We have experienced both kinds of situations before.

How did we react before? And how would we react in the future?

We can continue to complain about our burdens and be grumpy about things that didn't go right.

Or like Jesus, we will trust in God's grace to turn burdens into blessings, and help others to do likewise.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

18th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 01.08.2015

Exodus 16:2-4,12-15 / Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 / John 6:24-35

The month of August can be called the month of flags. And it is not just any flag but the flag of our country.

And we would have noticed as we come to church today, the flags fluttering in the wind at the entrance. Yes not just one flag but a few flags. 

And as we celebrate our country’s 50th year of independence in a week’s time, putting up the flag is not just being patriotic; it is the most profound sign of who we are and what we are as Singaporeans.

And the flag is not just a piece of cloth with some design on it. It is a national symbol and it has to be treated with respect – it is not to touch the ground and flags that are discoloured or worn out are to be returned to the Community Centers for proper disposal.

So the flag is the symbol of our nation. The elements of the flag denote a young nation on the ascendant, universal brotherhood and equality, pervading and everlasting purity and virtue, and national ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

So putting up the flag is a sign that we are proud to be Singaporeans and that we are the symbols of the ideals of our nation.

But if we are not the symbols of our nation’s ideals, then the flag is just a piece of cloth with some designs but with no real meaning.

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus mentioned something about signs.

He told the people that they were not looking for Him because they have seen the signs but because they had all the bread they wanted to eat.

And He continued by telling them not to work for food that cannot last but to work for food that endures to eternal life.

And the people asked Him what must they do if they were to do the works that God wants.

And Jesus gave this reply – to work for God means that they must believe in the One He has sent.

And then they asked – what sign will He give to show them that they should believe in Him.

And it is here that Jesus brought them back to the purpose of why they were looking for Him.

Earlier they had eaten the bread to their hearts’ content. But it seems that they did not understand the sign that Jesus was showing them in the bread.

The bread was the sign of God’s love for them. Jesus is the true bread that came down from heaven, the true bread that gives life to the world and fill empty and hungry hearts.

But for the people they were just interested in filling their empty and hungry stomachs, but their hearts are still empty and hungry because they were not filled with the bread of life and truth.

As St. Paul would urge the Ephesians in the 2nd reading, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that is corrupted by illusory desires. 

To see the sign that Jesus is giving is to undergo a spiritual revolution so that they can put on the new self that is created in God’s way, i.e. the goodness and holiness of truth.

And so it is with us. Just what are we working for and what are the directions and the goals of our life?

Are we happier now that we were before? Are we happy with our job, with our marriage, with our family?

Are we happier now that we are older? Or do we think that we were happier when we were younger?

Are we like the Israelites in the 1st reading who think that they would be happier to be under slavery in Egypt than to have freedom in the desert? 

But that is certainly an illusory desire which thinks that happiness and contentment is found everywhere else but not in the here and now.

No point going even to the moon and the stars to search for happiness, because as long as we are not happy on earth, even if we go to heaven, we might think it is hell.

The purpose of receiving Jesus the bread of life, is to open our eyes to life, and to see where are the areas of our lives that we can grow in happiness and love. 

God made all things good, and He made man the best, because man is made in the image and likeness of God.

And God uses His beautiful creation to remind us of the beauty of our lives, and how to be happy.

The following are some images of creation, symbols of happiness, so that we can see for ourselves, what we need to be, in order to be happy.

Be like the sun. Arise early, and do not go to bed late. 
Be like the moon. Shine in the darkness, but submit to the greater light. 
Be like the stars that decorate the dark sky and make it beautiful.
Be like the birds. Eat, sing, drink, and fly free.
Be like the flowers. Loving the sun, but faithful to the roots. 
Be like the faithful dog, but faithful only to the Lord. 
Be like the fruit. Beautiful on the outside, and healthy on the inside. 
Be like the day, which arrives and leaves without boasting.
Be like the well, giving water to the thirsty. 
Be like the firefly, although small, it casts its own light.
Be like the water, good and transparent 
Be like the river, always moving towards a greater goal.
Be like the flag, so that we can be proud of our nation.
And above all things, be like the heavens: A home for God.

If any of these images caught our attention, then act on it.

Let that image be our inspiration and motivation in our journey towards happiness.

May Jesus, the bread of life, fill the hunger of our hearts and the thirst of our souls, so that we become signs that point to God.

Friday, July 31, 2015

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 01-08-15

Leviticus 25:1, 8-17 / Matthew 14:1-12

At times we wonder if being good and doing good is really worth it.

Because very often, we see, and even experienced, that good is being re-paid with evil.

John the Baptist just wanted Herod to repent and live a good life.

Because what Herod did was leading towards self-destruction.

John the Baptist had compassion for Herod.

In fact, Herod knew it, and that was why he was distressed when he had to give the orders for John's execution.

But goodness cannot be silenced or put to death.

Because in the person of Jesus, Herod was once again reminded of the goodness of John the Baptist.

When we live out the Christian values of love, patience, gentleness, humility, etc., and we get slapped in the face, we may wonder if it is worth it.

But let us remember that all good comes from God.

When we do good, the benefactors are not just the others.

We ourselves begin to realize our Christian identity and see the power of goodness and the power of God's love happening in the lives of others.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 31-07-15

Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37 / Matthew 13:54-58

If someone were to ask you who preached the homily at Mass last Sunday, you might take a while to recall which priest it was.

But if the next question would be "So what did he preach about?" then we really have to crank up our memory in order to recall what we heard.

And ten other persons who were there listening to the same homily would have ten versions of what was preached.

That could mean that people are doing their own reflections about the Word of God.

Yet, people also tend to listen with varying degrees of openness and receptivity.

And that depends largely on who is speaking.

In today's gospel, we see that a judgement is made between the speaker and what was spoken.

The people of Jesus's hometown were not open to the person, and hence is not open to the truth.

When we challenge ourselves to listen to what is said and not how it is said or who is saying it, then we will be able to hear the truth.

Then we will hear the prophetic voice of God.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 30-07-15

Exodus 40:16-321, 34-36 / Matthew 13:47-53

It is very easy to use today's readings to preach a fire-and-brimstone homily about judgement and punishment, repent or burn etc.

But strange that Jesus would use the image of a dragnet.

A dragnet catches everything that is in its way.

The dragnet is such that it does not discriminate.

And that is what the church is like, or should be like.

We find all sorts of people in church - the saintly and the not-so, the straight and the crooked, the talkers and the doers, the quiet and the loud, just to name a few.

And at times, we might wonder why there are those kinds of people in church.

Maybe that's why we say that the church is a mystery.

As we heard in the first reading, the Israelites experienced mystery. In the form of the tabernacle, the Israelites came into contact with the mystery of God.

Similarly, in the Church, we encounter the mystery of God in the people present in the Church.

It is because when we believe in the mystery of the presence of God in the Church, we can then believe that God will cleanse the Church, cleanse each of us, so that we as the Church can be the distinct sign of salvation.

Then, we , the Church, can go forth and cleanse the world.