Friday, March 6, 2015

2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, 07-03-15

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

Anecdotally speaking, we can say that there is a black sheep in every family.

Usually that is referred to one of the children. That particular child is always out of step with the rest and seems to be marching to a different tune.

That 'black sheep' is the bane and the burden of parents.

Some parents will resort to renouncement of the relationship with that child, others will resort to punishment which may actually be just a way of venting out their frustrations on the child.

In today's gospel parable, we hear of yet another way of dealing with the 'black sheep'.

The father gave in to his younger son's request, but yet further on in the parable, we hear of the father waiting and looking out for him to return.

What made the son came to his senses was that he recalled how kindly his father treated his servants. That was enough for him to get moving.

No matter how far a person has gone over to the dark and destructive side, the memories of love and kindness and goodness can never be erased from him.

It is these memories that will make a person come to his senses and bring him back to the light.

So when we come across the odd one, the black sheep, the sinner, let us be the reflection of God's love to that person.

The 1st reading describes God taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger for ever but delighting in showing mercy.

Let us be that image of God for others to help them come to their senses and return to God.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

2nd Week of Lent, Friday, 06-03-15

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 4, 2015

2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, 05-03-15

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

Back in 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Nazi Germany signed a pact with Russia.

It was a pact of non-aggression towards each other, and in it was also a secret agreement to invade Poland and to divide the spoils between each other.

It was a very wicked and devious pact and furthermore, it was one that was aggressive towards a third party.

Yet two years later, the pact was broken when Germany invaded Russia.

Indeed the words of the prophet Jeremiah in the 1st reading rang true: A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on the things of the flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.

Still the human heart continues to be selfish and devious and perverse.

We must realise that when our hearts are turned from the Lord and from the neighbour in need, we only bring eventual destruction to ourselves.

But when we put our trust in the Lord and look into the welfare of our neighbour who is in need, then we will have faith in the Lord who will give each man what his conduct and actions deserve.

As the Responsorial Psalm puts it - Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 04-03-15

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.

Monday, March 2, 2015

2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 03-03-15

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 / Matthew 23:1-12

The feeling of guilt can weigh heavily on a person and can even slowly squeeze the life out of the person.

More so when this feeling of guilt is often aggravated by other people who keep harping on the guilt.

It is strange and yet not so strange that people tend to glee and gloat over the guilt and the wrong-doings of others.

Which might make us recall this amusing and yet truthful phrase : When I do the right thing, no one remembers. But when I do the wrong thing, no one forgets.

It stems from the tendency to make oneself look big by making others look small.

Yet in life, we have to admit that we make mistakes at one point or another.

And when we do something wrong, we don't need reminders. Reminders only make the guilt heavier

What we need is compassion and forgiveness.

In the 1st reading, God gives us a reminder. It is a reminder not of our sins, but of His compassion and forgiveness when He said : Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow ; thought they are red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

Jesus came to untie our burden of guilt and shame with His compassion and forgiveness.

With the power of His love, Jesus frees us. Let us in turn also untie and free others of their guilt and shame.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

2nd Week of Lent, Monday, 02-03-15

Daniel 9:4-10 / Luke 6:36-38

Famous persons like Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Charles Darwin had something in common in their childhood years.

They were told that they would never make it anywhere in life.

They were told that they belonged to the scrap-bin, that they were slow-learners, that they were a liability in society.

Yet, they made it somewhere in life, and what's more, they became someone in life.

It only goes to show that premature judgement is a terrible thing to do as it can destroy a person's self-worth.

We only know of those who survived and proved others wrong.

But how about those who were trampled down by unfair judgement and criticism and unforgiveness?

All these are terrible and destructive sins.

When we judge others, highlight their faults and would not open the door to forgiveness, it shows one thing.

It shows that we are unaware of our own faults and our own sinfulness.

We must continue to reflect on what the prophet Daniel said in the 1st reading: Lord, we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have not listened.

Let us ask the Lord to help us to be aware and to realize our sinfulness.

Only then can we be open to the compassion of God, a compassion that is given to us in full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B, 01-03-2015

Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18 / Romans 8:31-34 / Mark 9:2-10

One of the must-have delicacies during this festive season is the barbequed meat, aka “bak kwa”.

Those bak kwa smell as good as they taste, and although they may not be worth their weight in gold, but at more than $50 a kilogram during this season and having to queue up to get it before the Chinese New Year, they are like more precious than gold.

Bak kwa is usually made from pork but it is difficult to say which part of the pig it comes from.

But it doesn’t really matter; as long as it is delicious, we won’t bother.

And we also won’t bother how the pig feels about it. It can’t put up a fight anyway.

(If pigs can put up a fight they will learn karate – so that they can give a pork chop : P )

But pigs can’t put up a fight, and that’s why they end up as ham and bacon and bak kwa.

They can’t fight but they surely can feel. When a piglet is taken away from the mother, there will be tears in her eyes and she will make a mourning sound. The piglet will end up as roast piglet and the mother knows it.

Oh yes, pigs and other animals have feelings too, if we pay attention to their reactions.

If animals have feelings, then more so do human beings and there is a whole set of vocabulary to express those human feelings and emotions.

But in the 1st reading, we don’t seem to hear how Abraham felt.

God put him to the test, and Abraham was told to take his son, his only child Isaac, whom he loved, to be offered as a burnt offering.

The next thing we heard is that they arrived at the place God had pointed out, and Abraham stretched out his hand and seized the knife to kill his son.

Abraham is a man of faith, but he certainly has feelings too. It was he who bargained with God as he tried to save the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

And now he has to sacrifice his own son. How did he feel about it?

We would have guessed that initially he would be shocked, and then he would ask questions like “How come?” and “How can?” At least we would ask those kind of questions.

And we would also wonder why God would demand for human sacrifices. 

But for Abraham, he had seen it happening in the other cults at that time and now the God he is worshipping is asking this from him.

So for him, it was like a case of no choice. Feelings and emotions aside, he had to comply with what God was asking of him.

But as Abraham seized the knife to kill his son, he was stopped by an angel.

So in stopping Abraham from killing his son, God in effect is putting a stop to human sacrifices.

And in effect, God is also saying that the only sacrifice He wants is that of obedience.

But for us obedience to the will of God is often subjected to our feelings and whether it is worth it or not.

A story goes that a king assembled his ministers. He handed a minister a glowing pearl and asked him how much it is worth.

The minister replied that it is worth more gold than a hundred caravans could carry.

Then the king ordered the minister to break it. But the minister replied that he wouldn’t dare do such a thing. And the king seemed pleased at his reply.

One by one the king asked the ministers how valuable the pearl is and each one would raise the value higher than the other.

But when ordered to break it, none of them would do it. They took the cue from the first minister.

Then the king’s faithful servant came along and the king asked him how valuable the pearl is. The servant replied that it is certainly much more than he can think of.

Then the king ordered the servant to break the pearl. Without hesitation, the servant took a hammer and broke it into pieces.

The ministers were shocked and screamed at the servant and asked him why did he break the precious pearl.

The servant replied – What the king says is worth more than any pearl. I obey and honour the king, and not some coloured stone.

With that the ministers realized their true standing with the king and what the king thinks of their obedience.

Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father. He is also obedient to His Father, an obedience that would lead Him to the cross.

God did not demand for Jesus to shed His blood in sacrifice.

It is the sin of mankind that demanded for His blood.

Jesus has shed His blood to save us once and for all from our sins. 

There should be no more shedding of blood, no more taking of revenge, no more pay-back, no more eye for eye and tooth for tooth.

Let us listen to Jesus and be obedient as He was obedient.