Saturday, January 30, 2010

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 30-01-10

2 Samuel 12 : 1-7, 10-17
Mark 4 : 35-41

Just to think that one day we will have to stand before the Lord and receive a judgment that will seal our eternity can be rather frightening.

So we might think that it is God who will judge us and determine how guilty we are and then send us according to where we should go.

Yet, if God is love, then why would He want to judge us and even condemn us?

In the 1st reading, it was not God who pronounced judgment on David but rather it was David who pronounced judgment on himself.

Nathan, the prophet, narrated the story, but it was David who made the conclusion.

It was Nathan just held the mirror, and David saw the reflection.

Yet, we must also acknowledge that David had the humility to admit that it was his own reflection, that he was that man in the story.

We all have that God-given conscience to admit to our faults and sinfulness.

Yet, with the same breath, we also must admit that we have this ability to deny guilt and responsibility.

We can even rationalize away our guilt and turn black into white.

That can happen, and will happen, when we are not close to God and forget that Jesus is in our hearts.

The disciples in the gospel were frightened in the face of the storm, but that was because they have yet to realize who Jesus is.

We know who Jesus is. We also know that He has made His home in our hearts.

In the face of temptations and sinfulness, let us hear His voice as He tells us : Quiet now! Be calm!

Let us remember that Jesus came, not to judge and condemn us, but to save us.

Friday, January 29, 2010

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 29-01-10

2 Samuel 11 : 1-10, 13-17
Mark 4 : 26-34

We know what a bamboo tree is, and how tall it can grow.

But what we may not know is that after the bamboo is planted, it takes about five years before the bamboo shoots begin to grow.

But once the shoots start growing, they can soar to a great height, to even as high as 100ft, in as short a time as 10 weeks.

Why such a long time of inactivity and how come such a phenomenal growth, we may ask.

Well, during those 5 years or so, the bamboo has been putting down an elaborate system of roots that reach out far and wide.

It is an elaborate root system that enables the plant to grow so phenomenally, once nature triggers the above-ground process.

It is also the root system that holds the tall bamboo tree to the ground.

The bamboo tree tells us something about ourselves.

What we are externally is a reflection of what we are internally.

When we are deeply rooted in God and in other values of His kingdom, we will be like that small mustard seed in the gospel parable which grows into a tree which provides shade and shelter and bears fruit.

But to be deeply rooted in God calls for prayer, patience and perseverance.

We may fail and even fall, just as David in the 1st reading failed and fell.

We can become disappointed and discouraged with ourselves and with others.

In such times, let us turn to God in prayer and ask for the grace of patience and perseverance.

With prayer and with patience and perseverance, we will rise and grow tall like the bamboo tree and reach out to God.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 28-01-10

2 Samuel 7 : 18-19, 24-29
Mark 4 : 21-25

The Book of Psalms in the Bible is accredited to the authorship of King David, although it is quite obvious that there is more than one author.

We use the Psalms in the worship at Mass and also in the Divine Office of the Church.

In many ways, the Psalms expressed the spirituality of King David.

There are psalms of adoration, worship, praise and thanksgiving.

There are also psalms of petitions, contrition, distress and lamentation.

Psalm 8 expresses best the prayer of King David in today's 1st reading.

Psalms 8 begins with this: What is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him.

David was overwhelmed that God not only made him king of a great nation, God also promised to make his descendants into a royal dynasty, from which as we know now, came the Saviour Jesus.

That was why David said : Who am I, Lord, and what is my house that you have led me this far?

Like King David, let us also ask ourselves: Who am I, that the Lord should care for me even though I am sinful, and He sustains my life and fills me with blessings even though I do not deserve it.

Indeed, we could only say that God is merciful and His mercy endures from age to age.

When we truly understand this mercy and love of God for us, then that mercy and love will kindle the flame within us and, like Jesus said in the gospel, we will shine God's love for all to see.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 27-01-10

2 Samuel 7 : 4-17
Mark 4 : 1-20

Jesus started His ministry by teaching in the synagogues.

In today's gospel, we see a switch in style. He goes into the open: at the seashore and the fishing boat becomes the pulpit.

But a more profound switch was from lecture-style teaching to simple parables about everyday life, although the purpose was still the same, i.e. to teach the people about eternal life.

The switch was only natural, because for the common people, stories attract their attention, and they are easy to remember.

But the purpose of Jesus in using stories or parables goes deeper than just getting their attention.

A parable like the sower and the seed tests the hearts of the people, as well as our hearts.

When our hearts are open, we will be able to sense the truth of the teachings of Jesus.

Just as in the 1st reading, the prophet Nathan sensed it was the word of the Lord that was being announced to him and he opened his heart to receive it.

Yet, nonetheless, God will also respect our freedom.

The parables of Jesus contain enough light for us who want to know the truth.

We have the freedom to step into the light of truth, or to remain in the shadow of darkness.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ss Timothy and Titus, Memoria, Tuesday, 26-01-10

2 Timothy 1 : 1-8
Luke 10 : 1-9

One of the ways to motivate people to take on higher responsibilities is to recognize the contributions they are already making and the talents they have.

They need to be affirmed of whatever gifts that God has bestowed upon them so that what they have and what they are doing with it can be reinforced.

When St. Paul chose Timothy and Titus to be bishops of their respective churches, he was not looking merely at their gifts and talents.

In fact, Timothy and Titus were rather young to be the bishops of the churches.

Rather, St. Paul recognized the faith that they had.

And especially for Timothy, St. Paul reminded him of the sincere faith which was handed down from his grandmother and his mother.

St. Paul affirmed Timothy that he saw this faith in him, and that was sufficient for him to lead the church that was entrusted to him.

Here, it is good to remember that faith, is not so much taught as it is caught.

The faith that we have is "caught" from others - our parents, our teachers, our friends, etc.

Hence we have a faith to share, a faith that others are waiting to catch, so that they too will come to know God and believe in Him.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Conversion of St. Paul, feast, Monday, 25-01-10

Acts 9 : 1-22
Mark 16 : 15-18

Almost everyone is interested in a conversion story and may even get inspired by a conversion story.

Usually what we hear about are the deep experiences leading to the conversion.

What we seldom hear about is the other side of the conversion story.

We seldom get to hear about the sinfulness or its details before the conversion experience. It is deemed too profane and maybe also scandalous.

But in the conversion story of St. Paul, he recounted, almost unabashedly, what he was doing before that experience on the road to Damascus.

And these are not minor sins, because even Jesus Himself had to tell the then Saul : Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? I am Jesus, and you are persecuting me!

But from then on, St. Paul moved on to become the apostle to the Gentiles.

From the history of the Church, we can also see that similar conversion pattern of the great saints who once were great sinners.

There is St. Peter who denied Jesus, and St. Augustine who even wrote about his past sinfulness in his book "Confessions".

But they experienced mercy and the conversion was deep.

So it is with those whom we might call the "sinners of today".

We need to pray for them that they too will experience the grace of conversion as St. Paul did.

And how can we ourselves not admit our sinfulness and the need for on-going conversion?

But the sinners of today can be the saints of tomorrow.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 23-01-10

2 Samuel 1 : 1-4, 11-12, 17, 19, 23-27
Mark 3 : 20-21

We are called Christians. There are many words that can be used to describe who we are and what we do as Christians.

For e.g. we are to be loving and forgiving, generous and kind, merciful and compassionate, etc.

One simple expression could be to say that we are "big-hearted" people.

Big-hearted people are also express love in a big-hearted way.

We not only love our friends and those who are good to us.

We also must rise above our selfishness that tends to make us hate those who hate us and to ignore those who ignore us.

In the 1st reading we could see how David showed he was such a big-hearted person.

He forgave Saul who had persecuted him for so many years.

Not only did he lamented in grief over the death of Saul, he also remembered Saul's good qualities and he also remembered the goodness and love that Johnathan had for him.

Jesus Himself preached and showed the bigness and greatness of love.

But such bigness and greatness of love is not easily understood and accepted by others because they may have become numbed to the selfishness and evil they see so often around them.

Even the relatives of Jesus thought He was out of His mind.

But what is foolishness and madness for the world is indeed the bigness and the greatness of love.

That bigness and greatness is shown on the cross. It is in the cross we encounter the unfathomable bigness and greatness of God's love.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 22-01-10

1 Samuel 24 : 3-21
Mark 3 : 13-19

We have heard stories of how some people had left the church or had become disillusioned about the faith because of some unpleasant encounters or conflicts in the church.

It may be with the clergy or with other members of the church.

Whatever it may be, such situations always leave behind a sour feeling and can develop into hurt and resentment.

We can understand how David felt when we read about what was happening in the 1st reading.

Yet he refused to succumb to the desire to take the life of king Saul because he respected Saul as the Lord's anointed.

David's example is truly an example for us when it comes to respect and obedience to authorities, not just in the sacred sense, but also in the secular sense.

Saul might have committed evil acts, but nonetheless he was God's anointed.

We also have to recognize that Saul still had that goodness in him to acknowledge and affirm David's magnanimity.

We are God's chosen people, and by virtue of our baptism we are also God's anointed ones.

We have to admit that there are times when we have not lived up to our calling as God's anointed ones and may have been counter witnesses of the faith.

But just as Jesus appointed the Twelve to go forth and preach, we too have a sermon to preach.

What better sermon can we preach other than to acknowledge and affirm the goodness in others so that together we can grow and truly become the Church that radiates the love and forgiveness of God.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 21-01-10

1 Samuel 18:6-9 ; 19:1-7
Mark 3 : 7-12

Cancer is a much dreaded disease, and it is deadly as well.

At times, it is not discovered until it is too late.

Medical science has been able to detect for us the causes of cancer and the symptoms.

But something that is more deadly than cancer are our unchecked and unresolved emotions.

Especially emotions like jealousy and resentment, or anger and bitterness.

When left unchecked and unresolved, these powerful emotions eat away at our relationships in life and distort our understanding of others.

Just like how the unchecked and unresolved emotions of king Saul in the 1st reading developed into an abnormal behaviour that desired to kill David.

We all have emotions, and even experienced powerful emotions like those experienced by king Saul.

But let us also remember that emotions are good servants but bad masters.

Emotions become our servants when they help us to make an honest assessment about ourselves and they can even enrich our prayer life when we bring before the Lord the feelings that are in our heart.

We heard it in the gospel that crowds were following Jesus because they have experienced the healing touch from Him.

It also means that these people have done a prior reflection about their state of life and what are their destructive emotions that are eating away at them.

May we too make time for prayer so that we can bring to the Lord all that is disturbing us and eating away at us and to experience the healing love of Jesus.

That is another way of saying that we are experiencing salvation.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-01-10

1 Samuel 17 : 32-33, 37, 40-51
Mark 3 : 16

Whether it is in the military, or in business, or in government settings, or even in sports, there is a phrase that goes around when it comes to security.

That phrase is this : Beware of the enemy within. In other words, it is a reminder to be beware of spies.

As we reflect on the wider aspects of life, we will also come to the conclusion that the greatest enemy is not from without.

Indeed, it is from within, and it is found within ourselves.

That enemy can take on many forms, like resentment, bitterness, low self-esteem, insecurity. And of course, there is fear.

As in the 1st reading, the enemy is not so much in the form of Goliath, but the enemy is the fear within the heart, and that fear gripped the hearts of the Israelite soldiers.

But David conquered that fear by trusting in God's power and protection.

In the gospel, Jesus knew that others were watching Him for something to use against Him.

But the enemy is not in those "others". Rather the enemy is the fear of challenging them, the fear that can paralyze any intention of doing any good deed.

Indeed, the greatest enemy is often within. The greatest enemy is ourselves, and that enemy is expressed in various forms like fear and indifference.

When we recognize that enemy within, then it will make sense to us when Jesus says : Anyone who follows me must deny himself and take up his cross.

We must not fear the cross in our lives ; we must face it.

And when we pray, let us hold the cross close to our hearts.

Because it was on the cross that fear and the other enemies were conquered.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-01-10

1 Samuel 16 : 1-13 / Mark 2 : 23-28  (2020)

If we were to think of an example of a dilemma, then we need look no further than in the 1st reading.

The prophet Samuel was in a dilemma. A dilemma can be described as a difficult or perplexing situation or problem.

He was told by God to anoint someone that He had chosen to be king. Yet Samuel was well aware that he was under the watchful eyes of king Saul.

Though he was faced with such a dilemma, God was the one who showed him the way out of that situation.

The solution is none other than that of a religious one - to offer sacrifice. Well, what other solutions would one expect from God other than a religious one.

Certainly, with God it is always a religious solution.

What we heard about in the gospel was a religious problem - the picking of corn on the Sabbath, which was something forbidden, though we are not sure where was it stated that it was forbidden.

We too have our religious problems in our day, e.g. "Is it ok to work on Sundays?"; "Can priests be involved in politics?" ; "Why can't women become priests?"

These questions may sound simple but the answers are certainly difficult.

These and such other questions indeed put us into a dilemma for answers.

But like in the case of Samuel, God is always offering us the religious solution rather than a logical rational answer.

When we turn to God to show us the way out of a dilemma, God's solution far surpasses our human logical rational thinking. Though it will certainly entail some sacrifice.

For God's ways are far above our ways, His thoughts far surpasses our thoughts.

Monday, January 18, 2010

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-01-10

1 Samuel 15 : 16-23
Mark 2 : 18-22

Nowadays the word "obedience" seems to be used only in a limited way.

It is often used on children when they are told to obey their parents, as if they had a choice.

Even in the military, obedience is not a choice, and it is propagated under threat of punishment.

As we look at the 1st reading, we may wonder why Samuel was harping on the disobedience of king Saul to the extent that he was going to be disposed of as king.

We may think that what king Saul did was rather pragmatic, and that the best sheep and oxen from the booty was sacrificed to God.

But we must remember that the battles in the Old Testament were religious wars. It was not just one nation against another, but also one god against another.

Hence the customary battle procedure of the "ban" was a primitive religious practice in which everything captured in battle was destroyed because it was considered as religiously profane and contaminated.

So king Saul not only made a defiled and unclean offering to God, he also did not make the sacrifice from what was his own.

When this is understood, then we will realize the seriousness of the extent of the disobedience of king Saul and why he was later disposed of as king.

In the gospel, the topic of discussion seems to be fasting. But the teaching of Jesus can be summarized in the last phrase of the gospel - New wine, fresh skins.

When applied to the spiritual observances of our faith like fasting and doing penance and observing the precepts of the church, we need to ask ourselves if we know the reason and purpose of such observances.

Because if we are unclear about why we are doing what we are doing, and especially when we find it burdensome or troublesome, we will rationalize it away and we will want to be pragmatic and practical.

We may think that we are smarter and more practical than the laws and the teachings of the Church.

But pride comes before the fall. King Saul succumbed to it. May we be wise and subject ourselves in obedience to God, least we fall.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 16-01-10

1 Samuel 9 : 1-4, 17-19 ; 10:1 / Mark 2 : 13-17    (2017/2020)

The word "vocation" comes from the Latin word vocare which means "to call".

Whatever vocation in life we have embarked on is a response to a calling, whether the calling is to to the married life, to the priesthood or religious life, to the single state.

Every vocation is great, if greatly pursued.

Saul was called to be the first king of Israel. That was his vocation. He was also gifted to fulfill that vocation. But later he would waste it all.

Levi (or Matthew) was called by Jesus. His response was prompt and decisive.

But more importantly, he remained faithful to that vocation and to that call.

We are called to be Christians and our baptism is our response to that call from God.

At baptism we are immersed into the identity of Christ and hence we are called Christians.

That is our first and fundamental call, because from that call flows the various vocations in life.

The test of our calling comes when we are tempted to be lesser than we are called to be, in other words, the temptation to be selfish, self-centered, greedy, etc.

But it is precisely in the midst of temptations that Christ reminds us of our vocation.

He calls out to us, just as He called Levi.

And if we should fall, then let us hear again those words of Jesus in today's gospel : I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.

Friday, January 15, 2010

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 15-01-10

1 Samuel 8 : 4-7, 10-22
Mark 2 : 1-12

We tend to have this notion that if we were less busy, we would have more time for prayer and Bible reading and other spiritual activities.

In other words, we may think that if we were less busy, then we would have more time for God.

Even as a priest, I tend to think that if I were in a smaller parish, I would have more time to make home visits and to look into the spiritual needs of the schools nearby and all those things on the KIV list.

Maybe for you, the time to look into those things on your KIV list will be maybe when you are on long leave or when you retire.

But does that happen? In fact, and surprisingly, the reverse is true.

The truth is that when we make time for God first, then we will know how to make use of our time.

So it is actually when we let God be the center, then our life and everything else would come together.

This truth is expressed in the gospel when Jesus made the connection between forgiveness and healing.

Because forgiveness is healing, and forgiveness even precedes healing.

Putting in simply, God must come first before we can experience any blessings in life.

But so often we are tempted to do what the people did in the 1st reading when they cried out to Samuel : Give us a king to rule over us, like the other nations.

We get attracted to with the achievements and material luxuries of the successful people around us and we want to be like them, without realizing what has been sacrificed for success.

But we are not called to be "like them" ; we are called to be like God, for He is holy and He wants us to be holy.

To be like God means to forgive and heal, because God is forgiveness and healing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 14-01-10

1 Samuel 4 : 1-11
Mark 1 : 40-45

Whenever we have the luxury of a quiet moment to think and reflect about life, then we may be able to come to this realization.

We may be able to see that there is a purpose for the events that take place in our lives. There are no coincidences. There is a reason for everything.

In spiritual terms, there is God's plan and purpose for the events and situations that happen in life.

In the 1st reading, we hear that the Israelites had lost an earlier battle with the Philistines, with four thousand of their army killed.

They then asked this question : Why has the Lord allowed us to be defeated today by the Philistines?

They then embarked on this drastic action of bringing in the Ark of the Lord to accompany them in battle.

Obviously their intentions were far from spiritual or noble.

Because if they had faced the first question that they asked earlier, they would have come to realize why they were defeated in battle.

In the Old Testament, every misfortune, tragedy or defeat points to a problem or a crisis.

The word "crisis" comes from the Greek krisis which means "turning point in a disease" (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen)

When understood in that sense, then the defeat was an opportunity for Israel to awaken from their spiritual decay and corruption and turn back to God in repentance.

In bringing the Ark of the Lord to battle, they created another greater disaster for themselves.

Similarly, to be afflicted with leprosy is a great tragedy. Especially in Biblical times, it means corruptible disfigurement as well as permanent expulsion and isolation.

Because leprosy was seen as not only as a communicable physical affliction, it was also a sign of spiritual corruption.

So it actually took a great deal from the leper to come before Jesus and ask for healing.

The disease which was a crisis for him, became a turning point in his life as he turned to the Lord.

So every trouble, big or small, every disaster or tragedy, every crisis does not just happen without a reason.

All that happens happen within the plan of God ; all that happens are in the hand of God.

God's will is for us to turn back to Him. Even if it means that Jesus, His only Son, had to die a tragic and humiliating death on the cross.

That is what God will go through in order for us to turn back to Him.

If we realize this, then it is not just a coincidence or that it just happens. Let us give thanks to God for all that happened and will happen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 13-01-10

1 Sam 3 : 1-10, 19-20
Mk 1 : 29-39

We all know that the Church is the house of God.

The house of God is also the house of love and among other aspects it is the house of God's healing love.

Even the house of Peter and Andrew was transformed into a house of healing love because of the presence of Jesus, the Healer who heals with love.

The love of Jesus is also a love that searches for those in need of God's healing love, so that was why He insisted on going to the other villages.

God's healing love also ignites the flame of love in a house that has gone cold without love.

In the 1st reading, it was mentioned that the lamp of God in the sanctuary had not yet gone out.

Through the young Samuel, the flame of God's love was ignited again to heal the faith of His people.

God wants His house, the Church, to be a house of love and healing, to be a sign of salvation.

We are the living stones making up God's house. Yet God has also made His home in us.

As we gather in God's house for the Eucharist, may we be healed of our sins and may the flame of God's love burn bright in our hearts, which is also the house of God.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 12-01-10

1 Samuel 1 : 9-20
Mark 1 : 21-28

An angry and frustrated person has the tendency to look for someone or something to blame as a cause of for the problems or difficulties he is having.

In other words, there is this tendency to blame others for our faults and failings, and even our wrong-doing and sins.

For example, the incompetent boss will blame his workers, the wayward teenager will blame his parents, the unfaithful husband will blame his wife for not being loving and understanding towards him, and vice versa, the list just goes on and on.

And it is just so easy to react and enter into a head-on collision with such an angry and hostile person.

In today's gospel, Jesus met with a hostile, aggressive and challenging situation in the form of a man possessed with an unclean spirit.

But Jesus did not react with anger, argument or retaliation.

Instead, He saw beyond the hostility, the aggression and the anger, to a person who needed help, healing and deliverance.

In a way, Hannah in the 1st reading, also did not react defensively to the accusations of Eli even though she was dejected and distressed.

Today we might meet with with an aggressive and hostile situation or an unwarranted accusation.

Let us turn to Jesus and pray as we ask Him to help us see beyond such situations to the person who needs our help and understanding.

As the Scriptures teaches us, never return evil with evil, but rather return evil with good so that we would inherit a blessing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

1st Week, Ordinary TIme, Monday, 11-01-10

1 Samuel 1 : 1-8
Mark 1 : 14-20

We are already eleven days into the new year, if we still want to consider it as new, because things have gone back to routine.

But eleven days into the new year, and this parish already have had 3 funerals, 2 weddings, 3 infants being baptized.

That is just only for the first 11 days of the year. What more is there to come, we don't really know, but we can be certain that more will come.

With each wedding, with each funeral, with each infant being baptized, a new direction takes shape, priorities are re-arranged, plans are altered and surprises are to be expected along the way.

However, we are not just to sit and wonder what else will happen this year. As Christians, we must ask : How will God happen in our lives?

That is quite a question. The coming or the happening of God in our lives can have such a radical and mysterious effect on us, that we need to stop and reflect on it.

Yet the coming or the happening of God in our lives is also a time of fulfillment.

In the gospel, when Jesus came into the lives of Peter and Andrew, and James and John, they followed Him at once because they know it was time to change their course of life, to go on a different kind of fishing trip and to catch a different kind of fish.

Similarly in the 1st reading, we also could feel that God was going to come in the life of Hannah and something was going to happen.

The coming and the happening of God in our lives this year could make us anxious and leave us in suspense.

But we should feel excited and energized and filled with joyful hope because God is coming into our lives and make it a happening for us.

Our lives are not made to be dull and dreary. God wants to come into our lives everyday and every moment so that we too can live the loving life of God.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saturday after Epiphany, 09-01-10

1 John 5 : 14-21 / John 3 : 22-30    (2020)

The question of the origins of pride and envy is like the chicken and egg question. We are not sure which come first but what we know is that one leads to the other.

But what we are sure of is that we are afflicted by these two capital sins.

Our consolation is that it is not just we are afflicted by it but so too were the apostles of Jesus.

They were envious of one another and they quarrelled about who was the first.

But John the Baptist was different. If he were ambitious, seeking recognition or power, he would have resented it when Jesus started becoming more popular than he was.

He had made a name for himself as "the Baptist". Yet today's gospel also mentioned about Jesus baptising.

But John did not feel threatened or envious of Jesus. In fact he even said that "this joy I feel is now complete". He even encouraged his disciples to follow Jesus by pointing Him out as the Lamb of God.

Finally he makes his exit with his most gracious and profound spiritual statement : He must increase, and I must decrease.

So must it be for us. One way to know how we are handling our pride and envy is our response to other people's success and accomplishments.

Our response or reaction speaks volumes about the spiritual state of our hearts.

Today John the Baptist reminds us that our mission is to make Christ known and loved, not ourselves.

The 1st reading warned us to be on guard against false gods, and that is what pride and envy are.

Let us pray that our pride and envy will become smaller, and our love for God and others become greater.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Friday after Epiphany, 08-01-10

1 John 5 : 5-13
Luke 5 : 12-16

Miracles always give us something to wonder about. Be it miracles of nature, or miracles of healing, or just a wonderful unexpected surprise, these extraordinary events give us a sense of mystery.

During the course of the gospel readings of this week, we hear of a few miracles - the multiplication of loaves and the walking on water.

Today we hear of yet another miracle, and that is the healing of a leper.

This is another reiteration of the Epiphany of God in Jesus - that in Jesus, we see the divinity of God and that He is our Helper, our Provider, our Teacher, our Master, and not least, our Healer and our Comforter.

Yet the Epiphany of God is not just about the divinity of Jesus. It is also about His humanity, as He would always go off to some place where He could be alone and pray.

As we face the struggles and difficulties, the pains and the hurts of life, let us also follow Jesus and go off to some quiet place to be alone with God in prayer.

Jesus is our Healer and our Comforter. A quiet time of prayer before Jesus would bring about healing for our hearts and our souls and let us experience the saving love of God

For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30 : 15)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Thursday after Epiphany, 07-01-10

1 John 4:19 - 5:4
Luke 4 : 14-22

We have heard it said so often that "practice makes perfect" . Indeed it is true, and if practice makes perfect, then repetition enhances perfection.

For the past few days, the 1st reading was from the first letter of St. John.

By now, it should be obvious to us that the most frequently used word in that letter is the word "love", and that is because the over-riding theme of that letter is love.

In today's 1st reading we hear of at least three reasons why love of neighbour is so central in our lives as Christians.

Firstly, it says that we are liars if we claim to love God and yet hate our neighbour.

Secondly, how can we claim to love God whom we have not seen and not love our neighbour who is visible and even right before us?

Thirdly, because we believe in Christ, we have been begotten of God, and so we are God's children.

If we claim to love God our Father, we must love His children too.

These reasons may be rather repetitive, with the same things being said in different ways, but the point is clear.

That was also what Jesus said in the gospel when He quoted the passage of the prophet Isaiah.

In short, our belief and love for God must be expressed in our love for others.

Let us practice that love, repeat it ceaselessly and bring God's love to perfection in us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wednesday after Epiphany, 06-01-10

1 John 4 : 11-18
Mark 6 : 45-52

Some people tend to believe in ghosts, a belief that at times seemed to be much greater than the belief in God.

And some people say that they can see spiritual things. Some of these stories can even make our skin creep.

As I am not exactly in a position to give an opinion on such things, so I can't say much about these stories or about these people.

Yet it is interesting that the gospel mentioned the word "ghost".

The disciples thought they saw a ghost, and they were not just afraid - they were terrified.

Yet the gospel also said that "Jesus was going to pass them by".

"To pass them by" is a biblical way of saying that a revelation of God is going to happen, ie. a theophany.

Just yesterday we heard how Jesus revealed God as teacher and provider in the multiplication of loaves.

Today we heard how Jesus revealed His divinity as He walked on the rough waters.

The rough waters and the strong winds of life can make us afraid, and even terrified, and like the disciples, we see only the "ghosts" but we miss what God is revealing to us.

So what does God want to reveal to us? The feast of Christmas reminds us that God sent His Son to reveal His love for us.

As the 1st reading puts it, God is love, and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.

In love there can be no fear, whether of ghosts or suffering or death.

In love, God continues to reveal and fill our hearts with His love.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Tuesday after Epiphany, 05-01-10

1 John 4 : 7-10
Mark 6 : 34-44

Generally speaking, we have two types of reactions to a situation.

Either we react to it emotionally, or we react to it rationally.

When Jesus saw the large crowd, He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He set Himself to teach them at some length.

It was understandable that Jesus felt for the people, or if we wish to say, He acted from His emotions.

But it went to the extent that He ignored the rationality of feeding the crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish.

His disciples seemed to be more rational, especially when it was going to cost them 200 days' wages, since the avearage wage for a day was 1 denarii.

But Jesus challenged His disciples to gather what was available. And from what was available, out came a miracle.

Essentially, today's gospel passage continues the Epiphany message that God is our Helper and Provider.

Yet like the disciples, we often use too much of our rationality.

But what the Lord is asking of us is our availability.

To serve the Lord is to make our hearts available for Him.

Hence, we have to feel the promptings, especially the challenges the Lord is giving us, just like He challenged His disciples when He told them : Give them something to eat yourselves.

It is not so much our rationality that matters when we serve the Lord, but rather our availability for Him to do great wonders through us.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday after Epiphany, 04-01-10

1 John 3:33 - 4:6
Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

There was a long-running medical drama series on tv called E.R. It presents the life of doctors and patients in the emergency room.

It is not just about the work and the personal lives of the doctors but also the anguish and misery of patients in the hospital.

For eg, an old lady with an ECG monitor, a man in oxygen mask, a young mother grieving over the death of her child, etc.

The underlying question of the patients and their loved ones seemed to be this: Why is this happening to me?

This is also the same question that we will ask when we ourselves become ill or when our loved ones become seriously ill.

On this Monday after Epiphany, the gospel proclaims to us that in Jesus, we see God our healer.

But physical illness and suffering can be alleviated by medicine. A greater suffering is the suffering of the heart, an emotional and a spiritual kind of suffering.

That kind of suffering and pain can only be addressed with the healing that Jesus came to bring.

The prophecy of Isaiah gives us an idea of what is this kind of healing when it says: The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned.

In other words, Jesus the true Light shines on us to heal our broken and hurting hearts so that we can get up and walk in the light of love.

The healing light of Christ continues to shine in the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Reconciliation and the Anointing of the Sick.

Let us open our hearts with confidence in the light that God our Healer wants to give us.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2nd January 2010, Weekday of the Christmas season

1 John 2 : 22-28
John 1 : 19-28

John the Baptist was really a strange prophet. He had a strange wardrobe, and an even stranger diet.

We don't read about him working great miracles or wonders.

In fact, he didn't even identify himself as John the Baptist.

When asked who he was, he replied with who he was not.

Even in the last resort, he borrowed a passage from the prophet Isaiah, in order to give an answer about what he came to do.

Yet, Jesus called John the Baptist the greatest of all the prophets.

Simply because John the Baptist diverted the attention from himself to the one who is to come.

We too are called to be prophets by virtue of our baptism. We can learn a lot from John the Baptist about how we should carry out our prophetic role.

The temptation to get attention, the praise and even the glory is indeed very strong, and some have succumbed to it.

But let us remember that we are just a voice that cries out in the wilderness of our world to make a straight way for the Lord. Just that, and no more.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, 01.01.10

Numbers 6:22-27
Galatians 4:4-7
Luke 2:16-21

(The following homily was delivered during the year-end thanksgiving mass held on 31.12.2009, 8pm)

Today has been kind of a nostalgic day for me.

Especially when I opened up my diary in the morning to see what is for the day and what are the things I need to get done.

What struck me was that it was the last page of the diary.

There are no more pages after that. I have come to the last day of 2009.

And even as I speak, we are also coming to the last few hours of the last day of 2009.

So as we looked at the last day of the year, we may feel some nostalgia, but we may feel more amnesia.

We might be asking: So what happened during the past 364 days? Somehow things seem so fuzzy when we try to remember.

I had the same problem when I sat at my desk and tried to remember. It was like looking at static on a TV screen.

That makes me feel rather old, and of all things, I remember this joke about 2 old ladies.

They were life-long friends, been through thick and thin together, and now they spend their golden years sipping tea and watching afternoon soap operas together.

So, one afternoon, while they were watching an afternoon soap opera, and sipping tea, one of them said: Hey, we have been good friends for such a long time. I feel so embarrassed to ask you this, but, … what is your name? I really am so sorry, I forgot.

The other woman glared at her, and for a minute or two, there was an awkward silence.

Finally the other woman said: Err, … how soon do you need to know? Because I need to check my IC. I've also forgotten.

Well, it seems that when it comes to the last day of the year, what I can remember are only the corny jokes about forgetfulness.

But seriously, even as I turn back the pages of the year, the images that came to my mind are just so fuzzy, it’s like watching a movie on fast forward.

It also means that when it comes to giving thanks to God, we might be a bit fuzzy about it.

In other words, we want to give thanks to God, but don’t know where to start, or how to start.

Nonetheless, I can think of a few things to give thanks for.

Well, at least things are rather stable in church this year.

If you can remember, last year at this time, there were some renovations going on, some floor re-tiling, so it was a Merry Dusty Christmas.

Also among us priests, things are stable, no one is moved around, so we have some stability there.

Because when priests are moved around, then the priests will be stressed, then you will also become stressed.

But giving thanks and showing a grateful heart is something to be learnt, and cultivated.

And we can learn to truly give thanks with a grateful heart from none other than Mary, our blessed Mother.

The gospel mentioned that she treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Mary treasured all that had happened to her, by giving thanks to God, because she believed that her life is in God’s hands, and all that had happened is in God’s plan.

She also pondered in her heart, and whatever she could not understand, she prayed, and she waited for it to be revealed to her.

So from Mary, we learn to give thanks, and to pray and wait. We learn to pray, to PUSH and to wait.

You remember what PUSH stands for: Pray until something happens.

Do you know what WAIT stands for? Will Arrive in Time.

Yes, from Mary our Blessed Mother, we learn to treasure and ponder, we learn to PUSH and WAIT.

If we can remember the gospel story about the miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, then we will know what it means to PUSH and WAIT.

In that story, the wine for the wedding ran out ; Mary came to know about it, told Jesus about it, and she prayed until something happened, and it arrived in time.

But we must believe that every prayer uttered is also every prayer answered.

And like Mary, we just have to PUSH and WAIT, and that is, Pray Until Something Happens and it Will Arrive In Time.

So as we gather in this Mass to offer our thanks to God for His blessings and graces throughout the year …………
We also ask Mother Mary to pray for us and our loved ones so that we will deepen our faith in the days to come, and to grow in love for God.

Yet, even as I say this, we know of some who are near and dear to us, who have become lukewarm in their faith, and we pray that they will come back to God eventually.

Well, let me share with you a story about a young boy who told his grandfather that he is not going to church anymore.

The grandfather asked him why, and he said that going for Mass is not helping him, he can’t remember anything, and his prayers are not answered.

The grandfather nodded his head, and told the young boy to bring him the old wicker basket that was lying somewhere in the corner of the house.

The young boy brought it to him, and the grandfather said : Go to the river and fetch some water with this basket.

Of course the boy argued that it can’t be done, because the wicker basket cannot hold water.

But the grandfather said : Just go and do it, and run back as fast as you can.

So the boy went to the river, scooped a basketful of water and ran back.

Of course, by the time he came back to his grandfather, there was no water left in the basket.

So the boy said : I told you, it can’t be done.
Grandfather said : That’s because you didn’t run fast enough. Go again, and run faster this time.

So the boy went again, scooped water with the basket, and ran back as fast as he could, but still in vain.

The grandfather smiled and said : Go again, and run faster this time.

So the boy went again, scooped water with the basket, and ran back faster than before, but still in vain ; there is no water left in the basket.

So he told the grandfather : I am not going anymore. It’s useless. I won’t get any water.

The grandfather said : Well, that’s true, you didn’t get any water. But take a look at the wicker basket. What do you see?

The young boy looked at the wicker basket, and wondered what his grandfather meant.

Grandfather said : You didn’t get any water, but look, the old dirty wicker basket now looks new and clean, right?

Just a simple story, but a simple story that tells us about the mystery and the power of prayer.

Something happens when we pray. Something happens in others when we pray for them. Something happens in us when Mother Mary prays for us.

So with Mother Mary, we PUSH and keep praying until something happens.

And let us also believe that whatever we are praying for, will happen, and will arrive in time.

Whether it is this year or the next, it will arrive in time.
Yes, it will arrive, in God’s time.