Thursday, December 31, 2009

31st December, 7th Day in the Octave of Christmas

1 John 2 : 18-21
John 1 : 1-18

This seventh day of the octave of Christmas also happens to be the last day of the year.

The last day of the year. Somehow there is a reminiscing tone to time, if we give ourselves some time to reminisce.

364 days have passed, and on this last day of the year, we still can ask ourselves : So how did the year turn out for us.

We only have today to ask that question, because come tomorrow, we will be looking at the new year with our plans, our schedules, our appointments, and oh yes, our resolutions.

Today's long gospel begins with "In the beginning ..." It sounds rather strange that on the last day of the year, we hear something about the beginning.

But yet this long gospel is actually a summary of the life and mission of Jesus.

He is the light that shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.

He is the Word made flesh; He came to His own domain, but His own people did not accept Him.

But to those who did accept Him, He gave them the power to become children of God, receiving grace upon grace.

Whatever our reflections of this passing year may be, let us thank the Lord for the blessings and graces we received during these 364 days.

Let us set ourselves to begin another year and to begin it with Christ.

From His fullness, let us ask for grace upon grace as that we end the year with thanksgiving and look forward to the new year with hope.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

30th December, Sixth Day in the Octave of Christmas

1 John 2 : 12-17
Luke 2 : 36-40

Have you ever wondered what you will be doing, or what you will look like when you are 84 years old?

Or can you ever imagine what I will look like when I am 84? Well, looks aside, I wonder what kind of a person I will be when I am 84. I wonder if I will be a grumpy and long-winded old man.

But going by the general attitude of our pragmatic society, we don't want to think something so far ahead, we may even want to avoid thinking about it.

Because in a society where the value of a person is measured in terms of productivity and efficiency, then an old person is a liability, a sort of weak link.

In fact one of the common lament of the aged is that they feel useless and are just waiting to die.

But as I reflect on the gospel and on the 84 year-old prophetess Anna, an image comes to my mind - the image of a glorious mellow sunset.

She was old, but nonetheless she was radiant and mellow, maybe even glorious in her own ways, just like the sun setting slowly and quietly over the horizon.

And we have among us many of these glorious mellow sunsets. When we look around we are sure to see those aunties, a bit bent, a bit slow in their steps, but yet coming everyday for Mass, with Rosary or a prayer book in their hands.

Their names may not be Anna, but they are very much like her. And like Anna, they also have gone through a lot, they also have seen a lot.

When we see them, let us acknowledge them, and say something loving and simple like :Aunty, God bless you. Pray for me ok. They will be glad, they will be very happy to pray for us too.

In these old aunties as well as old uncles, we see the wisdom and the enlightenment that the 1st reading talked about.

They know that the world and all it craves for is coming to an end. But anyone who does the will of God remains forever.

Let us learn from them, these radiant and mellow sunsets, and let us live life gracefully by always praising and thanking the Lord.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

29th December, Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas

1 John 2 : 3-11
Luke 2 : 22-35

It is really amazing as well intriguing to see how some people seem to know that their time to leave this world was approaching.

I have seen some people who were seriously ill and then they seem to get a "second wind" and for a moment they seem to have recovered and they could even talk to their family members about family affairs at some length.

After that they will slip back into their illness and then slowly slip away and slip out of this world.

In retrospect it seems that these people were trying to settle any unfinished business in this world maybe because they could sense their time was near.

What they felt, what they saw or what they heard, we do not know. But there will come a time when we will have make that last leg of our earthly journey.

But in the gospel, we know what Simeon saw and that signaled to him that the time has come for him.

When he saw the parents of Jesus presenting Him in the Temple, he saw not only just a baby, but he saw the light.

He saw the light of promise, the light of salvation, the light of enlightenment. It was the light the world was waiting for. It was the light he was waiting for.

For Simeon it was the light that gave him peace. For us it is the light that shines upon us to give us life and love.

The 1st reading tells us that the night is over, because the real light is shining.

That light is a signal for us to move from darkness to light, from hate to love, from bitterness to forgiveness.

Christ the light has already come to us at Christmas. Let us follow that light and we will have no fear of stumbling.

Monday, December 28, 2009

28th December, Feast of Holy Innocents

1 John 1:5 - 2:2
Matthew 2 : 13-18

There are many famous men in Bible whose words and deeds have proclaimed the marvels and the wonders of God.

On Saturday, we celebrated the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who witnessed to Christ even to the point of death and also forgave those who were stoning him to death.

Yesterday, was the feast day of St. John the evangelist, who proclaimed the mystery of the divinity of God made flesh in the humanity of Jesus.

But in the same Bible are also many infamous men, and today we hear of a man who was a tragedy to himself and he also caused tragic consequences.

Because of his pathological state of mind and his paranoia, he ordered the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem in order to exterminate the new-born King of the Jews.

That deed was no big deal to him. In fact it counts as nothing for him.

This makes us reflect on the horrible deeds that are done to children and the unborn : abortion, child abuse, child molestation, child labour, child pornography.

For some people, these things also count as nothing for them.

The feast of the Holy Innocents does not just recall the innocent babies being slaughtered and martyred for Christ.

Because their blood now cries out for the children of the world who are suffering.

Their blood also cries out to us to something for children.

So what can we do for our children and for the children of the world?

May this poem help us in reflection and spur us into action.

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with CRITICISM
They learn to CONDEMN

If children live with HOSTILITY
They learn to FIGHT

If children live with RIDICULE
They learn to BE SHY

If children live with SHAME
They learn to FEEL GUILTY

If children live with TOLERANCE
They learn to BE PATIENT

If children live with ENCOURAGEMENT

If children live with PRAISE
They learn to APPRECIATE

If children live with FAIRNESS
They learn JUSTICE

If children live with SECURITY
They learn to HAVE FAITH

If children live with APPROVAL

If children live with ACCEPTANCE and FRIENDSHIP

Saturday, December 26, 2009

26th December, Feast of St. Stephen

Acts 6 : 8-10; 7 : 54-59
Matthew 10 : 17-22

We are still very much in a festive mood with Christmas carols like "Silent Night" and "Joy to the world" still ringing in our heads and maybe we are still bloated from all the feasting.

Today is also known as Boxing day, and it came from a custom when Christmas presents packed into boxes were given out on this day. But maybe it has become a day to open our Christmas presents because we might have been too busy yesterday.

Well, today the Church opens up the liturgy with, of all things, the gruesome and shocking martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Somehow the tenderness of Christmas is shattered by the violent execution of St. Stephen.

Why didn't the Church move this feast to anytime, maybe in Lent, so that we can still have that Christmassy feeling and just talk about angels and shepherds and baby Jesus?

Well, the martyrdom St. Stephen has a deep connection with the birth of Christ.

Somehow Christmas have been embellished and glossed over with so much sentimentality that we forget that Jesus was born into a hard, cold and violent world.

The Son of God had to born in stable, of all places, and laid in a manger. Not long after He was born, King Herod was looking for Him to kill Him.

That was only the beginning of the violence and the persecution that Jesus was going to face, and it would eventually lead to His execution of the cross.

Yet when we reflect on the joy of Christmas and the martyrdom of St. Stephen, we see the connection between divine tenderness and human violence.

Christ came to heal our human violence with His divine tenderness, expressed in mercy and forgiveness, as witnessed to by St. Stephen.

Let us also believe that the ugliness of human violence can only be changed with the divine tenderness of forgiveness and love.

The young man by the name of Saul in the 1st reading, who approved of the killing, would later be touched by divine tenderness, then changed his name to Paul and went forth to proclaim the tender love of God and His forgiveness.

So in the face of human anger and violence, let us stand firm on divine love and tenderness.

It is only through God's mercy and forgiveness that hardened hearts will be turned into loving hearts.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Advent, 24th December, Thursday

2 Samuel 7 : 1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Luke 1 : 67-79

Somehow, at this time of the year, especially with the festive mood and with the year coming to an end, we want to have a good time and forget about our worries and anxieties for a while.

But on a more sober note, we must also remember all the good things that has happened to us, as well reflect and learn from our struggles and difficulties.

Yet it is not that conducive to make time to do this recalling and reflecting, because of the frenzy of activities and busyness.

Even for us priests, we will be preparing for the Masses this evening and for tomorrow, and looking into the necessary preparations, etc.

So as much as we may be singing "Silent Night, Holy Night", it may not be really so. In fact, it may well be a noisy and busy night.

Yet we must make time for ourselves if we really want to experience the silence and the holiness of this eve of Christmas.

We have to make time for ourselves to welcome God as He visits His people and to feel His wonderful gift of love in Jesus.

Just one day before Christmas we are reminded in the gospel what is the meaning of this whole occasion.

It is God fulfilling His promise of salvation. He is sending us our long awaited Saviour.

Jesus will lead us from darkness and from the shadow of death and guide us into the way of peace.

Let us make time today for prayer and reflection. Let us feel the holy silence of this eve of Christmas.

May we be filled with a joyful peace as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Advent, 23rd December, Wednesday

Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24
Luke 1 : 5-25

The task of choosing a name is an honourable task but nonetheless a difficult task.

Whether it is choosing a name for a person, or for a business, or for a society, there are many factors to be considered.

One of which is that it must sound nice and also meaningful, not just in the predominant language, but also in other dialects and languages.

The name John is a Jewish name (Yehohanan) and it means God-is-gracious.

That name has a great significance for Elizabeth and Zechariah.

Elizabeth was barren and barrenness was seen as a curse from God.

So the conception and birth of John was indeed a gracious blessing from God.

But God's grace did not just give Zechariah and Elizabeth a son.

God's grace will be continued in the life and mission of John.

John's mission was to prepare the people for the time of intense grace from God.

A time of restoration to the dignity as God's people.

A time of reconciliation between God and each other.

Let us prepare ourselves to receive this moment of intense grace from God, so that we can be a grace-filled and a graceful people.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent, 22nd December, Tuesday

1 Samuel 1 : 24-28
Luke 1 : 46-56

It is said that the first six years of a child's life are the most important years, and indeed it is true.

Because those six years are the formative years, a time during which the child learns and absorbs the values, the principles and the way of life that will shape his/her future.

And the child learns this, usually, from the parents.

Jesus is the Son of God, yet during His childhood years, He certainly learned from His parents.

From St. Joseph, He not only learned the carpenter's trade, He also learned to be a man of honour and respect, and also how to discern God's will.

From Mary His mother, He learned humility and to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.

He learned that God will exalt the humble and the lowly.

He learned that the poor are the ones who will inherit the Kingdom of God.

He learned that those who hunger for justice will be filled with good things.

He learned what Mary proclaimed in the Magnificat.

What He learned from His parents, He will later proclaim in the Beatitudes.

As we draw nearer to Christmas, we draw nearer to a new beginning, a new beginning with Jesus.

We are led to the manger, and we will learn about the way, the truth and the life.

As we move on from the manger, the way of love and the truth of God must also form the values and the principles of our lives.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent, 21st December 2009

Song of Songs 2 : 8-14
Luke 1 : 39-45

On the 20th July, 1969, the American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped out from the lunar module.

Just before his foot touch the surface of the moon, he said this :

That's one small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind.

We may have seen that footage before and we know the excitement behind it.

Today's gospel is also filled with excitement, a much greater excitement.

It was just one small leap from a baby in his mother's womb, but it signals the beginning of our leap back to GOd.

All because Jesus stepped out of heaven to set foot on earth.

Today is another step closer to Christmas.

At Christmas, Jesus will again step in our hearts and make His home in us.

Let us also take a step closer to Him as we hear Him calling out to us in the words from the 1st reading : Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Advent, 19th December

Judges 13 : 2-7, 24-25
Luke 1 :5-25

In the two readings of today, there is a tone of an initial misfortune.

A married couple having no children was an embarrassment to society at that time, and some people may even think that the couple is under some kind of curse.

The couple themselves would feel ashamed that they have no descendants, because the family line would be terminated.

But for the two couples in today's readings, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Manoah and his wife, they were blessed for their faithfulness to each other and to God.

Because for the Jewish people at that time, being barren or sterile could be grounds for divorce.

Also the unfortunate couple would be subjected to slanting looks and wagging tongues that poke and cut till they wilt and fade and eventually they will separate.

Yet the two couples remained together, enduring the embarrassment and the shame, and enduring it together.

But God blessed them with sons who would become famous men in bible history.

Which makes us call to mind the times when we experienced misfortune and embarrassment and even shame.

Did we still believed that God did not abandon us, and did we still remained faithful to Him?

When we have survived those moments, then we will know this for sure :
When we abandon ourselves to God, God will not abandon us.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent, 18th Dec

Jeremiah 23 : 5-8
Matthew 1 : 18-24

The gospel according to Matthew begins with the coming of the Emmanuel.

In the last chapter of the gospel, Jesus, the Emmanuel, the "God-is-with-us" tell His disciples that He will be with them until the end of time.

Hence the gospel of Matthew has this underlying theme - that Jesus is the fulfillment of God's promise to come and live among His people.

This is also the underlying theme in this particular period of our Advent preparation.

God's promise to us still holds true, that His is with us and will be with us till the end of time.

The modern world is going through a great secularization, to the extent that God and the Church has become irrelevant.

On the other hand, science and technology have taken the world by storm and pushing aggressively its advancement, and at times with all costs.

But science and technology cannot explain one thing, and that is the ecological problems that the world is facing, as well as the hostility amongst peoples.

It not only cannot explain, in a way, it amplifies and multiplies it.

When we reflect on the gospel, we see that it is the Spirit who brought about the coming of the Emmanuel.

It is the same Spirit who will bring about the presence of God in a broken and bleeding world.

Just as Mary and Joseph were open to the Spirit and became instruments in bringing about the presence of God into the world, we too must be open to the promptings of the Spirit within us.

We must first believe that God is indeed with us, before we can help others to believe likewise.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Advent, 17th December

Genesis 49 : 2, 8-10
Matthew 1 : 1-17

In Singapore, whenever we talk about salad, we think of the Western variety, eg, Caesar's salad, etc.

But there is also the local salad, and we call it "rojak", and there is the Chinese, Indian and Malay variety, each being very distinct.

Taking for example the Chinese rojak, it has ingredients that are of different flavours, from sweet to sour, from strong to bland, from fragrant to bitter.

Yet all these ingredients combine together to give a flavour that is uniquely Chinese rojak, and which is quite tasty, going by general appeal.

When we look carefully at the genealogy list given in the gospel, we may find that it is like some kind of rojak.

Indeed, we are presented with a mixture of saints and sinners, of kings and peasants, of men and women.

Yet from this rojak list of people, which is a genealogy list, we find Jesus Christ at the end of it.

We can only conclude that God uses all sorts of people, even though it may seem that it is not possible by human logic, to work wonders and to show His saving love for us.

The gospel reminds us that each and every one of us has a role to play in God's plan of salvation.

The Church, which seems like a rojak mixture of people, may leave us scratching our heads and raised eyebrows.

But yet God uses the Church as the sign of salvation, and so all of us, as well as each of us has a role to fulfill.

May we, the rojak Church, give the world a taste of God's saving love.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

3rd Week of Advent, Wednesday, 16-12-09

Isaiah 45 : 6-8, 18, 21-26
Luke 7 : 19-23

Spiritual writers often talk about how a time will come when faith is put to the test, and they will use terms like "when the well runs dry" or "the dark night of the soul" or "the cloud of the unknowing".

It is also a time when the most fundamental and critical questions are asked.

Questions like : What is the meaning of my life? Why is such a bad thing happening to me? Does God really care about me? Are my prayers really being heard?

This "dark night of the soul" cuts across all and no one is spared, from saints to sinners.

In today's gospel, we heard of the dark night of the soul of John the Baptist.

In the darkness of his prison cell and the even darker uncertainty of his existence and mission, he had tough questions to ask.

So is Jesus the Messiah or not? If He is then why don't He make it clear and get me out of here?

We too will have our dark night of the soul, and we too will have our scorching questions.

And when there seemed to be no answers, then maybe the 1st reading will give us some consolation.

The prophet Isaiah tells us that everything is in God's hands, and from the Lord alone will come strength and victory.

Our moments of clarity and confusion are like the cycle of day and night.

Through all these moments, we must learn to depend on the Lord and put our faith in Him alone and turn to Him for strength.

Even if there seemed to be no answers to our questions and the dark night is a prolonged one, let us continue to wait for the Lord with hope.

When the Lord comes, may He find us waiting in faith.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

3rd Week of Advent, Tuesday, 15-12-09

Zephaniah 3 : 1-2, 9-13
Matthew 21 : 28-32

Most of us wake up in the morning with some kind of electronic or mechanical alarm device, or simply putting it, some kind of alarm clock.

But before the emergence of alarm clocks, the common sound that signals the arrival of dawn is the sound of the cockcrow, which of course, we don't hear much nowadays in our highly urban surroundings.

The cockcrow signals the beginning of a new day, that the night is gone, and a new start awaits us.

But once upon a time, a cock also crowed, and a man wept in shame. Because he realized that in a bid to save himself, he denied his Master three times.

He wept in remorse and repentance and in shame. But where sin and shame abounds, grace and forgiveness abounds all the more.

St. Peter stands as a testimony that. He was like the two sons rolled into one, in that, he said "yes" to Jesus, but at a time of reckoning, he said "no".

But later through a journey of shame and repentance, he said "yes" to Jesus again, this time being a more definitive "yes".

As we can see great saints like St. Peter and St. Paul knew what shame and repentance is.

Jesus also said in today's gospel, that the great sinners of society at that time, the tax-collectors and prostitutes knew about shame and repentance just as much, and maybe even more than the so-called religious people.

As for us, do we know about shame and repentance as much as the tax-collectors and prostitutes knew it?

If we say we do, then it should be reflected in our attitude towards those whom society deems as dealing in the sleazy and shady side of life.

If we believe that God wants to remove our sin and shame, then we must also believe and pray that God will also remove their sin and shame.

When we can do that, then a new day indeed has begun.

Monday, December 14, 2009

3rd Week of Advent, Monday, 14-12-09

Numbers 24 : 2-7, 15-17 / Matthew 21 : 23-27          (2019)

We know what a dilemma is. It is a perplexing situation in which a choice has to be made between alternatives that are equally undesirable.

Going by that definition. if I may put it simply, it is a choice of the best among the worst.

In today's gospel, that was the situation that the the chief priests and the elders found themselves in.

They challenged Jesus' authority but in turn found themselves being challenged and in a dilemma as to how to answer that question of Jesus.

So they ended up choosing the worst of the worst alternatives with that reply : We do not know. Or in simple terms : No comment.

In the 1st reading, we hear of another dilemma. The pagan prophet Balaam was tasked to curse Israel, but when the Spirit of God came upon him, he faced a dilemma but made the choice to revoke his curse and instead bless Israel.

Whenever we face a dilemma, we think of the worst case scenarios and try to choose the one that will result in the least problems and difficulties.

But when we put the dilemma into the hands of God and ask the Spirit to guide us, then we will see the best case scenarios because we know that in each alternative there is growth and enlightenment.

So whenever we face a dilemma, let us not curse the alternatives that we have to choose.

Rather, let us ask the Lord for His blessings and also ask the Spirit to guide us in making a choice.

Every dilemma is an opportunity to experience the blessing and the guidance of God.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

2nd Week of Advent, Saturday, 12-12-09

Ecclesiasticus 48 : 1-4, 9-11
Matthew 17 : 10-13

If there was one prophet in the Old Testament that we can say is really dramatic, it is surely the prophet Elijah.

And the 1st reading makes special mention of this dramatic prophet, and rightly so.

Elijah was a fire-and-brimstone prophet. He worked great and awful deeds like calling down famine upon the land, calling down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice he offered and putting the 450 false prophets by slitting their throats, just to mention a few.

But all that dramatic deeds were intended to turn the people back to God and for the restoration of Israel as the people of God.

But people can just be interested in the dramatic and the spectacular and not see the meaning and the message behind it.

We live in an age where people, Catholics included, are easily attracted by the dramatic and the spectacular and the extra-ordinary.

We may even expect the end times and the second coming of Christ to be kind of dramatic and spectacular, with awesome signs.

But as Jesus said in the gospel, Elijah came in the person of John the Baptist, and God came to visit His people in the Word made flesh.

But John the Baptist and Jesus were just too ordinary, and hence did not live up to the people's expectations.

The season of Advent prepares us to encounter God in the ordinary.

Amidst of the festive celebrations, let us quieten our hearts to hear the voice of God in the ordinary.

When Jesus first came to this world at the first Christmas, it was just another ordinary day.

When He comes to us today, it will also be in an ordinary way.

Friday, December 11, 2009

2nd Week Advent, Friday, 11-12-09

Isaiah 48 : 17-19
Matthew 11 : 16-19

One of the frustrating situations in a meeting, whether in church or elsewhere, is when people are silent about the issues that are being discussed.

It is frustrating because time is being wasted as people sit around and keep quiet about the issues without offering their opinions or suggestions.

It is frustrating because we don't know what they are feeling about the issues and what is on their minds. And we leave the meeting frustrated and disappointed.

But if people's silence can be frustrating and also disappointing, what more people's criticism, as we heard in the gospel.

But Jesus showed us that affirmation and encouragement are indeed noble deeds.

He affirmed and encouraged the faith of the centurion, the woman who anointed His feet with precious oil, the widow who gave up all she had, etc.

Jesus came to restore us to our dignity as children of God so that we can have self-respect, and He will affirm and encourage us whenever we make sacrifices and do the will of God in our lives.

As the 1st reading puts it, we only have to be alert to the voice of God that is spoken by others, then our happiness would flow like a river and our integrity will rise like the waves of the sea.

So let us learn this wisdom of God - that by affirmation and encouragement, we continue the mission of Jesus in helping people realize who they are so that they will turn back to God.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

2nd Week of Advent, Thursday, 10-12-09

Isaiah 41 : 13-20
Matthew 11 : 11-15

Life can be very much easier and comfortable when we have someone around to help us and guide us.

One good example is when we have to go to a foreign place for a meeting or for business.

It would be very much easier and enjoyable if we have someone to receive us at the airport and show us the way.

Then we would be able to enjoy the sights and the scenery without having the anxiety and the fear of the unknown.

In this season of Advent, there is someone who is ever willing to help us in our Advent journey towards Christmas.

John the Baptist is our Advent guide and he shows us the way and the preparations that we need to do.

His message is clear and simple - repentance and the conversion of heart.

We must remember that it is God who sent John the Baptist to be our Advent guide as we journey in faith towards Jesus.

Even Jesus, in the gospel, would exalted John the Baptist and affirmed that John was the one sent by God to turn the hearts of the people back to God.

So in our prayer, let us also ask John the Baptist to pray for us so that we can journey deeper into the heart of Jesus and in turn lead others to experience Jesus at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

2nd Week of Advent, Wednesday, 09-12-09

Isaiah 40 : 25-31
Matthew 11 : 28-30

If there is one thing that I can think of that symbolizes some stability in the turbulence of the journey of life, that thing would be a seat-belt.

As life unfolds moment by moment, with its twists and turns, with its ups and downs, we can philosophically say that life is always changing.

Indeed change is always happening, whether on a personal level, or a social level or a much higher level.

It is not that easy to welcome change because change can be unsettling, tiring and frustrating.

So that is why i said earlier that we need a seat-belt to anchor us down us to some stability amidst the fluctuations of life.

In the 1st reading the people lamented that God had abandoned them and ignored them.

So through the prophet Isaiah, God proclaims to His people that as much as they were wearied by the turbulence of life, He does not grow tired or weary.

He gives strength to the wearied and those who put their trust in the Lord renew their strength and they put out wings like eagles.

In the gospel, Jesus reiterated this point gently when He invited all those who labour and are overburdened to come to Him and He will give them rest.

In the midst of all the fluctuations and turbulence of life, we need to listen to the call of Jesus, especially the call to come to Him in prayer.

In Him we will find rest for our weary souls ; in Him we will renew our strength and put out wings like eagles.

In Him is our safety and our eternity.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

08 Dec 2009, The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20
Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12
Luke 1 : 26-38

For those of us who were baptized as babies, our parents gave us a baptism name.

For those of us who were baptized as adults, we chose a baptism name for ourselves.

These will be the names for the rest of our lives.

But these are not just names to identity ourselves. They have a much greater significance.

They symbolize our new identity in Christ through baptism.

For those of us who were baptized as adults, our baptism names symbolize our "Yes" to God to be His beloved children.

Mary was graced to be immaculately conceived in her mother's womb, and freed from sin by the power of God.

But at the Annunciation, Mary is called by a new name and empowered to bear the One who is to crush the power of evil.

Mary is called by the angel Gabriel "the highly favoured one".

And Mary said "Yes" to the mission of bearing the Word made flesh.

By the grace of our baptism, we too have become God's highly favoured ones; we too have become "immaculate".

We too are empowered to say "Yes" to God.

In saying "Yes" to God, we are also saying "No" to evil and to the devil's temptations.

So let us rejoice with Mary on this feast of her Immaculate Conception and give thanks and praise to God for His saving love for us.

Let us renew the grace of our baptism, and by the grace of our baptism, let us crush our evil and sinful desires and live as God's beloved and highly favoured sons and daughters.

Let us also ask Mary to pray for us by using the prayer that is inscribed in the Miraculous Medal : O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you

Monday, December 7, 2009

2nd Week of Advent, Monday, 07-12-09

Isaiah 35 : 1-10
Luke 5 : 17-26

The Communists took over power in China in 1949.

They set up the state-controlled Church, and anyone who resisted was thrown into prison.

Bishop Ignatius Kung of Shanghai was one of those who resisted.

He was imprisoned for 30 years before being released at 83 years old and in poor health. He died in March 2000.

Bishop Ignatius Kung spent one third of his life in prison.

His suffering was a true experience of an exile - he was separated from the people he loved, from the ministry which he was ordained for, and from the life he loved.

In fact, all human suffering is a form of exile - it separates us from what and from who we love.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah talked about God bringing His people back from exile, to restore them to the promised land, to save those from being lost.

That was what Jesus did for the paralyzed man.

That is also what Jesus wants to do for us when we feel that we are walking through some kind of wilderness and desolation, or going through some kind of exile.

The Lord wants to heal us with His word and with His touch.

He wants us to experience love and forgiveness and to have true freedom.

Bishop Ignatius Kung was imprisoned for 30 years, but the Lord gave him strength for his weary hands and trembling knees.

The Lord gave him courage to hope for the coming of the Lord who will save him.

May we too be courageous and keep hoping in our Lord who will come to save us and grant us freedom.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

1st Week of Advent, Saturday, 05-12-09

Isaiah 30 : 19-21, 23-26
Matthew 9:35 - 10:1, 6-8

We are always attracted to this phrase : Free of charge!   Of course we would rather be receiving it than to be giving it.

Indeed, we get a spurt of happiness whenever we get something free, and more so when it is something valuable.

As we think about it, let us also reflect about the free and valuable things that God has given us daily - the warm sunshine, the rain, the fresh air, the cool evening, the beautiful moon, etc.

Most of all, the life that is beating in our hearts and the love that we experience around us.

All these are certainly blessings from God. But what if God were to charge us for His blessings?

What if God were to charge us for the help He gave us, for the times He saved us from trouble and danger, for healing us when we were sick?

But God doesn't need our money nor does He want us to pay Him back anything.

God is all loving and generous and merciful and compassionate. Furthermore it is out of His great love for us that He created us in His image and likeness.

Jesus, the greatest gift from God wants us to know this and that is why He said in today's gospel : You received without charge, give without charge.

It is not just about the material blessings that we have received from God that we are called to share without charge with others.

Our greatest treasures are in our heart, and in there are the gifts of love, care, compassion, forgiveness, patience, understanding and all the blessings that God has given us free of charge.

Let us share these gifts and blessings without charge with the others around us.

That will be one way of preparing to celebrate Christmas, because at Christmas we celebrate the greatest gift of God.

We celebrate the gift of Jesus, who was given to us free of charge.

Friday, December 4, 2009

1st Week of Advent, Friday, 04-12-09

Isaiah 29 : 17-24
Matthew 9 : 27-31

Advertising is a big business. Almost everyone, maybe even anyone who has a product to sell or a service to offer will have to have recourse to some of advertisement to get some publicity.

But the most powerful and most convincing form of advertisement is none other than people's words.

For eg., if you want to buy a hand-phone or a laptop, just ask someone who is using one. You don't have to look at the papers to get some opinions.

So why did Jesus tell the two blind men who were cured, not to talk about what happened?

Maybe Jesus didn't want people to see Him simply as a wonder-worker.

That's because people generally focus on the sensational and the wonderful things rather than on the message.

Jesus also wanted people to follow Him and come to know Him for who He really is, and not what He can just do for them.

That's why before He cured the two blind men, He asked them a very profound question : Do you believe I can do this?

He wanted to know the faith of these two blind men. He wanted them to see more than just the sensational and the wonder.

We too come before Jesus with our needs and our petitions. Do we really believe that Jesus will grant us our needs?

If we really do believe, then what is our anxiety and our worry?

The question is not what Jesus can do for us or what He can give us.

The question He is asking us is this : Do you believe I love you?

That can be the question for our Advent reflection and prayer.

May our prayers lead us to find the answer at Xmas.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

1st Week of Advent, Thursday, 03-12-09

Isaiah 26 : 1-6 / Matthew 7 : 21, 24-27    (2019)

The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to separate the communist East Germany from West Germany.

Along with that wall were electrified fences, mine-fields, guard-posts and at regular intervals, tall towers with search lights.

It was a formidable sight, and all this just to protect a Communist political system, and also at the expense of lives who tried to escape from that system.

Yet in 1990, the Berlin Wall crumbled. It crumbled from the people's urge for freedom from an oppressive system.

But as we look deeper at it, the Berlin Wall crumbled from the power of God's will to grant freedom and peace and unity among peoples.

The prophet Isaiah urged his people to trust in the power of God rather than in steep citadels and fortifications which will eventually crumble.

Because high walls and electric fences will not protect us if our hearts are not with God.

Real defense against fear and insecurity ad evil is having a faithful heart which will trust in the Lord.

When we put our faith in God and build our lives on the Lord who is the Everlasting Rock, we will not crumble in the face of evil and suffering and oppression.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

1st Week of Advent, Wednesday, 02-12-09

Isaiah 25 : 6-10
Matthew 15 : 29-37

I have heard quite a bit about fine dining although I have not been to one nor do I intend to.

It seems like it is always in a top-class restaurant, and each diner will be served by a waiter, and the food is, needless to say, very good. And so is the price.

Yet when we hear of such things in a world that is experiencing hunger and famine, we wonder what sense does it all make. In fact it sounds like a mockery.

For the people hearing the prophet Isaiah taking about God preparing a fine banquet and rejoicing, it didn't make much sense to them because they were in the midst of the threat of annihilation by a powerful enemy and there was also an internal power struggle to bear with.

In fact one might even get angry with God about the hunger and famine and the political turmoil and the wars and violence that is happening all around.

Just like the story of the young man who was angry with God over the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

Then he had a dream in which God told him this : I have great things in store for the poor and hungry.

The young man asked angrily : Like what!?!    God answered  : I am sending you

Well, like is often said : If we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem.

I guess the problem is realising that we are called be the solution.

Just as in the gospel, the solution was in the hands of the disciples, the solution to life's problems also lies in our hands.

But we have to ask God to help us realise it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

1st Week of Advent, Tuesday, 01-12-09

Isaiah 11 : 1-10
Luke 10 : 21-24

Fairy tales make us smile, fairy tales like Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

They make us smile because the ending is so rosy, so dreamy, so happily ever after, and we feel nice about it.

But the real world is not a fairy tale and we don't usually end up smiling or happy ever after. In fact it can like happy never after.

What we heard from the prophet Isaiah seemed to be like a fairy tale.

The wolf lives with the lamb, the lion eats straw like the ox, infant plays over the cobra's hole.

A picture of serenity, a picture of peace and harmony.

But can it be true, can it ever be true? Or is it  just  a dream and a fairy tale?

We might say that it is not possible, and that it because we, too often, have experienced the hard knocks of the real world.

In this hard and real world, there are no dreams or fairy tales.

The story of Vincent van Gogh, the great Dutch painter, is one such case.

He actually produced 1,700 paintings and drawings before he died in 1890. However in his lifetime, van Gogh sold only one painting, and that for only a miserable sum.

So in the hard real world, dreams and fairy tales just fizzle out and vanish. Or is it so?

It is into this hard real world and that Jesus came to help us dream again, and to give us hope and to help us believe that the Kingdom stories are not just airy fairy tales.

So as we begin our Advent preparation, let us also become like little children of the Kingdom, children who want to dream, children who dare to believe that stories can come true, children who dare to hope against hope.

Just a final world about Vincent van Gogh. If he had stopped painting and drawing because his first work could not sell, then this world would be a hard and cold place without any art.

Monday, November 30, 2009

30-11-09, St. Andrew, Apostle

Romans 10 : 9-18
Matthew 4 : 18-22

Most of us would shy away from the limelight and rather work behind the scenes.

Well, that is until we have basked in the limelight and gotten a taste of the attention and the applause.

 After experiencing the taste of the limelight, it might be difficult to step back into the background and go back to being behind the scenes.

We often call it "cannot let go".

St. Andrew was always referred to as the brother of St. Peter.

That title gives the impression that St. Andrew was someone who was always behind the scenes, someone who tags along behind St. Peter.

Even today's gospel seemed to imply that idea when it tells of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, in that order.

But in the gospel according to St. John, it was Andrew who first followed Jesus, and it was Andrew who told Peter that he had found the Messiah.

St. Andrew's role in the gospels may be few but nonetheless significant.

Besides being the first to follow Jesus and leading Peter to Him, St. Andrew was also instrumental in pointing out the boy with the barley loaves and the fish that later led to the miracle of the multiplication of loaves.

In St. Andrew, we see a reflection of ourselves and our mission.

Following Christ is our top priority and leading others to Christ is our mission.

But stepping back in order that God can continue to work through us must also be our conviction.

When we can do that, then we know what it means to let go and let God.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 28-11-09

Daniel 7 : 15-27
Luke 21 : 34-36

During the celebration of the Mass, we are often reminded of the presence of God, with this phrase : The Lord be with you

Maybe some of us may ask : why not say - the Lord is with you. After all the Lord is here, isn't it?

True, the Lord is here, yet so often, even as we are greeted with the presence of the Lord, our hearts may not be that aware that is Lord is indeed truly here.

Maybe that is why it is necessary to reflect on just that simple greeting : The Lord be with you.

Because that phrase call us to pay attention to the Lord, to pay attention to the Lord who is here and with us now.

In the gospel, Jesus says : Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened and hardened.

If we are not aware of God's presence in the Mass, how would we be aware of His presence during the course of the day.

Being with the Lord moment by moment, will help us to be ready to be with Him in eternity.

Friday, November 27, 2009

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-11-09

Daniel 7 : 2-14
Luke 21 : 29-33

Promises are not that easy to keep, even when the conditions are stable and under control.

Promises are also not that easy to keep especially when there is turmoil and chaos.

More so in a situation of war and devastation and nothing is predictable.

But in World War II, one figure stood tall because of a promise he made to a people. The promise was made in three simple words : I shall return!

General Douglas McArthur earned a place in history because he did not only made a promise under volatile conditions, but he really fulfilled it.

That promise also changed the course of WW II and eventually brought it to an end.

Jesus also left us a promise when He said in today's gospel : Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away.

But when we are faced with the painful realities of life, the promise of Jesus may seem to lose its impact and significance.

However the challenge to believe in His promise remains as we keep fighting the good fight and running the race even when we cannot see the finish line.

The 1st reading also reminds us : God's sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire be destroyed.

So let us remember that it is God who is making a promise to us His people. What God has promised He will fulfill.

For our part, we just have to keep on believing and trusting in God always.

Let us remember that though we may falter, God is always faithful.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-11-09

Daniel 6 : 12-28
Luke 21 : 20-28

The story of Daniel in the lions' den which we heard in the 1st reading is indeed a famous and well-known story from the Old Testament.

It was another account of how God protected those who were faithful to Him and trusted in Him.

In that story, the other character, king Darius, was often seen just as a sort of supporting character.

Yet he is the character that we would look at today.

He ordered Daniel to be thrown to the lions, but he did it much against his own will.

He was trapped by his own edict and by the pressure of Daniel's accusers.

King Darius knew what he wanted to do ; he knew what he should do.

But he just couldn't do it without losing face or seen as weak.

So he finally succumbed to pressure, just like many others before him and many others after him, e.g. Pontius Pilate.

Acting under pressure from others, or to please others, or to meet the expectation of others, or afraid to lose face, or being called a softie, or no backbone, are things that we have all experienced.

We know what we should do, but to do it requires the courage to enter the lions' den.

That courage can only come about if we are faithful to God and trust like Him, like Daniel did.

The only lions that we need to fear are our lack of faith and trust in God.

But when fear seems overwhelming, let us remember these words of Jesus in today's gospel : Stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is at hand.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 25-11-09

Daniel 5 : 1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28
Luke 21 : 12-19

One phrase which we will use to express the idea that we can see things so clearly and so profoundly, is to use this expression - we say that "the writing is on the wall".

That phrase is taken from the book of the prophet Daniel which we heard in the 1st reading.

That phrase in the context of the 1st reading meant judgment for king Belshazzar because he desecrated the sacred vessels that were looted from the Temple in Jerusalem, and he did not acknowledge the God of all creation.

In a world that is filled with violence and terrorism, evil and sinfulness, is there any writing on the wall? Is there any judgment? Is there any vindication?

What do we see in such situations?

We can see two things : one is that those who propagate violence and evil will be accountable to God.

But we also need to see something else, something more profound.

We need to see that in the midst of violence and evil, we need to see that we are called to bear witness.

We need to bear witness to God's love and forgiveness.

We need to bear witness to the truth of way of Jesus in that we don't have to return evil for evil, but rather to overcome evil with good.

We need to bear witness and to be God's writing on the wall.

God's writing on the wall speaks not just of judgment, but of peace and love and forgiveness.

Yes, we must bear witness even when evil and sin seem to be overwhelming.

But as Jesus said in the gospel - our endurance will win us our lives.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 24-11-09

Daniel 2 : 31-45
Luke 21 : 5-11

We often say that the past is history and the future is mystery. Sounds rather poetic.

And good poetry often makes a reflection on the harsh reality but puts it across beautifully.

So as much as we know the history of the past, we do not know the mystery of the future.

It is because we do not know the future, we tend to live in anxiety.

And we may secretly like to think that if we know what is going to happen in the future, then we may be relieved of this anxiety.

Well, king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about the future. And Daniel interpreted that dream for him.

But did it quell his anxiety?

Similarly in the gospel, the people asked Jesus about the time and the signs of the future.

And Jesus did tell them something about the future, but did it quell their anxiety?

It is not good to be too anxious about the future, but yet we can turn that anxiety into something creative.

We can use that anxiety to build the foundations of our lives so that we won't be thrown about by the worries of what is to come.

The prophet Daniel mentions in the 1st reading of a stone, untouched by human hands.

We, of course, know that the stone that he was talking about was that stone that was rejected by the builders but which became the corner stone.

May Jesus be that corner stone which forms the foundations of our lives.

It is in Jesus that we can have the security in a future that is mystery.

Because with Jesus we can truly live in the HERE and NOW. Without Jesus, we will be NOWHERE

Monday, November 23, 2009

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-11-09

Daniel 1 :1-6, 8-20
Luke 21 : 1-4

One of the common problems in the work-place is this superior-subordinate tension.

Very often, one party views the other with suspicion and caution.

And very often, one party will always have complains and grouses against the other.

But at the heart of these problems lies basically the need for understanding.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Daniel and his friends faced the dilemma of having to eat forbidden food.

Yet he understood the situation of those who were put in charge of him.

And eventually he found a way of going round the problem.

That makes us think about how we deal with the problems in our workplace, whether it is with our superiors or our subordinates or our colleagues.

Or on a wider scale, our problems with anyone.

To just complain and get worked up and get frustrated would simply be aggravating the problem.

Like Daniel, we need to understand these people that we are having problems with.

To understand literally means to stand in their shoes.

That means that we have to let our guard down and take off our armour. That means to let go of our pride and our security.

That means we would have to be like the widow in the gospel who gave all that she had, and rely on the Lord to see her through the challenges and uncertainties of life.

It is only when we are down to nothing that God will come up with something.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 21-11-09

1 Maccabees 6 : 1-13
Luke 20 : 27-40

We have heard of this word "retribution". We may even have used it before when we see someone getting his dues for the evil he had done.

In casual terms we would say : What goes around, come around.

That seemed to be the case in the 1st reading.

King Antiochus fell into deep depression and melancholy when everything around him fell apart.

Then he remembered the wrong he had done to the Jews and he was convinced that that was why misfortune had overwhelmed him.

But that was not his greatest tragedy. What was really tragic for him was that in his heyday he had what he wanted and he never thought of a beyond, an afterlife.

He had enjoyed life, and now he was afraid of death. Because he does not know what awaits for him beyond death.

Our central belief is in the resurrection and in eternal life. It is not just a religious precept or a profound concept.

Because justice cries out for the resurrection and for eternal life.

For all the injustice and the victory of evil over good that we see happening in this world, our answer cannot be just in retribution.

We believe that God does not abandon or forget the poor, the suffering, the oppressed, and those that injustice and evil have hammered down.

God's justice will prevail. It will prevail and for eternity. That will certainly happen in the resurrection and in eternal life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 20-11-09

1 Maccabees 4 : 36-37 ; 52-59
Luke 19 : 45-48

One of the most difficult attitudes to confront, whether as a teenager or as an adult, is peer pressure.

If we want to stay in and with the crowd, if we want to be accepted by the rest, if we don't want to be the odd-one-out, then we just have to submit to peer pressure.

And that might mean staying silent and not doing anything even when we see injustice and oppression and corruption and immorality happening in front of us.

When Jesus walked into the Temple that day, He already knew that there was a price on his head; His life was at stake.

It was a day when He should take it easy, keep quiet and do nothing about the scandals and the irreverence and the profanity that were happening around Him.

But it was happening in the Temple, in His Father's house!

It was the same Temple that we heard about in the 1st reading that was rededicated with so much reverence and rejoicing after the pagans had desecrated it.

The people prostrated in adoration and praised God for being with them again, because the Temple symbolized the presence of God among them.

So when Jesus cleansed the Temple that day by driving out those who were selling and making use of the Temple for their profits, He not only drove out injustice and corruption, from the holy place.

He also restored the Temple to its sacred dignity as the dwelling place of God, a refuge for those in trouble and in need, and a sanctuary of life and love.

Jesus also wants to cleanse the Temple which is in our hearts.

Our hearts is the dwelling place of God. May we keep it holy and sacred, pure and filled with God's love always.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 19-11-09

1 Maccabees 2 : 15-29
Luke 19 : 41-44

The ancient of Pompeii in Italy was destroyed when the volcano Vesuvius erupted on August 24, AD 79.

Because the warning signs were short and sudden, the people of Pompeii were caught by surprise by the eruption.

Just nine years earlier, the city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans. The warning signs were there, but the people just did not heed the danger signs because they thought that God will still protect them even if they toyed with danger.

No wonder Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem as He laments over it. The city just did not recognize the time of its reckoning.

For Mattathias  and his sons, the time of reckoning came when he had to make a stand for his faith.

Some may think that he was stupid enough to leave all his possessions and face the danger of being hunted down as rebels and criminals.

But he had heeded the God-given signs and acted accordingly.

What are signs that God has revealed to us lately?  Have we prayed about those signs? Have we acted upon those signs?

God always reveals His plans to us moment by moment. We just have to keep close to God in prayer and trust in His ways as we walk step by step.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 18-11-09

2 Maccabees 7 : 1, 20-31
Luke 19 : 11-28

The word "accountability" is used often these days, especially in banking and business circles in the light of the global financial crisis.

For all the things that went wrong and ended up with people losing their investments, someone or some people must be accountable.

The price of accountability can be anything from just a verbal apology to committing suicide.

In the Christian understanding of accountability, we acknowledged that God has endowed each of us with particular gifts.

It was God's initiative to grant us His gifts. Our accountability to God's gifts is that we use these gifts for His glory in the service of others.

We can be sure of this : what God has given, He will never take away or take it back.

So we can say that what is ours can never be taken away from us.

But we can just give it up ; we can just ignore it or neglect it.

In the 1st reading, we see how the mother and her seven sons did not give up what was theirs - their faith in God.

Not even torture or death could take it away from them.

On the other hand, the third servant in the gospel parable just ignored and neglected what was given to him.

The readings of today help us to reflect and think about what are the gifts that God has endowed us with.

We may be aware of some of these gifts ; others are waiting to be discovered as life unfolds.

Whatever it is, let us use our gifts generously for the glory of God  and for the service of others in their need.

For it is only in the glory of God, that man is fully alive and responding to the talents and gifts God has given him.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-11-09

2 Maccabees 6 : 18-31
Luke 19 : 1-10

In life, we have our values and priorities, and whoever lives up to these values and priorities will certainly be our role models in life.

So if our values lies in human sensitiveness, then we would certainly not admire the one who may have the strength of Samson but cannot be nice to someone.

If we prize religious values, then we will admire people like Eleazar and Zachaeus in today's readings.

Eleazar was an old man, just the kind of person the persecutors did not fear, and even actually look upon in comtempt.

But the old man showed a deep religious strength, when he preferred to die rather than make a pretence of eating the forbidden meat.

His death summed up what his life was all about, as well as his faith in God.

Zachaeus was also a person looked upon with comtempt, not ony because he was a hated tax collector, but also because he was small in stature.

Yet, after his encounter with Jesus, he showed spiritual strength to change what was wrong in his life.

As we reflect on today's readings, it is good to wonder if we had ever been inspirations for others by our faith and by our values in life.

One of the highest human responsibilities is also one of the easiest.

And that is to inspire and encourage others by how we live our lives and our faith.

May we continue to fight the good fight, run the race to the finish and keep the faith to the end.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 14-11-09

Wisdom 18:14-16; 19:6-9
Luke 18 : 1-8

There are many things that we don't seem to get tired of doing.

For example, we don't get tired of watching TV, eating good food, surfing the internet, shopping, traveling or whatever.

However when it comes to praying and the things of the spiritual life, we somehow tire out easily.

The disciples of Jesus might have felt the same way. They didn't get tired of watching Jesus work miracles day after day, e.g. curing the sick, expelling demons, making the blind see and the lame walk, etc.

These were spectacular and extraordinary events and they were exciting to watch.

But Jesus called His disciples not just to watch how He worked miracles but to follow Him.

He called them to personal conversion and to a deeper faith in God.

Jesus knew that He Himself could not work miracles without prayer and a deep intimate love for His Father.

It is because of this that He told the gospel parable in order to teach them the importance of prayer.

Essentially He told them to pray always without becoming weary.

Because prayer is not about getting immediate results ; rather it is about patience and perseverance.

Many people become great saints not because of their sudden experience and vision of God.

Rather, it was because of their prayerful lives that kept them close to God and close to others.

May we also have the patience to persevere in prayer and keep the faith.

Friday, November 13, 2009

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-11-09

Wisdom 13 : 1-9
Luke 17 : 26-37

The term "philosophy" comes from two Greek words - philo and sophia.

It means the love for knowledge.

The ancient Greeks were known for laying down philosophical foundations with well-known philosophers like Aristotle and Plato.

One subject that was investigated by philosophy was the discussion on the existence of God.

So can the existence of God be proved? To a certain extent it can. But yet these are not infallible proofs.

The 1st reading says that men tend to believe more in the things that they can see rather on what they cannot see, and they even held these as gods who govern the world.

It is a typical case of men being awed by creation and forget about the Creator.

So in their search for God and eagerness to find Him, they went astray because they see so much beauty in creation.

Yet if men are are capable of acquiring so much knowledge, how is it that they have been so slow to find the Creator of creation?

For us who believe in God as the Creator, an even greater challenge exist in the form of monotony and complacency.

Our faith in God may plateau off and become mundane and we take it easy on the spiritual life and look for excitement in the things of the world.

Eventually we lose focus on God and time will just slip away as we run faster in the rat race of the world.

As it is, we need to remember that he who wins the rat race is ... still a rat!

But God created us with wisdom and intelligence to come to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

And may we always give thanks to God for the beauty we see around us and for all the goodness we have receive from Him

Thursday, November 12, 2009

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-11-09

Wisdom 7:22 - 8:1
Luke 17 : 20-25

Humanity has progressed to the extent that we say we live in a civilized world.

Yet the 20th century civilized world had seen two World Wars, besides besides many other major conflicts that have led to great bloodshed.

The 2nd World War was evidence of a world of deranged nations just out to destroy each other.

Yet in the madness and insanity of World War II, there were sparks of humanity and even profound sayings.

One profound saying came from the Commander-in-Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet. His name is Adm. Yamamoto.

He master-minded the attack on Pearl Harbour.

As he presented his plan for the attack on Pearl Harbour, one of the generals commented that he was indeed a wise and brilliant man to think of such a plan.

Adm. Yamamoto replied : A truly wise and brilliant man would find a way not to fight a war.

Indeed why would a truly wise person resort to conflict and violence and start a war.

When a person lives with divine wisdom, the wisdom that comes from God, then evil can never be a product of that person.

Because a truly wise person radiates not only wisdom but also the love of God and all the qualities of wisdom that are mentioned in the 1st reading.

Because a truly wise person is also truly a human being who reflects God in his life.

As Jesus would say it in the gospel : For you must know, the kingdom of God is among (within) you.

Supplementary :
When the Nobel prize winner Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, was asked "How do you find God?", he answered : You ask me "How do I find God?". I do not know how, but I do know where - in my fellow man.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 11-11-09

Wisdom 6 : 1-11
Luke 17 : 11-19

Leaders and other top people who have power and authority may sometimes say that it is lonely at the top.

Well, naturally, of course, when there can only be one person at the top.

But as much as it might be lonely, to be at the apex of power and authority and might, is certainly an enjoyable feeling and some will even crave for it after awhile at the top.

Hence, loneliness may just be a small price to pay to sit at the top.

But yet loneliness can also be a consequence, especially when in order to sit at the top, one resorts to sitting on people.

The  1st reading tells us that power is a gift from the Lord, and for those who hold power and authority, God will probe their acts and scrutinize their intentions.

But we don't have to be necessarily sitting at the top and holding power and authority for God to probe our acts and scrutinize our intentions.

When we forget who is Creator and who is the creature, then we will think that we are God, and that we have power and authority over our own lives, and even on the lives of others.

A creature who separates himself for his Creator will have 2 consequences.

He will be very lonely and he will also be very ungrateful.

Even in the gospel, Jesus stressed that gratefulness and thankfulness must be given to God.

Otherwise we will take all things for granted, even though we may not have much power and authority.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 10-11-09

Wisdom 2:23 - 3:9
Luke 17 : 7-10

Our beliefs and our destiny have a intricate connection.

Our beliefs shape our destiny, not just our destiny in this life, but also our destiny in the life to come.

Because out of our beliefs flows our actions. Our actions slowly form our character, and by our character we build our destiny.

For example, if someone believes that a good education can make life better for himself as well as for others, he would take his studies seriously.

When he begins to realise that reading widely and deeply has enhanced his understanding of life and of himself, his studies begin to shape his character.

When he has attained a high educational standard, he may even see that he can indeed make life better and more meaningful for himself as well as for other by being a teacher so as to impart his knowledge to others.

This is just a simple secular example of what is meant by our beliefs shape our destiny.

The 1st reading tells us that God made us imperishable ; He made us in the image of His own nature.

But it was the devil's envy that brought death into the world.

In other words, sin has distorted our beliefs as well as amplified our doubts.

Sin has also robbed us of our destiny, the destiny to be fully human and to be fully loving.

That is why Jesus tells us in today's gospel that we are merely servants.

No doubt, we are made in the image of God's nature, and God's nature is love.

Hence, to love God and to love others is our duty, because we are servants of love, and we can't expect a reward for it.

When we heed the call to this duty of love, we begin to build our destiny, our destiny in this life and also in the life to come.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Monday,09-11-09

Ezekiel 47 : 1-2, 8-9, 12
1 Cor 3 : 9-11, 16-17
John 2 : 13-22

In 1980, Pope John Paul II went to Sicily, and as we might be aware, Sicily is the heartland of the Italian mafia.

There the Pope proclaimed the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of life.

He told the people that they have a right to live in peace.

Those who are guilty of breaking this peace have many victims on their conscience.

Out rightly, the Pope declared that killing is NOT allowed, and no man, no organization, no mafia can ever violate this holy law of God.

What the Pope said was merely to reiterate what St. Paul said to the Corinthians in the 2nd reading : that we are the Temple of God, and that the temple in us is sacred, and if anyone destroys this temple, God will destroy him.

But the mafia wanted to have a say too.

To ridicule the Pope's teaching, they killed two priests.

And to push the point further, they bombed the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the feast of the dedication which we are celebrating today.

The mafia thought that by bombing the mother church of the Catholic faith, which is also the Cathedral of the Pope, they have put a dent on the Church.

But they forgot; they forgot that the Church is not just about buildings and structures.

The Church in essence, is the faithful, which is  a living Temple, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Just as that Temple is sacred, we too are called to holiness.

So let us cast out all that is sinful, and renew ourselves in this Eucharist, as temples of prayer.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 07-11-09

Romans 16 : 3-9, 16, 22-27
Luke 16 : 9-15

The reality of death happens everyday. Not one day has passed where there are no obituaries in the newspapers.

Yet, because it happens so frequently, we have become immune to it, we are not that affected by it anymore, unless it happens to our close ones.

As it is, most of us believe that we will see tomorrow, that we won't die so soon.

There is a poster in the office of a hospice and it reads like this : We are not here to add days to our life, but life to our days.

Indeed, it is so true. Our days are limited and we should really live out those days fully.

Not just enjoying life, but to discover in this life, what eternity is all about, and to discover in this life what really has eternal value.

In the secular sense, it may be seen as a choice of value. But in the spiritual sense, it is about the choice of masters.

So the question from today's gospel is this : Who is the master in charge of my life?

If money is my master, then I will be dishonest, I will cheat, i will lie, I scheme and do anything and everything just to have money for my security. But of course in doing so, I might still exist but I am spiritually dead.

On the other hand, when I choose Jesus to be my Master, then I also will choose to be loving, to be forgiving, to be compassionate, to be honest.

Life for me might be difficult and I might seem to be like a loser, but I will be at peace with God and with the people around me.

So life essentially is a series of choices.

Life is not lost by dying.
Life is lost, minute by minute
day by day
in all those unloving, uncaring and unforgiving ways

Friday, November 6, 2009

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 06-11-09

Romans 15 : 14-21
Luke 16 : 1-8

As we read today's gospel, an impulsive question that one might ask is this - Why did the master praise the dishonest steward? And why would Jesus tell such a parable?

But we need to understand the parable clearly. The master did not praise the steward for his dishonesty. Rather he praised him for his astuteness.

And that is the point that Jesus is making. The steward was prudent and had foresight in securing his future needs.

Jesus further elaborated that the children of the world are more creative and innovative when it comes to thinking of ways to get make money, to get well connected with the influential and powerful and to be well-off.

Jesus seemed to be making a lament when He said that the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

If we truly heed the teaching of Jesus, we would surely start to build on the things that we cannot lose, on the things of eternity.

Furthermore, we would be serious in being stewards of the kingdom of God.

What would that entail? The last line of the 1st reading would give us an idea and a direction.

Those who have never been told about Him will see Him, and those who have never heard about Him will understand.

As Pope Paul VI said : Lay people, whose particular vocation places them in the midst of the world, and who are in charge of the most varied temporal tasks, must for this very reason, exercise a very special form of evangelization.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday 05-11-09

Romans 14 : 7-12
Luke 15 : 1-10

There had been many suggestions as to what is the most important verse or phrase in the Bible.

Well, the top contender seems to be John 3:16-17, follow by a host of profound Bible verses and passages.

Chapter 15 of the gospel of St. Luke may sound rather ordinary and today's gospel passage may just be about parables.

But nonetheless, today's gospel passage reflects the essential message of the the Bible, and that is, it emphatically illustrates God's inexplicable and infinite love to save every man and woman whom He created in His image and likeness.

There are only 3 parables in Chapter 15 of the gospel of Luke - the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Prodigal Son.

The scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus for always being in the company of sinners and ritually impure people and the so-called bad company.

But Jesus always had a very deep compassion towards these so-called sinners. He even said that it is not the well who need a doctor but the ill.

Even this aspect of Jesus is not often understood by us who are His disciples.

Because we too have this tendency to criticize and judge others according to our standards or beliefs.

Certainly this is not something new, because even the 1st reading reminds the Romans, as well as reminds us, not to pass judgement  on a brother or treat him with contempt.

We may be able to quote the profound verses and remember the important passages of the Bible.

May we also remember to put the core message of love in the Bible into our lives as disciples of Jesus.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday 04-11-09

Romans 13 : 8-10
Luke 14 : 25-33

There is this story about two university professors  who were talking about their students.

One professor said that he has about 200 students who come for his lectures.

The other professor thought for awhile and then he said :
I also have about 200 people who come for my lectures, but I don't really know how many of them are my students.

We might ask : How can one come for the lecture of a professor and not be his student? What is the difference anyway?

That is the same question that Jesus is asking us also : What is the difference between a follower and a disciple?

Great crowds followed Jesus, but he was not just interested about how many people were following Him.

He was more interested about who really wanted to be His disciple.

To be a disciple of Jesus means to learn from Him, to give up everything for Him and to have Him as the center and sole-Master.

So the word "hate" that Jesus used as a condition for being His disciple is not to be understood in the emotional or relational sense but in the degree of priority.

In other words "hate" in that context is understood as to love lesser or to give a lower priority.

So Jesus never meant that to follow Him meant that we must hate our parents or family members.

As the 1st reading puts it clearly - a true disciple loves his fellow men and fulfills the commandments.

Our love for Jesus must also be reflected in our love for others. It is a love that will not hurt.

Because it is a sacrificial love. That is the love of a true disciple of Jesus.

So the price of discipleship has to be carefully considered. Because for one to be a disciple, either Jesus is Master of all, or He is not master at all.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 03-11-09

Romans 12 : 5-16
Luke 14 : 15-24

One of the uncomfortable experiences is to be in a place where you are new but everybody knows each other.

One example of this kind of experience is the first day at work in a new place.

We just long for someone to come and talk with us and show us how things are done and guide us along the way.

In such times, we can say that we are quite vulnerable.

We can be vulnerable to people who might befriend us but with vested interests and ulterior motives.

In the 1st reading, we are told not to let our love be a pretense. In other words, our love and concern should be real and genuine.

Hence we must examine our motives for helping others. We also must not make excuses for not helping others when we can.

When we help others out of love and care for them, it is not for gain but to give.

To give love will cost us - it will cost us our time, it will cost us our energy, it will cost us our very selves.

Let us remember that Jesus loved us and it also cost Him His life.

But when we love others as Jesus loved us, then we have said "Yes" to the invitation to the banquet of love.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls Day, 02-11-09

Isaiah 25 : 6-9
Romans 5 : 5-11
John 6 : 37-40

At some point in life, we have experienced the loss of a loved one or a friend through death.

And sometimes, out of the pain and grief, arises an anger, and we are angry that God has taken away our loved ones or our friends.

In all these grief and sorrow filled occasions, we are asked to put our trust in God.

We are created to live with God, yet on earth we have to live by faith.

We are created to live forever, but while on earth, we live moment by moment.

When the final moment comes, we depart and go back to God.

As we recall the fond memories and the faces of our departed loved ones, we also recall the moments when God entered into our grief and sorrow to give us His comfort and peace.

The God who spoke in the Scriptures still speaks today. The God who came to earth at Christmas still comes to be with us.

He comes to give eternal life to all who believe in Him as our Saviour.

Our loved ones have returned to God, and we must thank God for granting them eternal life with Him.

As for us, let us continue to believe that our God is the God not of the dead, but of the living.

In God, all of us are alive and we live forever. So let us not grief but take comfort in the God of life.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 31-10-09

Romans 11 : 1-2,11-12,25-29
Luke 14 : 1,7-11

No matter how far we have gone in life or how much we have achieved, it is always necessary to remember our humble origins.

More so when we remember how little we had in the past and how much we have to struggle to become who and what we are today.

Remembering our humble origins would only make us realize that we cannot take anything for granted and that whatever blessings we have received from God also has to be shared with the unfortunate and the needy.

Remembering our humble origins would cultivate in us a humble heart and we also know that without God's blessings, we won't be who and what we are today.

That is essentially the teaching of Jesus in today's gospel, that anyone who humbles himself will be exalted, and vice versa.

So we are reminded that everything is a gift from God, for without His blessings we can't achieve anything, much less have anything.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul also reminds us that God never takes back His gifts and blessings or revokes His choice.

The Jews were chosen to reveal the Messiah, and we Christians are chosen to reveal God's gift of salvation to all peoples.

Hence the blessings we have received from God are not just for our sakes but for the sake of the proclamation of the Kingdom of God.

By who we are and with what we have, we are to proclaim the love of God and that is not an option.

That is our mission and it is an obligation, for which we will be held accountable.

So with humble hearts, let us remember that everything is a gift from God and we are called to share that gift.

Friday, October 30, 2009

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 30-10-09

Romans 9 : 1-5
Luke 14 : 1-6

A telescope, as we know, gives an enlarged view of a distant object.

But that depends on which end of the telescope we are looking through.

Because looking through the wrong end would greatly reduce the size of the object.

Hence, the two different ends of the telescope give two completely opposite views of reality.

In the gospel, the Pharisees seemed to have looked through the wrong end of the telescope and they only saw a narrow, restrictive picture of reality.

They were like saying : To heal is to work, and to work is to violate the Sabbath. See for yourself, look through our telescope!

But when Jesus offers them a view from the other end of the same telescope, they were reluctant to see it ; they were silent, because for them there was only one way of looking through the telescope, there was only one way of looking at things and it was their way.

So we can imagine how frustrated and annoyed Jesus was with the Pharisees, to say the least.

Surely Jesus was anguished to see their obstinacy.

St. Paul, in the 1st reading shared the similar sentiments as Jesus, and he said that his sorrow was so great and his mental anguish so endless over his people's rejection of Christ.

Indeed, our obstinacy can cause frustration and anguish and even sorrow in others.

All because we stubbornly refuse to look at things from another point of view.

We only have to let go and ask God to help us see wider and clearer ; then we will become wiser.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 29-10-09

Romans 8 : 31-39
Luke 13 : 31-35

To fall in love is a beautiful experience. To fall out of love is a lousy experience.

To be in love, however, requires more than just an experience ; it requires a decision.

Because true love and unconditional love requires a decision to be in love and to keep loving regardless of the situations and circumstances.

Indeed, to be in love requires a decision, which has to be renewed day by day, and hour by hour, and minute by minute.

But if falling out of love is a lousy experience, then unrequited love is indeed a very painful experience.

In fact, the bitterest tragedy in human life is to give your heart totally to the other party only to have it refused and broken.

That was the experience of Jesus as He laments over Jerusalem. For Jesus, it is not just unrequited love, but also they were going to kill Him if He were to continue with His journey of love.

So Jesus could have given up loving us because of the danger and the rejection. Why did He continue His journey of love all the way to the cross?

The 1st reading says it all. God did not spare His own Son but gave Him up to benefit us all.

So nothing can come between us and the love of Christ and nothing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Jesus Christ.

So what kind of response we are going to give to God's love for us depends on us now.

Whatever it is, we have to make a decision to respond to God's love or reject it outright.

We have to exercise our human freedom of choice. Human freedom is awesome. Yet it is also supremely wonderful when we freely decide to love God and love others.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles, 28-10-09

Ephesians 2 : 19-22
Luke 6 : 12-19

Not much is known about the two saints whose feast we celebrate today.

Simon was call ed Zealot probably because of his zeal for the Jewish independence before he was called by Jesus.

Jude or Thaddeus is the author of the letter in the New Testament in which he warned Christian converts against false teaching and immorality.

He is also venerated as the patron of "impossible cases"

Traditional sources had it that both of them were together in their missionary work in Persia and they were martyred.

Both of them also tell us something about the people Jesus chose to be His disciples.

Both of them, as well as the rest of the apostles, were insignificant people from insignificant backgrounds.

But both of them had  a purpose in God's plan of salvation.

Both of them became zealous for Christ and for the Kingdom and they also became channels of God's grace for those who were seeking God's love and forgiveness, or when they seek God's help when their problems in life seemed hopeless or impossible even.

We may think that we are insignificant persons and hence we think we have no purpose in God's plan of salvation.

But let us ask for the prayers of St. Simon and St. Jude that we will discover our purpose in life and also our purpose in God's plan of salvation.

We may be insignificant but it does not mean that we are impossible. Because with God, everything and everyone is possible.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 27-10-09

Romans 8 : 18-25
Luke 13 : 18-21

The news of pregnancy usually brings about joy.

That is because pregnancy is a sign of fertility, a sign of new life, a new beginning, a new hope even.

The 1st reading used the analogy of pregnancy and birth-giving to express the Christian dimension of the hope of being freed from the slavery of sin.

And this hope is being fulfilled by the gift of the Spirit that brings about in us a new birth as children of God and first-fruits of the Spirit.

But this new life does not happen automatically or without effort on our part.

Just as a woman suffers the discomfort of pregnancy and the pain of childbirth, similarly if we want to live the new life of the Spirit, then struggle and suffering is inevitable.

Yet, we are reminded that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us.

Just as the gospel parables of the mustard seed and the yeast which will take time to grow and manifest, so will the fruits of the Spirit in our lives take time to grow and develop.

We need to be patient as the Kingdom of God slowly grows within us.

Monday, October 26, 2009

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 26-10-09

Romans 8 : 12-17
Luke 13 : 10-17

The act of generosity and compassion is indeed a noble act.

But it is also an act which demands sacrifice, a sort of self-giving.

And it may also entail some risks, in that the act may not be appreciated, or it may be misunderstood.

When Jesus healed the woman who was bent double for 18 years, it was an act of compassion and a sign of the generosity of God's love.

That act was greatly appreciated by the woman who gave glory to God, and the people were overjoyed at the wonder that Jesus worked.

But His adversaries, on the other hand, criticized Him for breaking the Law, or the so-called Law.

Yet Jesus did not stop showing compassion or love just because of these criticisms.

Maybe we ourselves have experienced criticisms and ingratitude, and these may have weighed us down and bent us into indifference and apprehension.

But we are reminded in the 1st reading that what we have is not the spirit of slaves that bring fear into our lives.

What we have received is the Spirit that makes us children of God and with the Spirit, we bear witness to God's love in spite and despite the criticisms and the ingratitude or even the hostile reactions.

In doing so, we share in the sufferings of Christ, and when we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 24-10-09

Romans 8 : 1-11
Luke 13 : 1-9

It is during this time of the year that there is a spike in the offering of prayers and Masses.

The reason for this is because of the exams - PSLE, 'N' level, 'O' level, 'A' level

Obviously the purpose of these prayers and Mass offerings is to ask for blessings that the students will do well and get good results.

Another spike in the offering of prayers and Masses will come about just before the results are out.

It is a yearly affair ; an annual pattern.

Yet after these prayer spikes, things seem to cool off almost instantly and life goes on as usual.

For those who received God's blessings, I wonder if there is also fervent thanksgiving.

But if fervent petitions are not followed by fervent thanksgiving, then we may be taking God's blessings for granted.

It may mean that we are only interested in the unspiritual things of achievements and satisfactions, but we forget about the spiritual things of thanksgiving and trust in the Lord.

But because the Spirit has already been given to us to help us look beyond the unspiritual, we now look to the life in the Spirit.

When we live and move in the Spirit, our lives will bear fruits of thanksgiving and holy love.

Friday, October 23, 2009

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 23-10-09

Rom 7:18-25a
Lk 12:54-59

Just imagine this, a person is all alone at home and in bed.

In the middle of the night, suddenly there is the smell of smoke and the fire alarm goes off.

But instead of getting up from bed, that person buries his/her head under the pillow and refuses to do anything.

This may sound ridiculous, but that was what Jesus was saying about the people of His time.

They know how to interpret the signs of nature. But somehow they just ignore or refuse to heed the signs of the kingdom of God.

Jesus had said that the kingdom of God is within us.

That was why He asked the all-important question : Why not judge for yourselves what is right?

In the 1st reading, St. Paul made a good assessment of himself when he said that though the will to do what is good is in him, he acts against his will because of sin.

So instead of doing the good he wanted to do, he ended up doing something evil.

Despite this self-judgment, he also acknowledged who can save him from this wretched state.

Only Jesus Christ. He is THE sign of God. Let us heed this sign and act on it.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 22-10-09

Romans 6 : 19-23
Luke 12 : 49-53

Reading the Bible may not be as plain and simple as some people make it out to be.

Though there are simple and profound truths in it, there are also some confusing paradoxes.

What Jesus said in today's gospel is a good example.

Isn't He the Prince of Peace who came to unite all peoples?

Yet He said that He came to bring division and chaos.

So what is it now, unity or division? Peace or chaos?

Or could it be both? Well, it is like asking if the stairs go up or down.

They go both ways, and it depends on where we want to go.

So the teachings of Jesus depends on what we want to make out of it.

St. Paul, in the 1st reading, gave a good example of how the teachings of Jesus can be applied to us concretely.

He said that our bodies can be used for vice and immorality, or we can use our bodies at the service of righteousness and holiness.

So the teachings of Jesus is indeed like the stairs.

To reject it will inevitably lead to sin and the wages of sin is death.

To accept it and to live by it, is to have life, and eternal life with God.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 21-10-09

Romans 6 : 12-18
Luke 12 : 39-48

In any battle or war between two forces, there is a clear separation between the two forces, as in who is on which side.

So logically speaking, a soldier should know clearly who are the friendly forces and who is the enemy.

But many battles and wars have been won or lost because of an undiscovered danger. And that is the enemy within.

Or what is commonly called "traitors". A traitor betrays his/her own country to the enemy, so that the enemy can conquer the country.

In essence, a traitor is the enemy within.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul talked about offering ourselves to God as a weapon fighting on the side of God.

Yet he also warned that though we may not be slaves of sin or unholy weapons, we are not free from the clutches of sin.

In other words, if we are not careful, we will betray God, we will be traitors of the Body of Christ, we will become the enemy with the Church.

Similarly in the gospel, the unfaithful servant betrayed his master and is the traitor to the household. He is the enemy within.

In this Mass, let us offer ourselves to the Lord to be His instrument of holiness, and His weapons to fight against sin.

Let us also ask for God's grace to be on guard against unfaithfulness. May we never become the enemy with.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 20-10-09

Romans 5 : 12,15,17-21
Luke 12 : 35-38

The word "tomorrow" is a common word. But it is also a very versatile and a volatile word.

It is versatile in the sense that it can make us look ahead to the next day, to a fresh beginning and a new start.

But it is volatile in that we can begin to delay and procrastinate the things that we must do today.

The word "tomorrow" can give us this notion that we still have time and we begin to lose the sense of urgency.

In the gospel, Jesus reminds us about the sense of urgency, especially in doing the necessary.

No doubts about it, when we make a serious reflection on our lives, we will know what is necessary.

Yet that is precisely the problem. We keep delaying in making time for a serious reflection in prayer.

Our excuse is that we are too busy and hence we have no time.

And we put off to tomorrow what we need to do today. Unknowingly, we have fallen into the trap and the seduction of the devil.

Yet the 1st reading reminds us that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20)

Sin lures us to say that we will pray more tomorrow ; grace urges us to pray now.

Indeed, God's time is now. He is knocking at our hearts. May we open our hearts to Him ... now!

Monday, October 19, 2009

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 19-10-09

Romans 4 : 20-25
Luke 12 : 13-21

It is necessary, even crucial, to have a faith-vision, because a faith-vision will help us to look beyond the present situation and to put our faith in God who is master of the future.

Just like Abraham continued to believe and to trust in God even when things did not look good at that moment, nor was it looking good for the future.

There is this story of two altar-boys.
One was born in 1892 in Eastern Europe and the other, three years later in a small town of Illinois in the US.

Although they lived thousands of miles apart, they had an almost identical experience as altar servers.

Both had an accident with the wine while serving Mass. They spilled some of it on the floor during the offertory.

That's where the similarity in their story ended.

The altar-boy in Eastern Europe was harshly reprimanded for being so clumsy and was told to stop serving Mass.

That boy grew up to become an atheist and a communist. His name is Josip Tito, who was dictator of the  former Yugoslavia for 37 years.

The altar-boy in Illinois was consoled with these words from the priest : It is alright my boy. You will do better next time. You may even serve God as a priest.

That boy was the famous Bishop Fulton Sheen.

Many reflections can be made out of these two stories. But looking at it from the aspect of the faith of Abraham, then it is about having a faith-vision of a hope for the future.

Both altar-boys had a similar unfortunate experience of making a mistake, though one was punished and the other was not.

But one lost his faith-vision and took control of his future, which turned out to be a tragic one, while the other was given a faith-vision and put his future into the hands of God.

So it is a question of where our future lies.

If it lies in the self-made security of our riches and wealth, we may have to re-think our future.

If it lies in the hands of God, then despite the trials and turmoils of the present, we will still have hope for the future. Because we know that God is in control of our future.