Monday, August 31, 2009

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wed, 02.09.09

Col 1:1-8
Lk 4:38-44

If you had watched movies like Karate Kid, The Last Samurai, Kung Fu Panda or one of the martial arts kind of movies, where the novice learns martial arts, there is always this underlying important lesson or principle that is always emphasized.

It is expressed in different ways like: be focused; have only one mind, can't be distracted.

These are simple lessons and principles that are necessary for any great achievement but they are not easily followed.

Jesus had people looking for him, he was in demand, he was popular, he was needed.

Yet he did not lose focus, he only had one mind, and he was not distracted.

That was why he was able to say: I must proclaim the Good News to other towns because that is what I am sent to do.

The love Jesus had for God His Father kept Him focused with one mind and that kept Him from being distracted.

In the 1st reading, St Paul also affirmed the Colossians for being focused in their faith which they expressed in their love for each other.

So whether it is about our secular life or about our spiritual life, if we need to make any progress or certain achievement, the simple lessons of being focused, having only one mind, and not being distracted have to be strictly adhered to.

But fundamentally, let us keep our eyes on Jesus alone, because He will show us what we are sent to do.

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 01-09-09

1st reading - 1 Th 5 : 1-6, 9-11
Gospel - Lk 4 : 31-37

There is a game that is played often in parties, or functions, or in radio and tv shows.

Generally that game is called " Name the tune", and the contestants try to guess the title of the song with the fewest notes or bars that is played.

When Jesus spoke, His words carried authority and power.

But more than that, His words also carried a peculiar resonance, and the evil spirits immediately recognized that it was from the Holy One of God.

In short, the words of Jesus carried a holy and sacred resonance.

The evil spirits were repulsed by it. But we should be impulsed by it, meaning to say, we should immediately recognize it and respond to it.

But if like what St. Paul said in the 1st reading, if we were living in the dark and are spiritually asleep, then the words of Jesus would not resonate in us.

But we would know if the words of Jesus resonate in us or not.

Because if it does, then we would be able to name the tune, the spiritual tune, that God is playing for us.

In the ups and downs of the music of our lives, there is also a spiritual tune that God is playing gently and softly for us.

When we can recognize that spiritual tune, then we will know what God's will for us is.

That tune is nothing less than holy, because God's will is holy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 31-08-09

1 Th 4:13-18
Lk 4:16-30

A pattern that I have come to see in the spiritual life is that after a spiritual experience of God's love, what will follow is a challenge.

In the brightness and warmth of a God-experience, there is the dark and ever-lurking shadows.

From the 1st reading, we can know what was bothering the Thessalonians.

Their faith in Jesus have lifted them and gave them hope and meaning in life.

Yet the deaths of their fellow believers also grieved them, and maybe even shook their faith because they were expecting Jesus to come back soon and reward them for their faith.

So St. Paul had to encourage them and tell them to keep their eyes fixed on heaven.

Even for Jesus, when He began His ministry, was filled with zest and the zeal of the Spirit.

Yet, in His own hometown, He met with rejection and even His life was endangered.

So for every experience of God's love, let us give thanks to God and let us deepen our faith in Him.

But when the shadows of doubt and crisis start to loom over us, let us do as what St. Paul told the Thessalonians.

Let us keep our eyes fixed on heaven, and our hearts fixed on God who loves us.

For nothing can ever separate us from the love of God as long as we focus our faith on Him.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Passion of St. John the Baptist, 29.08.09

1st Reading: Jer 1:17-19
Gospel: Mk 6:17-29

I wonder how Jesus felt when he heard about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist.

Not much is said about their relationship, but we can guess they knew each other from their earlier days, probably played together, talked about life.

Both knew they had a mission.

And both also know that the mission cannot be accomplished without putting their lives on the line.

John the Baptist was the first to do it and that line was drawn across his neck.

For Jesus, it was drawn at the cross.

And for us, that line will also be drawn for us.

A line that will cut across the various aspects of our lives when we have to decide between whose side to stand on.

To stand on God's side, will result in some scars and wounds.

But it is through those scars and wounds that God will continue to save the world.

For it is by Christ's wounds that we ourselves have been healed and saved.

St Augustine 28.08.09

1st Reading: 1 Th 4:1-8
Gospel: Mt 25:1-13

Today in this Eucharist, we remember the life of the great saint, St Augustine, who lived during the 4th century.

He wrote many theological and spiritual works and to this present day, 2 of his works, The City of God and Confessions are still widely read.

In fact, the book "Confessions" is a sort of a spiritual journal for catechumens but it was more his own spiritual journey in discovery God.

In his younger days, St Augustine was a wild and rebellious man. But he was also very intelligent and he studied philosophy and he taught rhetorics.

Of course, his mother, St Monica had an influential part in his conversion, especially through her prayers.

The turning point of his life came when he heard a homily preached by St Ambrose.

He went off to a lonely place to do some soul-searching and there he seem to hear a child singing: take and read.

He opened the bible at random and he read Rom 13:13-14

Which essentially is about living in the day and not in the darkness.

That was enough for him and he made preparations to be baptized.

In his book "Confessions" he talked about his experience of God.

And here I quote two sections that reflect St Augustine's journey of discovering God, which in many ways reflect our own journey of discovering and loving God.

Late have I loved you, O beauty both ancient and new, late have I loved you.
You called, you cried out, you rid me of my deafness.
You sent forth your beams and shame upon me and chased away my blindness.

You stir us up Lord, and make us find joy in praising you, since you have made us for yourself. And our hearts find no rest until they rest in you.

St Monica, 27.08.09

1st Reading: 1 Th: 3:7-13
Gospel: Mt 24:42-51

Today we celebrate the memorial of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, whose memorial we will celebrate tomorrow.

We celebrate this memorial not simply because St Monica was the mother of a great saint.

The opening prayer for Mass goes like this and it is worth to take note: God of mercy, comfort of those in sorrow, the tears of St Monica moved you to convert her son, St Augustine to the faith of Christ.

St Monica was born of Christian parents. She married a good man but he had a violent temper and was sometimes unfaithful.

But St Monica managed to convert him to Christianity and he was later baptized.

Her son, Augustine, proved to be a much greater challenge.

When she was exhausted and tired with her son's wild and wheeling ways, she approached a bishop to ask him to intervene.

The bishop responded with these prophetic words: Let him be, and continue to pray for him. It is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost.

St Monica dedicated most of her life praying for the conversion of St Augustine.

All in all, she prayed for something like 30 years before she finally had the joy of seeing St Augustine baptized.

St Monica enfleshed the words which we hear in the 1st reading: May our Lord Jesus Christ, and God our Father, who has given us His love and through His grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you.

The consolation, experienced by St Monica and her total abandonment to God can also be ours today when we persevere in patience and in trust.

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Wed, 26.08.09

1st reading: 1Th 3:7-13
Gospel: Mt 23:27-32

It is said that the measure of a person's real character is what he would do if he would not be found out.

Putting it in another way, a bishop who went to visit a prison, told the inmates: The difference between you and me is that you were caught.

So even if we were not caught in the wrong act, does it mean that we won't be found out?

Jesus described hypocrisy by using the imagery of a tomb.

So no matter how we maintain our pretty facades, people will eventually sense and eventually know, what and who we really are.

As Jesus would say, what is hidden will be brought to light.

If by our actions, we reveal who we really are, then our words will also reveal our convictions.

In the 1st reading, St Paul urged the Thessalonians to follow his example. And he is not faking it.

It is said that there is a way to tell the difference between a real jade and a fake one.

When lightly hit with another small solid object, the real jade produces a lively 'ting' sound, whereas the fake one produces a hollow 'tic' sound.

People may take time to discern our looks and appearance.

But with their hearts, they will pick up the sound we are emitting.

Are we emitting a real lively sound, or a hollow fake sound?

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Tues, 25.08.09

1st reading: 1Th 2:1-8
Gospel: Mt 23:23-26

To be endowed with some kind of spiritual gift can indeed make a person look very appealing and attractive.

In the sense that they will be sought after, and they also command a certain level of authority and power.

For eg, the gifts of healing or prophesy or spiritual vision can make a person very influential over the lives of others.

In the 1st reading, St Paul talks about another gift - the gift of preaching.

But he emphasizes it as a task and a responsibility.

He was also aware of the possibility of abuse in preaching the good news.

In fact as we see it nowadays, one can make a career as well as make some money out of preaching.

In fact, St Paul warned the missionaries of the early Church not to preach for money or honour, nor for power or authority.

Yet we also do not deny that each of us is endowed with a particular talent or gift.

Whatever these talents and gifts are, they are to be used to serve God by serving the Church community as well as to serve humanity.

The imagery St Paul used in talking about gifts is like that of a mother feeding and looking after her children.

As Jesus highlighted in the gospel, our gifts should be used in the work of justice, mercy and building up the faith.

What we are is God's gift to us, what we make of ourselves is our gift to God.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

St Bartholomew 24.08.09

1st Reading: Apocalypse 21:9-14
Gospel: John 1:45-51

St Bartholomew was from Cana in Galilee, and he was often identified as Nathaniel because the Gospel according to Mathew lists him together with Philip as one of the first apostles chosen by Christ.

But from the gospel that we have just heard, Nathaniel did not initially had a good impression of Jesus.

Because when he heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, he asked, "What good can come out of Nazareth?"

He was a crude, straight forward man, and Jesus recognized that in him when he said that he was incapable of deceit, meaning that he was frank.

But Jesus saw more than that in him; he saw that he was sincere and he awaited for the coming of the Messiah.

The phrase "under the fig tree" means that one is at prayer and open to the Lord.

And indeed, Nathaniel was open enough to recognize Jesus as the Son of God and the King of Israel.

As we reflect on Nathaniel's call story, we may recall those whom we don't quite have a good impression of.

Let us sincerely pray that we will eventually see the good in others, just as Jesus sees the good in each of us.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Queenship of Mary, 22.08.09

1st Reading: Isa 9:1-6
Gospel: Lk 1:26-38

Eight days ago, the Church celebrated the feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven.

In the course of the 8 days, the Church reflects deeper about the mystery of the Assumption, and on the Octave of the Assumption (8 days later) the Church concludes her reflection with the celebration of the Queenship of Mary.

In summary, it could be said that God assumed Mary into heaven to reign in glory with Christ the King.

So the proclamation and celebration of Mary's queenship in essence points to the Kingship of Christ.

In celebrating the queenship of Mary, we are also reminded that we are the Chosen people of God and thus royal children.

So as God's Chosen and royal children, all that we do and say must be geared towards giving glory to God.

Mary showed us how to do that in the gospel when she responded to God's call by accepting God's will.

In doing so, Mary gave us the concrete example of obedience in the form of servanthood.

We are not just the Chosen and royal children of God.

We are also the chosen and royal servants of Christ the King.

With Mary as our queen, let us offer ourselves in service to the Church, so that in all that we do and say, God will be glorified and exalted.

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Fri, 21.08.09

1st Reading: Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22
Gospel: Mt 22:34-40

It is undeniable that no one can come to know God and love God as an isolated individual.

Because it is with others and from others that we come to know what is kindness and compassion, love and forgiveness, truth and beauty.

And then we want to believe in what they believe in, so that we also can be like the goodness they radiate.

In the 1st reading, Ruth had the freedom and the choice to leave her mother-in-law, Naomi, and to go back to her own people.

Yet Ruth chose to follow Naomi and go to a foreign land and be a stranger and a foreigner.

She chose to do that because she saw the goodness of Naomi.

Subsequently she even accepted Naomi's people as well as the God that Naomi believed in.

Certainly in Naomi and Ruth, we see the commandment of love that Jesus talked about, being practised in reality.

Whenever we meet with conflicts in relationships, whether between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, father-in-law and son-in-law, or superior and subordinates, let us remember today's 1st reading about Naomi and Ruth.

When we commit ourselves to the commandment of love, then others will know that we really care about them.

Otherwise we will be living isolated and lonely lives.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Thurs, 20.08.09

1st Reading: Judges 11:29-39
Gospel: Mt 22:1-14

The character of Jephthah in the 1st reading is an interesting one.

Jephthah was an outcast; he was the son of a prostitute.

People couldn't stomach him; they scorned him and rejected him.

Eventually, he went off into the hills and became an outlaw and a leader of a gang of bandits.

Yet it was upon Jephthah that the Spirit of the Lord descended to empower him to free his people from oppression.

Though the morality of Jephthah was questionable, yet he was a man of his word.

What he promised the Lord, he did fulfill, and that eventually meant breaking his heart over his daughter.

He didn't bargain with the Lord over his promise though, of course he never intended that his daughter would be the cost of the sacrifice.

And this makes us reflect on what God had promised us.

He promised that he would save us when he could have easily discarded us. God even promised to invite us to the wedding feast in heaven.

And he fulfilled that promise by letting his only Son be sacrificed on the cross.

The least we could humbly say is this: O Lord, you have given us so much. In your mercy, grant us one more thing: grant is a grateful and thankful heart.

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Wed, 19.08.09

1st Reading: Judges 9:6-15
Gospel: Mt 20:1-16

One of our human follies is that we have this tendency to be jealous and to envy others.

We get jealous at others for getting a better deal than us or for getting a better treatment than us, or simply that they are just better than us.

Out of this jealousy and envy may arise an ulterior ambition to achieve what we desire by underhand methods.

That was what Abimelech did. He engineered himself to be proclaimed king, as we heard in the 1st reading.

But against this conspiracy, Jotham proclaimed the warning, which eventually turned out to be.

But the result of going against God's will be imposing our own will always result in disastrous consequences.

Even at the personal level, we may find it difficult to accept that it is God's will that others get His blessings instead of us.

And that is taking into account that we have worked harder than them, that we have been more faithful than them, that we have given and sacrificed more than them.

So by our own assessment, God should have blessed us more than them. But that would be like imposing our will on God's plan.

Yet, it is God who knows who really needs what.

When we refuse to give in to jealousy and envy, not only can we see God's plan, but we will also discover how much we are blessed with.

Monday, August 17, 2009

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Tues, 18.08.09

1st Reading: Judges 6:11-24
Gospel: Mt 19:23-30

Page after page of the Bible speaks about a peculiar way of God.

It's about how God would choose the weak and holy to accomplish a difficult and even seemingly impossible task.

We see this in Abraham, Moses, David, Mary, just to name a few.

It is like how Mary's Magnificat would put it: He casts the mighty from their thrones and raises the Holy.

We see this again in the 1st reading. Gideon was the least important of the weakest clan of the smallest tribe of Israel.

Yet God chose him to be the one to deliver Israel from the oppression of their enemy.

Indeed, as Jesus would reiterate in the gospel: What is impossible for men, is not impossible for God.

So when it comes to carrying out God's will or God's plan, the only obstacle is the limitation posed in the human mind.

So if people are saying "Cannot!", then we should be saying "Why not?!".

It is only when we know we are weak, that God will make us strong.

By ourselves, anything is impossible. But with God, everything is possible.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Mon, 17.08.09

1st Reading: Judges 2:11-19
Gospel: Mt 19:16-22

The greatest power that God has given us is the power of freedom.

With this freedom we have that ability to make a free choice.

God respects this freedom He has given us because of his unconditional love for us.

So we have that freedom to choose God and to do what is loving and good.

Or we can actually choose to do the bad and evil thing.

In the 1st reading, we hear of God punishing the Israelites because they disobeyed Him and worshipped idols.

But that is how the Old Testament would put it-that God punishes because we sin.

But as Christians, we see that since we are free, then we are responsible for our choices, as well as the consequences of our choices.

We believe that God is love. There is no need for Him to punish us because of our sins.

Sin in itself brings about its own punishment. We are punished not FOR our sins but BY our sins.

The Israelites in the 1st reading made their choice. The rich young man in the gospel made his choice.

Today and everyday, we have to make a choice. May we choose God and do what is right, good and loving.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary, 15.08.09

It is amazing and inspiring to see the crowds attend the Saturday Novena sessions at Novena Church.

Equally amazing and intriguing is that the crowds come Saturday after Saturday.

Why is this so? Maybe because prayers and petitions were answered.

Maybe there is an ambience of prayer and tranquility.

Maybe there is this sense of familiarity of the Marian hymns that brings about comfort and peace.

Maybe also that after the Novena session, there is this feeling of a quiet hope, this little uplifting that gives us the courage to go on in life.

We can still lift up our heads in the midst of disappointments, worries, anxieties and fears.

Today, as we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady, we give thanks to God as He "lifted" Mary up into heaven, body and soul.

Just as God lifted gave Mary up, God will also lift us up from our human weaknesses - frailty and sinfulness.

Just as God gave Mary hope and courage to fulfill her mission in life, God will also give us hope and courage to live out our Christian calling in life.

And just as Mary glorified and exalted the Lord, let us also on this feast of the Assumption glorify, exalt, and give thanks to the Lord.

Just as God has come for Mary, God will also do great things for us, as well as through us.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 14.08.09

1st Reading: Jos 24:1-13
Gospel: Mt 19:3-12

Marriage as it may seem to many people, is like a social norm and a social practice.

Once a person comes of age, one of the things in the "to-be-achieved" list is to get married.

And as a person gets older, he/she becomes a bit more desperate in finding a partner for life.

The social expectation, as well as the social trend is so strong that singlehood, and even celibacy, have become the bunt of jokes.

But no one is laughing when problems emerge in marriage or when a marriage ends in divorce.

With the rising divorce rate, the question to ask is: What is the problem? Or where is the problem?

But the question that should be asked is : Who is the problem?

Because when a person sees marriage as just a social practice or a social expectation, then marriage loses its essence and direction.

Because marriage in the first place, is a vocation, it is a calling to a way of life.

When a person understands that marriage is a calling to a deeper commitment to another person, then finding a partner will make sense.

And God will provide the partner, because it is God who calls the person to marriage.

When God calls, He will provide.

We just have to listen, then we will receive.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 13.08.09

1st Reading: Josh 3:7-11
Gospel: Mt 18:21-19:1

Let us just imagine that Judas went to visit heaven, and there he meets Jesus.

And Jesus tells him, "Judas, I forgive you."

What do we think will be the reaction of Judas?

Whatever we might think of how Judas will react, we can be sure that it will be difficult for Judas to come to terms with what he has done.

He might say it was not his fault that he betrayed Jesus. He only wanted Jesus to act faster in restoring Israel's freedom as an independent nation.

Or that he might say that he didn't know of the drastic consequences of his actions. Or maybe a host of other reasons.

Here is where the problem is.

We can think of so many reasons not to forgive and maybe even more reasons not to accept forgiveness when we have done wrong.

But the fact is that forgiveness is not about reasons.

Forgiveness is about the matter of the heart.

Let us pray for the softening of our hearts, and the letting go of our reasons and defenses.

Then we can be healed through forgiveness and build bridges of hope and tear down walls of divisions.

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 12.08.09

1st Reading: Deut 34:1-12
Gospel: Mt 18:15-20

At the top of the facade of the Supreme Court, there is this figure of a blind-fold woman.

She holds a weighing scale in one hand, and a sword in the other hand.

That is the representation of legal justice: the evidence is presented and weighed, the verdict is unbiased, or should be unbiased, and finally the sentence is sharp and precise.

Legal justice can be seen as very objective, yet it is also seen as non-negotiable, as stoic even.

In the Gospel, Jesus seems to be initially appealing to this type of legal justice when it comes to settling matters of transgression and correction.

But yet Jesus moves on to say that justice is not just an earthly affair, but it is also a heavenly affair.

He says that when we gather to ask for anything, it will be granted.

When we had been wronged, it is only natural to ask for justice.

Yet Jesus is also asking from us, the wronged party, for mercy and compassion, which goes hand-in-hand with the justice of God.

Jesus Himself showed it, because when nailed to the cross, He said, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."

Monday, August 10, 2009

19th Week, Ordinary Time, 11.08.09

1st Reading: Deut 31:1-8
2nd Reading: Mt 18:1-14

There is a story about a wise and holy man who was confronted by a bandit who wanted to take his life.

Wise man said, "Before you take my life, just grant me one wish. Cut that branch from that tree."

With one stroke of the sword, the bandit cut off that branch.

Wise man said, "Now put that branch back on the tree."

Bandit said, "Now that's stupidity. Anybody would know that it can't be done."

Wise man said, "It is also stupidity to think that it is mighty to use the sword to cut and kill. But real might is to build and heal. Those who do so are really the mighty.

In the Gospel, Jesus said that if we don't change and become like little children, we will never enter the Kingdom of God.

But it is not just like being little children. It is to be like little children of God.

The real power and might of the little children of the Kingdom is that they build bridges and heal broken relationships.

The spirituality of the little children of the Kingdom is that they face the complex problems of this world with simple Gospel truth.

When we build and heal with Gospel truth, we are indeed the children of the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

St Laurence 10.08.09

1st Reading: 2 Cor 9: 6-10
Gospel: Jn 12:24-26

St Laurence was a deacon of the Church of Rome when Pope St Sixtus II was executed along with a few others in the year 258.

St Laurence was told that if he wanted to be spared, he was to surrender the treasures of the Church.

So the next few days, St Laurence went round gathering the poor and the misfortune who were supported by the Church.

Then he brought them all to the authorities and he told them, 'These are the treasures of th Church.'

Needless to say, he was taken over to be tortured to death.

The execution scene was morbid. St Laurence was stripped and tied to a wire mesh to be roasted little by little; more morbid if we can imagine the sight, the smell and the sound of the roasting flesh.

And one account has it that St Laurence can even said to his tormentors, 'You can turn me over, I am well done on this side.'

But martyrdom is not laughing matter, but yet even as the blood of the martyrs was poured out, Christianity grew especially in these terrible times.

It was a blood that willingly poured out, willingly given for the glory of God.

In these present times, the seed of Christianity is also waiting to sprout.

And we as Christians are called, not so much to shed our blood but to fertilize the soil by the example of our lives especially in our generosity.

And we do this by faithfully following Christ and serving Him in the poor like St Laurence did, so that our lives will also yield a rich harvest.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 08.08.09

1st Reading: Deut 6:4-13
Gospel: Mt 17:14-20

Some people would say that love is a feeling, others would say it is an action, yet others would say that love is a decision.

But I would say that love is a feeling, an action and a decision.

But what I said is just a simplified version of what Moses told the people: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (feeling), with all your soul (action) and with all your strength (decision).

It is a love in totality. It encompasses feelings that must be expressed in action, and reinforced continuosly with decisions.

Yet, like the mustard seed that Jesus used as an imagery in today's Gospel, love is also a growth.

How we understand love in our younger days, we understand love now in much deeper ways.

To say that we love God might be quite easy, as in our love for God is merely confined to feelings.

Now we know that our love for God must be experienced in love for others, and that can be difficult.

There are mountains of resentment, bitterness, anger, disappointment etc to move.

But as long as we love God, these mountains can be moved.

Then we will understand that love is a feeling, an action as well as a decision.

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 07.08.09

1st Reading: Deut 4:32-40
Gospel: Mt 16:24-28

If there is anything we can remember from the 1st reading or want to remember from the 1st reading, which is from the Book of Deuteronomy, it might be this:

Keep the laws and the commandments of God, and we will prosper and live long and be happy.

I said that we can remember that, or want to remember that, because a simplistic understanding of obedience to God can certainly sound attractive.

So it might simply mean that as long as we obey God, then God will multiply our wealth, remove sickness from us, our kids will do well in school, we will get promoted etc.

And if we disobey God, then we lose everything.

Yet Jesus would deepen the meaning of obedience.

In the Gospel, Jesus tells that if we want to be his disciples, then we would have to renounce everything and take up our cross.

The truth that Jesus is teaching us is indeed a paradox.

For it is in letting go, that we gain; or as it is often said: Let go, and let God.

It is a difficult truth that we need to slowly come to understand.

Eventually, we must realise that obedience to God is not about gaining world riches.

Obedience to God is the realization that eternal riches are waiting for us.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Transfiguration of the Lord, 06.08.09

1st Reading: Dan: 7:9-10, 13-14
2nd Reading: 2 Pt 1:16-19
Gospel: Mk 9: 2-10

There is a story of a young man who somehow thinks he is a worm, and he would hide under the bed whenever he sees a chicken. (Because chicken eats worms).

So one day, he was hiding under the bed because he saw a chicken roaming around.

His best friend decided to help him overcome his problem by going under the bed and there he told him to repeat after him,“I am a man, not a worm.”

After a few repetitions, his best friend urged him to come out and prove himself a man.

So he came out and walked around confidently. Until he saw a chicken. Then he immediately hid under the bed again.

Hid best friend went under the bed and asked him,“why didn't you believe you are a man, not a worm.”

The young man replied,“ I believe I am a man, not a worm, but does the chicken believe that?!?”

Jesus believed that He is the Beloved Son of the Father. Even in His most painful and despairing moments He believed that.

The disciples also kind of believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

But the moment trials and persecutions came along, they ran and "hid under the bed". But later on, they truly believed.

The feast of the Transfiguration, reminds us who Jesus is, and also reminds us of who we are.

May we slowly come out of our fears and weaknesses and sinfulness, and show others what we really believe in.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 05.08.09

1st Reading: Num 13
Gospel: Mt 5:21-28

As I reflect on the first reading, I thought about the last surviving member of that generation of Israelites that complained to the Lord, that wailed, and did not trust in the Lord.

For that last surviving member, he had wandered in the desert for 40 years, and seen his generation dying one by one and buried in the desert sand.

And as the next generation was about to enter the Promised Land, he also knew that his time had come.

He won't enter the Promised Land - he would have to die and be buried in the desert sand.

That was the price that he and his generation had to pay for not trusting and having faith in the Lord.

But more heart-breaking than not entering the Promised Land was that he and his generation had to live with 40 years of guilt and regret.

All that was needed at that time of crisis when they had doubts about the Promised Land was to trust in the Lord and have faith.

But instead they complained, they wailed, they rebelled.

And for the next 40 years, they had to live with the consequences.

In the gospel, the Canaanite woman also faced a crisis of faith and trust in Jesus.

But she choose to trust in Jesus and was rewarded for her faith.

We too, will have to face our moments of crisis in faith and trust.

What and who we choose is of a great consequence.

We surely don't want to live in guilt or regret.

But we must trust in the Lord and put our faith in Him.

Only then will we have hope in the future.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

18th Week, Ordinary Time, St John Vianney, 04.08.09

1st Reading: Ezk 3:16-21
Gospel: Mt 9:35-10:1

If we are to look at some of the pictures of St John Vianney, we might come to think that as far as looks are concerned, he cannot make it.

But not just looks, as far as intellectual capacity and ability is concerned, St John Vianney also could not quite make it.

Because he could not get through his priestly studies and failed in his exams.

But he was eventually ordained as a priest, but initially on the condition that he do not preach at Mass or even teach catechism, for fear that he would end up teaching something heretical.

But how did a priest like St John Vianney eventually be proclaimed by the Church as the Patron Saint for Priests?

Firstly, it was in the confessional that he received the grace of spiritual insight and helped people in repentance and conversion.

Very often, St John Vianney spent as long as 17 hours everyday in the confessional, helping people see their sinfulness and experiencing the mercy and forgiveness of God.

Later when he was allowed to preach, he spoke in simplicity about the love of God, and he also spoke with passion.

He worked himself tirelessly to serve the people by bringing them closer to God, besides having to face temptations from the devil, and also persecutions from members of the clergy and others.

Indeed, St John Vianney was a model of dedication, of holiness, of prayer and of faithfulness.

As we celebrate this feast, let us pray for our priests that they too will remain dedicated to God, faithful to God, and strive for holiness and be models of prayer to us.

When priests serve the Lord like St John Vianney did, then the Church would indeed be a priestly and holy people.

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 03.08.09

1st Reading: Num 11:4-15
Gospel: Mt 14:13-21
We often hear this phrase: A hungry person is an angry person.

Quite true, hunger has that ability to diminish our rationale and even contort our spirituality, so much so that we can even end up doing something crazy and stupid.

But being grumpy because we are hungry is another story altogether.

We can be grumpy not because we are hungry, but because we are fussy.

In the 1st reading, we heard how the Israelites began to be grumpy, not because they were hungry but because they were tired of eating manna, day in day out.

And their complaints burdened Moses to the extent that he in turn complained to the Lord.

But what Moses felt about the people's complains was a much lesser intensity about how Jesus felt over the execution of John the Baptist.

For Jesus, it was a personal tragedy, it was a time to drop everything and spend some time in great grief.

But when people came to Him with their needs, He put aside His grief and even took pity on them and healed their sick.

Moses was burdened by the people's complaints. Jesus was grieved over the death of John the Baptist.

We have experienced both kinds of situations before.

How did we react before? And how would we react in the future?

We can continue to complain about our burdens. Or like Jesus, we will trust in God's grace to turn burdens into blessings.