Saturday, July 23, 2016

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 24.07.2016

Genesis 18:20-32 / Colossians 2:12-24 / Luke 11:1-13

Generally speaking, people do pray. More so for us as Catholics, we pray, whether sporadically, as in once in a while, or every day. 

And when we come for Mass, we pray. So we can say that at least we pray once a week, and hopefully we pray more than that.

By and large, when we pray, we pray for our own needs and intentions. At least we begin somewhere in prayer.

How our prayer is answered that depends on God surely. But as much as prayer is a serious affair, there can be a humourous side to it.

Not to say that prayer is a joke, but jokes about prayer can at times reveal how we are praying and what we are praying for. Here are some examples.

Man - God how long is a million years to you?
God – Oh, it is just like a minute.
Man - God how much is a million dollars to you?
God – Oh, it is just like a cent to me
Man - God can I have a cent?
God – Ok, just wait a minute …

A priest preached sermons that were very long and boring. And for the final hymn, the congregation would sing “God of mercy and compassion.” 

Then one Sunday the priest announced to the congregation that he will transferred to another church and that it was Jesus' wish that he leave that week. 

Then for the final hymn, the congregation got up and sang loudly: "What a Friend we have in Jesus!" 

Just a joke, but when we say we joking, there is an underlying truth about the reality.

What we heard in the 1st reading may seem to be like a joke.

The outcry was against the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God was about to inflict a punishment on them for their grievous sin.

Abraham stood before the Lord and he began to plead by saying, “Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner?

He began by saying what if there were fifty just men in the town. And then he bargained for forty-five, and then forty, and then thirty, and then twenty, and then finally ten.

As much as the punishment was going to be serious, the bargaining that Abraham had with God does seem rather funny.

It sounds like something we like to do at the road-side stalls where there is no fixed price and it’s a matter of how much we can haggle to get the cheapest price.

But as much as it may sound rather funny, that is also the reality with God’s mercy. God’s mercy is funny in that it comes at the “cheapest price”.

Abraham stopped at ten, but would God have relented if Abraham went down to just one?

The Bible tells us that the Lord God is slow to anger but rich in compassion and mercy.

And in the gospel, Jesus tells us the key that would unlock this compassion and mercy of God. And the key is persistence.

In the parable, persistence will be enough to make the man get up and give his friend all he wants.

And that is why Jesus tells us this: Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.

So Jesus tells us to ask, to search, to knock. Not just once or twice or hope that we will be lucky the third time around. 

But when we ask, when we search, when we knock, the first time, and then a second time and then a third time, and then how? And then what?

Abraham went from 50, to 45, to 40, to 30, to 20 and then to 10. Would we go further than that by going all the way with 5, and then 4, and then 3, and then 2, and even to 1?

Every week, in the acrylic petition box that is next to that big statue of the Sacred Heart, there are about 250 petitions, and at times 300 or even more.

Let’s say that Jesus appeared to me and tells me that if I can find 50 virtuous and just persons in this parish to pray for these petitions, He will answer all of them. Do you think I can find 50 virtuous and just persons to pray for these petitions?

Will there be 50 virtuous and just persons in this parish community to pray for these petitions so that Jesus will answer these petitions.
Or will I have to say, how about 45, or 40, or 30, or 20, or 10, or 5, or just 1?

If it has to be just one, then will you be the one? Will you be the virtuous and just person who will offer yourself to pray for these petitions every day so that others will experience the love and compassion and mercy of Jesus?

For those who write their petitions, they have already expressed their sincerity and need. Will there be anyone who will pray for their need?

Every Friday at the evening Mass we offer those intentions to Jesus, and especially at the 1st Friday Mass when we offer up all the intentions to His Sacred Heart.

We pray that for those whose petitions are answered, they will have a deeper devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in turn be the missionaries of His love and mercy.

We just have to pray and ask and persist in doing so. 

A million graces will be poured from the Heart of Jesus. And we won’t have to wait a million years for that.

So let us be united as one in Jesus and pray for those in need, because God our Father is waiting to pour His mercy and compassion and everything that is good for those who ask, and ask, and persist in asking.

Friday, July 22, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 23-07-16

Jeremiah 7:1-11 / Matthew 13:24-30

Christians deplore the practice of superstition as it conflicts and contradicts the belief in God.

Included in the superstitious practices are consulting horoscopes, fortune-tellers and palm-reading, etc.

But few of us Catholics would admit to having religious superstitions.

For e.g., what are the real reasons for hanging the palm branch on the door post, drink holy water, wear holy medals, etc.

Of course there are valid religion reasons for these practices, but yet we can also concoct our own queer reasons for doing so.

The 1st reading pointed out that the people were using the Temple of the Lord as a kind of religious superstitious object by saying delusive words like "This is the sanctuary of the Lord."

The contradiction was that they know they were in the presence of God and yet they continue with their sinful ways.

Religion becomes a sort of superstition when we say we believe in God and come to church to obtain whatever religious articles and yet there is no change in our sinful ways.

The gospel parable highlights the sinful and superstitious practices in our lives but God is loving and merciful.

May the weeds of our sinfulness slowly diminish and may we produce a rich harvest of true love for God and neighbour.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

St. Mary Magdalene, Friday, 22-07-16

Songs 3:1-4 / John 20:1-2, 11-18

One of the amazing technological developments is the advancement of artificial intelligence with its identification and recognition abilities.

So on the mobile phones there is the fingerprint recognition, on the laptop there is the face recognition,

And then there is the automatic speech recognition (ASR) which is used in speech-to-text programs, but the user is required to "train" the ASR program to recognize their voice so that it can more accurately convert the speech to text.

But it still cannot be compared to the human voice with its unique individual accent, inflections, intonations, as well as the one listening to the voice and making a discernment and a response to the voice.

This is profoundly expressed in today's gospel, when the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.

She initially did not recognise Him physically and even though she heard His speaking to her, she thought He was a gardener.

It was only when Jesus called her by name, "Mary", that she knew who He really was.

Certainly it was the voice, but it was also the voice that expressed the name, and in such a personal way that Mary knew it was Jesus.

Just as it was with Mary Magdalene, the Lord Jesus calls out to us and speaks to us in a very personal way. He calls out to us in a way that we will understand.

So even though we may not see Jesus physically, He will call out to us in a very personal and loving way as He did with Mary Magdalene. May we respond to His call as she did.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 21-07-16

Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13 / Matthew 13:10-17

A sharp knife and a blunt knife have different uses.

A sharp knife slices and cuts things easily, be it bread or vegetables or meat.

A blunt knife is as good as a butter knife. It will be frustrating to use a blunt knife or butter knife to cut or slice meat or vegetables.

God had intended Israel to be a sharp sword, with which He will use to fight against her enemies and to drive them out of the land that He had promised them.

But from being a sharp sword, they became a blunt knife as soon as they entered the land that God had promise them.

They became unfaithful to God and turned to idol worship. As the 1st reading puts it: "My people have committed a double crime: they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, only to dig cisterns for themselves, leaky cisterns that hold no water."

In the gospel, Jesus had this to say about the people: For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing and they have shut their eyes.

In other words, from a sharp sword, the people of God had become a blunt knife, such that they whatever they saw and heard did not enter their hearts.

May we realize who we are as the people of God. May we be the sharp sword that the Lord God can use to fulfill His plan. May we also sharpen our hearts and ears and eyes through prayer and penance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-07-16

Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10 / Matthew 13:1-9

For those of us who live in an urban environment, it is often said that we live in a concrete jungle.

But even though it may be a concrete jungle, we know our way around, we have electricity at our disposal and gadgets to get on with our work and other devices for our entertainment.

But when we move out to the countryside, we may be awed by nature with its so many varieties with its sounds and colours and to see how animals and plants grow and multiply.

If we were shown some seeds, we may not be able to identify them to their species nor will we know what type of plant or tree it they would grow into.

But certainly God will know, and He creates with a divine plan and order that each seed will have a future of growth and add to the wonder and beauty of His creation.

And even for us, as the prophet Jeremiah says in the 1st reading, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you."

Each of us have a purpose in God's plan. For Jeremiah it was to be a prophet to the nations.

But like the seeds in the gospel parable, there will be challenges and difficulties when it comes to fulfilling God's plan and purpose for us.

But like what the Lord told Jeremiah: There, I am putting my words into your mouth. Look today I am setting you over nations and over kingdoms, to tear up and to knock down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

May our ears listen to the Word of God so that our mouths will always be ready to speak His Word and to bear a harvest for the Lord.

Monday, July 18, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-07-16

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 / Matthew 12:46-50

If we have a family member who is a priest or a religious, you would be proud of him or her.

I say this because I know that my parents are happy and thankful to God for calling me to be a priest.

If you were to ask me: Are my parents important to me?

I will say "Yes". Whenever I have the time, I would go home to spend some time with them.

But they are important to me not just because of the emotional and affectionate ties.

They are important to me, because like me, they had to struggle in letting me answer God's call.

And they are important to me because they still have to make sacrifices when it comes to my duties as a priest.

But most importantly, they continue to pray for me that I be steadfast in my priesthood.

Today's gospel has a deep personal meaning for you and me.

The question for us to reflect is this - Can we say with conviction that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus?

If we can truly say that, then be prepared to fulfill God's will above all else in our lives.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-07-16

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8 / Matthew 12:38-42

Whenever we look at a religion, we look at its spiritual founder and what he taught.

But more importantly than the teachings are the fruits of the religion.

What effects does that religion have on people?

Similarly whenever we look at Christianity, we too have to ask: What effects does Christianity have on people, especially on Christians?

Well, Jesus was asked to give a sign so as to prove Himself.

He did not. Rather He highlighted a sign that the Pharisees obviously missed.

And that was the effects of His teachings on the people.

Whenever He taught, the people saw the need for repentance and changed their lives.

Religion is not just about worshipping and offering sacrifices.

It is about how our lives are changed and what God is asking of us.

The 1st reading puts it very profoundly and very practically about what God is asking of us.

That is to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.

That is also the sign we need to give, the fruit we need to bear, so that others can believe in the God we believe in.