Wednesday, August 31, 2011

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 01-09-11

Colossians 1:9-14 / Luke 5:1-11

Among the apostles whom Jesus chose, the one whom we know about the most, and hence, the one whom we talk about often, is St. Peter.

Besides being known as the first pope, there are other characteristics about him that make us wonder why Jesus gave him the keys to the kingdom of heaven.

As we know it, St. Peter denied Jesus, not just once but three times; he slept during prayer, he was impulsive and he shoots his mouth off.

Yet we cannot deny that there was a child-like sincerity about St. Peter.

In today's gospel, we see that sincerity along with his simplicity and humility.

St. Peter was humble enough to take instructions from Jesus even though he himself should know better.

And when he saw the truth in Jesus he was humble and sincere about acknowledging his unworthiness and sinfulness.

Maybe that was what Jesus saw in St. Peter - his capacity for sincerity and humility.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul told the Colossians that a perfect wisdom and spiritual understanding are the keys of knowing the will of God.

More importantly, we must know what God has done for us: He has taken us out of the power of darkness and created a place for us in His kingdom, and in Jesus we gain our freedom and the forgiveness of our sins.

When we truly understand that, then we, like St. Peter, will be sincere and humble enough to follow the will of God and to go out even if it's into the deep water.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 31-08-11

Colossians 1:1-8 / Luke 4:38-44

Movies like Karate Kid, Kung Fu Panda and other martial arts movies in which a novice learns martial arts, there is always this underlying important lesson or principle that is always emphasized.

It is expressed in different ways like: be focused; have only one mind; do not be distracted.

These are simple lessons and principles that are necessary for any great achievement, but they are not that easy to adhere to, simply because we lose focus and get distracted.

Jesus had many people looking for Him; He was in great demand, He was popular and famous; He was needed.

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

That was why in the gospel we heard Him say: I must proclaim the Good News to other towns because that was what I am sent to do.

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

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

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

More importantly, let us keep our eyes on Jesus alone, because He will show us what our lives are all about and what we need to do.

Monday, August 29, 2011

22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-08-11

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11 / Luke 4:31-37

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

Generally that game is called "Name the tune" and the contestants try to guess the title of the song with just a few notes being played.

Of course that means that one has to be very familiar with songs in order to give the title of the song with just those few notes.

When Jesus spoke, His words carried power and authority. And it was the evil spirits that immediately recognized that it was the voice of the Holy One of God and were repulsed by it.

But we, the people of God, should be "impulsed" by the voice of God - we should immediately respond to it.

But if like what St. Paul said in the 1st reading, that we are living in the dark and are spiritually dead, then the words of Jesus would not find a response in us.

We would know if the words of Jesus will resonate in us when we are able to sense the promptings that God is giving us.

In the loud and noisy world, Jesus is playing for us a soft and gentle tune and that would awaken a response in us.

So everyday let us have a quiet time with the Lord so that in the noisy world we would still be able to feel and listen to the soft gentle promptings of Jesus.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Passion of St. John the Baptist, Monday, 29-08-11

Jeremiah 1:17-19 / Mark 6:17-29      (2019)

We might wonder how Jesus would have felt when he heard about the death of his cousin, John the Baptist.

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

Both knew they had a mission.

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

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

For Jesus, it was drawn at the cross.

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

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

To stand on God's side, then there will be lines drawn right across our faith, our love, our hope, our security, our future, which will result in sorrow and pain, and maybe even some scars and wounds.

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

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

May we, like St. John the Baptist, put our lives in the hands of God, and bear witness to truth and love.

Friday, August 26, 2011

21st Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-08-11

1 Thessalonians 4:9-11 / Matthew 25:14-30

Life is often given many analogies, and one of which is that of the waters of a river.

Life is said to be like the waters of a river. The waters are always flowing, and in one direction.

There are some certainties in that it is always flowing in one direction and it flows from a source to the sea.

Yet there are also some differences. It is said that you don't step into the same river twice, even though it may be at the exact same spot.

Because some things have changed - the waters are not the same, the river bed has changed, the surroundings have changed.

Similarly life has some certainties, yet life is always changing. We are the same person as yesterday and yet in some ways we have changed.

The gospel parable talks about duty and responsibility. Yet there is also this aspect of the necessity of change.

With whatever duty and responsibility we are given, we must also want to grow with that duty and responsibility and change into a better person.

That is what life is all about also. Life with its certainties of duties and responsibilities and accountability also has that dynamic change that helps us understand life and live it more meaningfully.

Not to accept any of these is to bury our life in the ground and that will be like a living death.

The God we believe in is the God of the living, not the God of the dead.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

21st Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-08-11

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 / Matthew  25:1-13

By and large, our lives are filled with hectic schedules and we are busy most of the time.

But no matter how busy we might be, there comes a quiet moment now and then, and the question about life pops up.

It may be while having a conversation with someone, or maybe just looking at the sunset or admiring a painting. The question just pops and flashes before us.

We begin to ask ourselves: So what is my life all about? What is the meaning of my life?

Such questions have prompted many people to embark on a spiritual journey in discovering who God is in their lives.

We too will have to answer those questions at one point in time.

In answering that question, St. Paul went straight to the point.

He told the Thessalonians that what God wants for them is to be holy.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul specifically pointed out sexual morality as an expression of holiness.

We need to ask ourselves how are we to express holiness concretely in our lives.

Maybe we should heed the call of today's gospel to be alert - to be alert and watchful of complacency and carelessness in our spiritual life and in our relationship with God.

All of us are called to be holy. To be any lesser is to take God for granted.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

21st Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 25-08-11

1 Thessalonians 3:7-13 / Matthew 24:42-51

There is this story about how three devils discussed about how to tempt people to sin.

The first said: I will tell them that there is no God, so sin all you want and have all the pleasures of life.

The second said : I will tell them that there is no hell, so sin all you want and enjoy all the pleasures of life.

The third said: I will tell them not to be in a hurry, that they still have lots of time left on earth, so they can still sin and have what they want, and they will fall for it.

So will we fall for the third temptation? Will we think that we still have lots of time ahead and there is no urgency to repentance?

We will know we are falling for it by our attitudes, e.g. complacency, procrastination, laziness.

We will know we are falling for it by our lukewarmness towards prayer and going for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We will know we are falling for it when we keep saying "Later on when I am free ..." when it comes to spiritual nourishment and formation.

Sin, like weeds, don't grow overnight. They creep in slowly.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul affirmed the Thessalonians for keeping their new found faith and he was relieved that they were still holding firm in the Lord, even though there was no urgency or crisis.

In the gospel, Jesus warned His disciples to stay awake, to be alert, to be aware of any slacking or back-sliding.

Because if in our faith and in our relationship with God, we do not feel the sense of urgency, that need for be alert and stand ready and be on the watch, then it may mean that we are falling into the devil's tactics.

As it is said, the man who thinks that he is safe must be careful not to fall (1 Cor 10:12).

Monday, August 22, 2011

21st Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-08-11

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 / Matthew 23:23-26

To be endowed with some kind of spiritual gift can indeed make a person very popular and famous.

They will be sought after, and they can also command a certain degree of influence and authority.

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

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

But he emphasized that it was a duty and a responsibility.

He was also aware of the possibility of abuse in the work of preaching.

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

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

Not all of us are gifted with preaching but we can't deny that each of us are endowed with a particular gift or talent.

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

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

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

So what we are is God's gift to us; what we make of ourselves is our gift to God.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Queenship of the BVM, Monday, 22-08-11

Isaiah 9:1-6 / Lk 1:26-38

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

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

In short, it could be said that God assumed Mary into heaven to share the victory of Christ and to reign with Him in glory as Queen of Heaven.

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

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

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

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

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

We are not just the Chosen and royal people of God. We are also the Chosen and royal servants of Christ the King.

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, 20-08-11

Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17 / Matthew 23:1-12

At times we may say that life is unfair and even unjust - the rich seems to get richer and the poor get poorer.

As such, what's the point in being kind and generous when all we get is being taken advantage of.

Yet we cannot deny that in the law of life, a good deed will beget another good deed and generosity will beget generosity.

We will get our affirmation along the way. Even if we don't get it in this life, God will give us our what we deserve in the life to come.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Boaz affirmed Ruth on her kindness and generosity towards her mother-in-law, especially in leaving her own people and her own land and following her mother-in-law to a foreign land.

Ruth was further rewarded when Boaz took her as his wife and she also became part of the genealogy of Jesus.

Yes life can be rewarding, and our kindness and generosity will be rewarded, be it in this life or in the next.

Yet our greatest joy and reward is to help others bear their burdens or even to free them from their burdens.

In fact, like Jesus said in the gospel, our greatest joy is to serve others and to be a servant for others.

That does sound strange and illogical, but the best thing we can do for others is to serve them with kindness and generosity so that they can see that life is also fair and just.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-08-11

Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22 / Matthew 22:34-40

It is unlikely that a person can come to know God and love God as an isolated individual.

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

And we would want to believe in what they believe in, so that we too can radiate the goodness they radiate.

In the 1st reading, it would certainly be alright for Ruth to return to her people just as it would be alright for Naomi to return to her people.

Yet Ruth chose to follow Naomi and go to a foreign land and be a stranger and a foreigner, although she was not obliged to.

A possible reason for her to do that was because she saw the goodness of her mother-in-law Naomi.

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

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

Yet in the reality of life, the conflicts in relationships abound, be it between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, father and son, husband and wife, parents and children, or superior and subordinates.

Yet the commandment of love demands a commitment and a conviction from us so that others will begin to love just as we choose to love.

Otherwise we will be living a very isolated and lonely life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 18-08-11

Judges 11:29-39 / Matthew 22:1-14

The character of Jephthah whom we heard in the 1st reading was an interesting and colourful character.

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

People couldn't take his crass n brash ways - they scorned him and rejected him.

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

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

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

What he promised the Lord, he did indeed fulfilled, even though he never thought or intended that his only child, his daughter would be the cost of the sacrifice.

Although his heart was broken over his daughter, he didn't bargain with the Lord over his promise.

This should make us reflect about our baptismal promises to the Lord, that we renounce all evil and be faithful to the Lord.

But more importantly we should remember what the Lord has promised us!

God promised that He would save us and He even invited us to the wedding banquet in heaven.

God fulfilled that promise by letting His only Son be sacrificed on the cross.

The least we could do is to humbly say this: O Lord, You have given me so much. In Your love and mercy, grant me one more thing - grant me a grateful and a thankful heart.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 17-08-11

Judges 9:6:-15 / Matthew 20:1-16

The word "responsibility" is an interesting word. It means the "condition of being responsible" or to put it in a simple way, the ability to be responsible.

In life, we have our responsibilities. Parents are responsible for their children. The boss is responsible for his workers.

But of course those kind of responsibilities come with the role.

But what if we are called to take on higher responsibilities in which we have a choice to accept or reject?

To take on those responsibilities would mean that we have to make sacrifices and forego some of our carefree attitudes and lifestyles.

In the 1st reading, the story that Jotham told the people has this word "forego" being repeated over and over again.

The point was that if those who are able to take on leadership roles and yet reject the call because they would have to forego their personal ambitions and dreams, then it would be left to those with ulterior motives to be leaders.

And that would spell disaster for all, and that's just because those who can take on responsibilities shirk from it.

It would be an even greater disaster if we shirk from our own duties and responsibilities.

As we think about it, our basic duty and responsibility to God is to give thanks and praise Him for giving us the ability to be faithful to Him.

In thanking and praising God, let us also be generous in our self-giving and service to others so that God will be glorified in all that we do.

Monday, August 15, 2011

20th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 16-08-11

Judges 6:11-24 / Matthew 19:23-30

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

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

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

It's like how Mary's "Magnificat" puts it: He casts the mighty from their thrones and He raises the lowly.

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

Yet God chose him to be the one to deliver Israel from the oppression of their enemies. It was also to show that the power is from God and not from man.

Indeed as Jesus would reiterate in the gospel - what is impossible for man is not impossible for God.

So when it comes to carrying out God's will or God's plan in our lives, the only obstacle is the limitation posed in our minds and in the minds of others.

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

But it's only when we know we are weak, then God will make us strong.

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

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Assumption, Monday, 15.08.2011

Rev 11:19a-12:1-6a, 10ab/ 1 Cor 15:20-26/ Luke 1:39-56

For someone whom we love deeply and we want to show our respect and honour, is there anything that we can do for that person?

Or is there anything that we can ever do to make that person remembered for as long as possible?

There are a few examples in history of people who try to keep the memory of a person.

One such example is the magnificent Taj Mahal. It was built in 1648 by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at child-birth.

It certainly was with great love and a great desire to remember and honour a person that such things are done.

Today we celebrate the occasion when God honoured His most beloved creature, Mary.

Mary was conceived without sin so that she in turn will conceive Jesus who is the sinless Son of God.

God assumed her into heaven, body and soul, so that the corruption of death will not touch her sinless body.

But the Assumption is not just about raising Mary’s sinless body into heaven.

Mary’s whole person was sinless; her whole being was sinless.

Yes, she was conceived without sin, yet she had the freedom of choice to remain sinless or not.

At the Annunciation, she clearly indicated that she was just a lowly handmaid of the Lord and that the will of the Lord was to be done in her.

In fact, we cannot talk about Jesus without saying something about Mary.

Yet whenever we talk about Mary, we are also saying something, and maybe everything about Jesus.

In the gospel, we heard Mary praising God for His mercy on those who fear Him, and that He exalts the lowly, the hungry He fills with good things, He comes to the help of His servants, mindful of His mercy.

These are the core teachings of Jesus and this is also what Mary lived out in her life.

Mary did the will of God in her life, and she glorified the Lord, and exalted the Lord God her Saviour.

And at the end of her earthly life, God glorified and exalted her with the Assumption.

Yet even from her place in heaven, Mary will not rest from the work of salvation until we, her children, are with her to glorify and praise the Lord.

In the gospel, we heard Elizabeth proclaiming Mary as the Mother of God.
On the cross, Jesus gave us Mary to be our mother.

And from the Church approved apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima, we know that Mary is still doing the will of God.

This time round, it is not to bring Jesus into the world but to bring us to heaven through the call to prayer, penance and repentance.

May we like Mary do the will of God in our lives.
May we be humble and trust in God’s ways of providence.
May we know that we need God’s help to face the troubles of this life.
May we also pray to Mary, so that in the world to come, we too will join her to praise and glorify the Lord God our Saviour.

Friday, August 12, 2011

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Saturday, 13-08-11

Joshua 24:14-29 / Matthew 19:13-15

It has been said that the church is not just a building made of stone walls.

The church is made of living stones, because we are the people of God, we are the Church.

The building is only a sign and a place for worship. Nonetheless the building is significant.

Because when the building is destroyed, the people lose their focus. Just like how the enemies destroy the Temple in Jerusalem when they overran the Israelites.

Also these stone walls bear silent witness to the life and the worship of the church community.

Even in the 1st reading, we heard how Joshua took a great stone and set it in the sanctuary of the Lord and said that this stone will be the witness to the covenant between the Lord and His people.

As we reflect deeper about this, we are also reminded that our home is not just a house with stone walls.

We, the family members, make it a home as well as a dwelling place for God, a mini sanctuary of the Lord.

The home is a house of blessings and a house of prayer. Hence we must teach our children to pray and also to bless them whenever they go off or when they come back.

Like what Jesus did in the gospel, we can just lay our hands on their heads or just make the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

Let us make our house a home of love and blessings. Otherwise it is just a house of stones.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, 12-08-11

Joshua 24:1-13 / Matthew 19:3-12

History is important in that it recalls past events that involved the lives of people.

Although history is about the past, it is nonetheless a factual reality and not some fiction or imagination.

History also reminds us of our origins, the way we were and how much we have progressed and developed.

In the 1st reading, the Israelites had just crossed into the Promised Land but God wanted them to look back at their past and their journey to the present.

The words of God are very profound: This is not the work of your sword or your bow. I gave you a land where you never toiled, you lived in towns you never built, you eat now from vineyards and olive groves you never planted.

Indeed, as the Israelites looked at their past, they can only give thanks for their present.

And so must we. And so must married couples too.

Married couples need to reflect on how God brought them together and how they fell in love and decided to commit themselves to a life-long commitment of love.

As Jesus taught us in the gospel, married couples are no longer two but one body, and what God has united, man must not divide.

Similarly with us. God has called us to be His Chosen people.

May we never cause division and separate ourselves from God.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 11-08-11

Joshua 3:7-10, 11, 13-17 / Matthew 18:21-19:1

There are two important moments in the biblical history of Israel.

One is the liberation from slavery in Egypt and the other is the entry into the Promised Land after 40 years of journeying in the desert.

These two important moments are marked with a very significant and miraculous phenomenon - a crossing over.

Liberated from slavery in Egypt, the Israelites faced the Red Sea but God parted it for them to cross over.

Before they could enter the Promised Land, the Israelites faced the river Jordan and again God parted it for them to cross over.

Indeed the crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the river Jordan is significant in that it showed that nothing was impossible for God in order to fulfill His plan for His people.

The crossing over also symbolizes a new life from the old, a freedom and liberation from slavery and bondage.

Jesus talked about forgiveness in the gospel. Forgiveness is like a crossing over - from slavery and bondage to freedom and liberation.

Yet forgiveness is not forced upon us. We have a choice to forgive and to be forgiven.

But it is not just another choice. It is an important choice because it will determine whether we want to remain in the slavery and bondage of sin or to cross over to liberation and freedom in God's love.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, Wednesday, 10-08-11

2 Cor 9:6-10 / John 12:24-26

St. Lawrence was a deacon of the Church of Rome when Pope Sixtus was martyred along with four other deacons during the year 258.

St. Lawrence, who was temporarily in charge of the administration, was told by the authorities that if he wanted to be spared, he was to surrender all the treasures of the Church in three days time.

So during the next three days, St. Lawrence went around gathering the poor and the needy who were supported by the Church.

Then he brought them before the authorities and he told them: These are the treasures of the Church.

Needless to say, he was taken away to be tortured to death. The account of the execution scene was morbid.

St. Lawrence was stripped and tied to a wire-mesh to be roasted over the fire.

One account has it that St. Laurence said to his torturers: You can turn me over, I am well done on this side.

But martyrdom is certainly no laughing matter, but yet even as the blood of the martyrs was poured out, the Church grew especially in those terrible times.

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

As the 1st reading puts it, St. Lawrence and the other martyrs sowed with their blood and their lives and they reaped the harvest of eternal life.

And as the gospel puts it, St. Lawrence gave up his life in witness to Jesus and by his death the Church reaped a rich harvest of faith.

The martyrdom of St. Lawrence reminds us that our lives are to be poured out for others so that they can grow in faith and love and be the treasures of the Church.

Hence, every sacrifice we make is like a dying to ourselves, and yet the harvest that will be reaped will make it all worth it.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Singapore National Day 2011, Tuesday, 09-08-11

Isaiah 63:7-9 / Colossians 3:12-17 / Luke 12:22-31

The theme for this year's National Day is "Majulah! The Singapore Spirit". "Majulah!" means "Onward!" so together it means Onward! The Singapore Spirit.

It is a rally call to us citizens to move forward together as a nation which is uniquely multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural.

Yes as we celebrate 46 years of independence, we are called to look forward to the future and to keep the Singapore Spirit burning strong so as to inspire the future generations to build a better home and a better Singapore.

As Catholic citizens, we too celebrate our country's independence and we also want to work towards to vision of the Singapore Spirit.

And taking a note from the Bishop's National Day message, we are also called upon to build a society where the dignity of the person is respected and upheld.

We, who are the Church in Singapore, are called to build a society where there is  compassion for the less fortunate, where families are united in love and respect, and that everyone is equal in dignity.

In other words, as we move forward with our nation, we are called up to manifest our faith and what we believe in.

As the gospel puts it, we have to set our hearts on the kingdom of God and the rest will be given unto us.

We must realize that with the future, the smallest things are outside our control and we have to trust and depend on God to lead us step by step along the way.

The future of our country is our concern and our responsibility. We have to pray for our country, the leaders as well as the citizens, that God will guide our leaders and bless our country with His love.

With faith and thanksgiving, let us rejoice and celebrate our country's independence.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

19th Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, 08-08-11

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 / Matthew 17:22-27

When we reflect deeper on the things that Jesus did, we may wonder why He did those things. And as the Son of God, He didn't really have to do it.

He didn't have to be born in a stable, and yet He did. He didn't have to work as a carpenter, and yet He did.

He didn't have to wash His disciples' feel, and yet He did. he didn't have to die on the cross and yet He did.

And as we heard in the gospel, He didn't have to pay that half-shekel, and yet He did.

In doing so, Jesus our Master has taught us a profound lesson in the Christian way of life.

He is the Son of God, He is Lord, He is Master, He is our Teacher.

Yet, He humbled Himself to do what He was exempted from.

In life, we may find ourselves laden with someone else's work, something we don't have to do and we won't even be faulted for it.

We can conveniently push it aside and not bother at all. After all, it is NOT our work and we won't be held responsible.

But let us remember the lesson of the half-shekel, and also remember what the 1st reading tells us about what God wants of us.

It's only this: to fear the Lord your God, to follow His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul.

When we do that, we will be rewarded with a full shekel of God's blessings.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Transfiguration, Saturday, 06-08-11

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 / 2 Peter 1:16-19 / Matthew 17:1-9

The word "new" is an attractive and exciting word.

When it is applied to things, e.g., new house, new office, new computer, it gives a feeling of a new beginning without the limitations of the old settings.

When it is applied to persons, e.g., new boss, new president, new priest, then it's going to be a process of discovering and adjusting to the new attitudes and styles of new person at the helm.

But as with time and tide, all things new will also become old, or familiar, or gotten used to, or just loose its shine and sparkle.

When Jesus began His ministry and called His disciples to follow Him, He was seen as an exciting and attractive "item" by His disciples and the people following Him.

But as time went by, His disciples also slowly got used to Him and He lost His "shine" for them.

But in the Transfiguration, Jesus showed His glory, but it was not meant to bring back the shine or the attention.

It was a profound moment of proclamation and revelation as Jesus reveals again to Peter, James and John His true identity.

Jesus did not lose His "shine"; rather it was the disciples who may have thought they knew everything about Jesus and was beginning to take Him for granted.

But for us, the Transfiguration is also a reminder of who we really are - we are the beloved children of God.

No one can ever take that "shine" from us. Yet we may just take ourselves for granted and lose that "shine" altogether.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Friday, 05-08-11

Deuteronomy 4:32-40 / Matthew 16:24-28

Whenever we hear the readings at Mass, we surely would wish that we would retain something in our hearts so that we can have some direction in life.

So is there anything inspiring or exciting in today's readings that we can remember and guide us in our lives?

Well, in the 1st reading, Moses exhorted his people to keep God's laws and commandments so that they may prosper and live long in the land that God has promised them.

So it may mean that as long as we keep God's laws and commandments, then we will always have enough, or more than enough money in the bank, we will not suffer from any grave illness and have a peaceful and enjoyable long life.

But in the gospel, Jesus tells us that if we want to be His disciples, then we will have to renounce ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him..

So is there a contradiction in the two readings that we have heard?

The crucial question is posed by Jesus: What will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his soul? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his soul?

Well, the truth that Jesus is teaching us is indeed the paradox of life.

For it is in letting go that we gain. In other words, let go and let God.

Yes, let God be the first and above all things and let go of ourselves and we will know what peace and joy and happiness is.

Truly, that will be the blessing and the treasure that we are longing for.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, 04-08-11

Numbers 20:1-13 / Matthew 1613-23      (2019)

Between hunger and thirst, it may be difficult to say which will affect us more adversely.

But in the desert, where life is becomes so thin and fragile, hunger and thirst are factors that will have to be seriously reckoned with.

In the 1st reading, the Israelites complained first of hunger. Then it is thirst.

And in the desert, thirst can have devastating effects. As it had on the Israelites. And also on Moses and Aaron.

In their disgust and resentment with the complaints of the rebellious Israelites, Moses taunted them before he struck the rock twice to make water flow from it.

Moses had reached the limit of his tolerance and patience and had only harsh and heated words for the people.

In the gospel, we also heard of some harsh words from Jesus to Peter.

But those harsh words of Jesus were not said in disgust or in resentment, but rather to emphasize His commitment to His saving mission, as well as a reminder to us that we should not be an obstacle to the ways of God.

Indeed the ways of God are mysteriously simple and humble, as in the case of the St. John Vianney.

As Patron Saint of Priests, his example in life is simply that of faithfulness to duty and humility in service.

As a confessor, he directed souls to God and did penance and mortification for them. He faithfully carried out his duty in love and service.

Nothing spectacular or dramatic but all done in simplicity and humility. Yet St. John Vianney is the Patron Saint and model for all priests.

Indeed man's ways are not God's ways. May St. John Vianney pray for us that we will understand the ways of God and walk in that way.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 03-08-11

Numbers 13:1-2, 25 - 14:1, 26-29, 34-35 / Matthew 15:21-28

Any ordinary person who is twenty years old would certainly have a bright future ahead of him.

At that age, the dreams of the opportunities and the possibilities, plus the vigour of youth, would certainly make life worth living.

But what if a twenty-year-old were told that he would be wandering around the the wilderness of the desert as a nomad and that eventually he will also die in the desert and be buried there.

In the 1st reading, we heard that because the Israelites did not have faith in God and even rejected and complained against God, and hence those who were twenty years old and above would die in the desert and not reach the Promised Land.

It would be so sad for the last man of that desert generation to see the Promised Land from afar and yet know that he will never set foot on it.

It was such a high price to pay for being rebellious and not having faith in God and in His promises.

Yet in the gospel, we hear of a very inspiring story of a Canaanite woman, a pagan, who came before Jesus pleading for a miracle in which she was not entitled to at all.

But it was her persistence and faith and trust in Jesus that her plea was granted.

We are God's Chosen people; we are the people of God's promises.

Let us have faith in God and in His promises.

Only then will we have hope for the future.

Monday, August 1, 2011

18th Week in Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 02-08-11

Numbers 12:1-13 / Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14 (Yr A)

Envy and jealousy are what we feel in our hearts whenever we feel inferior to another person.

As it is, envy and jealousy already contorts our actions and behaviour.

In the spoken form, it comes out as criticism and judgement.

In the 1st reading we heard how Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses in connection with the Cushite woman.

But the real reason was that they were envious and jealous of Moses and they used a trivial matter to express it.

So what they said merely expressed what was really biting away in their hearts.

Indeed, as what Jesus said in the gospel, what goes into the mouth does not make a man unclean.

Rather it is what comes out of the mouth that really shows the state of what is in the heart.

Hence in our examination of conscience, it is necessary to recollect and reflect the words we have spoken to others throughout the day.

By our own words we will know what is in our hearts.

May we offer our hearts to the Lord to be cleansed and healed so that our hearts will be where the Lord makes His home and that we will be speak only words of love.