Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Holy Week, Wednesday, 31-03-10

Isaiah 50:4-9 / Matthew 26:14-25       (2010 / 2020)

We are always more than ready to lament that we are victims of betrayal.

There are never short of accounts of betrayal by a husband, or a wife, or a family member, or a colleague, or a fiend.

It is also never easy to forget a betrayal.

But we may not be that ready to admit that we have betrayed somebody before.

So when Jesus said : "I tell you solemnly, one of you is about to betray me", even Judas himself had to cheek to ask : "Not I Lord, surely?"

Somehow, Judas has become the symbol of the dark side of ourselves.

We don't like to look at Judas, because we see in him the reflections we don't like about ourselves, especially about unfaithfulness, disloyalty and betrayal.

Yet Judas' reply to Jesus "Not I Lord, surely?" can be a means of prayerful reflection for us.

Will I be unfaithful to Jesus? Will I be disloyal to Him? Will I ever betray Him?

Yet after all our reflection, we can only humbly turn to Jesus and say: Help me Lord Jesus, to be faithful to You always.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Week, Tuesday, 30-03-10

Isaiah 49:1-6 / John 13:21-33, 36-38      (2018)

In any culture, a meal is not just a social event. It is a time for bonding and deepening of relationships.

More so for the Jewish Passover meal. It is a religious meal, a time to recall and experience God's saving love for His people.

Yet at that Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus mentioned about betrayal.

Among the disciples who were around Jesus at that meal, two disciples would come to mind as we think about betrayal - Judas and Peter.

But what is the difference between them?

Well, Judas deliberately betrayed his Master, while Peter, in a moment of weakness, denied Him.

One was cold and calculated ; the other was out of fear, weakness and cowardice.

The other disciples had varying degrees of betrayal, to say the least.

We may not be cold and calculated like Judas in betraying Jesus.

Yet like Peter and the rest, we have to guard against the devil who can so easily tempt us to turn love into hate, holiness into pride, discipline into cruelty, affection into complacency and reverence into routine.

Let us turn to the cross of Christ for protection against the devil and guard against temptation and sin.

In the cross, we see that the love of Christ is selfless, sacrificial, forgiving and compassionate.

Let us ask Jesus to keep us near His cross, always.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday of Holy Week, 29-03-10

Isaiah 42:1-7 / John 12:1-11     (2018)

Among the words, whether spoken or unspoken, that are laden with regret are these words: I should have ...

We hear this being used in different ways and in different situations.

For e.g. "I should have taken the opportunity to encourage that person", "I should have visited my parents more often when they were still alive", "I should have studied harder for my exams".

The list of "I should have..." goes on and on.

We ourselves would have said it before.

Yet as much as those words might be laden with regret, still, regrets cannot reverse the situation or the consequence.

But in today's gospel, we see a woman who seized the opportunity to show Jesus an act of love.

And Jesus also reciprocated by affirming her of her love and generosity.

As we enter into Holy Week, let us also seize the little moments of opportunities to show Jesus an act of love.

It may be a dedicated time for prayer, or an act of service for a neighbour.

Whatever it may be, it will be appreciated by Jesus.

It is still not too late to deepen our Lenten preparation.

It might be late, but it is still better to regret and keep saying "I should have ..."

Saturday, March 27, 2010

5th Week of Lent, Saturday, 27-03-10

Ezekiel 37:21-28 / John 11:45-56      (2019)

Today's gospel ends with questions, and those questions will be answered in the coming days as the liturgy unfolds.

It was also a questioning time for Jesus as His hour of reckoning approaches.

So as He retreated to the countryside with His disciples, He could have decided to remain there.

He could have gone on with His work of healing and teaching in a quiet way.

Many people would have supported Him and kept Him safe.

But Jesus knew that that was not the Father's will, so He moved out of His safety zone, a move that will cost Him His life.

Hence whenever we talk about doing God's will, we have to remember that it involves risk.

It involves moving out of our safety zone and moving out of our comfort zone.

But it is only in moving out that God moves in.

It is only when we move out of our pride, our resentment, our selfishness that God can move in to strengthen us with His love and to face the questions of life.

Friday, March 26, 2010

5th Week of Lent, Friday, 26-03-10

Jeremiah 20:10-13 / John 10:31-42        (2020)

At times it can be quite difficult to do a good deed or a charitable act in the name of the Church or when we identify ourselves as Christians.

Take for example, when the late Mother Teresa started her home for the destitute in India.

Among the opposition that she faced, one was the accusation that she wanted to convert the destitute into Christians and using the home and charity as a cover.

This negative notion of Christianity stemmed from the period of colonial rule in India when Christianity developed a bad name due to the counter-witnessing of Christians there.

But of course, they eventually saw the real purpose and good intention of Mother Teresa.

This brings us to the reflection of our identity and our deeds.

Jesus said to the people in the gospel, that even if they don't believe in Him, then at least they should believe in the good that He was doing.

Then they will eventually see who He really was.

Similarly for us, our identity and our deeds must have a connection and in fact be intertwined.

Only then can people see the God who is working in us and through us.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Annunciation, 25-03-10

Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 / Hebrews 10 : 4-10 / Luke 1 : 26-38    (2020)

St. Augustine was quoted as saying : God does not ask of us the impossible. He may ask us to do the difficult thing, but He will make it possible.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Annunciation, the proclamation of the Good News of salvation.

It is not only a joyful event, it is also a very profound event in God's plan of salvation.

Yet for Mary, it was not just an event ; it was for her a mission.

And if she said "Yes" then it was going to be a life-long mission. And it was going to be difficult.

But God assured her it was not going to be impossible.

Mary put her faith and trust in God as she accepted her mission.

We live in difficult and fragile times. We have wars here and epidemics there and all sorts of weird things everywhere.

Trying to believe and live out the Good News is not only difficult, but seemingly impossible.

Believing that there can be peace that there can be joy, that there can be love, can be difficult.

But let this celebration of the Annunciation, the celebration of the Good News of our salvation, remind us that difficulty is not synonymous with impossibility.

We join Mary to say "Yes" to God because we want to believe that God is greater than any difficulty and impossibility.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

5th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 24-03-10

Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25, 28 / John 8:31-42    (2020)

The fiery furnace of tribulation is something we will come across in our lives. Not just once, but many times.

It is in this fiery furnace that our faith in God is tested, our faith in prayer is tested, our faith in others is tested, and our faith in ourselves is tested.

The fiery furnace comes in all forms : the loss of a job, the hurt form a broken or painful relationship, ill-treatment and accusations from others, etc.

And we often get trapped in the flames of doubt, despair, anger and resentment.

In the 1st reading, when the three young men were threatened with the fiery furnace, they stuck to their faith in God.

In doing so, they were freed from their fear of death.

They believed in God, and that set them free to face and over the fear of the fiery furnace.

It is also by believing in God and in His Word of truth that will set us free.

By forgiving those who hurt us, we are freed.
By praying for those we wrong us, we are freed.
By not nailing judgment on others, we are freed.
By loving others, we are freed.

The flames of the fiery furnace may not go off, but by believing and living in the truth, we live in the freedom of walking together with our God in that fiery furnace.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

5th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 23-03-10

Numbers 21:4-9 / John 8:21-30           (2020)

In life, we will always have stress, which of course we do not welcome at all.

More so when stress turns to distress, then we will get all flustered and frustrated.

In the 1st reading, we heard how the Israelites were in distress, but that was due to their own grumblings at God and the consequence was the scourge of the fiery serpents.

But out of this distress, arose the intercession of Moses which brought about healing for the people.

For Jesus, His greatest moment of distress was when He was nailed to and lifted up on the cross.

But it was also on the cross that He revealed His full identity as Saviour.

The cross was also His throne of glory.

Whenever we sink into the depths of distress, or face trials and difficulties that wear us down, let us remember this.

That in times of great distress, God is closest to us in His full power to lift us up so that we can see His glory.

The times of distress are also the time in which God reveals His saving love for us.

That is somehow difficult to believe, just as it would seem strange that by looking at the image of a bronze serpent on a standard would bring about healing.

But as we look as Jesus being lifted up on the cross, then we will understand. Then we will believe.

Because we are looking at our Saviour who came to heal and forgive and save us.

Monday, March 22, 2010

5th Week of Lent, Monday, 22-03-10

Daniel 13 : 1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 / John 8 : 12-20

The name Daniel in Hebrew means "My God is judge" or "My God is justice".

And true to his name, the prophet Daniel brought about God's justice and saved the innocent Suzanna from being executed.

When we talk about God's justice, we often see it as judgment, as in punishment for evil and vindication for good.

Indeed, the two evil men in the 1st reading got what they deserved for trying to harm an innocent woman in order to cover up their evil deeds.

In that sense, it is true that justice means judgment.

But God is a judge, not merely in the sense of passing sentence over our evil deeds.

The biblical understanding of God and His justice is that He looks at the good we do and the good that we are capable of doing.

Because God, in His justice, is essentially mercy and love.

He affirms our goodness with His mercy and love.

With His mercy and love, He increases our capacity for goodness.

Jesus is the true light that brings about God's love and mercy to us.

Let us open our hearts to the light of Christ and reflect it to others in order to help them do good and increase their capacity for goodness.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 20-03-10

Jeremiah 11:18-20 / John 7:40-52       (2019)

The fastest and easiest way to come to a conclusion is to make an assumption.

An assumption is to take something for granted, a supposition.

Whether it is a correct or an incorrect assumption, we usually begin by saying "I think ..."

But when the assumption is wrong, then the conclusion is also wrong.

In today's gospel, there were a lot of assumptions made about Jesus and specifically about His identity.

In the midst of these assumptions, an unexpected challenge came from Nicodemus.

He challenged the people to give Jesus a hearing and to discover for themselves who Jesus was.

But the assumptions far outnumbered and eventually drowned out the challenge.

We too have our own assumptions about who Jesus is.

We also need to verify our assumptions about Jesus.

It is about moving from "I think that Jesus loves me" to saying "I know that Jesus is loves me".

Friday, March 19, 2010

Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the BVM, 19-03-10

Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24    (2020)

There is something interesting about St. Joseph in the gospels.

The gospels described the character of St. Joseph, saying that he was a man of honour, and what he did for Jesus and Mary.

But nothing of what St. Joseph said was recorded in the gospels; just about what he did.

But that was enough for us. From the gospel accounts, we can also see that St. Joseph was of a strong character and a man of faith.

To quote a few instances : Joseph took Mary to be his wife even though he wasn't exactly sure how she became pregnant.

After the birth of Jesus, when Herod was persecuting them, he did not abandon mother and child for his own safety.

St. Joseph also had a keen ear for listening to the will of God, whether it was by dreams or through visions of angels.

So it was his actions that spoke louder than any words.

It was by his actions that he showed his faith and trust in God.

Indeed, as we honour St. Joseph, we must learn, not only from his actions, but also from his silence.

Most of all, let us learn to do God's will, as St. Joseph did.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

4th Week of Lent, Thursday, 18-03-10

Exodus 32 : 7-14
John 5 : 31-47

Just a few days ago, the newspaper featured a 93 year-old man with a big scar at the back of his neck.

He was featured in the papers because he is probably the only survivor of the atrocities committed during Japanese Occupation of Singapore.

He was in a group of eight young men who were beheaded by the Japanese soldiers. Although the blade made a deep cut at the back of his neck and he was left for dead, he eventually survived.

He was interviewed for his first-hand account of what happened during the Japanese Occupation for the sake of the younger generation, lest they forget the price that was paid for not being able to defend ourselves.

Besides individual forgetfulness, the collective forgetfulness of a nation can have disastrous consequences.

Such was the case of Israel. It was not that long since they experienced the liberation from Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea.

But soon they forgot about the God who saved them and they created for themselves a god that cannot save them at all.

In fact, forgetfulness is too lame a word. The word should be stupidity - the Israelites were stupid enough to forget, and for that they had to wander in the desert for 40 years just to have their memory corrected.

The 40 days of Lent is indeed a time for us to recall and remember the saving acts of God in our lives so that we won't forget the His love and mercy for us.

It is also a time to cleanse ourselves of the distractions that have come into our lives that made us forget about God.

Only with a clean and pure heart that is filled with God's love will we be able to bear testimony to God's love for us and for the world.

But our first testimony is to God Himself. To Him alone do we say : You are my God

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

4th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 17-03-10

Isaiah 49 : 8-15
John 5 : 17-30

Words are powerful. We use words to convey our ideas and concepts.

We use words to express our feelings and our convictions.

Although at times we feel that there are just too much words with nothing much to convey.

We also just heard a lot of words from the 1st reading and the gospel.

But these words will just remain as words unless we hear something more.

When we hear the voice of Jesus behind those words, then those words become powerful. Then those words become life-giving.

Jesus said that whoever listens to His words has eternal life.

To have eternal life means that we will live our lives the way that Jesus wants us to live.

That means we must live a life that is free from sin and wrong-doing, so that we know what peace and joy and love and the fullness of life is all about.

And whenever we have our needs, we just have to present it to the Lord in prayer.

As the Lord said in the 1st reading : At the favourable time I will answer you.

Those are powerful words of God's promises. May we listen to them, so that we will have life.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

4th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 16-03-10

Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 / John 5:1-3, 5-16             (2020)

It is difficult to see any good in a bad and depressive situation, just as it is difficult to imagine that a beautiful butterfly can come from an ugly caterpillar.

Much more difficult it will be to see or even imagine anything glorious coming up from something that is destroyed.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Ezekiel gave a vision of the Temple from which life-giving and healing waters flow.

But the problem was that just a few years back, the Temple had been destroyed and now Israel is in exile in Babylon.

But that prophetic vision was fulfilled when Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross, and He became the Temple of God, and from His side flowed blood and water which symbolized life and healing.

That prophetic vision strengthens us when our faith wavers and we lose hope in a situation of turmoil and depression.

Because in a seemingly hopeless and despairing situation of being nailed to the cross, Jesus still issued forth His life-giving and healing grace.

This grace is given to us whenever we meet with struggles and difficulties, so that we can look forward with faith and hope to the glory of the resurrection.

Jesus is not just our Healer. He is our Saviour who leads us to see the beauty in the ugly and victory over vice.

Monday, March 15, 2010

4th Week of Lent, Monday, 15-03-10

Isaiah 65 : 17-21 / John 4 : 43-54     (2017)

This period of Lent is especially for the Elects of the Church to prepare for the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.

They are prepared to go through this final preparation with fasting, prayer and alms-giving over the 40-day period.

They are prepared to go through this because they have a faith-story to tell.

It is essentially a deep experience of God and His love for them that drives them to look forward for their baptism.

In short, these Elects have experienced what God did for them in their journey of life and journey of faith.

It is not a question of what God might do for them. Rather it is about what God will do for them.

Even we, who are already Catholics, can learn a lot from these Elects, just as we can learn from the court official in today's gospel.

The court official chose to believe in Jesus and that He will cure his son.

Today's gospel presents us with a challenge to renew and deepen our faith in Jesus and in what He has promised us.

Jesus does not tell us "Maybe". Jesus tells us that "it will be".

Let us believe in Jesus, so that as the 1st reading puts it, we will be renewed in "Joy" and "Gladness".

Saturday, March 13, 2010

3rd Week of Lent, Saturday, 13-03-10

Hosea 5:15 - 6:6 / Luke 18:9-14         (2019)

One of the preparations before going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to use the 10 Commandments for the examination of conscience.

Breaking any of the 10 Commandments is indeed a grave sin.

Hence not going for Mass on Sundays, disrespect for parents, stealing, adultery, all these are grave sins. Blatantly grave.

But what is blatant can be equally destructive as what is subtle.

We avoid obvious grave sins, yet we can forget that there are sins that are not so obvious that will cause us to trip and fall.

In today's gospel parable, the Pharisee was proud that he did not commit any grave sin ; in fact he did credible deeds.

But why was he not at rights with God?

As always, pride comes before the fall.

His problem was spiritual pride - he called another person a sinner without acknowledging to be one himself.

He propped himself up, at the expense of another person.

It was subtle, but evil. So we need to watch ourselves.

If we think we are virtuous, are we also getting self-righteous?

We can make sacrifices and perform credible deeds.

But what the Lord wants is not sacrifice. What He wants is our love for Him and for those around us.

And we if should fall, then we only need to turn to God and say : God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Friday, March 12, 2010

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 12--3-10

Hosea 14:2-10 / Mark 12:28-34     (2019)

In our worship, we use very lofty and transcendent names for God.

We say prayers like "I confess to Almighty God ..." or "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty".

It is an expression of who God is and that we are His creatures.

Yet the image of an almighty God was reduced to that of a broken-hearted father who is pleading with his children to return to him, as the prophet Hosea put it in the 1st reading.

God was also portrayed as a father yearning for his children's love.

But how can!? How can God be portrayed as going down on His knees and pleading with His creatures?

Could not God have used His almighty power to work some spectacular signs and bring His people back to Him?

Or just give the ultimatum : Come back or else!

Surely He could. But of course God knows better.

God knows that a forced loved is not a true love.

True love comes from a freedom to love.

As Jesus puts it in the gospel - to love with all the heart, all the soul, all the mind and all the strength.

That is the kind of love that God has for us, and an everlasting love at that.

We know how to love Him in return - and that is by loving others.

God has made His choice to love us. It is now up to us to make our choice.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, 11-03-10

Jeremiah 7:23-28 / Luke 11:14-23      (2019)

Whenever we say that history repeats itself, we are more inclined to think that it is the mistakes of the past that are repeated.

These mistakes only show that the present generation has not learned much from the prior generation or from the past events of history.

This was also what the prophet Jeremiah was saying in the 1st reading.

Just about 120 years before, the Northern Kingdom of Israel had been annihilated by Assyria.

And now, the Southern Kingdom of Judah was facing the same threat from Babylon.

And God was warning them through Jeremiah. But why were they not heeding? Why were they not listening?

If anything, it is not too much to say that that the people do not love God.

Because one of the fruits of love is to listen.

Just like if we love our parents, our spouse, our children, our friends, we will listen to them with a heart of love.

Similarly when we love someone, we will also speak to that person with a heart of love.

When we listen and speak with a heart of love, then with Jesus we gather others into the peace of God's kingdom.

It is either we gather people into the peace and love of God's kingdom, or we scatter and bring division.

There isn't a third option.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 10-03-10

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 / Matthew 5:17-19   (2019)

Children often have some resistance with the things that we ask them to do.

Things like washing their hands before meals, brushing their teeth, going to bed early, etc.

They don't seem to be convinced that what we tell them is really good for them.

But how different are we from children when it comes to keeping God's law?

Do we really understand what it means when Moses said in the 1st reading : Observe them, that you may have life.

Yet we know that whenever God's law is not kept, problems arise and tragedies happen.

The recent global financial crisis was a good example. It is the result of greed and injustice.

It is just another case of God's law not being kept.

That was why Moses added : Tell it to your children, and your children's children.

And Jesus said in the gospel : I have come not to abolish but to complete the Law.

God's law is our life-line. Jesus is not only Law-giver. He is also the Life-giver.

In keeping the Law of God, we will have life.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 09-03-10

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35   (2019)

Most of us have this experience of lending money to people.

And most of the time, we end up so frustrated and feel like banging our heads against the wall.

Because we lent the money so easily, but it came back to us with so much difficulty and so slowly, if ever at all.

And of course, the higher the amount of money lent, the greater the frustration and the heart-ache.

So when it comes to talking about forgiveness, Jesus did not talk in abstract terms.

He used this experience of loans and payment.

Immediately we will know what it means to forgive. It is almost synonymous to writing off a debt.

But to be able to write off a debt, it means that we have come to the realization and enlightenment that there is something beyond money.

Only then can we let go and move on.

Similarly, to forgive someone who had done us great harm and hurt us grievously, it means that we have come to the realization and enlightenment that there is something beyond the anger, the pain and the hate.

Let us pray for this realization and enlightenment.

Because it is a special grace from God. It is His healing love that is being poured into our hearts.

Monday, March 8, 2010

3rd Week of Lent, Monday, 08-03-10

2 Kings 5 : 1-15
Luke 4 : 24-30

When it comes to choosing a name for baptism, or for a religious purpose, the primary source to look into would be the Bible.

There we will come across the names of biblical heroes or persons of faith.

Yet there are biblical characters whose names are not mentioned.

In today's 1st reading, the little Israelite girl who was captured and became a slave was a nameless person.

But how was it that Naaman believed in her?

Naaman and his wife must have seen or sensed something in that little Israelite slave girl that prompted them to believe in her words.

They probably saw that even though freedom was taken away from her, she still kept her faith and trusted in God.

It was her little actions of faith that impressed Naaman and his wife.

Most of us are not big shots or big names in society or in church.

Yet like the little nameless Israelite slave girl, our actions of faith count, not only before God but also before others.

In fact, our actions of faith speak louder that our words.

It is through our simple and loving actions of faith that will lead others to believe in God.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, 06-03-10

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 / Luke 15:1-3, 11-32         (2020)

Based on anecdotal evidence, we can say that there is a black sheep in every family.

Usually that is referred to one of the children. That particular child is always out of step with the rest and seems to be marching to a different tune.

That 'black sheep' is the bane and the burden of parents.

Some parents will resort to renouncement of the relationship with that child, others will resort to punishment which may actually be just a way of venting out their frustrations on the child.

In today's gospel parable we hear of yet another way of dealing with the 'black sheep'.

The father gave in to his younger son's request, but yet further on in the parable, we hear of the father waiting and looking out for him to return.

What made the son came to his senses was that he recalled how kindly his father treated his servants. That was enough for him to get moving.

No matter how far a person has gone over to the dark and destructive side, the memories of love and kindness and goodness can never be erased from him.

It is these memories that will make a person come to his senses and bring him back to the light.

So when we come across the odd one, the black sheep, the sinner, let us be the reflection of God's love to that person.

The 1st reading describes God taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger for ever but delighting in showing mercy.

Let us be that image of God for others to help them come to their senses and return to God.

Friday, March 5, 2010

2nd Week of Lent, Friday, 05-03-10

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 / Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46        (2020)

Family feuds are not just something that we see only in movies and soap operas.

It happens in real life. We read about it in the papers, we hear about it from friends, it may have even happened to us.

One of the main causes of these family feuds is over money and property.

Over money and property, children have brought parents to court and vice versa. Over money and property, sibling rivalry can become so ugly that blood relationships can become like dirty water.

It had happened from the earliest times in the story of Cain and Abel.

It happened between Joseph and his brothers as we heard in the 1st reading.

That coat with long sleeves was a symbol of favour and blessing.

Over that coat, Joseph's brothers came up with evil thoughts like murder, and then mugging and then slavery.

It was also over money and property that the tenants in the parable of today's gospel resorted to violence and murder.

It can be frightening to know, and even to realize, that money and material possession can have such a destructive grip over us to the extent that we can even lose our sense of integrity and morality.

Hence the Lenten practice of alms-giving has that purpose of helping us break free from this grip of being money-minded and being possessed by materialism.

The Charities Week envelope is a means of helping us in this Lenten spiritual exercise.

Let us see if we can give cheerfully. After all whatever we have is given to us from above, and we are only stewards, not owners.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, 04-03-10

Jeremiah 17:5-10 / Luke 16:19-31     (2020)

Back in 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Nazi Germany signed a pact with Russia.

It was a pact of non-aggression towards each other, and in it was also a secret agreement to invade Poland and to divide the spoils between each other.

It was a very wicked and devious pact and furthermore, it was one that was aggressive towards a third party.

Yet two years later, the pact was broken when Germany invaded Russia.

Indeed the words of the prophet Jeremiah in the 1st reading rang true : A curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on the things of the flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.

Still the human heart continues to be selfish and devious and perverse.

We must realise that when our hearts are turned from the Lord and from the neighbour in need, we only bring eventual destruction to ourselves.

But when we put our trust in the Lord and look into the welfare of our neighbour who is in need, then we will have faith in the Lord who will give each man what his conduct and actions deserve.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 03-03-10

Jeremiah 18:18-20 / Matthew 20:17-28     (2020)

In our very urbanized country, things have changed so much and so fast that we can even get nostalgic over things like a charcoal stove.

We certainly can remember waiting for the kettle of water to boil over the charcoal stove, and how we can squat there or do other things while waiting.

But with everything changing so fast and so much, it seems that life should be more convenient and we should have more time.

Yet, the irony is that with life getting more convenient, we also begin to avoid discomfort and we don't see any meaning in it.

On a deeper level, we also want to avoid suffering because suffering is negative and meaningless.

Even in the 1st reading, the prophet Jeremiah was asking the Lord to deliver him from his adversaries and from suffering.

In the gospel, James and John also wanted the glory, but Jesus asked them if they could take the suffering as well.

The same question is also asked of us : Can you drink of the cup that I am going to drink?

Just as water has to be boiled before it can be fit for drinking, we too will have to go through the sharpening fires of suffering before we can find its meaning.

There is meaning in suffering. It is called redemptive suffering. It is the kind of suffering that Jesus showed us when He was nailed to the cross.

May we too offer up our suffering in love like Jesus did, for our redemption as well as the redemption of the world.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 02-03-10

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20 / Matthew 23:1-12    (2020)

The feeling of guilt can weigh heavily on a person and can even slowly squeeze the life out of the person.

More so when this feeling of guilt is often aggravated by other people who keep harping on the guilt.

It is strange and yet not so strange that people tend to glee and gloat over the guilt and the wrong-doings of others.

Which might make us recall this amusing and yet truthful phrase : When I do the right thing, no one remembers. But when I do the wrong thing, no one forgets.

It stems from the tendency to make oneself look big by making others look small.

Yet in life, we have to admit that we make mistakes at one point or another.

And when we do something wrong, we don't need reminders. Reminders only make the guilt heavier

What we need is compassion and forgiveness.

In the 1st reading, God gives us a reminder. It is a reminder not of our sins, but of His compassion and forgiveness when He said : Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow ; thought they are red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

Jesus came to untie our burden of guilt and shame with His compassion and forgiveness.

With the power of His love, Jesus frees us. Let us in turn also untie and free others of their guilt and shame.

Monday, March 1, 2010

2nd Week of Lent, Monday, 01-03-10

Daniel 9:4-10 / Luke 6:36-38     (2020)

Famous persons like Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Charles Darwin had something in common in their childhood years.

They were told that they would never make it anywhere in life.

They were told that they belonged to the scrap-bin, that they were slow-learners, that they were a liability in society.

Yet, they made it somewhere in life, and what's more, they became someone in life.

It only goes to show that premature judgment is a terrible thing to do as it can destroy a person's self-worth.

We only know of those who survived and proved others wrong.

But how about those who were trampled down by judgment and criticism and unforgiveness?

All these are terrible and destructive sins.

When we judge others, highlight their faults and would not open the door to forgiveness, it shows one thing.

It shows that we are unaware of our own faults and our own sinfulness.

We must continue to reflect on what the prophet Daniel said in the 1st reading : Lord, we have sinned, we have done wrong, we have not listened.

Let us ask the Lord to help us to be aware and to realize our sinfulness.

Only then can we be open to the compassion of God, a compassion that is given to us in full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.