Monday, August 20, 2018

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-08-18

Ezekiel 28:1-10 / Matthew 19:23-30

It is quite surprising and amazing how we easily accept society's way of segregating us into classes.

And we also subconsciously divide ourselves against each other.

For example, the one driving a bigger car would expect the one driving a smaller car to give way.

The ones who have more money will get better and faster treatment.

The 1st class passengers get to leave the plane first, just like the 1st class passengers were the first to leave the sinking Titanic.

Yes, all of us are equal, but some have made themselves like gods.

Such was the case of the king of Tyre in the 1st reading.

Such will also be our case if we don't watch our pride, because pride comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18), just like the impending tragedy that was to befall the king of Tyre.

And if we think that we can feel more secure by having more material possessions, then we will surely fall because we will trip over the stuff that we are dragging along.

We like to think that with a lot of material possessions, we can be first.

But as Jesus said in the gospel, those who are first will be last.

May Jesus always be the first in our lives so that we will know that we are all equal in His eyes.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-08-18

Ezekiel 24:15-24 / Matthew 19:16-22

In the book of Job 1:21, there is this quote from Job: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

Job's tribulations began when all his possessions and children were taken away from him, and his response was rather stoic, although it was nonetheless a statement of faith.

Yes, we came into this world with nothing, and we will depart from this world with nothing. No matter how much or how little we possess, we can't take anything with us. We even have to leave our body behind.

That is the obvious truth and we face that reality day after day as we see death consume our loved ones and friends.

But even in life, what we possess for now may not be ours always. Our fortunes will change, our health will change, our relationships will change, either for better or for worse.

For the prophet Ezekiel, he was deprived suddenly of the delight of his eyes, in that his wife died suddenly. 

Ezekiel had to accept that as part of his mission as a prophet, as it will be a sign to his people of what God would be taking away from them so that they will learn that He is the Lord.

The rich young man in the gospel had yet to learn that whatever he possessed was given to him by the Lord. Whether he will eventually learn that he can't take all his wealth with him when he dies, we do not know.

But it is a point of reflection and a reminder for us. Naked we came from the womb, naked we will depart. Whatever we possess is given by the Lord and it must be used to do good.

The Lord is our only true treasure.  He is all that we ever want, He is all we ever need.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

20th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 19.08.2018

Proverbs 9:1-6 / Ephesians 5:15-20 / John 6:51-58
Ever since the earliest human beings uttered a sound from their mouths in order to express something, the art of communication was born.

And that art of communication is constantly evolving and refined, from the oral to the written, together with the tools of communication, like letters, telephone, emails and video-conferencing.

But even with modern and advanced means of communication, there are those perennial problems of miscommunication and misunderstanding.

Although miscommunication and misunderstanding can be serious problems, there are also funny sides to it, like this one:

Wife asked her husband to give her the newspapers.
Husband: How backward you are! Technology has developed so much and you are still asking for the newspapers? Here, take my iPad.
Wife took the iPad and with it slammed it on a cockroach.
Husband fainted!
Moral: Whatever the wife ask, give her without arguing. Show your smartness in the office, not at home, otherwise there can be serious consequences.

Also, words may not be necessarily understood at face-value. When the mother or wife says “Fine”, better think again – it may not be that fine at all. 
Or when the boss says “Up to you”, it actually means that you better ask him, because it is up to him, not up to you.

So with all the complexities of miscommunication and misunderstanding, we may get an idea of what was going on between Jesus and His listeners in the gospel. Well, actually not what was going on, but more like what was going wrong.

For the past couple of Sundays, we heard Jesus saying that He is the bread of life. His listeners understood it as ordinary bread, though they would have wondered why Jesus calls Himself the bread of life.

But in today’s gospel, Jesus goes on to say that the bread that He shall give is His flesh for the life of the world, and that His flesh is real food and His blood real drink.

That really stumped His listeners and hence their objecting question: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat.” Yes, how can it be possible?

On the logical and rational level, there seems to be some kind of miscommunication and a lot of misunderstanding. As it is said, the longest distance between two people is misunderstanding.

But Jesus said what He meant and meant what He said, and both in the literal and mystical sense.

While His listeners understood the bread in the ordinary sense, Jesus was talking about His flesh as bread in the mystical sense.

Because human intelligence can only grasp that much about the bread that Jesus was talking about. It was a case of understanding a bit and misunderstanding a lot.

And that was why the listeners asked that question “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They have come to the edge of the cliff of their understanding, and they can’t go further, and they won’t go further. They just cannot believe it.

But we believe, and hence we can understand what Jesus said about the bread that He gives is His flesh. And that’s why when we come forward at Holy Communion to receive the Body of Christ, we respond with an affirmative “Amen”. 

Yes, we believe that we are receiving the Body of Christ, we are receiving the flesh that is from the Heart of Christ.

But it is not just mere human intelligence and logical understanding that led us to believe. It is by the gift of faith and divine guidance that led us to believe.

And if we truly believe, then we would be coming for Mass every day to partake of this Divine Bread, so that our faith will be strengthened and we will let Divine Wisdom guide us to recognize the will of the Lord and to live our lives according to that will.

The will of God is that we come into communion with Him through Jesus our Bread of life, so that we can be in communion with the people around us.

But communion can only happen when we address the problems of miscommunication and misunderstanding. So we have to think before we talk. And there is a rather funny logical way to it:

If the person is junior to you, count to 10 and then talk.
If the person is equal to you, count to 30 and then talk.
If the person is your senior, count to 50 then talk.
But if the person is your mother or your wife, keep counting; better not talk.

The logical way is counting. But the mystical and spiritual way is praying.

And what better way to pray than to come for Mass daily.

When we believe that Jesus is our Bread of Life and when we come into communion with Him, we will live in Him and He in us.

Then we will be ready to face the miscommunications and misunderstandings of life and bring about an understanding and a communion.

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 18-08-18

Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13, 30-32 / Matthew 19:13-156

There is truth in the proverb quoted in the 1st reading: The fathers have eaten unripe grapes; and the children's teeth are set on edge.

The truth is that children learn from their parents, and in those Biblical times, the father is the head of the family and he sets the example and so naturally the children learn primarily from him.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord said that this proverb will no longer have any reason to be repeated, because now, the man who has sinned, he is the one who shall die.

So it will have to be a personal accountability, and no one can no longer say that he sinned because his father had sinned and the sin is passed down to him.

But as much as there must be a personal accountability, then fathers, as well as parents and teachers and those who have an influence over children must also be accountable for what they are teaching the children.

This accountability becomes greater and heavier when we read what Jesus said in the gospel about children: Let the little children come to me, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.

So let us be aware of what we teach to the little children. Our responsibility is to teach them the ways of the Lord and to show them God's love and mercy.

When we have fulfilled our responsibility, then it will be for them to be accountable when they come of age.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-08-18

Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63 / Matthew 19:3-12

We are familiar with the proverb "Great oaks grow from little acorns". Indeed, everything has a humble beginning.

Great cathedrals were once started from a single block of stone. If Rome wasn't build in a day, then everything will have to grow and be built day by day.

Humble beginnings must always be remembered, so that however glorious or whatever greatness is achieved, one won't get too proud or conceited.

In fact, as nature would show us, the taller the tree, the deeper the roots. The greater we become, the more we must remember how we began.

In the 1st reading, we read how God favoured His people and blessed them with abundance. But as the 1st reading tells us, they became infatuated with their own beauty. Their vanity made them think that it was all their own achievement and that also made them turn away from God and turn to the other nations for more wealth and fame.

They forgot that it was God who provided for them and it was His blessings that made them famous and prosperous.

Because they forgot their humble beginnings, God treated them as they deserved - they were covered with shame and reduced to silence. They were humbled so that they can remember the covenant that God made with them and turn back to Him.

Similarly for us, in whatever state of life, we must remember our humble beginnings and remember that it is God who brought us to this blessed moment.

So whether in marriage, or as a single, or as a religious or priest, minor or governor, peasant or president, let us continue to turn to the Lord our God for His blessings and guidance in life.

It is God who will make us great and prosperous; we just need to be humble and remember our humble beginnings.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-08-18

Ezekiel 12:1-12 / Matthew 18:21 - 19:1

It is very humiliating when others treat you as some kind of commodity. It is not just humiliation but also a total disregard for the human dignity and for the human person.

When we are treated as a commodity, it means that we can be bought and sold for a price and the owner can do whatever he wants with us.

In other words, it means that we are not human beings; we are just things that are to be used and when we are of no use, we can be thrown away.

When Jesus told the parable of the servant who owned an enormous amount of money, the king had intended for him and his family to be sold in order to pay the debt.

That servant was treated as a thing but when he pleaded for mercy, the king cancelled his debt and treated him as a human being.

Well, that servant ought to have treated his fellow servant who owed him a much lesser amount, with the same dignity that the king treated him.

It has been often said that to forgive is divine; yet to forgive is also human.

Yet when we don't forgive, we become less human, if not inhumane.

And when we take forgiveness for granted, then we will become like the people in the 1st reading.

They took God's mercy and forgiveness for granted and hence they were exiled and were treated like things and not like human beings.

As we are forgiven, so too must we forgive, if we want to live and be treated as human beings.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Assumption of the BVM 2018, Wednesday, 15-08-18

Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6. 10 / 1 Cor 15:20-26 / Luke 1:39-56

Last Monday, the 13th August, we had our usual monthly Rosary at Mary’s shrine.

The turnout was more than usual because the Inquirers from the RCIA journey were invited to see for themselves what the monthly Rosary is all about.

They had begun the journey in early July so it is only slightly more than a month that they had been coming to the Church, and they are still not that familiar with the practices of the Catholic Church.

So for some of them, if not all of them, the Rosary at Mary’s shrine was probably their first encounter of such a practice.

They would have their queries, like, “Why are Catholics praying to a statue? Is it a deity?”or “Who is this Mary? Is she the Mother goddess or what?”

Of course all their queries were addressed or will be addressed along the way. But it would be difficult to explain the feast of the Assumption to them.

It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that Mary’s body was assumed into heaven. But it was only in 1950, 15th August, that Pope Pius XII officially declared Mary’s Assumption as an article of faith.

In other words, the Church has boldly declared that Mary is in heaven, body and soul, a declaration that is definite and irreversible. It was a declaration not just on the authority of the Church but also under the authority of the Holy Spirit.

With this declaration, our faith in the saving power of God is reinforced. Mary is the first to be saved by the saving work of Jesus, and the first to enter heaven body and soul, hence assuring us that we too will join her one day, and that would be at the resurrection on the Last Day.

At the same time, our faith in Mary’s intercession is also reinforced, because from heaven she continues to pray for us as our Heavenly Mother, a mission that she received at the foot of the cross and that she continues even in heaven.

Mary is not a goddess or a deity. She needs to be saved by Jesus and in her Assumption, God is showing us that Mary has received the fullness of salvation.

And let us also pray with her for the salvation of all peoples. That’s what the Assumption means for us.