Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1st Week of Lent, Thursday, 01-03-12

Esther 4:17 / Matthew 7:7-12

Mother Teresa was quoted with this saying - "Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."

In a word, all that points to loneliness. One can be in the midst of a crowd and yet feel lonely.

And the dark feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming when one is physically all alone.

And more so when in times of mortal danger as Esther felt in the 1st reading.

She pleaded with the Lord to come to her help, for she was alone and have no helper but the Lord God.

Not many of us have faced that kind of mortal danger as Esther had, and felt totally helpless about it as we see our life draining away with the danger.

But we all have at one time or another, felt the dreadful loneliness of being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, and forgotten by everybody.

In times like these, let us turn to the Lord as Esther did, for our help is in the Lord God alone.

As Jesus promised in gospel, the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.

We are never alone. The Lord our God is always with us. In Him alone is our refuge and our strength.

Monday, February 27, 2012

1st Week of Lent, Tuesday, 28-02-12

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

In the RCIA process towards baptism, the catechumens are presented with the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.

The Creed symbolizes the heart of the Church's faith and the Lord's prayer symbolizes the heart of the Church's prayer.

Indeed as it is stated, it is the Lord's prayer. Our Lord Jesus taught that prayer to His disciples.

At Mass, the priest would proceed with the Communion Rite with these words - "At the Saviour's command, and formed by divine teaching, we dare to say ... "

Yes, the prayer has divine origins and it also has divine purposes.

As the 1st reading puts it, the Word from the mouth of God does not return to Him empty, without carrying out and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

Hence when we pray the Lord's Prayer, it is not just an ordinary prayer; it is THE prayer taught by Jesus.

When we pray that prayer, then we must be aware of the divine purposes of God for us and we have to carry it out, and He will give us the grace to fulfill His will for us.

So when we pray the Lord's prayer, let us pray it reverently, let us pray it sincerely, and let us also be prepared to forgive others so that we too will be forgiven.

1st Week of Lent, Wednesday, 29-02-12

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

There are plenty of material about the predictions of the end of the world and doomsday prophecies.

So much so that we get numbed by it and we begin to see them as some kind of a dumb joke.

Yet whether we frown upon or make fun of it, there is an urgency about these doomsday prophecies.

Putting it simply, it tells us to be prepared and to get ready for impending judgement and punishment.

Well, in the 1st reading, if the people of Nineveh were to frown or make fun of the prophet Jonah, then it would have been really disastrous for them.

But they heeded the message, maybe because they acknowledge their evil behaviour and the wicked things they have done.

The season of Lent calls us to conversion and repentance so that we can be forgiven and healed by God.

Yet it is not a question of whether we are heeding the message. We all know we must repent, but is there an urgency?

Let us not wait and take things easy, especially in this season of Lent.

The people of Nineveh were given three days. We may have lesser time.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

1st Week of Lent, Monday, 27-02-12

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

It was said that the Great Wall of China was the only man-made structure that can been seen from the moon.

Whether it is true or not, the fact is that the Great Wall is a massive and impressive structure.

It was built to keep out the enemy and so it was built to be impregnable.

Yet it was breached, and many times too, simply because of traitors and betrayers; in other words, it was a case of the enemy within.

The enemy brewed from within not because of big crises but rather from small issues like welfare, honesty, integrity and respect.

Those might seem to be like small issues but they can become powerful enough that even the Great Wall cannot stop them.

Jesus also talked about paying attention to the small issues of the Christian life, issues like feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked and visiting those in prison.

Those are small issues that won't make the headlines but they are important to God.

In the 1st reading, God commands His people to be holy just as He is holy.

The expression of holiness is in paying attention to the small issues of life.

These small acts of love cannot be seen from the moon, or for that matter of fact, might seem even too trivial.

But they count in God's eyes, and they count for eternity.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Saturday after Ash Wednesday, 25-02-12

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

Our shadows have something mysterious as well as spiritual about it.

Where there is light, we will have our shadows. And depending on where the light is, the shadows can be long or short.

So whenever we stand under the sun or in a place where there is light, then we will have a shadow.

So wherever we go, our shadow follows us and will not leave us; we can never be separated from our shadows.

The 1st reading mentioned about light and shadow - your light will rise in the darkness, and your shadows become like the noon.

Indeed when the light of God is shining above us, our shadows will not be much.

But when we are far away from God, then our shadows will be long and even eerie.

Yet God calls us out from the darkness of our sins into His wonderful light.

In the gospel, when Jesus called Levi the tax collector, He was expounding on what He said: I have not come to call the virtuous, but sinners to repentance.

Let us let the light of God shine into the dark corners of our hearts so that we will truly repent of our sins and then our shadows become like noon.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday after Ash Wednesday, 24-02-12

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

In the Roman Catholic Church, there are only two obligatory days of fasting.

One is on Ash Wednesday, which was just two days ago, and the other is on Good Friday.

Yet the Church encourages the faithful to embrace this spiritual discipline of fasting especially during this season of Lent, and especially on Fridays.

Yet this spiritual discipline of fasting is not just a religious or pious act but rather one that expresses a deep longing for conversion and repentance and for the healing grace of the Lord.

It is because we see how detestable our sins and transgression is that we pray and fasting is indeed a form of prayer.

Also when we see sin and evil happening around us, like oppression of the poor and violence on the weak, injustice and deceit, then all the more we must pray and fast.

For the sin and the evil in the world, and even in the Church, let us take seriously our prayer and the discipline of fasting.

Then when we cry out to the Lord, He will answer; when we call out to Him, He will answer: I am here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 23-02-12

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

The word "today" can sound ordinary or significant, depending on how it is used in the context.

Especially if it is emphasized, then that word has a powerful and profound meaning.

In the 1st reading, the word "today" appeared three times in the passage, and all at the significant parts.

That word in the passage has an urgency; it implies the moment is now, a decision has to be made immediately, and a commitment is required.

All that urgency is not about a deadline or or about speed and haste. It's about life and death, obedience and defiance, blessing and curse.

In the gospel, Jesus would even emphasize that urgency by telling us to take up our cross every day and follow Him.

So it means that everyday there will be the cross.

But we have to decide if it's going to be cross or the world for us.

Yes, we have to decide, today and everyday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Ash Wednesday, 22-02-11

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

Today the Church begins the solemn season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. On this day the Church also proclaims an obligatory fast and abstinence.

It is not just today but even for the whole season of Lent, we are called to deepen our spiritual life with penance and repentance.

Concretely and practically speaking, the gospel gives the three forms of spiritual exercises - prayer, fasting and alms-giving - and the purpose of doing it is clearly stated by Jesus.

But why such emphasis on penance and repentance with prayer and fasting and alms-giving?

We may even candidly quip : Why so serious? After all it's Lent, again.

Maybe that is the problem. We have lost the seriousness of our faith. We have become soft and complacent. We have become lax with ourselves and given way to temptation and sin.

How long more are we going to stop walking around in circles and heed the call of the Lord in the 1st reading : Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning.

The crisis in the context of the 1st reading is the great locust plague and the devastating drought.

But that was just a sign of the impending threat of the enemy that will come upon them to destroy and annihilate.

So the penance and repentance, the fasting and prayer and alms-giving is to wake us up from our stupor and to realize the danger of evil in our midst.

Yes it is time to break our hardened hearts and to soften it as we cry out : Spare your people, Lord.

May the Lord have pity on us and save us, and may ashes we receive be a sign of our repentance.

Monday, February 20, 2012

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 21-02-12

James 4:1-10 / Mark 9:30-37            (2020)

We may have enough of life experiences to say that nothing is a coincidence. Everything happens for, and with, a reason.

For example, today's two readings are not put together by coincidence, even though it may not have been planned that way.

Even in the 1st reading, St. James didn't write about the wars and battles in the Christian community by coincidence.

He was addressing a startling reality that has, surprisingly, infected the Church, and all because the fundamental factor is forgotten.

He puts it in this way: Don't you realize that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God's enemy.

And that was also the same spiritual infection that Jesus was addressing in the gospel with His disciples.

The disciples were also fighting among themselves for status and power and glory.

Isn't this same spiritual infection also affecting us? And the disease may have gotten so serious that the poor and lowly, the humble and the helpless, end up as casualties in this battle and war of darkness.

Let us heed the spiritual advice of St. James in the 1st reading - Give in to God then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you draw to God, the nearer He will come to you.

Yes, let us humble ourselves before the Lord and before others, and God will lift us up.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

7th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 20-02-12

James 3:13-18 / Mark 9:14-29     (2020)

When we were young, there were probably some people whom we look up to, or some role models in our lives.

But when we reach adulthood and get on in our years, we fall back on what we have learnt from experiences and we a carve out a wisdom that is gained over the years.

Yet how much of that wisdom is mere human wisdom, and how much of that is divine wisdom?

The 1st reading states that truly wise people will show it by their good lives and with humility in their actions.

Yet a contorted and warped human wisdom would be shown in the bitterness of jealousy, self-seeking ambitions and the covering up of the truth.

St. James continued by saying that such is definitely not the wisdom that comes down from above but rather they are only earthly, animal and devilish.

Indeed we have to pray and reflect on what are our principles and motivation in life, what do we believe in and what do we practice.

Yes we need to pray because as Jesus said in the gospel, evil can only be driven out by prayer, especially when it is the evil within.

May the Lord listen to our prayer, cleanse us from all evil, so that with the wisdom from above our lives will be pure, and we will bear fruits of love and peace, compassion and kindness.

Friday, February 17, 2012

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 18-02-12

James 3:1-10 / Mark 9:2-13

To say that digital electronics or computer technology is very complicated or sophisticated, that may not be actually so.

Because at its very fundamentals are just two states - an ON or an OFF state or signal; it's either a 1 or a 0.

But by various combinations of ones and zeros, the resultant is a very complex and sophisticated digital electronic system.

By the same token, to say that we human beings are a very complex and sophisticated race, that may not actually be so.

Yet, we have that ability to complicate and confuse our lives and the lives of others around us by just one small and even hidden part of our body.

That part of the body is pointed out in the 1st reading from the letter of St. James.

Our tongue, although small and hidden from sight, can make or break relationships, can heal or hurt, can bless or curse, can create or destroy.

We know the awesome power of our tongue; or at least we know the power of other people's tongues.

But to tame our tongue to do good, we must have a transformation of another organ - the heart.

May the glorious Transfiguration of Jesus also transform our hearts, so that we will be turned ON to God and turned OFF from the devil.

May our tongues bless the Lord and proclaim His goodness always.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 17-02-12

James 2:14-24, 26 / Mark 8:34 - 9:1          (2020)

Every now and then we are faced with this dilemma of having to reject someone who has come to borrow money.

Especially after hearing a sad moving story, we are not sure if we can be hard-hearted enough to turn the person away.

Yet from experience we know that more often than not, we won't see our money again, but that does not mean we won't see that person again.

So the question remains - To lend or not to lend?

Yet as we listen to the 1st reading, St. James gives us very practical as well as firm spiritual direction with regard to this matter.

He said that if we see someone in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on, then our faith must spur us on to give them those bare necessities of life.

Our faith must be seen in our good works and our good works must be for the good of others and not to spoil them by giving in to their "demands".

As Jesus said in the gospel, if we are to be His disciples, we are to renounce ourselves and we must also help others to renounce themselves and to turn to Jesus for help.

As St. Peter said in Acts 3:6 "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk."

Jesus is what we should have, because Jesus is what we can only give to others.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 16-02-12

James 2:1-9 / Mark 8:27-33              (2020)

The Church waits in hope for the second coming of Christ.

Yet we also know that Christ is present among us where two or three are gathered in His name.

But concretely speaking, how do we know that?

Well today's 1st reading gives us a concrete situation in which we have to judge for ourselves as to who we see Christ in.

In the 1st reading, St. James warns us against using two different standards for people and in doing have we  turned ourselves into corrupt judges.

We tend to classify people into rich and poor, and we tend to favour the rich and ignore the poor.

Yet in whom is Christ present? Where is He in flesh and blood?

St. James continued by saying that it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him.

He continued by saying that in spite of this, we have no respect for anybody who is poor.

And he also had something startling to say about the rich, which we have to ask ourselves whether it is true.

Yet in judging people and categorizing them into rich and poor and favouring the rich is indeed to play into the hands of the devil.

So it was not that shocking that Jesus rebuked Peter and said to him - Get behind me Satan! Because the way you think is not God's way but man's.

Christ is present in the poor as well as in those who think in God's way.

May we always know what is the way of God and walk in that  way.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 15-02-12

James 1:19-27 / Mark 8:22-26      (2020)

One of the most annoying moments of the day is when one wakes up in the morning to the loud shrill of the alarm clock and bright lights and with shouts to get up and get washed.

That kind of thing usually happens in basic military training or in leadership camps.

After a good night's sleep, we would like to wake up gradually and get used to the surroundings in an easy and quiet environment. That would be a really nice way to start the day.

In the gospel, it may seems strange that Jesus took two attempts to cure the blind man.

But it may not sound so strange if we understand that Jesus wanted to cure the man's blindness gradually.

Having spent all his life in darkness, the man now gets to see everything, but the bright lights may be just too much for his eyes or even his mind to withhold.

So in this instance, the gospel passage portrays the tenderness and understanding of Jesus in curing the blind man.

Similarly, Jesus does not expect us to change our ways instantly. Also a gradual change would be a more permanent change.

The 1st reading tells us to be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to arouse our temper because God's righteousness is never served by man's anger.

Often we let our instincts rule our life and inevitably that also darkened our world.

Being quick to listen and slow to speak and even slower to arouse our temper requires control and discipline.

With the grace of God we can do it. As the 1st reading puts it - So do away with all the impurities and bad habits that are still left in you; accept and submit to the Word which has been planted in you and can save your souls.

Monday, February 13, 2012

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 14-02-12

James 1:12-18 / Mark 8:14-21

Today the archdiocese of Singapore celebrates the dedication of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is dedicated to Jesus the Good Shepherd, hence it is called the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd.

The story behind that name is that in1821,  an MEP priest, Fr. Laurence Imbert was sent to Singapre to see if there was a possibility of opening a missionary station in the island. He spent about a week here and he could have been the first priest to celebrate Mass on the island.

In 1837, after being ordained bishop, he crossed secretly from Manchuria to Korea. During this time, Korea was going through a period of Christian persecution.

He secretly went about doing his missionary work, but the authorities found him out and before they captured him, he wrote a note to two other fellow missionaries.

He urged them to give themselves up to the authorities because he believed in doing so, the flock will be spared from persecution, and he wrote that a good shepherd must give up his life for his sheep.

So eventually the three of them were captured and tortured and beheaded. They were canonized in 1984.

When the Cathedral was to be dedicated, the name "Good Shepherd" was chosen in memory of Fr. Laurence Imbert and his two companions.

Today as the Church in Singapore celebrates the dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, the two readings remind us of what the Church ought to be.

In the gospel, Jesus sounded perplexed as he asked the questions : Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, and ears that do not hear?

Those are cutting questions that sear right into the heart of our faith.

Our Church is not about bread and butter issues but the spirituality with which we can understand and perceive the will of God so that others will see the presence of God in the Church and even hear the voice of God in the prayer of the Church.

This would require a deep and firm faith in God who always provides and watches over His Church.

As the 1st reading puts it - Happy the man who stands firm when trials come. He has proved himself, and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

6th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 13-02-12

James 1:1-11 / Mark 8:11-13      (2020)

Blessings and disguises are not usually co-related.

Disguises have an outward appearance that tries to distort the reality.

Blessings, although intangible, are nonetheless signs of truth and goodness.

So does it make sense when we hear it said "It's a blessing in disguise"?

The 1st reading tells us that when trials come, we must try to treat them as a happy privilege.

When trials come, they don't seem anything like a blessing in disguise.

Yet we are encouraged to see beyond the trials and be patient so that we can see what truth and goodness the trials open us to.

Yet trails make us groan and sigh as they cut deeper and deeper into our hearts and our flesh.

In the gospel we hear that Jesus responded with a sigh from the heart when the Pharisees demanded a sign from Him so as to test Him.

Certainly the obstinacy of the Pharisees was very trying for Jesus.

The sigh from His heart showed what kind of trial He was going through.

Would Jesus also sigh over us? Or would He want to bless us because of our faith in Him?

Let us remove the disguises of our hearts and let His blessings flow into our lives.

Friday, February 10, 2012

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 11-02-12

1 Kings 12:26-32; 13:33-34 / Mark 8:1-10

Back in 1858, on this very day, the apparitions of Our Lady to St. Bernadette Soubirous began, followed by other apparitions during the year.

That was also the time when the Church and the world were going through a turbulent and distressing time.

It was in this rather dark period that Our Lady appeared to St Bernadette, then a 14-year-old peasant girl, with the message and the call to prayer and penance, with the prayer of the Rosary and fasting being recommended.

As time went by, the message of Our Lady of Lourdes found particular expression in the care of the sick and disabled, and also the numerous miraculous cures that happened there.

Indeed today's gospel account of how Jesus cared for the hungry people and the miraculous multiplication of loaves was recounted in the Lourdes event and to be continued in the present times.

As we offer today's Eucharist in honour of Our Lady of Lourdes, let us also heed the call to prayer and penance especially in the face of evil in the world.

Let us also have faith in the Lord and in the intercession of our Lady that He would work signs and wonders through the Church so that the Church can be seen as a sign of salvation.

God still loves and cares for His people. We saw it in the gospel, we saw it in Lourdes, let us pray and do penance and we will see it in our day.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 10-02-12

1 Kings 11:29-32; 12:19 / Mark 7:31-37

Prophets played an important role in the Old Testament.

They speak the word from God to the kings and the people, they anointed kings, they even worked miracles and gave signs of things to come.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Ahijah gave a prophetic sign. He took the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve strips.

He then gave ten strips to Jeroboam to signify the breakup of king Solomon's kingdom into the Northern and Southern kingdoms.

But as much as prophets played an important role in the Old Testament, there is also no denying that prophets were also persecuted and killed.

Even though they were just messengers of God, yet because their prophet word were hard on the ears and bitter to swallow, hence the people took out their anger on them.

One aspect of our baptism is to be a prophetic people. We are called to speak the truth at all times.

We need to ask to Lord to give us strength and courage to "Be opened" to the truth and we also need to pray for others to be opened to the truth.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 09-02-12

1 Kings 11:4-13 / Mark 7:24-30

Life has its fair share of disappointments, and we ourselves know what disappointments are. No one is spared from it.

As much as that word is applied to the whole of humanity, it is not often used for God. We don't often say that God is disappointed.

But the 1st reading gives us a sense that God was disappointed and even angry with king Solomon.

Despite all his wisdom and wealth, he fell away from God, and God even appeared to him twice but he failed to repent.

His foreign wives had swayed his heart and he preferred them to God. Indeed he was a disappointment to God.

But in the gospel, it was a foreigner and a pagan who offered some encouragement to us who feel that life is such a big disappointment.

The Syrophoenician woman begged Jesus to cast the devil out of her daughter, and not taking no for an answer, she persevered and persisted in her request.

So if an outsider can have her request granted, then we, who are the children of God and who eat at the Lord's table must have more faith in the Lord's love for us.

Let our faith in God's providence be an encouragement for others in their disappointments.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 08-02-12

1 Kings 10:1-10 / Mark 7:14-23    (2020)

One of the basic needs of mankind is food. In fact it may even be the most fundamental need of all creatures.

Flowing from that need, food has also become a sign of communion. Hence there are such things like communion sacrifices or ritual food.

Our partaking of Holy Communion is a profound example of a communion sacrifice and a ritual food in which we come into communion with the Lord Jesus.

But many religions also have dietary laws in which some type of food are forbidden and hence would render a practitioner of a particular religion ritually unclean.

This was the context of the discussion about food in today's gospel. Yet Jesus also made a very radical teaching about food.

He pronounced all foods clean. He also pointed out that what is really unclean is actually what comes out from the heart.

As Jesus said, it is from within, from men's hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and make a man unclean.

As we participate in the Eucharist, we also prepare ourselves to come into communion with Jesus.

So what is the state of our hearts? If there is sin, have we gone for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, so as to receive forgiveness and healing and be in a state of grace to receive Jesus the Lord?

Let us remember that God and sin cannot exist together in our hearts.

We come to the Eucharist not just to consume a piece of wafer but to receive the Lord Jesus. May our hearts be pure so that our lives will be holy.

Monday, February 6, 2012

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 07-02-12

1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30 / Mark 7:1-13

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that "The Church is both visible and spiritual, a hierarchical society and the Mystical Body of Christ. She is one, yet formed of two components, human and divine. That is her mystery, which only faith can accept." (#779)

Yes, the Church is human as well as divine. Yet at times, the flawed humanness of the Church has also blurred the divine aspect of the Church.

In other words, if the Church fails to be like Jesus Christ her Lord, then she has failed in being essentially what she was created to be.

In the 1st reading, king Solomon marvelled and praised God for coming down from the highest heavens to dwell in the humble Temple he had built.

Yet his prayer is nothing less than a plea - Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servant, Lord my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servant makes to you today. Day and night let your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which you have said, "My name shall be there".

Yes it is so easy for people to lose the sense of the divine presence in the house of God and when that happens, the presence of evil starts to grow in the hearts of the people who can be right there in the house of God.

That was why king Solomon pleaded that God watches over the Temple which is a sign of His presence among His people.

Similarly in the gospel, Jesus admonished Pharisees and scribes for putting aside the commandment of God to cling to human traditions.

So it is like doing something religious but with an ulterior human motive and vested interest.

When that happens in the Church, then we have failed. We have showed a sinful human side of the Church and suppressed the divine aspect.

We need to plead to God as a one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church: Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servants, Lord my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servants make to You today. Day and night let Your eyes watch over this house, over this place of which You have said, "My name shall be there".

Sunday, February 5, 2012

5th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 06-02-12

1 Kings  8:1-7, 9-13 / Mark 6:53-56

One of the senses that we rely on heavily is our sight.

Because of the importance of the visual dimension, the entertainment industry would always try to cook up a feast for our eyes.

Even in the area of worship, the visual dimension can elevate the emotions and help to lift up our hearts to the Lord.

In the 1st reading, just the visual aspects would make the worship worthy enough - the ark of the covenant, the sacred vessels, the sacrifice of countless sheep and oxen, and of course the cloud of glory that filled the Temple of the Lord.

The atmosphere and grandeur would certain make one bow down in worship.

Yet in the Gospel, there was no such fanfare or grandeur when the Son of God stepped on the shores of Genessaret.

Yet people recognized Him and they brought the sick on stretchers to wherever they heard He was, and they even begged Him to let them touch the fringe of His cloak.

Yes the people recognized Him, but it was certainly more than just in the visual sense.

In the Eucharist, we see and we look, but do we recognize anything?

Of the Eucharist, it is said that we become what we eat at Holy Communion.

By the same token, it can also be said that we become what we see, and we become what we look at.

Let us open our eyes to see and to look and we will worship with heart and mind.

Friday, February 3, 2012

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 04-02-12

1 Kings 3:4-13 / Mark 6:30-34

One of the sayings of Sun Tze's "The Art of War" goes something like this: He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.

Of course there are many implications to this saying in warfare, but the terrain of life is also very much like the terrain in warfare.

One must know what he can do and what he can't. One must know his abilities and his lack of it.

To acknowledge that requires wisdom. Yet many battles and wars have been fought and lost because of this lack of wisdom to acknowledge the obvious.

In the 1st reading, king Solomon acknowledged before the Lord that he was a very young man and unskilled in leadership.

He asked the Lord for wisdom so that he can understand how to discern between good and evil.

Very often the distinction between good and evil is blurred when we fail to acknowledge the obvious and the temptations.

In the gospel, the apostles rejoined Jesus and told Him all they had done and taught.

Yet instead of fanning the flame, Jesus lead them to a lonely place to rest. To rest here means to refocus their hearts on God and to give thanks to Him.

Very often in the euphoria of our achievements, we gallop ahead so fast that we forget that we are limited and we can fail.

Yes, we need to ask for divine wisdom and enlightenment to acknowledge our weaknesses and short-comings.

We must let the Lord prompt us as to when to fight and when not to, in order to win the battles for His kingdom.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 03-02-12

Ecclesiasticus 47:2-11 / Mark 6:14-29

Today is the feastday of St Blaise, and the Church celebrates his feastday as a memorial.

St. Blaise was the bishop of Sebaste in Armenia during the 4th century.

Not much is known about his life and according to various accounts, he was a physician before becoming a bishop.

He was reputed to have miraculously cured a little boy who nearly died because of a fishbone that was stuck in his throat.

Devotion to him spread in the Middle Ages and from the 8th century, he has been invoked on behalf of the sick, especially those afflicted with illnesses of the throat.

Hence on this feastday of St. Blaise, a blessing of throats may be given by  a priest or deacon during Mass or after Mass depending on pastoral situations.

The blessing of throats is a profound sign of the struggle against illness in the life of the Christian.

As the Roman Ritual puts it - The blessing of the sick by ministers of the Church is a very ancient custom, rooted in the imitation of Christ Himself and His apostles.

So as much as we Christians feel and experience pain as the rest of humanity, yet our faith in God helps us to grasp more deeply the mystery of suffering and to bear our pain with greater courage, just as St. Blaise did in his martyrdom.

Through the intercession of St. Blaise, may we fight strenuously against all sickness and seek the blessings of good health, so that we may bear witness to God's love and His providence.