Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Holy Archangels Ss Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Thursday, 29-09-16

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 or Apocalypse 12:7-12 / John 1:47-51

The Bible has many passages referring to angels, both in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament

Furthermore, the New Testament mentions frequently of angels in the significant moments.

There were angels giving messages to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds; angels ministering to Christ after his temptation in the wilderness, an angel visiting Christ in his agony, angels at the tomb of the Risen Christ, and the angels who liberated the Apostles Peter and Paul from prison.

However, it makes only two references to "archangels." They are in Jude 9 where Michael is an archangel and in 1 Thessalonians 4:16, where the "voice of an archangel" will be heard at the return of Christ.

The Roman Catholic Church honours three archangels - Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

Michael in the Hebrew language means "Who is like unto God?" or "Who is equal to God?" St. Michael has been depicted from earliest Christian times as a commander, who holds in his right hand a spear with which he attacks the devil, and in his left hand a green palm branch which symbolizes victory over evil.

Gabriel means "Man of God" or "Might of God." He is the herald of the mysteries of God, especially the Incarnation of God and all other mysteries related to it. He is depicted as holding a lighted lantern to symbolize that only God can shed light to the mysteries.

Raphael means "God's healing" or "God the Healer". He is mentioned in the book of Tobit (3:17; 12:15). Raphael is depicted leading Tobit with his right hand, and holding a physician's alabaster jar in his left hand.

The celebration of the feast of the three Archangels focuses on three aspects of God.

It reminds us that God is almighty and is victorious over evil. Also the mystery of life and death, and suffering and evil is in the hands of God who is the source of all mystery.

God is also our Healer who forgives us our sins and strengthens us with His love.

May God also strengthen our faith so that as we gather together in this Eucharist, we will also become aware of the presence of angels and archangels joining us to worship and praise the Lord.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 28-09-16

Job 9:1-13, 14-16 / Luke 9:57-62

The book of Job presents God as beyond our human comprehension.

In other words, the book of Job tells us that God is much bigger than our ideas of Him, and He is beyond our definition.

The same can be said of Jesus in today's gospel. His demands of discipleship is way beyond our human comprehension.

Our initial reaction would be: How could Jesus be so demanding and unreasonable?

But when we reflect deeper, we will understand the purpose of Jesus.

Jesus is asking for an instant response to His call. There can be no hesitation; all else must be put aside. He is asking us to put Him as top priority.

In every situation that we are going to come across, the same question will be asked: Do you want to follow Me? Now?

An immediate response will be demanding of us. But when we are surrender totally to Him and make an immediate response, Jesus will never shortchange us, for He will also be immediate in responding to our needs and whatever we require to follow Him.

When Jesus calls, may we respond immediately. Because when we call out to Him, He too will respond immediately. That is not too difficult to comprehend.

Monday, September 26, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 27-09-16

Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23 / Luke 9:51-56

We have heard it said that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

How often that happens in life depends on how tough the going gets.

For those who have overcome a great crisis or a great challenge, they will realize their strengths and endurance, and at the same time their limitations and weaknesses which they have overcome.

But it cannot be denied that there are also those who succumb to the turmoil and distress, and they sink into despair.

In the 1st reading, we hear of Job's lamentations as he faced the great crisis of his life and as he was being swamped by one trail after another and spiralling down to hopeless and darkness.

He even cursed the day of his birth. For Job, life has no meaning anymore and surely he would have thoughts of ending his life.

But in the gospel, we hear of Jesus heading towards Jerusalem where He knows He will meet His end with a traumatic and torturous death.

And even as Jesus resolutely took the road towards Jerusalem and prepared to face the ultimate test of His life, He also faced rejection from the Samaritans. Yet He kept His focus and continued despite these setbacks and discouragements.

We too will have our share of trials and tribulations. We also must believe that God will not test us beyond our limits.

God wants us to live and rise above our trials so that we can discover the strength of our faith in Him. But in order to keep on going, we must keep our focus on Jesus and follow His resolutely along the way.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 26-09-16

Job 1:6-22 / Luke 9:46-50

For something to be "tried and tested" it would be necessary to go through some kind of "baptism of fire".

Whether understood literally or figuratively, the reality of the power of fire is obvious - it destroys and at the same time it also purifies.

In the battlefield, when soldiers are under fire, that will be the moment to see how courageous they are.

In life, when faith is under fire and undergoing a baptism of fire, that will be the time to see what the faith is all about.

In the 1st reading, we hear Satan commenting that Job is not God-fearing for nothing. God had blessed Job and he is safe and secure.

So Satan suggests that Job be put to the test, to put him under fire and see what becomes of his faith in God.

In the gospel, we hear about the disciples arguing among themselves about which of them is the greatest.

Whatever they can say about themselves, the time will come when they will be put to the test, their faith in Jesus will come under fire, and whatever greatness they thought they had vanished in fear.

Whatever we can say about our faith, we also must be prepared for our faith to undergo a baptism of fire, and to be tried and tested.

Let us believe in God's love for us in that He won't try and test us beyond what we can take. God is for us and not against us. When undergoing a baptism of fire, let us stand by God, or we will not stand at all.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 25.09.2016

Amos 6:1, 4-7 / 1 Tim 6:11-16 / Luke 16:19-31

For those of us who love art, or know something about art, then we would also know the names of famous artists.

So here are the names of some art pieces and let us see if we know who is the artist is. They are all by the same artist anyway.

So here it comes – Sunflowers; The starry night; Irises; The potato eaters. So, who is the artist?

Yes, it’s Vincent Van Gogh. His masterpieces range from US$50 – US$100 over million dollars.

For those of us who love art and can appreciate art, then we would certainly love to have one of the masterpieces by Vincent Van Gogh hanging in a prominent place in our home. Yes, we would like to have a US$50 million masterpiece from Vincent Van Gogh in our home.

But would we like to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home?

If we know something about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, then we will probably understand why we might not want to have Vincent Van Gogh himself in our home.

Vincent Van Gogh lived from 1853 – 1890. In his lifetime, he produced 2000 artworks. But he had very little success as an artist. 

In fact, he only sold one painting “The Red Vineyard”, for less that US$2000 in today’s price.

Besides that, he was also temperamental, depressed and also difficult to get along with, and other things besides. Then at 37 years-old, he took his own life. It was only after his death that his works became famous and renowned.

So that is why we won’t mind having a multi-million-dollar painting by Vincent Van Gogh at home. But we certainly won’t want to have him in our home.

Similarly, we don’t mind having a Bible in our home. In fact, we should have the Bible, the Word of God, at home.

But, would we welcome Jesus, the Word made flesh, into our home? We would say – Of course, we want to have Jesus in our home.

But Jesus does not come alone. Because He comes along with His close friends. And who are they? Well, they are the poor and helpless, the problematic and difficult people, the Vincent Van Goghs.

We shouldn’t be surprised that these are the close friends of Jesus. Because the Bible tells us that God is on the side of the poor and needy and helpless.

Indeed, God is closest to the poor and helpless, the weak and the lowly, the defenseless and the oppressed.

At least in today’s 1st reading, the Responsorial Psalm and the gospel tell us that. And we must see it!

Yes, God is for them. God cares about them. And God will console them. If not in this life, then it will be in the next.

God will console them and comfort them in His bosom and wipe away every tear from their eyes.

That was what happened in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

We can call that a reversal of fortunes, and the reversal is not temporal; it is eternal.

Although it is just a parable, it makes us see that the reversal is for real.

It was real enough for the rich man. In the flames of agony, he looked up and saw Lazarus and even knows his name.

While on earth, he certainly saw Lazarus, or at least he knew he was at the gate. But he just chose not to see, not to know, not to care.

But in the flames of agony, the rich man saw. Yes, he saw, but it was too late, and it was forever.

In Singapore, we don’t usually have beggars or destitudes or Lazaruses sitting at our doors.

Yet we cannot say that the poor and needy do not exist.

Just come every 1st Sunday morning at the old parish hall and we will see the members of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul at work, distributing rations to the poor and needy.

And we will see for ourselves who are the poor and needy, the helpless and the rejected. So we can’t say that we didn’t see, or we don’t know.

Or maybe we saw, and we knew, and we feel that we can do nothing about the multitudes of poor and needy and helpless.

Granted that it is an immense challenge, but let’s talk about Mother Teresa and her favourite number.

Most probably, her favourite number is the number 1. And the following quote from her might tell us why it’s 1.

She said : “I don’t agree with the big ways of doing things. Love needs to start with the individual. To love a person you must make contact with that person. To love the poor you must make contact with the poor. 

When you do that, you cross the enormous divide between you and the poor, and it’s somebody you have actually touched.”

She continues by saying : “I look at the individual. I can only love one person at a time. I can only feed one person at a time.”

So most probably, Mother Teresa’s favourite number is 1. For her it is one person at a time.

So the Word of God in today’s readings makes us open our eyes.
God is not asking us how rich we are or how much we can give to the poor and needy.

Rather, God is asking us this : How much do we care? How much do we love? How much do we want to see?

And we don’t have to see far, see wide or see too much.

Let us look at the one who is at the gate.The one who is poor and needy. The one that we can help. 

And that one may not be outside the gate. That one may be within our gates.

But we may have become numbed and indifferent.

Let us listen to the voice of God prompting us to see, to care and to love the one who is poor and needy and helpless, the one who is difficult and problematic, the Vincent Van Goghs.

Yes, they are poor and needy, they may be difficult and problematic, but they are God’s close friends.

And it is they who will lead us into God’s bosom, forever.

Friday, September 23, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 24-09-16

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - 12-8 / Luke 9:43-45

When we ask someone "How are you?", what answer are we expecting?

Or when others ask us that question, what kind of answer are we going to give?

Surely, we would expect, as well as give, polite but rather superficial answers like : I am ok. I am fine.

But beneath these polite and superficial answers is the reality of pain and suffering.

Even for Jesus, just when everyone was full of admiration for Him, He brought Himself and His disciples back to the reality of the cross that He must face.

Indeed the reality of pain and suffering is seared into humanity, especially that of being a Christian.

The 1st reading points out this reality of pain and suffering and death in a sober manner and terms it all as "vanity of vanities, all is vanity".

There will come a time when we look at all these "vanities" and say "These give me no pleasure"

Then we will begin to look for what would really give us happiness and joy in life.

May our search lead us to know that in God is our happiness and it is He who gives joy to our lives.

For when our lives on earth are over and we return to the dust of the earth, our souls can find rest only in God our Saviour.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 23-09-16

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 / Luke 9:18-22

I had this experience of visiting a relative who was in a nursing home and was suffering from a terminal illness but not yet in danger of death.

I spent time with him over lunch, and then gave him the "Anointing of the sick" since that was part of the reason why I visited him.

I noticed that he was yawning so I took leave and said that I would see him soon.

That "soon" turned out to be about four hours later when I was informed that he had passed away in his sleep and I went over immediately to bless his body.

What struck me was how nicely the events fitted in before his passing on. It seemed that everything was timed perfectly, that I should visit him, give him the anointing and then he passed on peacefully.

In the 1st reading, those 11 verses from the book of Ecclesiastes has the word "time" mentioned at least 30 times.

It is telling us that all time is in God's hands . And though God has permitted man to consider time in its wholeness, yet man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

And though we wish that we had more time in the busy and hectic lives, yet it is time that we often waste or misuse.

Let us make good use of our time to come to know who Jesus is and hence we need to spend time in prayer. It is prayer that we will realise that all our time and all our life is in the hands of Jesus.