Friday, July 30, 2010

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 31-07-10

Jeremiah 26 : 11-16, 24 / Matthew 14 : 1-12

At times we wonder if being good and doing good is really worth it.

Because very often, we see, and even experienced, that good is being re-paid with evil.

John the Baptist just wanted Herod to repent and live a good life.

Because what Herod did was leading towards self-destruction.

John the Baptist had compassion for Herod.

In fact, Herod knew it, and that was why he was distressed when he had to give the orders for John's execution.

But goodness cannot be silenced or put to death.

Because in the person of Jesus, Herod was once again reminded of the goodness of John the Baptist.

When we live out the Christian values of love, patience, gentleness, humility, etc., and we get slapped in the face, we may wonder if it is worth it.

But let us remember that all good comes from God.

When we do good, the benefactors are not just the others.

We ourselves begin to realize our Christian identity and see the power of goodness and the power of God's love happening in the lives of others.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 30-07-10

Jeremiah 26 : 1-9 / Matthew 13 : 54-58

If someone were to ask you who preached the homily at Mass last Sunday, you might take a while to recall which priest it was.

But if the next question would be "So what did he preach about?" then we really have to crank up our memory in order to recall what we heard.

And ten other persons who were there listening to the same homily would have ten versions of what was preached.

That could mean that people are doing their own reflections about the Word of God.

Yet people also tend to listen with varying degrees of openness and receptivity.

And that depends largely on who is speaking.

In the two readings of today, we see two types of people who are not open to what is said.

In the 1st reading is the type who is not open to correction, and hence do not want to hear the truth.

In the gospel is the type who is not open to the person, and hence is not open to the truth.

We have a bit of both in each of us.

But when we challenge ourselves to listen to what is said and not how it is said or who is saying it, then we will be able to hear the truth.

Then we will hear the prophetic voice of God.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

St. Martha, Memorial, Thursday, 29-07-10

1 John 4 : 7-16 / John 11 : 19-27

Whenever we talk about St. Martha, the image of an active and work-oriented as well as task-oriented person comes to mind.

That may be because of that occasion (Luke 10 : 38-42)when she invited Jesus to her home and she was caught up with all the serving.

And then she complained to Jesus about getting her sister Mary to help her with the work.

But Jesus told her that she worry and fret about so many things and yet only one is important, and Mary had chosen the better part.

Martha must have remembered what Jesus said to her, and so despite the sadness and grief over her brother's death, she knew that only Jesus could comfort her.

And true to her personality, she made the move to go out and meet Jesus and to express her faith in Jesus.

But on this occasion, she also made a profound proclamation.

Martha proclaimed Jesus to be Christ, the Son of God.

Only St. Peter had made that similar proclamation.

Hence, St. Martha, despite her active and work-oriented and task-oriented personality, came to slowly recognize who Jesus is.

St. Martha is an example for us of someone who is active and busy but yet took the time to reflect and to discover who Jesus is.

Like St. Martha we may also have very active lives and busy with a lot of things.

But let us not forget the one important thing - prayer!

It is in prayer that we will attain the peace to know that Jesus is truly the Son of God, our Saviour.

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 28-07-10

Jeremiah 15 : 10, 16-21 / Matthew 13 : 44-46

There is no doubt that everyday we do a lot of important things.

But while we are busy doing so many important things, we may just want to stop and do take a little time to do some reflecting.

Just what are the things we are doing that are really important?

Does it only have a temporary importance, or does it also have an eternal importance?

We need to remember that how we live our lives here on earth is a preparation of how we are going to live our lives in heaven.

And God has planted the treasures of heaven in our hearts to help us live our live our lives on earth.

Hence the search for this treasure is not from the without as in the material or tangible.

The search is from the within, in the depths of our hearts, where the treasures of God are waiting to be discovered.

When we discover that treasure within, then we will naturally let go of the things that are not important and unnecessary.

We will realize that it is God that is our only need, and it is God that we really want.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 27-07-10

Jeremiah 14 : 17-22 / Matthew 13 : 36-43

A lot of questions have been asked about this age-old problem of evil in the world, as well as origin of evil.

The Latin term for this phrase "origin of evil" is MYSTERIUM INIQUITATIS.

When translated into English it is "the mystery of iniquity".

Indeed, sin and evil is so much of a mystery.

The letter to the Romans 7:19 puts this mystery in a life experience when it says - For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

So as much as sin and evil is mysterious, yet the reality and the fact is clear.

Sin and evil is merely a manifestation of the lack of goodness, whether it is around us or in us.

Yet in the 1st reading, we hear of how God feels about the sinful and evil situation of mankind, with these words: Tears flood my eyes night and day unceasingly.

God's love for us was so deep that He sent His only Son so that He can restore our love and goodness.

But we have to make the decision to pick up the weeds of our sin and burn them in the fire of God's love.

With Jesus, we can be certain that love and goodness will triumph in the end.

In our fight against sin and evil, whether within or without, let us put our confidence in God as we cry out - O our God, you are our hope (Jer 14:22)

Monday, July 26, 2010

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 26-07-10

Jeremiah 13 : 1-11 / Matthew 13 31-35

It would be rather awkward and embarrassing to talk about undergarments in a sacred and holy context of the homily.

Even the mention of the word "underwear" will irritate some sensitivities.

Yet the 1st reading was so graphic in description about the loincloth and its decay.

But the purpose of graphic language is to irritate and cause discomfort to us.

Because when we see decay, we get this disgusted feeling.

When God sees our spiritual decay caused by sin, He too gets disgusted.

And He will employ all means to wake us up our decay and destruction, even using an embarrassing and awkward item like a loincloth.

Whenever we see something that is rotting and decaying, we turn away in disgust.

Yet it is strange that whenever we sin, we turn away from God and we foolishly swirl in rot and decay.

Yet the Lord reaches out to us sinners and binds Himself to us just as man wraps a loincloth closely around his waist.

God wants to wake us up from our foolishness and stupidity so that we will cling to Him as a loincloth clings to the waist of a man.

Yet along with the mercy and forgiveness of God, there is also a stern warning.

As the Lord says : If you do not stand by Me, you will not stand at all (Isa 7:9)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 24-07-10

Jeremiah 7 : 1-11 / Matthew 13 : 24-30

Christians deplore the practice of superstition as it conflicts and contradicts the belief in God.

Included in the superstitious practices are consulting horoscopes, fortune-tellers and palm-reading, etc.

But few of us Catholics would admit to having religious superstitions.

For e.g., what are the real reasons for hanging the palm branch on the door post, drink holy water, wear holy medals, etc.

Of course there are valid religions reasons for these practices, but yet we can also concoct our own queer reasons for doing so.

The 1st reading pointed out that the people were using the Temple of the Lord as a kind of religious superstitious object by saying delusive words like "This is the sanctuary of the Lord.

Yet the contradiction was that they know they were in the presence of God and yet they continue with their sinful ways.

Religion becomes a sort of superstition when we say we believe in God and come to church to obtain whatever religious articles and yet there is no change in our sinful ways.

The gospel parable highlights the sinful and superstitious practices in our lives but yet God is loving and merciful.

May the weeds of our sinfulness slowly diminish and may we produce a rich harvest of true love for God and neighbour.

Friday, July 23, 2010

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 23-07-10

Jeremiah 3 : 14-17 / Matthew 13 : 18-23

Too much of a good thing can have its negative effect.

For e.g. in Singapore, food is in such abundance that we don't quite know what it feels to be hungry anymore.

For that matter of fact, we don't know what is a food shortage. We don't understand the stories of the Japanese Occupation during WWII or the hard times of the '50s and '60s.

When we don't feel the hunger or loss, we tend to take things for granted.

As in the 1st reading, God called His people "disloyal children" because they were too safe and secure and hence they began to follow the dictates of their hearts.

Similarly when we have too many other things in our minds, then God's Word can't sink into our hearts and bear fruits in our lives, just like the seeds that fell on rocky or thorny soil in today's gospel parable.

We must pray for a heart that will listen and understand what God is telling us.

Let us also pray that we will hunger for God's Word and be nourished by it.

God is good, and we can never have enough of God.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

St. Mary Magdalene, Memorial, Thursday, 22-07-10

Song of Songs 3 : 1-4 / John 20 : 1-2, 11-18

Every now and then, we see in the newspapers a notice about a missing person, with the person's photograph and some details.

Whether the person was eventually found or not, we cannot be certain because very often there are no follow-up reports on the case in the newspapers.

What is certain is that when a loved one is missing, the anxiety is painful and the search is relentless.

Such was the depth of the emotion expressed in the 1st reading in the search for the one whom the heart loves deeply.

It may also express the pain and grief of Mary Magdalene as she looked for the One she loved in the tomb.

And not finding Jesus in tomb, Mary Magdalene searched relentlessly and persistently for Him.

Mary's deep love for Jesus was because it was He who loved her first and healed her of her sufferings and sins.

In life, Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. Even in death she searched for Him in order just to be with Him.

Mary Magdalene is remembered because of her deep love for Jesus and her relentless and persistent search for Jesus when others seemed to have given up.

From our priorities and what we are searching and longing for, we will know how deep our love is for Jesus.

There is this saying for St. Augustine in his book "Confessions" : You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there I searched for you.

God is within us. From within He calls out to us. If we are not listening to Him from within, then we might just be looking for the wrong things.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 21-07-10

Jeremiah 1 : 1, 4-10 / Matthew 13 : 1-9

There is one profound saying when it comes to the art of imparting knowledge and it goes like this.

"Tell me and I might forget. Show me and I might remember. Let me do it and I will understand".

Just to tell you that Jesus is the sower and His word is the seed and our hearts is the soil, we might just forget about it as other things come into our minds.

But if we were to remember anything about the gospel at all, we could see that Jesus painted with His words.

He gave us an image of a sower who went out to sow seeds.

We will then understand the parable when we start to reflect and remember those times when we tried to correct others, or advise others, or counsel others, with varying and different results.

We ourselves have responded to God's word with varying and different results.

What we need is not more doing but rather to start listening.

When we listen to God's Word, then we will try to understand.

When we understand, then we will speak and like Jesus we will also paint with our words.

Because to understand is to have ears that will listen and to have eyes to see the love that God is painting in our hearts.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 20-07-10

Micah 7 : 14-15, 18-20 / Matthew 12 : 46-50

If you have a family member who is a priest or a religious, you would be proud of him or her.

I say this because I know that my parents are happy and thankful to God for calling me to be a priest.

If you were to ask me: Are my parents important to me?

I will say "Yes". Whenever I have the time, I would go home to spend some time with them.

But they are important to me not just because of the emotional and affectionate ties.

They are important to me, because like me, they had to struggle in letting me answer God's call.

And they are important to me because they still have to make sacrifices when it comes to my duties as a priest.

But most importantly, they continue to pray for me that I be steadfast in my priesthood.

Today's gospel has a deep personal meaning for you and me.

The question for us to reflect is this - Can we say with conviction that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

If we can truly say that, then be prepared to fulfill God's will above all else in our lives.

Monday, July 19, 2010

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 19-07-10

Micah 6 : 1-4, 6-8 / Matthew 12 : 38-42

Whenever we look at a religion, we look at its spiritual founder and what he taught.

But more importantly than the teachings are the fruits of the religion.

What effects does that religion have on people?

Similarly whenever we look at Christianity, we too have to ask: What effects does Christianity have on people, especially on Christians?

Well, Jesus was asked to give a sign so as to prove Himself.

He did not. Rather He highlighted a sign that the Pharisees obviously missed.

And that was the effects of His teachings on the people.

Whenever He taught, the people saw the need for repentance and changed their lives.

Religion is not just about worshipping and offering sacrifices.

It is about how our lives are changed and what God is asking of us.

The 1st reading puts it very profoundly and very practically about what God is asking of us.

That is to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.

That is also the sign we need to give, the fruit we need to bear, so that others can believe in the God we believe in.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 17-07-10

Micah 2 :1-5 / Matthew 12 : 14-21

The late Archbishop Fulton Sheen was an articulate and eloquent speaker and preacher.

In fact, he was one of the pioneers of media evangelization.

But when he was in college, a debate coach told him that he was the worst speaker he had ever heard.

Well Fulton Sheen proved him wrong.

And so did others like Ernest Hemmingway and Thomas Edison who proved their critics wrong.

Yet there are also many others who were crushed and devastated by the criticisms against them.

And some don't recover from it.

Criticisms may not come with a sarcastic tone.

It may be just a jeer or a scorn, but it is as bad as a brawl and a shout.

In the gospel, we heard about the Pharisees criticizing and plotting against Jesus.

Yet, like how the prophet Isaiah prophesied: He will not brawl or shout; he will not break the crushed reed, not put out the smoldering wick till he has lead the truth to victory.

Let us turn to Jesus whenever we face criticisms or scorching remarks.

May the truth of His love lead us to rise about the criticisms and destructive judgments.

May we prove that the truth spoken with love is more powerful and creative than the harsh word that breaks and crushes people.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Priests Retreat 2010

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be having their annual retreat from Monday 12th July to Friday 16th July.

I will also be at this retreat and I am really looking forward to it for a time of silence and prayer.

As such, there will be no weekday homily postings until Saturday 17th July.

Requesting prayers for me and my brother priests that we will be renewed and re-focused so that we will continue to faithfully serve the Lord and His holy people.

Thank you. May God bless you!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 10-07-10

Isaiah 6 : 1-8 / Matthew 10 : 24-33

In these present times, we cannot deny that secularism is a powerful influence across all sectors of life.

But this is often balanced off by a quiet search for the meaning of life and existence in the quest for spirituality.

It cannot be denied that modern men and women are searching for the transcendent and they want an experience of God.

Even the Church has seen a renewed need for prayer and meditation as people search deeper for God.

Indeed, we all have this longing and thirsting for God.

And people do experience God in various situations and settings - at Mass, at prayer meetings, in retreats, at holy places.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah experienced the holiness of God in a vision.

At the same time, he also became aware of his sinfulness and unworthiness, but he was healed of it.

Yet, his experience of God also propelled him to a mission, and that was to proclaim the holiness of God to the people.

So an experience of God is not just for our sake but for the purpose of a mission.

That is essentially to proclaim the presence of God to a secularized world.

As Jesus said in the gospel, it is to declare and bear witness to Him in the presence of men.

May we not be afraid to let the love of God shine in us.

Friday, July 9, 2010

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 09-07-10

Hosea 14 : 2-10 / Matthew 10 : 16-23

The feeling of being forgiven is a beautiful feeling.

There can be many words to describe it but the feeling is always more than words.

It is a beautiful feeling because it is essentially an experience of God's love and mercy.

It is also an experience of being healed and being freed from sin.

It is like coming back to God and living in His presence in peace and safety.

The 1st reading proclaims that those who repent will be forgiven and they will be so blessed that they won't be content with just a nice and beautiful feeling.

In fact they will bloom like the lily, thrust out roots like the poplar, be beautiful like olives, grow corn that flourishes and cultivate choice vines.

These are images of growth and fruitfulness.

The experience of God's love and forgiveness should lead us to grow in love and bear fruits of works of mercy.

Forgiveness is more than just a nice and beautiful feeling.

It is an experience of God's love that makes us want to be loving and fruitful in mercy and forgiveness.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 08-07-10

Hosea 11 : 1-4, 8-9 / Matthew 10 : 7-15

Any parent whose son or daughter is overseas studying or working, would look forward or even long to hear from their children.

With the change in ways of communication, even parents would learn how to use email or skype or facebook or whatever just to keep in contact with their children.

But just as the parents would find ways and means to keep in contact, the children would be ones who are not that keen or interested, even though they are more versatile with the modern day communication means.

The sentiments that parents have for their children are expressed tenderly in the 1st reading.

What is more profound is that it was God who was speaking through the prophet Hosea.

And the 1st reading contains the intimate revelations of God in the Old Testament.

God is portrayed as a loving father.

It was He who took Israel into His arms and lifted Israel into His embrace, and taught Israel to walk.

But the more God loved Israel, the more Israel turned away and rejected God.

This ungratefulness and unfaithfulness would certainly provoke divine wrath, besides of course, human censure.

This is where God reveals Himself as merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in mercy.

To put it tersely, God is the Holy One who does not wish to destroy.

That is what Jesus sent for His disciples to proclaim.

That is also what we have to bear witness to.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 07-07-10

Hosea 10: 1-3, 7-8, 12 / Matthew 10 : 1-7

Basic common sense will tell us that for the most important jobs, we would pick the most qualified people to do it.

Or at least people with a certain level of intelligence and capabilities that will do justice to the task.

Strange that Jesus did not follow this principle.

For the proclamation of the kingdom, He chose 12 men.

Most, if not all of them, would be automatically written off from the board of directors or executives of any organization.

In doing so, this is what Jesus is telling us.

Even for the simplest of persons, God has a task and a mission for him.

God does not write off anyone.

But we can write ourselves off. This happens when we become too proud of ourselves and do not rely on God anymore.

We become like the Israel in the 1st reading.

We do not need high qualifications to do the most important things in life.

In fact we just need basic common sense to know what it is.

And it is there in the 1st reading when it says: Sow integrity for yourselves, reap a harvest of kindness. It is time to go seeking the Lord until He comes to rain salvation on you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 06-07-10

Hosea 8 : 4-7, 11-13 / Matthew 9 : 32-38

Just a general reading of the gospels can give us a sense that it was an exciting time when Jesus was around.

All that sounded very exciting and especially when Jesus summoned His disciples and gave them authority to heal diseases and drive out evil spirits.

Yes, all that sounds very exciting at that time.

Yet it is no less exciting now. Because we are the current day disciples.

The imagery that Jesus gives us is a crop that is ripe for harvest.

And that is the urgency. If there is no harvesting, then consequently the crop will be rotting.

And to think that there are people out there who will be rotting spiritually just because we are not answering the call to be disciples of Jesus is a sad and disturbing thought.

The call to discipleship is first and foremost to be labourers of the harvest, and that is going to be tough work.

Yes we pray for more vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

But we also need to pray for ourselves that we will be awakened by the call to be labourers of the Lord's harvest.

It's going to be a lot of tough work, but it is always exciting to be working for the boss who is none other than the Lord Himself.

Monday, July 5, 2010

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 05-07-10

Hosea 2 : 16-18, 21-22 / Matthew 9 : 18-26

One of the most difficult sins for us to forgive is that of betrayal.

More so in a marriage, when this betrayal takes the form of unfaithfulness, and specifically adultery, then it is even more difficult to forgive.

The prophet Hosea of the 1st reading suffered this experience of betrayal.

But he used this experience to show what God is like to His unfaithful people.

God is compassionate and forgiving, even when His people broke the covenant and worshiped idols.

Hosea showed that God is forgiving and He forgives so completely that punishment can be changed to restoration and even to a celebration of the renewal of the marriage covenant as we heard in the 1st reading.

God even says to the unfaithful Israel - I will betroth you to myself forever, betroth you with integrity and justice, with tenderness and love.

God has always loved us and He loves us with an everlasting love.

Even when we have sinned, God does not turn away from us but instead turns towards us with all His love.

We cannot remain unmoved by what we heard in the 1st reading.

Not to be moved by it means that we do not understand God's love for us.

Or, for the matter of fact, we don't understand what love is at all.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

St. Thomas, Apostle, feast, 03-07-10

Ephesians 2 : 19-22 / John 20 : 24-29

The attitude of St. Thomas in today's gospel gave rise to the term "Doubting Thomas".

That term, undoubtedly, has a negative connotation, and may not be very fair to St. Thomas.

Nonetheless, the disbelief of St. Thomas has done more for our faith than the belief of the other apostles.

We can surely relate with St. Thomas especially when he showed his human limitations about his faith.

We can surely relate with him especially in his asking for a sign, not just seeing the Risen Christ, but very realistically putting his finger and hand into the wounds.

St. Thomas did not take his faith in Jesus lightly. What he asked for was nothing short of a deep experience of the Risen Christ.

Finally his response to this God-experience was his profound proclamation - My Lord and my God.

We too should not take our faith for granted not take it too lightly.

God will show Himself to those who deeply desire to deepen their faith in Him.

As we pray for a deepening of our faith, let our prayer also be "My Lord and my God".

And blessed are we who have not seen, and yet believe.

Friday, July 2, 2010

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 02-07-10

Amos 8 : 4-6, 9-12 / Matthew 9 : 9-13

Any society can be generally divided into three classes - the upper class, the middle class and the lower class.

As much as the upper and middle classes have their importance, it is the lower class that forms the hands and feet of society.

Without the lower class and its contribution to society, then the economy and even the utility system will come to a standstill.

For example, when the menial workers go on strike, nobody else seem to be willing to clear the garbage or the other messy jobs.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Amos warned about trampling and cheating the poor and the lower class.

He warned that this not only destroyed the bond and fabric of society, it also stirs up God's anger.

Because God is fiercely protective of the poor, the lonely and the needy.

We may say that we do not do injustice to the poor or exploit the needy.

But how about our acts of omission towards the poor, the lonely or the needy.

Do we simply ignore them and think that their welfare is none of our concern?

Also, our self-righteous attitude may have proclaimed a silent judgment on others.

In the gospel, Jesus said that it is mercy that counts and not sacrifice.

That mercy is found in charity and helping the poor and the needy.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 01-07-10

Amos 7 : 10-17 / Matthew 9 : 1-8

It is difficult to understand what being paralyzed really is.

Yes, we have seen stroke-victims and wheel-chair bound persons, or even more severe cases of paralysis.

The paralytic in today's gospel was stretched out on a bed.

So it was like a complete physical stand-still, with no mobility and total reliance and dependence on others.

With the paralysis of the body might come the hardening of the heart.

One becomes bitter and angry with himself, with others and even with God.

Jesus looked beyond the physical condition of the paralytic to his spiritual condition.

He began the healing process with the forgiveness of sins.

As for ourselves, we may be physically able and mobile, but could we be spiritually paralyzed.

When we look at life with pessimism and anxiety and fear, could it be that we are spiritually paralyzed?

Just as in the 1st reading, Amaziah the priest of Bethel, was spiritually paralyzed and he would not want to hear anything from the prophet Amos.

When resentment and anger and bitterness begin to cripple our vision of life and cripple our relationship with others, then love and peace and joy will disappear from our lives.

Jesus came to free us from sin and to live life to the full.

But we must show Him our paralyzed hearts and let Him heal us with His mercy and love before we can get up and walk back to life.