Saturday, February 6, 2016

5th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 07.02.2016

Isaiah 6:1-8 / 1 Cor 15:1-11 / Luke 5:1-11 

When we walk through the main entrance of the church, we may have noticed quite a few things there.

This life-size statue of
The Sacred Heart has been
with our Church since 1910. 
Of course we can’t miss that big statue of the Sacred Heart at the side. Standing at the side, it seems to be saying “Hello” when we come in and “Goodbye” as we go out.

And then there is a table with the “Year of Mercy” pilgrimage pamphlets and information.

And then lately, about more a week ago, we added something else.

There is another table with an acrylic box and a holder with green-coloured slips of paper by its side.

That box is for petitions to the Sacred Heart and the green-coloured slips of paper are petition slips for us to write our petitions. Of course there are pencils there as well for us to write our petitions.

Just over a week and the petition box is already almost full. About 500 petition slips and almost all are used up and hence the need to print more already.

And on the 1st Friday Mass the petitions in the petition box are offered up and prayed for.

Going by the petitions that are already in the petition box it can be said that people don’t pray only when they are in trouble.

Because when we only pray when we are in trouble, then it may mean that we are already in big trouble.

Nonetheless, trouble and desperation will make us pray. There is even a “Student’s Desperate Prayer” that goes like this: "Now I lay me down to rest, And hope to pass tomorrow's test. If I should die before I wake, Then that’s the test I don’t have to take."

But prayer is not a “spare wheel” that we pull out when we are in trouble, but a “steering wheel” to direct us along the right path.

And when prayers go up, blessings come down. But if we heard of “blessings in disguise” then we must also be prepared that when our prayers go up, then the blessings might come down as a surprise.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah began with a prayer of mourning over the king’s passing, but what came down was a vision that resulted in his commissioning when he responded “Here I am, send me.”

In the 2nd reading, St. Paul recounted how he was a persecutor of the Church before his conversion. He probably prayed for success in his persecution. But would he ever think that he would change from persecuting the Good News to preaching the Good News?

And in the gospel, Peter would had probably prayed for fish, since he worked hard all night and caught nothing. But would he ever think that from catching fish for a living, he would be catching men for the Lord?

So when prayers go up, blessings come down. And when those blessings come down, they might come down in disguise and they will also come down as a surprise.

For Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Peter, they started off with their own prayers, and the blessings that came down, came as a surprise.

So when we pray, a surprise will be awaiting us. And it might just be that we will be the answer to someone else’s prayer.

There is a story of a pretty and well-dressed lady who went to see a lawyer to file for divorce.

Her husband used to be a successful businessman, and he was able to support her expensive and lavish life-style.

But when his business failed, his wife couldn’t take it and decided to file for divorce and leave him.

When the lawyer heard her story, he told her that he would like someone to speak to her, and he called in a middle-aged office cleaner.

The lawyer asked the cleaner to tell the lady how she found meaning and direction in her life.

The cleaner’s story went like this – My husband died of cancer in his late 30s, and then barely half a year later, my only son was killed in a road accident.

I had nobody left and nothing to live for. I was in grief and in shock and in a daze. I couldn’t sleep and couldn’t eat.

I couldn’t smile. I was angry with God and resented those people who seemed so happy in life. I even thought of ending my life.

One day when I came back from work, there was a scrawny kitten at the corridor, meowing away, and it followed me to the door.

I felt sorry for the kitten, and I decided to let it in and I gave it some milk. It purred and rubbed against my leg.

For the first time in months, I smiled. Then I stopped to think. If helping and feeding a little kitten can make me smile, then maybe helping somebody in need can make me happy.

So the next day, I cooked some food and brought it to a neighbour who was elderly and sick, and it made her happy.

So every day, I would try to do something nice for someone else and it made me happy to see them happy.

I realized that a person cannot be happy unless he is thinking of how much he can help others, instead of thinking about how much he can get from others.

Now I eat well, and I sleep well, and I am happy.

And then the cleaner said to the lady: I hope that  you can be happy too, by helping others to be happy.

Whether the lady changed her mind or not, the story leaves it to us to think about it.

But the point of the story is that the poor cleaner found happiness by helping others to be happy.

She prayed for happiness and found it by helping others to be happy.

So when prayers of petition are offered up, blessings in disguise and blessings of surprise are awaiting us.

And it will help us change our own perspectives to see how God wants us to be an answer and a blessing to others.

Often we feel bad when others remember us only when they need us. But actually we should feel blessed because we are like a candle that comes to their mind when there is darkness.

So we pray, and offer up our prayer and petitions. And like Isaiah, St. Paul and St. Peter, let us be prepared to be God’s answer and blessing for others.

Friday, February 5, 2016

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 06-02-16

1 Kings 3:4-13 / Mark 6:30-34

We know that life is a continuous learning process.

This learning process is manifested in the quest for knowledge which can be attained through education and reading and research.

As it is, we are often measured by the quality of our knowledge, especially when it comes to a job requirement.

Yet knowledge does not stand alone.

Knowledge goes hand-in-hand with wisdom, and they complement each other.

To put it simply, knowledge is knowing the answer, wisdom is giving life to the answer.

In the 1st reading, when King Solomon asked for wisdom from God, it was not that he did not know how to rule. He had experienced advisers with him.

Rather he was asking God to make him a good king, a king who knows what God wants and to carry it out.

We need wisdom to see what is vital and necessary because we can get too absorbed with our busyness and get too focused on achievements.

In the gospel, even Jesus had to tell His apostles, who had just come back from successful missions and feeling high, to go off to a lonely place and rest and of course to pray.

In the spiritual sense, we need the wisdom to come to know the Lord whom we are working for instead of just doing the work of the Lord.

Wisdom is also necessary for self-knowledge and to get a good picture of ourselves.

I came across another version of the popular Serenity prayer and it goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity
to accept the people I cannot change,
the courage to face the one I can change,
and the wisdom to know it is me!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 05-02-16

Ecclesiasticus 47:2-11 / Mark 6:14-29

Each of us has some shadows, some dark spots lurking in our lives.

Though these belong to the past, yet they haunt our present, maybe because we have yet to come to terms with them and to be reconciled with what we did.

Hence, we may limp and stagger in the present because of the shadows from the past.

In the gospel, we heard how king Herod was haunted with a shadow from the past.

It was the shadow of John the Baptist whom he executed.

Everything that happened around him had that shadow of John the Baptist.

Even when he heard of Jesus, he immediately reacted by saying that it was John the Baptist whom he executed.

But Jesus did not come to settle scores with Herod.

Rather, Jesus came to save him from the shadows of the past.

Problem was that Herod chose to live among the shadows of his past.

We may have a shadowy past, a past that is peppered with black spots.

But Jesus comes to bring light, and that light gives life to the present and to scatter the shadows.

Jesus came to show us God's love and mercy and forgiveness, so that we may start living again and walking in the light of God's love.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 04-02-16

1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 / Mark 6:7-13

It is interesting to note that airlines put a weight limit on the passengers' luggage. For the economy class, it is generally 20kg.

We might think that 20kg is a lot of stuff but if we have to pack our luggage for a trip, then we will know how easy it is to exceed this weight limit.

Jesus also put a weight limit on His disciples' luggage as they set off for their mission trips.

In fact, other than the clothes that they were wearing and the sandals on their feet, they were only allowed to carry a staff. And that was only to symbolize the authority that was given to them by Jesus.

With such bare minimum, the disciples learned the first lesson of discipleship.

And that is this: God's grace alone is sufficient. The rest are peripherals. And also the rest will be provided for.

In the 1st reading, David also instructed Solomon on the bare but fundamental minimum as aspects of the kingship.

Primarily it is the obedience to the injunctions of the Lord, and the rest will be provided for by the Lord.

Hence, we may say that obedience to the Lord is the condition for His grace to be active in us.

Although God's grace is not tangible, it is certainly experienced by us, especially in times of difficulty.

Living the Christian life has its challenges, but where difficulties and challenges arise, God's grace is always present.

And where a need arises, grace provides.

We don't need 20kg of power to overcome our challenges and difficulties.

God's grace is all we need.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 03-02-16

2 Sam 24:2, 9-17 / Mark 6:1-6

About St. Blaise (memoria of the saint of the day):

He was bishop of Sebastea in Armenia in the early 4th century.

He was born of rich and noble parents, received a Christian education and made a bishop while still quite young.

When persecution arose, he was given a divine direction to withdraw to a cave in the mountains which was frequented only by wild animals.

But these wild animals did him no harm and when they were sick or wounded, they would come to him for his blessing and he healed them.

Meanwhile, hunters who had been sent to capture animals for the amphitheater, found him surrounded by these animals.

Although greatly amazed, they seized him and took him back to the authorities.

On their way, they met a poor woman whose pig had been carried off by a wolf.

At the command of St. Blaise, the wolf restored the pig unhurt.

On another occasion, a woman brought to him a little boy who was at the point of death owing to a fishbone stuck in his throat, and the saint healed him with a prayer and the sign of the cross over his throat.

On account of this and other similar cures, the intercession of St. Blaise has been invoked for all kinds of throat trouble.

St. Blaise was scourged and thrown into prison and deprived of food. But the woman whose pig had been restored secretly brought him provisions and little wicks to light up his dark dungeon.

St. Blaise was further tortured with iron combs tearing away his flesh and finally he was beheaded.

Although the intercession of St Blaise is invoked in the blessing of throats, the message and relevance of the prayer is in the expression of our faith in God our Saviour and Healer.

Through the intercession of St. Blaise and the saints, we turn to God and ask for His blessings of health in mind and body so that we can be of service to others especially to those who are ill and need our care.

So we ask for God's blessings not just for ourselves but also for those in need of healing so that they too will experience the healing love of God.

Prayer of blessing of throats :
"Through the intercession of Saint Blaise, bishop and martyr, may God deliver you from every disease of the throat, and from every other disease. In the name of the Father and of the Son, + and of the Holy Spirit.
R. Amen."

Monday, February 1, 2016

Presentation of the Lord, Tuesday, 02-02-16

Malachi 3:1-4 / Hebrews 2:14-18 / Luke 2:22-40

(On the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, candles are blessed before the Mass.)

The candles that were blessed at the beginning of the Mass were meant to be lighted and then brought along in procession into the church where the Mass will be celebrated.

The significance of this is to remind us that at Christmas, Jesus came into the world and He is the true Light.

This feast of the Presentation indicates that Jesus the Light of the world is being presented to His Father and consecrated to Him.

That is the significance of why the candles are to be lighted and brought in procession into the church.

This feast is also an occasion for those in the consecrated life to renew their commitment to God, especially those who belong to religious orders and other similar organizations.

Yet, the lighted candles also have a deeper meaning. Not only do we carry in us the light of Christ, we also unite with Him in His offering and sacrifice to the God.

Jesus was presented and consecrated to God to be the Saviour of the world.

It is through Him and in Him that the promise of salvation will be fulfilled and Jesus will fulfill that on the cross.

As we celebrate this feast of the Presentation, we also unite with Jesus and present ourselves to be consecrated for the salvation of the world.

May the blessed candles remind us that our lives are to be a continual sacrifice to God so that through us, the work of salvation that was begun in Jesus will be continued and fulfilled.

May our lives be like lighted candles that bring the light of God's love to the world.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 01-02-16

2 Sam 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13 / Mark 5:1-20

A curse can be expressed in several ways. It can take on the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a person, group, etc.

Or it can be a formula or charm intended to cause such misfortune to another. Or it can be an evil that has been invoked upon a person. Or it can be the cause of evil, misfortune, or trouble.

Whether the curse will be actualized or not is another matter.

Nonetheless, to hear the words of a curse can cut and tear the heart.

In the 1st reading, king David heard the cursed words of Shimei and he could have retaliated. But he did not.

King David knew that he was in the pits because even his own son was after his life.

Still, in the depths of his distress, he placed his hope in the Lord's mercy.

In the gospel, we can understand that what the disciples saw in the man was just a bag of curses.

They might even felt that this was the pits for them: they were in a foreign land, there was this possessed madman before them, the pigs, the cemetery around.

They were probably cursing the situation they were in and wondered why Jesus brought them there in the first place.

But that was precisely why Jesus came into this world so that the curse of sin will be changed into a blessing of hope.

So whenever we find ourselves in a lousy situation and feel like cursing, let us follow David's example and turn to God and place our hope in His mercy.

And when we have received the blessing of hope and mercy, let us also do what Jesus told the man He had healed: Go home to your people and tell them all the Lord in His mercy has done for you.