Monday, March 25, 2019

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 26-03-19

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35

Most of us have this experience of lending money to people.

And most of the time, we end up so frustrated and feel like banging our heads against the wall.

Because we lent the money so easily, but it came back to us with so much difficulty and so slowly, if ever at all.

And of course, the higher the amount of money lent, the greater the frustration and the heart-ache.

So when it comes to talking about forgiveness, Jesus did not talk in abstract terms.

He used this experience of loans and payment.

Immediately we will know what it means to forgive. It is almost synonymous to writing off a debt.

But to be able to write off a debt, it means that we have come to the realization and enlightenment that there is something beyond money.

Only then can we let go and move on.

Similarly, to forgive someone who had done us great harm and hurt us grievously, it means that we have come to the realization and enlightenment that there is something beyond the anger, the pain and the hate.

Let us pray for this realization and enlightenment.

Because it is a special grace from God. It is His healing love that is being poured into our hearts.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Annunciation of the Lord, Monday, 25-03-13

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10 / Hebrews 10:4-10 / Luke 1:26-38

Almost everyday, we will come across some kind of announcement.

Announcements are made through public announcement systems in supermarkets, on the MRT, in schools, in the workshops and over the radio

Other announcements are just visuals on TV, signboards, public display systems, on our computers and on our mobile devices.

Announcements try to catch our attention but we can ignore them if they are not important to us.

Other announcements may be urgent and require our attention and response. How and when we will respond will depend on how we will be affected by the announcement.

The Annunciation of the Lord is an important announcement to Mary. Through the angel Gabriel, Mary is invited to participate in God's plan of salvation.

How Mary will respond is of critical importance to God's plan. Of course, we now know that she accepted it and thus God's plan took flesh in Mary.

But God's plan of salvation continues to unfold through the Church and through each of us.

Our "Yes" to God's will mean that salvation will be possible for us and for those around us. Our "No" to God's will may mean that we put our own salvation into jeopardy and others may not experience the saving love of God.

May Mary pray for us that we will, like her, say "Yes" to God so that God can save us, and through us God can also save others.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year C, 24.03.2019

Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 / 1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12 / Luke 13:1-9
One of the reasons for accepting and embracing a religion is this age-old need for protection and security in a world where violence and hostility seem so common.

And the violence and hostility have often resulted in the shedding of innocent blood. So the violence and hostility are directed at innocent and defenseless people who have no means to avert it or to stop it.

That makes people realise that they need God to watch over them (despite whatever human security measures there might be) and protection from unforeseen dangers and snares.

But in recent times, even places of prayer and worship don’t seem to be safe any longer. Churches have been bombed and attacked and worshippers were killed.

Last week, in New Zealand, two mosques were attacked by gunmen and a number were killed and wounded.

So where once it was unthinkable, now the evil of hostility and violence has attacked the sacred spaces of prayer and worship and also shed innocent blood.

Putting it plainly and starkly, evil has attacked the House of God and shed blood on holy ground. Where once it was unthinkable, now that is the reality and it is causing anxiety and fear and the faith is shaken. Just yesterday, a priest was stabbed during Mass at a Canadian church and it was live-streamed on TV. It was shocking, but thanks be to God, the priest only suffered minor upper body injuries.

So can we feel safe anymore as we come to church to pray and worship. Will God protect us from the evil of hostility, violence and terrorism? Does God know? And if He knows, why is He not doing anything to stop this evil and those who are doing it? 

In the gospel, we hear of something very disturbing and disgusting. Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with that of their sacrifices.

There were not many details about it but it can be certain that it was an occult ritual. 

But Jesus didn’t seem to address this aspect of evil. Rather, He addressed the aspect of sin. He said that those Galileans who were killed were not more sinful than the rest of the other Galileans, nor were those 18 who were killed when the tower of Siloam collapsed on them.

The Galileans and those 18 were killed not because they were more sinful than the rest. Nor were those who died from terrorism attacks. They were certainly not more sinful than the rest.

And then Jesus gets to the point as He says: But unless you repent, you will all perish as they did.

And we should be bewildered. So here we are telling Jesus about this rampant evil of hostility, violence and terrorism, and He tells us that we should repent.

Of course we will protest. Jesus should make those evil people repent, and maybe tell us to forgive them. But why is He telling us to repent?

And here is where we have to turn back to the 1st and 2nd readings to understand why Jesus is telling us to repent.

The 1st reading tells us that God saw the miserable state of His people in Egypt. He heard their appeal to be free of their slave-drivers. He was aware of their sufferings and He intended to do something.

So He called out to Moses and gave him the mission to deliver His people out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them to the Promised Land.

So God sees, God hears, God knows and God will act. And He told Moses that the people just had to invoke the name of the Lord God and He would come to their help and deliver them and be their Protector.

So all was well and good until the 2nd reading tells us that though God led His people through the desert and provided food and drink for them as they went, most of them failed to please God and their corpses littered the desert.

The 2nd reading continues: These things all happened as warnings for us, not to have the wicked lusts for forbidden things that they had. You must never complain as some of them did, and they were killed by the Destroyer.

It ends off by giving us this warning: The man who thinks he is safe must be careful that he does not fall.

So what God wants of us is our obedience and faithfulness. But when we sin, we create openings for evil to enter into our lives and in doing so, we become like those who complained and then perished in the desert.
Our sins will also weaken the faith of the Church and the threats of the evil of hostility, violence and terrorism becomes greater. It can be observed that as the faith of the Church grows weaker, the threat of the evil of terrorism becomes stronger.

Our safety is not just in tight security measures or having heavily-armed security personnel. Our safety and security lies in our obedience and faithfulness to God who is our Protector and Saviour.

It is said that evil can only thrive when the good do nothing about it. And evil will thrive as long as the faith of the Church is weak.

So let us heed the call of Jesus to repent. Let us renounce our sins, go for Confession, be faithful and obedient and call upon the name of the Lord to protect us and God will protect us and save us. That is His promise to us. 

Friday, March 22, 2019

2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, 23-03-19

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 / Luke 15:1-3, 11-32

It is not too presumptuous to say that every family has a black sheep.

It is not necessarily one of the children. It can be anyone in the family.

And it is not just limited to the family. There are black sheep in the parish community, in the company, in society and in the country.

We can call the second son in today's gospel parable a "black sheep". After all, for what he had done to his father, he certainly deserved that infamous title.

Yet how the father in the gospel parable treated the second son is certainly a far cry from how we would treat the "black sheep" in our family, company and society .

Yet, are we not also going to admit that we are "black sheep" in the eyes of God?

And how will God treat us? The prophet Micah puts it beautifully in the 1st reading.

With a shepherd's crook O Lord, You lead your people to pasture, taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger but delighting in showing mercy.

The season of Lent is a time to come to our senses and to admit our sinfulness and seek reconciliation with God.

And God, like the father in the gospel parable, will say: This son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

2nd Week of Lent, Friday, 22-03-19

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 / Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Family feuds are not just something that we see only in movies and soap operas.

It happens in real life. We read about it in the papers, we hear about it from friends, it may have even happened to us.

One of the main causes of these family feuds is over money and property.

Over money and property, children have brought parents to court and vice versa. Over money and property, sibling rivalry can become so ugly that blood relationships can become like dirty water.

It had happened from the earliest times in the story of Cain and Abel.

It happened between Joseph and his brothers as we heard in the 1st reading.

That coat with long sleeves was a symbol of favour and blessing.

Over that coat, Joseph's brothers came up with evil thoughts like murder, and then mugging and then slavery.

It was also over money and property that the tenants in the parable of today's gospel resorted to violence and murder.

It can be frightening to know, and even to realize, that money and material possession can have such a destructive grip over us to the extent that we can even lose our sense of integrity and morality.

Hence the Lenten practice of alms-giving has that purpose of helping us break free from this grip of being money-minded and being possessed by materialism.

The Charities Week envelope is a means of helping us in this Lenten spiritual exercise.

Let us see if we can give cheerfully. After all whatever we have is given to us from above, and we are only stewards, not owners.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, 21-03-19

Jeremiah 17:5-10 / Luke 16:19-31

The current dry spell was certainly a conversational topic for us even though we live in an almost perpetually hot and humid country.

More than just talking about it, we could actually see the effects of the dry spell. It was obvious enough that the trees and bushes and the grass are drying up and wilting away and turning brown.

And there were even small bush fires here and there. If the dry spell were to last longer, it could be a problem for our famous "Garden City".

But such a dry spell only shows the below-ground situation of the trees and bushes that line our roads and walkways and parks.

Like the example that was given in the 1st reading, a tree by the waterside trusts its roots to the stream. When heat comes it feels no alarm, its foliage stays green and never ceases to bear fruit.

Such is the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord as his hope.

But as for the rich man in the gospel parable, he put his trust in the things of earth - on food, dressing, pleasure and luxury.

But the things of earth will pass, and death will be like a scorching heat that will consume what we hold on tenaciously as our own. But we will still have to pass on. And where to?

When we put our trust in the things of above, then we will know where we will eventually go to. The bosom of God is our final resting place. We must keep reminding ourselves of that.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 20-03-19

Jeremiah 18:18-20 / Matthew 20:17-28

In our very urbanized country, things have changed so much and so fast that we can even get nostalgic over things like a charcoal stove.

We certainly can remember waiting for the kettle of water to boil over the charcoal stove, and how we can squat there or do other things while waiting.

But with everything changing so fast and so much, it seems that life should be more convenient and we should have more time.

Yet, the irony is that with life getting more convenient, we also begin to avoid discomfort and we don't see any meaning in it.

On a deeper level, we also want to avoid suffering because suffering is negative and meaningless.

Even in the 1st reading, the prophet Jeremiah was asking the Lord to deliver him from his adversaries and from suffering.

In the gospel, James and John also wanted the glory, but Jesus asked them if they could take the suffering as well.

The same question is also asked of us : Can you drink of the cup that I am going to drink?

Just as water has to be boiled before it can be fit for drinking, we too will have to go through the sharpening fires of suffering before we can find its meaning.

There is meaning in suffering. It is called redemptive suffering. It is the kind of suffering that Jesus showed us when He was nailed to the cross.

May we too offer up our suffering in love like Jesus did, for our redemption as well as the redemption of the world.