Thursday, March 31, 2011

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 01-04-11

Hosea 14:2-10 / Mark 12:28-34    (2020)

When we read books like the "7 habits of highly-effective people" or "The joy of living" or other inspirational books, they give very interesting and very good pointers for life.

Yet, when we think about it carefully, the principles of life are actually very simple.

It is actually what Jesus said in today's gospel : Love God and love neighbour.

Sounds simple, but it may take a whole life-time to discover the truth of such a simple statement.

Because we tend to love things  and be self-centered.

Yet the season of Lent calls us back to the love of God.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Hosea not only called his people back to this love of God, he also proclaimed how much God loves His people even though they turned away from Him.

We may remember that hymn of Hosea - Come back to me with all your heart, don't let fear keep us apart. Long have I waited for your coming home to me and living deeply our new life.

The way of life is indeed simple: Love God and  neighbour. That is the way that Jesus is teaching us.

As the 1st reading ends off - For the ways of the Lord are straight, and virtuous men walk in them, but sinners stumble.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, 31-03-11

Jeremiah 7:23-28 / Luke 11:14-23

As we look at our world, we may get this depressing feeling of a fragmented and a divided world. We see this practically in every level and sector of our world and our society.

This fragmentation and division have also pervaded into families, communities, societies and nations.

In the 1st reading we heard about how the people of God became a fragmented and divided people.

But that was because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord their God, nor take correction and had become stubborn and behaved worse than their ancestors.

Even in the gospel, when the people saw evil being expelled by Jesus right before their eyes, their hearts were so hardened that they said it was the work of the devil.

Fragmentation, division and disunity are certainly the fruits of evil. And they are caused by hearts that are hardened and refuse to see and hear the voice of the Lord.

But it is the Spirit of God that will soften hearts with the love of God and bring about unity and harmony, peace and joy.

Yet we must listen to the words of Jesus in the gospel: He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

So, it is either we are for Jesus or against Jesus. There is no other option.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 30-03-11

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 / Matthew 5:1-19       (2020)

Not many of us remember the Japanese Occupation which was from 1942 to 1945. Those three years have changed the lives of those who survived it, and some of them are still around.

So we may not have gone through the Japanese Occupation but we have read about it and we may have heard of the eye-witness accounts of the atrocities committed during that time.

But we have also read of how that dark part of history was deleted from the Japanese history book or given another interpretation which justified the military cause.

So much so that the later generations do not know anything about the invasions and the war-crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Army and its commanders.

It may sound strange, and even disgusting, that this can happen at a national level.

But what happens at the national level is only an amplification of what happens at the personal level.

Because when it comes to laws and rules and regulations, we choose what we are comfortable with, and we quietly disregard what we dislike and what we disagree with.

Things like doing penance and practicing abstinence. Things like going for Confession before receiving Holy Communion at Mass if one has committed a grave sin.

If these simple and basic religious practices are not taught and observed and practised, then our spiritual discipline will become too lax and after a while we would have deleted so much of our faith that there will be nothing much to believe in.

Let us keep and practise the demands of our faith and teach it first to our children and to our children's children.

Then we will not forget why we believe in God and the purpose of our mission as Church.

Monday, March 28, 2011

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 29-03-11

Daniel 3:25, 34-43 / Matthew 18:21-35    (2020)

There is a prayer format that goes by acronym ACTS and it stands for Adoration, Contrition, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

That prayer format is interesting because it starts with adoration and supplication is at the end.

It is interesting because usually we would start with supplication, or petitions, first. We would launch our prayer first by asking for this and that.

It is not just a human tendency, but in a desperate time of need or in danger, we would be pleading with God for His help and deliverance.

In a desperate situation we would even demand that God save us immediately.

In the 1st reading, what Azariah prayed is indeed surprising. He and his companions
Hananiah and Mishael were thrown into cauldron of fiery furnace to be burnt alive.

But he did not immediately launch into a desperate cry of help. Instead he praised God for His mercy and admitted the sins of his people that resulted in such a dire state.

He continued by asking God to accept their contrite and humble hearts as an offering.

Of course if we were to read the story further, we will know that God eventually delivered the three young men from the fiery furnace unharmed.

Azariah's prayer may not have followed strictly the formats of ACTS but he placed his petitions last and he praised God first.

So when it comes to forgiving someone who has done wrong to us and hurt us badly, it is not important to ask about whether we should forgive or how many times we ought to forgive.

Let us begin by praising God for His love and mercy and admit that we have sinned against Him.

Then we will begin to understand what is meant as we pray "forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us".

Sunday, March 27, 2011

3rd Week of Lent, Monday, 28-03-11

2 Kings 5:1-15 / Luke 4:24-30      (2020)

Whenever we want to buy a product, we would certainly take a look at the brand name.

Brand names are a big business. In fact the brand name can be as important as the product itself, maybe even more important than the product.

In religious circles, if you carry the title of prophet, then you are indeed a religious brand name.

Yet Jesus said in the gospel that no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

Certainly He was referring to Himself as well as the line of prophets before Him who suffered rejection and persecution.

Maybe because a true prophet does not carry a brand name.

But as it is, a product without a brand name is usually written off.

Yet the prophetic word was often spoken by unlikely and even nameless people like the Israelite slave girl in the 1st reading.

It was through her that Namaan the Syrian army commander set off looking for a cure in Israel.

These days we hear of news about disasters and catastrophes happening here and there, and political unrest and wars almost everywhere, besides the usual economic woes.

Alongside such news are commentators, analysts, strategists, experts, all giving their 2 cents worth of comments.

But where is the prophetic voice? If only we could hear the voices of those suffering from the troubles of the world.

It is a voice that begs for peace and reconciliation. It is a voice that begs for the presence of God in our troubled world.

It is in listening to that prophetic voice that we will begin to realize our prophetic mission.

Friday, March 25, 2011

2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, 26-03-11

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

It is not too presumptuous to say that every family has a black sheep.

It is not necessarily one of the children. It can be anyone in the family.

And it is not just limited to the family. There are black sheep in the parish community, in the company, in society and in the country.

We can call the second son in today's gospel parable a "black sheep". After all, for what he had done to his father, he certainly deserved that infamous title.

Yet how the father in the gospel parable treated the second son is certainly a far cry from how we would treat the "black sheep" in our family, company and society .

Yet, are we not also going to admit that we are "black sheep" in the eyes of God?

And how will God treat us? The prophet Micah puts it beautifully in the 1st reading.

With a shepherd's crook O Lord, You lead your people to pasture, taking fault away, pardoning crime, not cherishing anger but delighting in showing mercy.

The season of Lent is a time to come to our senses and to admit our sinfulness and seek reconciliation with God.

And God, like the father in the gospel parable, will say: This son of mine was dead and has come back to life; he was lost and is found.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Annunciation, 25-03-11

Isaiah 7:10-14; 8:10 / Hebrews 10:4-10 / Luke 1:26-38

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 nuclear radiation there and all sorts of dangers and crises everywhere, over and above our own troubles and worries.

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 23, 2011

2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, 24-03-11

Jeremiah 17:5-10 / Luke 16:19-31

As much as we know that wickedness and evil will certainly lead to a dreaded end, yet at times we wonder why wicked people and those who commit evil are not punished immediately.

If punishment is swift and sharp for those who commit evil and wicked deeds, then it would certainly be a deterrent against others who are thinking of doing likewise.

But such is not usually the case, and as such we might even be tempted to join in the wicked deeds although we may not be that bad as to commit evil deeds.

Wicked deeds like plotting and taking advantage of good and generous people.

Wicked deeds like slandering others and creating discord among others.

But by doing so, what are we saying about ourselves? What are we trusting in?

The 1st reading tells us that a curse be on the man who puts his trust in man, but a blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord.

The responsorial psalm tells us why. The man who puts his trust in the Lord is like a tree planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade, and all that he does shall prosper.

Indeed, our faith in the Lord should open our eyes to the plight of the poor and those in need around us, whether financially or emotionally and to the Lazaruses that we see around us.

Let us put our trust in the Lord's blessings and walk in His ways, for He will give each man what his conduct and action deserves.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 23-03-11

Jeremiah 18:18-20 / Matthew 20:17-28

Whenever we think about the Old Testament prophets, we may have this image of a fearless preacher of the Word of God, a rough-cut person dressed in animal skin and leading an ascetic life, much like John the Baptist.

Yet in the 1st reading, we see the very human side of the prophet Jeremiah as he faced his trials and tribulations of being a prophet of God.

Jeremiah was a gentle and peaceful person, but he found himself in trouble for his prophetic words.

Quite unable to handle the persecution, he laments to God.

In all this, we see the very human side of the prophet Jeremiah.

In the gospel, we also saw the very human side of the apostles.

Jesus told them about his impending suffering and death.

And yet, they seem to have other things in mind, other worldly things.

Our human side also succumb to the distractions of the worldly and we too forget about what Jesus came for.

One of the prayer forms for the season of Lent is to take the crucifix and to just hold it in our hands during prayer.

The cross will remind us of why Jesus came and what our hearts should be focused upon.

May the cross of Christ also protect us from evil and give us strength in our trials.

Monday, March 21, 2011

2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 22-03-11

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

The story of the two cities of Sodom and Gomorrah can be found in the book of Genesis 19.

These two cities were eventually destroyed by fire and brimstone because of their unrepentant sinfulness and evil deeds.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah used the symbolic names of these two cities to warn his people of the anger and the judgment of God that will come upon them if they don't repent.

Even God Himself seemed to be pleading through the prophet Isaiah with these words:

Come now, let's talk this over. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.

We may not be committing the kind of atrocious sins of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Yet it does not mean that the lesser or venial sins are acceptable in the eyes of God.

The human tendency to crave for recognition and status is what Jesus pointed out in the gospel.

Jesus also pointed out that we have this tendency to be self-righteous and even impose our religious beliefs onto the weaker ones when they don't share our views of religious practices.

These may not seem to be major sins but they reveal to us our understanding of our Master.

Jesus our Master came to serve and not to be served.

May we follow our Master and be servants to each other in love and humility.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2nd Week of Lent, Monday, 21-03-11

Daniel 9:4-10 / Luke 6:36-38

I am sure we know what the golden rule of life is. It is essentially this - Do unto others what we want others to do unto us.

We can find the expression of this rule in almost every religion.

Jesus also taught this golden rule of life.(Mat 7:12 ; Lk 6:31) In the gospel he teaches us not to judge or condemn. Yet Jesus also taught much more and deeper.

When He talked about compassion, it is not so much that we hope that we will receive compassion in return.

Rather we are to be compassionate because God is compassionate and in creating us He has already filled us with His compassion. It is a compassion that is without limit.

In the 1st reading, the prophet confessed that the people acted wickedly and broke God's commandments and turned away from God.

That is simply because they forgot that God is compassionate and that they were already filled with His compassion. Hence they committed wicked deeds.

The Lenten discipline of prayer and fasting and alms-giving helps us to control the aggressiveness of our human reactions to people who cut into our path.

At the same time, the Lenten discipline also helps us to bring out the compassion for others, to understand them without conditions and to see things from their point of view without judging  them.

Let us open our hearts for God to continue pouring forth His compassion, a compassion of full measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over into the hearts of others.

Friday, March 18, 2011

St. Joseph, Husband of the BVM, 19-03-11

2 Sam 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Luke 2:41-51

Needless to say, whenever the topic of family life is discussed, one of the common problems is about the challenges that parents faced in bringing up their children.

Very often two models are offered for parents in the way they bring up their children.

One model for mothers is Mary, who can easily be related with and there is also a strong devotion to her.

The model often offered to fathers is St. Joseph. Yet there is so little information about him in the scriptures, much less about how he brought up Jesus.

Furthermore we may even think that St. Joseph had it easy - his wife was sinless, and Jesus was the Son of God.

But what about this? He didn't know how his wife got pregnant before they were married. His kid left them for three days without telling them where he was.

Yet, no word and no speech of St. Joseph was recorded in the gospels.

But maybe his silence was his greatest asset and quality.

It portrayed him as a listening and understanding person.

He listened carefully to God, and although he might not have understood fully what God's will was for him, he faithfully obeyed and did as he was told.

St. Joseph is not just a model for fathers. He is a model of faith and love for us who want to do God's will and walk in the ways of the Lord.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

1st Week of Lent, Friday, 18-03-11

Ezekiel 18:21-28 / Matthew 5:20-28

Back in the year 1497, the famous painter Leonardo da Vinci finished the mural of the famous Last Supper.

A rumour surrounding the painting was that the same model was used for both Jesus and Judas.

The rumour was that an innocent-looking young man, a baker, posed as Jesus.

Some years later Leonardo discovered a hard-bitten criminal as the model for Judas, not realizing he was the same man.

But that was just the rumour and there is no evidence that Leonardo used the same model for both figures and the story also overestimates the time it took Leonardo to finish the mural.

Whether rumour or otherwise, the reality of life often shows us that when the good become bad, they become the worst of all.

That is also the what the 1st reading is saying.

The good people who have experienced love and goodness are committing a grave sin when they choose to do wrong. Because they sin against the love and goodness of God.

It is also so drastic that all their earlier good deeds are wiped away.

It sounds shocking and "unjust" as the people would complain. But that is the serious consequence of sin isn't it?

Good people should know what evil is, and they should know how disastrous the consequence of sin is.

It can even distort the physical appearance of a person, as the rumour of the painting of the Last Supper goes.

It is also a contradiction when we come before the altar of the Lord with sin in our hearts.

Jesus tells us in the gospel to be reconciled with God and with our neighbour first, if we really know what we are offering.

Let not sin be hardened in our hearts but let love and forgiveness be shown in our faces.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

1st Week of Lent, Thursday, 17-03-11

Esther  4:10-12,17-19 / Matthew 7:7-12

It is really intriguing how we can often evade the truth and the reality.

For eg. we may have heard of cases about other people, or even of ourselves, of how we manage to side-step the reality of the situation.

We may have a peculiar physical pain and yet we try to self-medicate and to numb it, only to be afflicted later with a serious illness.

We may laugh at the ostrich for burying its head in the sand to avoid facing the reality and the truth.

But are we not often like that? We don't want to look, hear or know.

In the 1st reading, Queen Esther could have just ignored the impending annihilation of her people and just cared about her own survival.

But she knew that to do such a treacherous deed would be to deny her faith and reject any possibility of God's intervention.

Also, to do that would bring about disastrous consequences for her.

In the gospel, Jesus challenges us to question and to search for the meaning of our lives, as well as to examine our lives.

To have no questions about our lives and about our faith may mean that we might be like an ostrich who does not want to see the reality and the truth of our lives.

Yet God will always be asking us about our lives. He will be searching for us when we are lost. He will be knocking on the door of our hearts waiting for us to open to Him.

Let us pull our heads and our hearts out of the sand and look at God and hear His voice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

1st Week of Lent, Wednesday, 16-03-11

Jonah 3:1-10 / Luke 11:29-32

I am sure we have heard this phrase before : How many times must I tell you?

Our parents use it, our teachers use it, our superiors and bosses use it.

We ourselves use it too on our children, on our subordinates, and on those whom we have some form of authority over.

It seems that we are a little hard on hearing, especially when it comes to hearing the things that we don't like to do.

But in the 1st reading when God sent Jonah to preach repentance and conversion to the Ninevites, they didn't have to be told twice.

Yet it was quite a contrast to those people that Jesus was preaching to; in fact they even asked Him for signs to prove Himself.

Even in our time, the message of repentance and conversion does not sink in quickly.

We all know of the impending ecological disasters from the waste of energy, the destruction of the forests, pollution of the environment and global warming.

We all know of the health hazards of eating too much and exercising too little.

We all know of the sociological problems of rising divorce and family breakups.

All this points to a spiritual crisis, a crisis that can only be resolved when we heed the call to repentance and conversion.

We don't need any more signs, we don't need to be told again and again.

As we journey on into Lent, let repentance and conversion begin with ourselves.

That is the sign that the Church needs, that is the sign that the world needs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

1st Week of Lent, Tuesday, 15-03-11

Isaiah 55:10-11 / Matthew 6:7-15

There was a little rhyme that I had learnt when I was in school but it was certainly not a nursery rhyme.

It goes like this: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

Quite true on the superficial level, but not true at all in the deeper level.

Words can never hurt us physically, but words can hurt us internally and emotionally.

It can even cause psychological and spiritual hurt.

Words can start quarrels, damage self-worth, destroy reputations, cause sleepless nights.

Yet on the other hand, words can also heal, inspire dreams and bring hope, sooth pain and suffering and give birth to love.

Hence words may come about freely but we have to use them under scrutiny.

The letter of James (James 1:26) warned that the man who thinks he is serving God, but has not learnt to control his tongue is deceiving himself.

The 1st reading tells us that God's Word would not return to Him empty without carrying out His will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

That Word we heard in today's gospel, and that Word is about love and forgiveness.

The Lord's prayer is our love expression to God. Yet to love God means that we also must forgive others their failings.

If we don't forgive others their failings, we can never speak words of love, words that heal.

But when we forgive others and cleanse our hearts, then out of the fullness of our heart, we will speak words of love.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

1st Week of Lent, Monday, 14-03-11

Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 / Matthew 25:31-46     (2020)

The word "holy" in Hebrew, has the root meaning of "to separate".

In religious usage, the word "holy" denotes divinity.

It was used strictly for the divinity of God to emphasize the unbridgeable difference between God and His creatures.

Yet in the 1st reading, it was God Himself who told His people: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God am holy.

In effect, God is telling us to be like Him, and rightly so, because we are made to be like Him because we belong to Him.

Hence to be holy is not about being pioustic or just being spiritual, but it also has moral obligations.

In the gospel, Jesus states this moral obligation of holiness in very basic terms and in very practical deeds.

Deeds like sharing our food and drink and helping those in need.

Deeds like making strangers feel welcomed and respecting the dignity of others.

Deeds like caring for the sick and lonely.

God became man in Jesus Christ to show us the real meaning of holiness.

To be holy can be as basic and as practical as doing small acts with great love.

In Jesus, the holy became human, so that we humans can become holy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Saturday after Ash Wednesday, 12-03-11

Isaiah 58:9-14 / Luke 5:27-32

The season of Lent has a penitential orientation for us.

It constantly reminds us of the need for repentance and conversion.

Of course that means that we are going to be reminded of our sinfulness.

Sinfulness might seem to be an abstract subject for reflection and self-examination.

But when we reflect on our inter-personal relationships, we would immediately come to see that there are areas in our relationships with others that we have crumbled.

The 1st reading mentioned two graphic images that we can easily identify with - the clenched fist and the wicked word.

Yet when we confess our sinfulness in our relationships with others as well as with God, then we shall become like a watered garden and a spring of water that will never run dry.

Indeed, during this season of Lent, Jesus wants us to know that He came to call sinners to repentance.

Sinfulness makes us sick in the spirit. Jesus is our Healer. Let us turn away from our sinfulness and follow Him as Levi did.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Friday after Ash Wednesday, 11-03-11

Isaiah 58:1-9 / Matthew 9:14-15

Fasting as a form of penance is often highlighted during the Lenten season.

On Ash Wed, we talking about fasting and doing penance.

Today's readings also talked about fasting.

But in the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah pointed out to the people that they abused and misused the religious meaning of fasting.

The people practised fasting but their lives did not reflect the act of doing penance.

In spite and despite their fasting, they cheated in their business dealings, they quarreled and squabbled and oppressed the poor and weak.

They forgot, or actually ignored, the fact that fasting is a sign of the longing for the coming of the kingdom of God into their lives.

Fasting is a sign of the hungering for justice and righteousness.

Fasting is a sign of repentance and conversion and the hungering for God's mercy and forgiveness.

Hence fasting is not just an act of penance. It is also a form of prayer that should have the effect of reforming and renewing our lives.

Through fasting, we want to empty ourselves so that God can fill us with His love and compassion and mercy.

In our hunger for sincere repentance, we can be assured of what the prophet Isaiah said at the end of the 1st reading.

Your integrity will go before you and the glory of the Lord behind you.
Cry, and the Lord will answer; call, and He will say "I am here".

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 10-03-11

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 / Luke 9:22-25

Shocking words are not what we usually like to hear because they disturb us.

But when the same shocking words are repeated over and over again, we become numb to it. It loses its "kick", so to speak.

So when we hear the words of Jesus in today's gospel, what is our response?

Are we raising our eyebrows and wondering if what He is saying is for real?

Yesterday we began the season of Lent with an emphasis on prayer, penance and almsgiving.

All this are not ends in themselves but are means to help us feel for others, to feel our "within" and more importantly to feel God in our lives.

All this is to help us respond to God's Word.

Like what Moses said to the people in the 1st reading: See, today I set before you life and prosperity, death and disaster.

The words of Jesus may not sound very consoling to us.

But those are the words that point us to the way of life and eventually to eternal life.

The way of life is the way of the cross.

To choose otherwise is to choose ruin and disaster.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ash Wednesday, 09-03-11

Joel 2 : 12-18 / 2 Cor 5:20 - 6:2 / Matthew 6 : 1-6, 16-18

Today, the whole Church, and especially those preparing for baptism at Easter, begin a very intense spiritual journey

It is a journey of repentance, a journey of renewal, a journey of conversion and a journey of healing.

Whatever form the journey may take, it is always a journey back into the heart of God.

In a way, it is a journey of acknowledgment.

We acknowledge that God is our Creator and that we are His creatures.

God created us in His image and likeness. Yet it was from the dust of the earth that He created us.

Today we acknowledge that we are created from dust and it will be unto dust that we shall return.

This is one of the reasons why we are signed with ashes on our foreheads on this day.

Yet being signed with ashes on our foreheads is also a sign of our repentance.

We also express our repentance and acknowledge our sinfulness through fasting, prayer and alms-giving.

Let us turn to the Lord now, for He is all tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in mercy.

Let us not delay, let us not procrastinate. Because now is the favourable time; now is the time of grace.

Today the God of our salvation is knocking on the door of our hearts. Let us open our hearts to Him and be filled with His grace.

Monday, March 7, 2011

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 08-03-11

Tobit 2:9-14 / Mark 12:13-17

Distress and turmoil have no respect for anyone, not even people of faith.

Especially for those who have a firm belief in God, their faith will be tested in the distress and turmoils of life.

In the 1st reading, we heard about how Tobit, a man of deep faith, had his share of distress and tribulations in life.

He became blind by a freak accident and he had to depend on generosity of others.

Also when he wrongly accused his wife of stealing a lamb, Anna, his wife also retaliated by scorning his faith and good works.

Such are the trials and turmoils that all will have to go through, and that includes people of faith and who believe and trust in God.

Even for Jesus who came to love people and do good, the chief priests and scribes and elders sent the Pharisees to question Jesus about paying taxes, with the intention to catch Him on something that He says.

Jesus could have felt disgusted by all that scheming and plotting but He turned it into an opportunity to teach the people and it also left His questioners baffled.

So in the face of distress and turmoil, we need to ask ourselves: What can ever separate us from the love of God? (Romans 8:35)

If God is for us who can be against us? (Romans 8:31) Or what can ever be against us? Distress? Turmoils?

We belong to God. Let us keep faith in Him and fight the good fight of faith.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 07-03-11

Tobit 1:3; 2:1-8 / Mark 12:1-12

If someone were to ask us to state our firmest beliefs, what statement(s) of faith would we make?

Will one of our statements be this : I believe in God who loves me more than I can ever imagine and who will never desert me or leave me alone.

The character in the 1st reading, Tobit, may have made such a statement when times were calm and peaceful.

But when he and his people were deported to Assyria to become slaves and with no possible hope of ever returning to his homeland, did he waver from his belief in God?

As much as most of the Jews in Assyria abandoned their faith, Tobit kept his faith in God as shown by his act of faith and charity in burying the dead as we heard in the 1st reading.

So faith is not to be taken for granted or kept only when times are good and the sailing is smooth.

When faith is put to the test, then that's when we show our love for God.

In the gospel, we heard a parable of ungratefulness and greed.

It 's a classical case of asking for God's providence and yet when it comes to giving it back in deeds of love, our selfishness and ungratefulness springs up and we fail in our love for God.

Let us reflect on our statements of faith. May we say what we mean, and mean what we say.

Friday, March 4, 2011

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 05-03-11

Ecclesiasticus 51:17-27 / Mark 11:27-33

Whenever a country goes to the polls, there will certainly be a lot of excitement.

National and domestic issues will be discussed and debated by the politicians and political parties will proclaim that they are the most suitable to govern the country.

But the day of the elections is also the day of reckoning.

Because in the end it is the people and the citizens who will have to decide who they want to govern their country.

So as much as there are many levels of power and authority, yet the power and authority of the people can be overlooked or underestimated.

The people recognized the authority of Jesus even though it was not officially conferred onto Him.

On the other hand those who were conferred with authority questioned the authority of Jesus.

Was it a question of insecurity? Was it a question of jealousy? Was it a question of protocol and official sanctioning?

Whatever it might be, those in authority need to pray for divine wisdom.

Whatever level of authority which we might be in, we certainly need God's wisdom to exercise it.

To quote from the 1st reading - In my prayers I asked outright for wisdom.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 04-03-11

Ecclesiasticus 44:1, 9-13 / Mark 11:11-26

As we take a moment to reflect on our very existence now, we may come to this realization.

At this very point in time, we are the descendants of the human race.

Regardless of what race we belong to, we are the current descendants of the human race.

And from the faith perspective, we are also the descendants of the Church that has survived more than 2000 years.

We are now the bearers of the faith that our ancestors of the faith have passed down to us.

If our faith does not bear fruit that will last, then we will disappear as if we had not been.

Hence we must continue to stand by the covenant of love and forgiveness, just as our ancestors of the faith have stood by that covenant and passed it down to us.

We are for the human race, a witness of God's covenant of love and forgiveness.

That is the fruit we must bear. That is the faith we must live out and pass on to the next generation.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 03-03-11

Ecclesiasticus 42:15-25 / Mark 10:46-52

We are often told to look where we are going.

That is certainly necessarily if we want to stay clear of accidents and mishaps.

Yet we generally just look at one or two steps ahead.

We don't usually look around us to see where we are or what is happening around us.

In a sense we have a myopic, tunneled vision in that we are only interested in what is just before us.

Yet the 1st reading tells us to look up, to gaze at what is around us in wonder and awe.

Not just to look at, but also to listen to, the wonders and the magnificence of God's works.

In the gospel, the blind man Bartimaeus had his sight restored.

He was able to see again but his sight enabled him to gaze on Jesus, his healer and saviour.

We too can see, but let us also ask the Lord to help us gaze deeper into the mystery of His wonderful love for us, especially in the Eucharist.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 02-03-11

Ecclesiasticus 36:1, 4-5, 10-17 / Mark 10:32-45

Master sculptors would usually decide on the object of their work and then choose a suitable block of marble to work on it.

Or they may look at a block of marble and decide what to carve out of it.

Well some master sculptors were looking at a block of marble but they rejected it saying it was "flawed" and hence they can't make anything out if it.

But a master sculptor took it and when others asked him why, he simply replied: I am going to release a beauty from within.

And indeed he did. The master sculptor Michelangelo carved out from that "flawed" block of marble the masterpiece called "David".

The gospel passage tells us how flawed the disciples were.

Some were in a daze (whatever that meant!), others were apprehensive, others like James and John were thinking about honour and status.

Any sensible leader would have put aside these flawed men.

Yet Jesus took them and eventually carved them out to be the foundations upon which He built His Church.

So, unworthy as we are, Jesus still invites us to drink from His cup.

Flawed as we are, Jesus will carve a saint out of the sinner in us.

Let us look beyond our flaws, let us look beyond the flaws of others, and let us let the Lord shape and carve us to be His servants, who like Him, came to serve and not to be served.