Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 23-01-2020

1 Sam 18:6-9; 19:1-7 / Mark 3:7-12 

When others achieve success and gain popularity, the expected thing to do is to congratulate them.

But do we really want to congratulate them? Do we really feel good at other people's success and popularity? Or do we actually feel jealous, just that we won't show it.

And if we were their superior or senior or of a higher rank, we might just want to show our resentment at the success and popularity of others.

King Saul was not only jealous and resentful of David's success in the battlefield and his subsequent popularity, he got very angry and even intended to kill David.

The behaviour of king Saul was certainly not surprising. His behaviour shows the dark side within us.

If we were king Saul would we do likewise, or would we do otherwise?

The 1st reading has this lesson for us, i.e. people who are jealous and resentful of the success and popularity of others will not experience their own success or popularity.

When we learn to be happy and even rejoice in the success and popularity of others, we will be contented and even happy with ourselves.

Then we will also realise that life is a journey where we help others when they fail, and congratulate them when they succeed.

After all, life is a celebration, not a competition.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 22-01-2020

1 Sam 17:32-33, 37, 40-51 / Mark 3:1-6

In any situation, the outcome depends on the decision of the leader.

Whether his decision is correct or not, a decision must be made and the decision will be proven by the outcome.

In the 1st reading, the battle between David and Goliath depended on a decision that was made by king Saul.

Saul had told David that he cannot go and fight that giant Philistine because David was only a boy and Goliath had been a warrior from his youth.

But when David said that the Lord who rescued him from the claws of lion and bear will rescue him from the power of the Philistine, Saul relented.

And from that decision, came this great inspiring story of David and Goliath, which is often used as an example for overcoming overwhelming odds.

As a leader, Saul was not too proud to change his views or obstinate in his opinions.

To be obstinate is to stubbornly refuse to change one's opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.

In the gospel, the people were watching Jesus to see if He would cure the man with the withered man on the Sabbath.

And when Jesus asked them if it is against the law on the Sabbath day to do good or evil, to save life or to kill, they said nothing.

It grieved Jesus to find them so obstinate. The people were just so bent and crooked in their opinion and views about Jesus that they can't see anything else.

We too have our views and opinions about persons, but let us ask the Lord Jesus to open hearts so that we can open our eyes too.

May we never be too proud of our views and too obstinate in our opinions.

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-01-2020

1 Samuel 16:1-13 / Mark 2:23-28

If we were to think of an example of a dilemma, then we need look no further than in the 1st reading.

The prophet Samuel was in a dilemma. A dilemma can be described as a difficult or perplexing situation or problem.

He was told by God to anoint someone that He had chosen to be king. Yet Samuel was well aware that he was under the watchful eyes of king Saul.

Though he was faced with such a dilemma, God was the one who showed him the way out of that situation.

The solution is none other than that of a religious one - to offer sacrifice. Well, what other solutions would one expect from God other than a religious one.

Certainly, with God it is always a religious solution.

What we heard about in the gospel was a religious problem - the picking of corn on the Sabbath, which was something forbidden, though we are not sure where was it stated that it was forbidden.

We too have our religious problems in our day, e.g. "Is it ok to work on Sundays?"; "Can priests be involved in politics?" ; "Why can't women become priests?"

These questions may sound simple but the answers are certainly difficult.

These and such other questions indeed put us into a dilemma for answers.

But like in the case of Samuel, God is always offering us the religious solution rather than a logical rational answer.

When we turn to God to show us the way out of a dilemma, God's solution far surpasses our human logical rational thinking. Though it will certainly entail some sacrifice.

For God's ways are far above our ways, His thoughts far surpasses our thoughts.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-01-2020

1 Sam 15:16-23 / Mark 2:18-22

Every piece of equipment, or device, or gadget, comes with an instruction manual.

Depending on how that equipment, or device, or gadget works, the instruction manual can be anything from a booklet to just a piece of paper.

The manufacturer would always advise the user to read the instruction manual first, so that the operation can be done correctly and safely.

If we were to skip reading the instruction manual and jump into the operation of the equipment or device or gadget, then we do it at the risk of our safety and possible damage.

In the 1st reading, king Saul was given a mission by the Lord to go to war against the Amalekites and to exterminate them totally.

King Saul obeyed only half the command of the Lord. He spared the king and also from the booty he kept the best sheep and oxen, which according to him was intended to be offered as sacrifice to the Lord.

But the prophet Samuel pointed out the fault of king Saul when he said: Is the pleasure of the Lord in holocausts and sacrifices, or in obedience to the voice of the Lord? Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams. Rebellion is a sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of teraphim.

Samuel made it clear to king Saul that his disobedience is a rebellion against God and hence it was a sin equivalent  to sorcery and idolatry.

In other words, a half-obedience is nothing less than a rebellion against God, just as a half-truth is more damaging than a lie.

May our obedience to the commandments of God be a total acceptance of His will and may we not be deceived by the devil to justify our half-obedience.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

2nd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 19.01.2020

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 / 1 Cor 1:1-3 / John 1:29-34
The month of January this year is a rather unique month. Because there are two new years in this month.

On the 1st of January, we celebrated the New Year with countdowns, fireworks, parties and well wishes.

In a week’s time, we will celebrate the Lunar New Year, with “Gong Xi Fa Cai”, bak-kwa, pineapple tarts, yearly visits to the elders and the usual aunties’ questions like “When are you getting married?” or “When are you going to have baby?”

Whether it is the 1st of January New Year or the Lunar New Year, we want to begin the year happily and happily ever after, or at least happily for the rest of the year.

So we will wish each other “Happy New Year” or “Xin Nian Kuai Le”. That shows our hope and our desire for happiness in life.

And for us, we would certainly want to come to church and pray for blessings. Whether Christians or otherwise, we have this religious inclination to ask God for blessings. And essentially we are asking for protection and happiness.

Yes, we ask God to protect us from danger and evil, whether visible or invisible, so that our hearts will be at peace and that we can live our lives happily.

And God will surely want to bless us. God will certainly not withhold His blessing on us, or put a limit on His blessings on us.

But as much as God wants to bless us abundantly, blessings that will overflow from us to our loved ones, there is one thing that will block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

That one thing is none other than sin. Sin is the blockage and the obstacle to God’s blessings on us.

But sin is not a blockage or an obstacle that happens suddenly or that is caused by an external force or party.

And we know very well what is the cause of sin. Sin is caused by ourselves, and by our sins, we block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

And before we say that there is no point praying anymore because God doesn't listen to our prayer and that He lets bad things happen to us and we get angry with God, let us ask ourselves, “What is my sin?”

And when we can honestly identify our sin, then we will be angry with ourselves, because by our own doing, we block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

But even if we are able to identify our sin, we may not be able to overcome it. Our willpower and determination have been put to the test and they have failed us. That’s simply because the tempter is just too strong for us, and so we fall again and again into sin.

And God is not somewhere out there watching us and not helping us. God did something.

That something is in the gospel, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him and he said, “Look, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

It is so strange that this profound title of Jesus, the Lamb of God, is such a gentle and humble title. Why not more profound titles like Mighty God, Powerful Deliver, Eternal Saviour or Lion of Judah. 

So this gentle and humble Lamb of God is going to take away the sin of the world, this Lamb of God is going to remove this massive blockage and obstacle to God’s blessings on His people.

But this is actually the fulfilment of the promise of salvation.

In The Exodus of the Old Testament, it was by the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb that God delivered His people from slavery in Egypt.

And it is by Jesus, the Lamb of God, that we will be delivered from the slavery to sin, and the blockages and obstacles to God’s blessings will be removed. 

So the solution to the massive pains and problems of the world is the gentle and humble Lamb of God.

The problem is big and massive, but the solution is simple and humble.

That seems amazing but the following example will help us to understand.

The door is much smaller compared to the house. The lock is much smaller compared to the door. The key is the smallest of all, but the key can open the entire house.

The key to understanding Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins is through the Sacrament of Confession. It is said that Sacramental Confession is the greatest form of deliverance.

That is where Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes away the sins of the world.

So let us go for Confession regularly, and to let Jesus the Lamb of God take away the sins that block and obstruct God’s blessings on us.

That is the key that will open our hearts to God’s abundant blessings of peace, joy and happiness.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-01-2020

1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22 / Mark 2:1-12   

There is always some kind of excitement and also anxiety whenever a country goes to the polls to elect the leaders for the country.

It is also a defining moment for those elected as well as for people who are going to decide who will be the leaders for the government of the country.

In the 1st reading, it was certainly a defining moment for the people of Israel, and more so in their relationship with God.

They asked Samuel to give them a king to rule over them. But that was not all. They want a king to rule over them, just like the other nations.

And to be just like the other nations, the people were willing to give the king so much authority, despite Samuel's warnings.

In doing so, they have rejected God from ruling over them.

Yes, it was a defining political moment for the people of Israel, and in their relationship with God.

Yet as time went on, it was the king who abused his authority and even led the people away from God.

But in the gospel, Jesus showed what the authority of God was all about.

God's authority is used for forgiveness and healing. God's authority is always an authority of love.

So whenever we have to make choices and decisions, let us always choose the way of God which must be discerned in prayer.

Let us submit to God's authority and live the way of love.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-01-2020

1 Sam 4:1-11 / Mark 1:40-45

When we want to put something to the test, it usually means that we want to see how well it works even under extreme and demanding conditions.

From there we can gauge how good it is and under what conditions it works well and under what conditions it does not.

We will also be able to judge whether the product description matches the performance and whether it meets up to our expectations.

In the 1st reading, when the Israelite army went to take the ark of the Lord of hosts, they had their expectations.

Since the ark was the presence of God, they had expected God to fight for them and grant them victory.

In a way, the Israelites were putting the Lord God of hosts to the test. It was something they should not have done as it was just their expectation and it was not the Lord's intention.

Not only were the Israelite army terribly defeated, the ark of God was also captured by the enemy. It was a shameful and terrible military defeat as well as a religious defeat.

The leper in the gospel may sound rather demanding when he said to Jesus, "If you want to, you can cure me."

But the leper was not putting Jesus to the test, nor did he had a demanding expectation. Rather he was in dire desperation.

In curing the leper, Jesus wants us to know He will help us in our time of need and desperation.

We don't have to put Jesus to the test. But in Him may we find peace and rest.