Tuesday, July 22, 2014

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-07-14

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

Being a male is a matter of birth; being a man is a matter of age; but being a gentleman is a matter of choice.

Of course, similarly, being a female is a matter of birth; being a woman is a matter of age; and being a lady is matter of choice.

Having said that, the prophet Jeremiah whom we heard about in the 1st reading did not choose to be a prophet.

Rather it was God who chose him to be a prophet and it was even before he was formed in his mother's womb.

God's choice goes to show that He has a plan and that things happen for a reason because of that plan.

But it seems that the sower in the gospel parable had no plan. He seemed to be scattering the seeds everywhere - on the edge of the path, on patches of rock, among thorns and finally on rich soil.

That's futile sowing and it's also not productive. So actually the parable does not quite make sense.

Yet God's ways are not our ways; His thoughts are high above our thoughts; we don't understand His plan and what He wants us to do does not make sense.

But someday everything will make perfect sense. So for now, let's laugh at the confusion, smile through the tears and keep telling ourselves that everything happens for a reason. Simply because God has a plan for us.

Monday, July 21, 2014

St. Mary Magdalene, Tuesday, 22-07-14

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

Every now and then, we see in the newspapers a notice about a missing person, with the person's photograph and some details.

Whether the person was eventually found or not, we cannot be certain because very often there are no follow-up reports on the case in the newspapers.

What is certain is that when a loved one is missing, the anxiety is painful and the search is relentless.

Such was the depth of the emotion expressed in the 1st reading in the search for the one whom the heart loves deeply.

It may also express the pain and grief of Mary Magdalene as she looked for the One she loved in the tomb.

And not finding Jesus in the tomb, Mary Magdalene searched relentlessly and persistently for Him.

Mary's deep love for Jesus was because it was He who loved her first and healed her of her sufferings and sins.

In life, Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. Even in death she searched for Him in order just to be with Him.

Mary Magdalene is remembered because of her deep love for Jesus and her relentless and persistent search for Jesus when others seemed to have given up.

From our priorities and what we are searching and longing for, we will know how deep our love is for Jesus.

There is this saying for St. Augustine in his book "Confessions": You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there I searched for you.

God is within us. From within He calls out to us. If we are not listening to Him from within, then we might just be looking for the wrong things.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 21-07-14

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

People who believe in God would also want to practice goodness in their lives.

Because if they believe that God is love and goodness, then they too would want to reflect these attributes of God.

But such wasn't the case with the people of God that we heard about in the 1st reading.

And we heard God "accusing and pleading against His people": What have I done to you, how have I been a burden to you?

God in His love and goodness rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and sent Moses to lead them.

But in return they were unfaithful and sinned against the Lord and worshipped idols.

Somehow, it seemed that the people had this idea that God was very difficult to please. Would it appease the Lord with holocaust by the thousands and libations by the torrents, the people seemed to be asking.

And then the prophet Micah announced the three requirements that the Lord was asking of His people, and it is only this: To act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with God.

Yes, it is as simple as that: to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with God. But let us not think that what is simple is also easy to do.

The people of God in the past had failed in either one or all of the three. We, the present people of God, will not find it any easier either.

But that is what goodness is all about - simple but not easy. But goodness will be the sign we will give to the world. May we believe in it and act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with God.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 20.07.2014

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19/ Romans 8:26-27/ Matthew 13:24-43

Among the science-fiction movies that became block-busters, one of the most interesting and fascinating is the Star Wars series.

Even if we have not seen a Star Wars movie, we know something about it.

I remembered watching the first Star Wars movie and it had a dramatic beginning.

There were those blue words on a black screen “Long long ago in a galaxy far far away …” and then that famous instrumental theme of the movie.

One of the more famous characters, if not the most famous character, of the Star Wars series, is not one of the heroes or one of the good guys.

Rather it was one of the bad guys, and he can be called THE bad guy.

And he is none other than Darth Vader. And who doesn’t know Darth Vader. He is that imposing character in a black suit and strange looking helmet and he looks like half-man and half-robot.

And there is his famous heavy breathing and he talks through his mask.

But more than his strange dressing and breathing, this Darth Vader character is also intriguing.

In the prequel, which was shown after the sequel (confusing isn’t it) the background and identity of Darth Vader was revealed.

He was originally one of the good guys, but he was tempted to walk on the dark side, which he eventually did.

And the Star Wars story which is essentially a story of good against evil goes on from there.

That story highlights the universal existence  and tension between good and evil.

And it also tries to explain a mystery. It tries to explain the mystery of evil.

It tries to answer questions like “Where does evil come from?” “Why do we become evil and commit evil acts?”

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable that also dwells on the mystery of evil.

Good seeds were sown in the field. Then an enemy came and sowed weeds in the field.

So the cause of evil is zeroed in on this “enemy”. But who is this enemy? And where is this enemy?

It would be convenient to assume that the enemy is somewhere out there lurking in the dark.

Or better still, we can even identify the enemy as the devil, and for the evil that is happening, we can blame it on him.

In a way that is quite true. Even the gospel parable seems to put it like that.

Yet there is another enemy – the enemy that is within!

This story may illustrate what is meant by the enemy within.

The Great Wall of China was and still is a massive structure.

It was also built at a massive cost, especially in terms of human lives. (It has been estimated that more than a million Chinese died over the centuries that it took to build the Wall)

It was built to keep out and to prevent the barbarians from invading the country.

When it was completed, it was thought to be impregnable. Until one day it was broken into, and broken into quite easily.

Along the walls, there are also many gates for the troops to move in and out.

The enemy simply bribed one the gate-keepers, and when everyone was asleep, he opened the gates for the enemy.

The irony was that the Great Wall which was built at the cost of many lives, was breached not by the enemy from without but by the enemy from within.

And that brings up the point about the enemy in today’s gospel.

The enemy that sowed the weeds may not be from without or from somewhere out there.

The enemy may be from within. In other words, there is no greater enemy than ourselves.

In fact if the enemy is from without, it would make us more united.

But it is the enemy from within that will cause the most extensive damage because it begins with internal damage.

And internal damage begins with evil thoughts which will lead to evil desires and evil actions.

At the heart of it all is none other than the heart itself.

Our hearts are created by God and created to be pure and holy.

When we choose to walk on the dark side, we shut God out of our hearts and consequently we let the devil sow his weeds of evil into our hearts.

We become like Darth Vader who was originally on the good side but chose to walk on the dark and evil side.

But even if we choose to walk on the dark and evil side, there is the wheat of goodness in the hearts.

All the evil cannot take away the goodness in our hearts, because it is a goodness that is sown by God Himself.

So let us come back to the light and walk in the love of the Lord and bear a harvest of goodness.

Friday, July 18, 2014

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 19-07-14

Micah 2:1-5 / Matthew 12:14-21

The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen was an articulate and eloquent speaker and preacher.

In fact, he was one of the pioneers of media evangelization.

But when he was in college, a debate coach told him that he was the worst speaker he had ever heard.

Well, Fulton Sheen proved him wrong.

And so did others like Ernest Hemmingway and Thomas Edison who proved their critics wrong.

Yet, there are also many others who were crushed and devastated by the criticisms against them.

And some don't recover from it.

Criticisms may not come with a sarcastic tone.

It may be just a jeer or a scorn, but it is as bad as a brawl and a shout.

In the gospel, we heard about the Pharisees criticizing and plotting against Jesus.

Yet, like how the prophet Isaiah prophesied: He will not brawl or shout; he will not break the crushed reed, not put out the smoldering wick till he has lead the truth to victory.

Let us turn to Jesus whenever we face criticisms or scorching remarks.

May the truth of His love lead us to rise about the criticisms and destructive judgments.

May we prove that the truth spoken with love is more powerful and creative than the harsh word that breaks and crushes people.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 18-07-14

Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 / Matthew 12:1-8

The king Hezekiah that we heard about in the 1st reading is portrayed in the Bible as a great and good king. He is one of the few kings praised so highly as to have “trusted in the Lord the God of Israel; so that there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah after him, or among those who were before him” (2 Kings 18:5).

Among Hezekiah's first acts was the repair of the Temple, which had been closed during the reign of Ahaz, his father. He reorganized the services of the priests and Levites, purged the Temple and its vessels, and opened it with imposing sacrifices (2 Chronicles 29:3-36).

So why did he fell ill and was at the point of death and the prophet Isaiah even went to him to tell him to put his affairs in order for he was going to die?

Some sources had it that he was claiming credit for his religious reforms and boasting of his wealth, for which he was confronted by Isaiah the prophet (2 Kings 20:12-19).

Hezekiah lived another 15 more years of life after praying to God, and it was considered as a way for Hezekiah to purge his sins and his arrogance in assuming his righteousness.

Like Hezekiah we too may think that we are masters of our lives and we claim credit for our achievements and may even boast of our abilities.

It takes a serious illness and the possibility of death to make us realize that our lives are just so fragile and we are indeed nothing without God.

In the gospel, Jesus proclaims Himself as the master of the sabbath. In truth, the master of the sabbath is also the Lord and Master of life and of all creation.

May we humbly acknowledge who Jesus is and give Him thanks and praise and also to put our earthly affairs in order and into His hands so that He will always provide for us in our need.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 17-07-14

Isaiah 26:7-9, 16-19 / Matthew 11:28-30

We often hear these phrases being used very often: I am so busy; I am so stressed out; I am dead tired.

We not only hear it from others, we may have even used those phrases often.

Yet have we ever wondered, what are we so busy about? Why are we so stressed out? Why do we feel so drained and tired?

So is this what life is all about, that we are laden with busyness and get stressed out and tired with the troubles of life?

In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah identified what were the troubles of the lives of the people.

They got what their wicked deeds deserved, and the punishment was the oppression by their enemies.

Distressed, they now search for the Lord who will give them the peace they longed for. Lying in the dust, they hoped in the Lord who will awake and raise them to life and even exult them.

That too is our hope in the Lord as we feel the burden of the troubles of life.

And our Lord Jesus calls out to us to come to Him and find rest in Him.

It is only in resting in the heart of Jesus that we find peace of heart, and with gentleness and humility, we will be able to handle the troubles of life.