Thursday, July 30, 2009

17th Ordinary Week, St Alphonsus Liguori, 01.08.09

Today we celebrate the feast of a great saint, St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, or commonly called the Redemptorists.

St. Alphonsus was asked by his bishop to set up a congregation of missionary priests to work among the people in the rural areas and the countryside. Because those were the people who needed more spiritual help since they only had a shallow faith.

He is the patron saint of moral theologians, but it was as a preacher and a confessor that he is a model for the Redemptorists as well as for priests in general.

St. Alphonsus once said of his preaching : I have never preached a sermon which the poorest old woman in the congregation cannot understand.

Indeed his methods were old practices which were revised and given a new breath of life.

Yet the focus of his preaching does not deviate from the aspects of faith and morality.

In the tradition of St. John the Baptist, whom we heard about in the gospel, St. Alphonsus would not hestitate to point out any moral transgressions, besides the need to strengthen the people's faith in God.

Indeed, the witnessing of St. John the Baptist and the feast of St. Alphonsus Liguori reminds us of the fundamental aspect of our Christian lives : that our faith in God must be expressed in our morality in life

17th week, Ordinary Time, St Ignatius of Loyola

1st Reading: Lev 23, 1.4-11
Gospel: Mt 13, 54-58

Today we rejoice with the parish of St. Ignatius and also with the Jesuit community as the Church celebrates the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola. He was also the founder of the Jesuits.

In his early years, St. Ignatius was a soldier, and his personal ambition was for glory and victory in the battlefield, besides of course, to be in the service of his king.

Then he was wounded in battle, and while recovering, and also out of boredom and to while away his time, he took up a book about Jesus Christ to read.

That was the turning point of his life, and he began to do some deep soul-searching and to pray deeply.

Later, he developed some spiritual exercises, which we now call the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises, which are used in retreats and prayer.

In these spiritual exercises, St. Ignatius said that all we do must be done for the glory of God.

In retrospect, would any one actually have expected an ambitious soldier like St. Ignatius to become a great spiritual master.

Just as no one in Nazareth would have expected a carpenter's son to become a preacher, as we heard in today's gospel.

Well, the fact of life is that we have our assumptions and expectations of others, and with these, we compress them and even stunt their possible growth into something greater.

Similarly, we do not like it when others impose their assumptions and expectations on us.

In all we do, let us remember the words of St. Ignatius : All for the greater glory of God

In this way, we all can become a greater people

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 30.07.09

1st Reading: Exodus 40:16-38
Gospel: Matthew 13:47-53

It is very easy to use today's readings to preach a fire-and-brimstone homily about judgement and punishment, repent or burn etc.

But strange that Jesus would use the image of a dragnet.

A dragnet catches everything that is in its way.

The dragnet is such that it does not discriminate.

And that is what the church is like, or should be like.

We find all sorts of people in church - the saintly and the not-so, the straight and the crooked, the talkers and the doers, the quiet and the loud, just to name a few.

And at times, we might wonder why there are those kinds of people in church.

Maybe that's why we say that the church is a mystery.

As we heard in the first reading, the Israelites experienced mystery. In the form of the tabernacle, the Israelites came into contact with the mystery of God.

Similarly, in the Church, we encounter the mystery of God in the people present in the Church.

It is because when we believe in the mystery of the presence of God in the Church, we can then believe that God will cleanse the Church, cleanse each of us, so that we as the Church can be the distinct sign of salvation.

Then, we , the Church, can go forth and cleanse the world.

St Martha, 29.07.09

1st Reading: 1 John 4:7-16
Gospel: John 11:19-27

Some people in church are described as Marthas because they are so task-oriented and work-oriented, just like St Martha.

We have that impression of St Martha because we will recall that on one occasion when Jesus came to her home, she was caught up with all the serving and the work.

Then she got distracted and asked Jesus to get her sister Mary to help her.

Jesus told her that she worry and fret about too many things, and yet only one is important.

So what is that one important thing? Earlier I said that Martha was distracted; that was what the gospel said.

Martha was not so much distracted by her work, but she lost the focus on why, and also who she was doing it for.

I guess Martha must have remembered this lesson from Jesus, and so despite the grief and sadness over her brother's death, she did not give in to distractions but kept her focus on Jesus.

In doing so, she expressed a unique statement of faith. She proclaimed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God.

Martha was still the active, busy, work-oriented, task-oriented person.

But she also kept her focus on Jesus and slowly discovered who Jesus really.

In many ways, we are like Martha, busy and work-oriented.

But if we realised that we are often complaining, then let us know we are distracted and have lost focus on Jesus.

But when we make time for prayer to re-focus on Jesus, then we will know why we are doing what we are doing, and who we are doing for.

Monday, July 27, 2009

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 28.07.09

1st Reading: Ex 33, 34
Gospel: Mt 13:36-43

Moses is certainly one of the figures in the Bible who can say he know how God protected him.

Throughout his life, from the time as a baby, to his fleeing from Pharaoh, and then returning to Egypt to lead his people out of slavery, Moses knew how God's hand was protecting him.

It is through all this, that he came to know God as a God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.

And when the Israelites sinned against God and in spite of the evil that Moses saw the Israelites committing, yet Moses turned to God to beg for forgiveness and mercy for his people.

Well, the situations that we find ourselves in are not that different from that of Moses.

We are confronted by our own sinfulness, the sinfulness of others, and on a larger scale, the evil in the world.

Or like how the Gospel puts it. We see more darnel, we see more weeds than wheat.

But we are reminded that we must not let evil overcame us; instead we must conquer evil with God.

So let us not be discouraged over our acts of charity; we shall reap when the time comes, as long as we persevere in these good deeds.

Because, God from where all good flows, will never allow the good that we do , to be destroyed by evil.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 27.07.09

1st Reading : Ex 32:15-24, 30-34
Gospel : Mt 13:31-35

Babies and very young children have this peculiar tendency.

They will cry out in distress when they don't see their parents around them.

Their parents are certainly still around; just that they are momentarily out of sight.

This tendency is especially manifested on the first day of nursery, when the parents leave their children under the care of teachers.

The reaction of the children can be anything from frowning to hysterical cries.

Such is the need of children for a visible presence of their parents.

We see a similar situation with the Israelites in the 1st reading.

Moses had left them to go up to Mt Sinai, and they began to fell abandoned and insecure.

They need a sense of security and they turned to a thing to satisfy them.

Yes, we might criticize them for being idolatrous, etc.

But what they felt only illustrates the human desire for the presence of God in order to feel secure.

The presence of God is like the mustard seed and the yeast parables that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of God.

Where God is made present, there is the Kingdom.

We are like the mustard seeds and the yeast.

God is within us and He is waiting.

He is waiting for us to make His kingdom present in the world.