Saturday, June 30, 2012

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 01.07.2012

Wisdom 1:13-15, 2:23-24/ 2 Cor 8, 7, 9, 13-15/ Mark 5:21-43

One of the greatest fears and nightmares of parents is to lose their young child in a crowded place, or in a foreign land, or in a place that is considered dangerous.

That kind of thing can happen anytime, and anywhere, and when it is least expected.

Every now and then, we will hear it over the PA system that there is a child who is lost and the parents or relatives are to go to the office to claim back the child.

Yes, with the modern means of communication, a child who is lost can be easily tracked and located and found.

But such may not be the case about 40 or 50 years ago where communication was rather primitive, compared to now, and PA systems were not installed everywhere.

I can attest to the fears and nightmares of parents who have lost their child, even though it may be for only a short period of time.

I remembered that when I was a kid, maybe about 8 or 9 years old. My family went out to the “pasar-malam: (street-side night market) on a Saturday evening.

Being a Saturday evening, the pasar-malam was crowded and noisy and people jostled here and there.

My mum held on to my elder sister and younger brother, who was only 4 or 5 years at that time, and my father held on to me.

Then, we stopped to look at something and my mum began the bargaining process, and the rest of us were just looking around at other things.

Then, all of a sudden, my mum turned around and asked: Where is Simon? (That’s my younger brother).

We looked around blankly, and then stunned, and then it hit us that Simon was not anywhere around.

Then all panic and chaos broke loose as my sister and I were ordered to stay put, while my parents set off in opposite directions looking for my brother, asking people, calling out his name, etc.

I can still remember the dreaded look on my parents’ faces and the panic in their voices.

Well, after what seemed like eternity, my mum came back with my brother, both of them sobbing away – my brother obviously frightened and traumatized, and my mum … maybe angry, maybe relieved.

The pasar-malam outing ended immediately and my mum gave us a good scrubbing on the way home about caring for each other and looking out for each other.

Yes, I have seen the dreaded look on the faces and heard the panic in the voices.

And today’s gospel passage brought back that memory of  mine, as well for as parents who have lost their child, even though it might just be momentarily (which at that time would seem like eternity)

At least, we would be able to understand how Jairus felt.

His 12 year-old daughter was critically ill. All hope was fading and so was her life.

Jairus was desperate and he had that dreaded look on his face – he was losing his daughter and it will be forever.

As he pleaded with Jesus to go and heal his daughter, he already had panic in his voice.

He couldn’t care less that he was a synagogue official and that Jesus was just a street-side preacher, who was not even a scribe or a rabbi.

Jairus couldn’t be bothered about what people would say about him, kneeling before Jesus and pleading with him.

All that mattered was his daughter’s life. He would go to almost any extent to save his daughter.

Certainly, we can see how great is the love of Jairus for his daughter, and by the same token, the great love of parents for their children.

If that is the love parents have for their children, then can we ever comprehend God’s love for us, we who are His children?

It is a great pain and sorrow for parents who have to make funeral arrangements for their children.

Somehow it does not sound right, it does not look right, because it should be the other way round.

So as we try to comprehend God’s love for us, the love a father has for his children, can we also comprehend the pain and sorrow that God feels when His children choose to be lost in waywardness, and eventually succumb to sin and death?

As the first reading will testify: Death was not God’s doing. He takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living.

God made man imperishable. He made him in the image of His own nature. It was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world, as those who are his partners, will discover.

Those are profound words that tell us how great God’s love is for us and that He wants us to have life and health.

On the other hand, the devil wants to snare us to commit sin, so that although we exist, but we are as gone as dead.

Yes, we can try to comprehend how Jairus felt for his daughter and how much he wanted to save her.

We can also try to comprehend how much God loves us and how He searches for us when we are lost, so as to save us from a sinful death.

Yes, life and health, and sin and death, is not a laughing matter, and they are certainly not humorous.

Humour, or at least serious humour, is associated with people like Mr Brown, who is one of Singapore’s most-read bloggers and he is also a social and political satirist.

Whenever you want to have a serious good laugh,  just go to Mr and you will get your free entertainment anytime, anywhere. As well as something to reflect on.

But recently, he put up a story which concerned his family, and it was titled “Finding Faith”.

Nothing religious actually. It was an account of how his eldest daughter whose name is “Faith” was lost, and how he and his family and friends went in search of her.

Faith is a special child. She is about 12 years old, the same age of Jairus’ daughter. But she has severe autism, she does not speak, does not respond to her name easily, cannot tell anyone she is lost, and does not know what is dangerous.

Mr Brown was at work, and his wife had brought their three kids for an outing, and they were returning home in the evening.        

It was around 6.30pm (rush hour) when Faith broke free from her mother’s grip and ran off, and this was at Dhoby Ghaut MRT station, and it was rush hour!

The wife immediately called Mr Brown, and panic and chaos were already breaking in. Faith couldn’t have been lost in a worse possible place, at a worse possible time.

Dhoby Ghaut is a huge maze of an interchange station. Faith could be anywhere there, or she might have hopped onto another train and went somewhere else.

Mr Brown had the presence of mind to use modern communication means and he tweeted for help to find Faith.

He checked with the station staff who were monitoring the CCTVs. The PA system were not much of a use because of Faith’s autistic condition.

After a frantic wild goose chase, that seemed like eternity, and with much panic, Faith was found at Telok Blangah station.

Mr Brown proclaimed that it was a miracle to have found Faith.  So many friends and people who came into the picture, and the events that happened, were certainly not coincidences.

And I quote Mr Brown: Above all, thank God for watching over our firstborn and bringing her back home to us.

Yes, thank God that He watches over us and searches for us when we are lost.

Thank God that He loves us and gives us health and life so that we can share His goodness with others.

Thank God that sin and death do not have the final say.  

Because God is the God of the living. In God, let us have faith and let us not be afraid.

Friday, June 29, 2012

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 30-06-12

Lamentations 2:2, 10-14, 18-19 / Matthew 8:5-17

If we were to check out some information about the Temple that king Solomon built, we will know that it was a huge and magnificent building. It can be said to be one of the man-made wonders of the world at that time.

Besides the gold and silver ornaments, huge blocks of finest stone was used for the building and the building's foundation was laid with hewn stone.

Yes, it was the pride and glory of Israel and a proclamation that God was dwelling in their midst in that Temple.

But the impressive man-made Temple also slowly became a false sense of security for the people.

They slowly became complacent in their faith but because the Temple was there, and seemingly indestructible, things began to spiral downwards.

But in the 587BC, king Nebuchanezzar of Babylon conquered Jerusalem and his army tore down the huge impressive Temple.

Before their very eyes, their beloved Temple, their pride and glory, was laid to waste.

In the 1st reading, the book of Lamentation try to put into words the sorrow and grief of the people; it was a shocking awakening to say the least.

But if the 1st reading was about lamentations, then the gospel is about inspiration and consolation.

Jesus is the new and everlasting Temple of God who affirms the faith of the centurion and takes away our sickness and infirmities.

So our security and salvation is not in impressive stone buildings that will eventually pass away.

Our security and salvation lies in Jesus who died and rose from the dead. May we put all our faith and hope in Him alone.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Friday, 29-06-12

Acts 12:1-11 / 2 Tim 4:6-8, 17-18 / Gospel 16:13-19       (2019)

The Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, is a liturgical feast in honour of the martyrdom in Rome of these two great saints.

The celebration is of ancient origin, and it is celebrated on this date because it either marks the anniversary of their death or of the transfer of their relics.

Yet when we read the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we may wonder why these two saints are put together in the same feastday. 

Because in reality they were as different as oil and water. Yet it also not about who is above the other.

Because both men had their flaws, and even their "fights" were recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

But both were chosen and called by Jesus for a mission and a task.

Both responded with all their hearts and even with their lives.

They had their differences but their love for Jesus rose above their human weaknesses like oil above the water.

Their feastday also tells us that although the Church may have its failings and weaknesses, yet there is also the divine calling and the outpouring of graces.

Like Sts. Peter and Paul, let us put aside our differences and open our hearts to God's graces, so that by our love and unity, we will proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 28-06-12

2 Kings 24:8-17 / Matthew 7:21-29

The word "rebellion" means an act of violent or open resistance to an established government or ruler.

In the Old Testament, we see this happening countless of times and the price that was paid for it.

The people of God rebelled against God insistently despite God sending prophet after prophet to call them to repentance.

Because of that, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was annihilated in 721BC, and yet the kingdom of Judah thought it would never happen to them.

But in the 1st reading, we heard how the Babylonians finally took Jerusalem and sent the king and the nobles and the skilled workers into exile to Babylon.

Yet the lesson was not learnt and later the Temple of Solomon was eventually razed to the ground, with not even one stone on another.

So are we learning anything from this lesson? We have to be aware that rebellion lurks in our hearts and we want to be independent and free from any obligations to God.

Listening to the Word of God and acting on it means to be obedient to the will of God.

We will certainly remember what Samuel told Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22-23
Is the pleasure of the Lord God in holocausts and sacrifices or in obedience to the Lord God?
Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice, submissiveness better than the fat of rams.
Rebellion is the sin of sorcery, presumption a crime of teraphim.

Let us pray that we will build our lives on the rock of God's love and follow His ways and do His will.

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 27-06-12

2 Kings 22:8-13; 23:1-3 / Matthew 7:15-20      (2016)

Every country and every nation has its share of good and bad leaders.

Whilst good leaders were far and few between and they are held in honour for the good they did for their country, the bad leaders had caused much damage because of self-interest and greed.

In the 1st reading, we heard of the high priest Hilkiah and the court secretary Shaphan finding and  reading the Book of the Law and decided to inform king Josiah about it.

The Book of the Law had been hidden in the previous tyrannical regimes that had been unfaithful to the Lord in order to save it from being destroyed.

The high priest and the court officials were bold enough to present the Book of the Law to the king probably because they saw in the king a person of integrity and justice.

Indeed, just as a tree is judged by its fruits, a person is judged by his character.

As Jesus taught in the gospel, a sound tree bears good fruit, but a rotten tree bears bad fruit.

Yes, and also a sound tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor a rotten tree bear good fruit.

Yet we have to be alert and examine ourselves constantly for corruption and decay, because a sound tree can also become a rotten tree due to negligence and complacency.

When we realize we have stopped bearing good fruits, or even started bearing rotten fruits in our lives, let us immediately turn back to the Lord for healing and forgiveness.

We can't deceive others; they will know us by our fruits.

Monday, June 25, 2012

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 26-06-12

2 Kings 19:9-11, 14-21, 31-36 / Matthew 7:6, 12-14

Power and might can be best described in terms of armaments and military capabilities.

In fact, the best way to flaunt power and might is to use military force for invasion or oppression.

In the 1st reading, when king Sennacherib of Assyria threatened king Hezekiah of Judah, it was like the sword already on the throat.

And king Hezekiah had every reason to fear because he was the main target and if the Assyrians get their hands on him, they would skin and mince him alive.

Yet king Hezekiah gave us a lesson about faith and trust in God. In the face of mortal danger, he turned to God in prayer and placed all his hope in God.

And indeed, God will cast down the mighty and proud who use their military might to insult the humble and the lowly.

Furthermore, king Sennacherib insulted God and he can be considered lucky to be able to go home alive.

In life, we may not face blood-thirsty soldiers going for our throats, but certainly we will come across slippery and slimy people who will scheme to make us trip and then stab our backs.

Let us be calm but vigilant because the evil one will tempt us to throw away our faith to the dogs and pigs.

Let us stand up to evil with a strong faith and to stay close to God in prayer.

In this world that has many dangerous nooks and corners, God is our only Saviour and guide.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 25-06-12

2 King 17:5-8, 13-15, 18 / Matthew 7:1-5

In the history of the world, there were many great kingdoms and empires.

The common characteristic of these kingdoms and empires is their rise and fall, and almost nothing remained of these kingdoms and empires except for that in the pages of the history books.

We may wonder why a kingdom or empire can't last or remain? Is that how it is supposed to be, or is it some kind of a curse that a kingdom or empire won't last more than a number of years?

Well there can be many reasons, but with the rise of a kingdom or empire, comes the sweet taste of power and control, and it is very addictive.

And with the desire for more power and control comes the cruelty of oppression and subjection, and with that moral decay sets in and integrity and justice is eroded.

In the 1st reading, we heard of the annihilation of the Northern Kingdom of Israel by Assyria. Yes it was literally wiped off the face of the earth and became history and a thing of the past.

All because they forgot their humble and lowly origins as slaves in Egypt and they turned away from God who freed them and made them His people.

We may say it was the ingratitude and the stupidity of that people to do such a thing.

But let us hold ourselves in check. What happened to the Northern Kingdom of Israel has also happened to other kingdoms and empires and can also happen to ourselves.

Let us not judge but to learn from the lessons of history. Let us also remain humble and lowly and be grateful and thankful that God loves us and has made us His own people.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nativity of St John the Baptist, Year B, 24.06.2012

Isaiah 49: 1-6/ Acts 13:22-26/ Luke 1: 57-66, 80      (2020)

The birth of a child is certainly not a casual or ordinary matter.

There is a whole spectrum of emotions involved – excitement, anxiety, worry, happy …

And along with that are hopes and dreams and expectations of what the future will be like with the arrival of the child.

Indeed, the birth of a child is no ordinary or casual matter.

We can even say that every birth of a child changes the whole of humanity.

And the birth of John the Baptist, the feast that we celebrate today, is certainly quite dramatic.

When his father, Zechariah, the priest of the Temple, was told by the angel Gabriel that his wife Elizabeth would conceive a child even though she was advanced in age and considered barren, Zechariah was skeptical and cynical.

For that he was struck dumb.

And then when Mary visited Elizabeth, the baby leapt in her womb. That must be really dramatic for Elizabeth.

As if that was not dramatic enough, then comes the naming of the baby.

Elizabeth and Zachariah insisted that he be called “John” and then Zechariah regained his power of speech and he praised God.

The neighbours were awed and with so much drama, they wondered what would this child turn out to be.

They might have thought that John would follow his father’s footsteps and become a priest of the Temple, or become someone famous and influential in the world of status and lime-light.

Yes, he did become someone famous and influential.

He became John the Baptist, who wore clothes made of camel-hair and ate locusts and wild honey and lived in the wilderness of the desert.

His name was John (Yehonan) and his name means “God is gracious” or “the grace of God”.

Indeed, it was the grace of God that chose him to be the greatest of all the prophets, because it was he who pointed out Jesus, the Lamb of God, to the people.

Yes, John the Baptist lived up to his name as “the grace of God”.

His call for repentance and conversion led people to the baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

John the Baptist prepared the people for the gracious coming of the Son of God among the people.

As we celebrated the feast of the birth of John the Baptist, we honour the great prophet who prepared the way for Jesus Christ.

We also give thanks for the outpouring of God’s grace, the grace that also makes us prophets of God.

Yes, John the Baptist was not just the greatest of all the prophets, but also in him the grace of God worked powerfully and wonderfully.

Yes, John the Baptist lived up to his name. That was John the Baptist, a great figure in the Bible.

Now, what would we expect of someone with a name like “Dolores” (Dolores means sorrow!)

But some of us may remember a Dolores Hart.

Dolores Hart was born in 1938 to teenage parents who were bit-part actors and who later divorced.

Dolores had some Catholic upbringing, but in her teens she followed the footsteps of her parents by becoming an actress.

In 1957, she acted in a supporting role as the love interest of Elvis Presley in the movie “Loving you”.                                                   In that movie, they kissed and it was Elvis’ first on-screen kiss.

Dolores became an instant star and she was so natural and effortless as an actress and she was hot in demand.

From that time onwards, Dolores Hart was draped with furs and expensive gowns and surrounded by men!

She was beautiful, she had super-star status, she had the lime-light on her, she had million-dollar movie contracts, she had everything.

But by 1958, she felt fatigued and a friend suggested that she take a rest at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, a Benedictine monastery.

At first she scorned at the idea of going to a place where there are nuns, but the friend told her that the nuns won’t talk to her because they are contemplative nuns.

So she arrived at the monastery in a studio limousine, and she immediately loved the quiet and the simplicity, and found her inner peace.

At that time, she was also preparing for the wedding to Don Robinson, a Los Angeles architect. But there at the monastery, it hit her that she was in love with God.

Well in the end, Dolores Hart gave up the lime-light, a promising movie career, fur coats and expensive gowns, and even the man she was supposed to marry.

She gave up all that, and at 23 years-old, she entered the Benedictine monastery where she found her peace and her love for God.

Everyone in the show biz, and also the nuns, thought she was nuts. In fact, the nuns thought she was a “lightweight” and that she won’t stay long.

Even Dolores herself thought she was nuts. She felt like as if she leapt off a 20-storey building.

But just as John the Baptist leapt for joy in his mother’s womb, Dolores Hart leapt into the gracious and tender hands of a loving God.

Well, in the gracious hands of God, the now Mother Dolores Hart stayed for 50 years in the same Benedictine monastery where she is now the prioress.

There is a documentary on her life called "God is the bigger Elvis" which was nominated for a Grammy this year. You may want to check out that documentary.

Yet, she was often asked, not about what she gave up, but rather about that kiss with Elvis Presley in the movie.

Her reply was this : An on-screen kiss last only about 15 secs, but that one seemed to have lasted for 50 years, because people keep talking about it even after 50 years.

Yes, some things are indeed difficult to let go and give up.

Oh I also forgot to mention about Don Robinson, the Los Angeles architect whom Dolores Hart was supposed to have married.

He also gave up the idea of marriage, i.e. he never got married. He was quoted as saying “I never found a love like Dolores”. Nonetheless, he visited Dolores every year at the monastery until he passed away in November last year.

But for Dolores Hart and Don Robinson, and more so for John the Baptist, the grace of God worked powerfully and wonderfully.

When Jesus came into the scene, John the Baptist pointed Him out as the One who is to come.

John the Baptist gave up the attention and the fame and the lime-light and faded off into the background.

In the 2nd reading, we heard that before he ended his ministry he said : I am not the one you imagine me to be. That one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandals.

One of the profound sayings of John the Baptist is this : He must increase and I must decrease.

With the grace of God, John the Baptist knew when to let go and what to give up and that he must decrease.

With the grace of God, may we know when to let go so as to let God go ahead of us.

With the grace of God, may we know what to give up that is earthly and receive what is heavenly.

With the grace of God, may we step back and decrease, so that God may increase in our hearts, just as it did for John the Baptist.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 22-06-12

2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20 / Matthew 6:19-23

As much as history can be interesting to read, yet there are many names and characters that were involved in the events that can make history rather tedious to read.

And most of these characters are not that famous and they just appeared at a point in time. Yet they also made their mark in history.

In the 1st reading we heard of Althaliah, the mother of king Ahaziah who was killed in battle.

Althaliah was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel (we heard about them, earlier this week in 1st readings, and their wicked deeds).

Althaliah continued the wicked trend of her parents by immediately killing all those of royal stock and usurping the throne and ruled for six years.

But in the end she also met her tragic end, and all that she schemed and plotted to gain came to nothing.

Her tragic story only reiterated what Jesus taught in the gospel about storing treasures on earth only to be destroyed and stolen.

Indeed, the lives of the people that has gone into the pages of history are like a light for our lives.

May we open our eyes to look at the light and also look beyond to the eternal light.

May we also go down in history as persons whose hearts are fixed on the eternal heavenly treasures.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 21-06-12

Ecclesiasticus 48:1-14 / Matthew 6:7-15

If we were asked to name a few great figures of the Old Testament, the prophet Elijah would probably come up as one of them.

Elijah was connected to at least two spectacular events - at Mt. Carmel he called down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, and he was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind of fire in a chariot of fiery horses.

Also in the Transfiguration of Jesus, Elijah with Moses appeared with Jesus, and they were the only two figures from the Old Testament that appeared in the gospels.

Yes, the prophet Elijah was a great figure in the Old Testament, and the 1st reading paid tribute to him.

Yet, he also had his moments of fear and darkness. He had to run and hide from Jezebel, king Ahab's wife, for killing the 450 prophets of the idol Baal.

So for all the wonderful signs and marvellous miracles that he worked, he was only a man, and he himself knew it.

So as much as Elijah was known for his greatness, he was also known for his humility and weakness and he depended on the strength of the Lord to fulfil his mission.

Hence, to pray the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us in the gospels, we are also expressing our humility and trust in the God our Father.

When we pray the Lord's Prayer, we also need to acknowledge our weakness, in that we are sinners in need of mercy and forgiveness.

In praying the Lord's Prayer, we also must be humble and to forgive others as we ask for forgiveness for ourselves.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-06-12

2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

In some ethnic cultures, it is a tradition that the first-born son has a birth-right.

This birth-right would consist of, among other things, a double share of the inheritance, i.e. one more share than the rest of his siblings.

But with that comes a duty and responsibility - that first-born son will have to continue where the father has left off, whether be it in terms of family reputation or family wealth.

In the 1st reading, we hear of Elisha asking Elijah for a "double share of his spirit" before he was taken away from Elisha.

Elisha was already a disciple of Elijah; he now wanted to continue the mission of being a prophet just like Elijah, and to continue where Elijah left off.

Hence he asked for a double share of Elijah's spirit of prophecy, and that would include speaking the Word of God and working miracles.

Yet these gifts come with a duty and responsibility. And one can be easily tempted to use these gifts for self gain and glory.

Hence in the gospel, Jesus warns us about the temptation to attract attention and get praised by people.

The teaching that we must remember from Jesus is this: Your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.

The reward from God will be our everlasting inheritance.

Monday, June 18, 2012

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-06-12

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-06-12 Kings 21:17-29 / Matthew 5:43-48

Whenever we say that someone "can get away with murder", we usually mean to say that someone can escape being caught or being punished.

We don't mean it literally, because we know that no one can get away with murder, especially when the crime is committed in public.

Even if the murderer can escape being caught or being punished by the law, he will eventually have to answer for it before God.

Yet we heard in the 1st reading that king Ahab apparently got away with murder by just being repentant and doing some acts of penance.

But we must also read the whole story to get the whole picture. In the end, king Ahab also died from a stray arrow in battle, and dogs came to lick his blood.

His reputation, as recorded in the 1st reading, was that of a king who behaved in the most abominable way.

So king Ahab did not have a good end to his life, nor a good name to go down with in history. In short he was a tragedy.

Similarly, if we as disciples of Jesus are not doing anything exceptional, then it might be a tragedy.

It is certainly not an ordinary matter if we were to follow what Jesus teaches us - love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Indeed, we are called to be like the God we believe in. As disciples of Jesus, we can't get away from that.

As disciples of Jesus, to be like Jesus is certainly not doing or being something exceptional.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-06-12

1 Kings 21:1-16 / Matthew 21:17-29

An instigator can be described as a person who tries to make situations in which people disagree even worse, or one who manipulates events to cause trouble for other people for his/her own amusement.

Obviously, an instigator is always up to no good, and somehow finds some kind of excitement and satisfaction in seeing others get into trouble.

In the 1st reading we hear of one such instigator - Jezebel, the wife of king Ahab.

Instead of helping Ahab to let go of the thought of possessing Naboth's vineyard, she fanned his hope and desire.

She then proceeded to instigate some elders and nobles to fabricate false accusations of blasphemy against Naboth, and eventually an innocent man lost life.

In the face of such evil instigations and wicked plotting, it will be difficult to accept the teachings of Jesus in today's gospel passage.

We would rather arm ourselves to the teeth as we go tooth-for-tooth. We don't want to be walkovers or to be trampled upon, and if some people can't see it, then we will go for their eyes as well.

Yet in our anger and desire for justice, we will also fall into the trap of the unseen and hidden instigator.

The first letter of Peter (1 Pet 5:8-9) urges us to "be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith".

Yes we need to be calm and vigilant in order to know that the devil is prowling around and hiding from us, and instigating us to create trouble for others.

We must know who is the mastermind of lies and the real instigator. Only with the teachings of Jesus will we be able to resist him and not fall into his trap.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

11th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 17.06.2012

Ez 17:22-24/ 2 Cor 5:6-10/ Mk 4:26-34

It has been said that to be human is to have habits.

Indeed, habits are peppered all over our lives and every day is a repetition of habits.

Still, say whatever we may, our habits give us some stability and routine in life.

In fact, our habits can even help us to relax as they help us enter into the comfort zone of familiarity.

Yet habits don’t appear all of a sudden. Rather they happen with incremental repetition. It happens bit by bit and it slowly becomes a habit.

That is obvious in bad habits, which creep up on us slowly and in small steps.

Take for eg, alcoholism. It begins with one glass and then it slowly develops into a habit until it becomes an addiction.

Similarly with gambling. It begins with one dollar at a time until it becomes a habit that becomes a problem.

For better or for worse, our habits are about growth and change in ourselves.

And our habits can also determine whether we can be better persons or not.

In today’s gospel, Jesus told two parables about what the kingdom of God is like.

The two parables used seeds to illustrate the growth of the kingdom of God.

We may be able to understand that the seeds sown in the ground will begin to germinate and grow to produce a harvest, or grow into a tree that gives shade and shelter.

Yes, we may be able to understand that. Yet, we may not fully comprehend the mystery of growth and change.

It is not just about growth and change in seeds. It is also about growth and change in the kingdom of God.

Since the day we were born, the seeds of the kingdom of God were sown in us.

These are the seeds of love that help us grow into the image and likeness of God in whom we are created.

But along with these seeds of love are also weeds of sin that are sown by the evil one.

These weeds will try to choke the seeds of love, so that there is not only no growth, but also to cause the seeds of love to wither and die.

So every choice and every decision we make will determine whether we grow or we choke.

And every choice and every decision is one small step towards developing a habit that is either growing or choking.

We can’t deny that one strong influence in our lives, besides our mothers, is our fathers.

Yes, our fathers are indeed a strong influence and they sow tough seeds in us.

And today, we also celebrate Father’s Day, so let me share with you two stories.

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare.

He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top up his fuel tank.

He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.

His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet.

As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold: a squadron of Japanese bombers and fighters was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

All the American fighters were gone on mission, and the fleet was totally defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet.

Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dived into the formation of the Japanese planes.

So he charged in with guns blazing, attacking the surprised enemy planes. Butch weaved in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

In desperation he even dived at the enemy planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.

Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction.

Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

And today, the O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

The next story happened many years ago when Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for corrupting the city in everything from drug-trafficking and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was Capone's lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but also, Eddie got special dividends.

For instance, he and his family occupied a large fenced-in mansion with live-in servants and all of the luxuries.

Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son whom he loved dearly.

Eddie saw to it that his young son had everything, and also a good education.

And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was.

Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name, or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. The seed of God’s love was beginning to germinate in him.

He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and show his son the meaning of integrity.

But to do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. He would lose everything.

So, he testified. Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street.

But for him, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay.

So, what do these two stories have to do with each other?      

Well, Butch O'Hare, the heroic fighter pilot was "Easy Eddie's" son.

Indeed, a moving father-and-son story. Yet it is also a story of how a father felt the seed of God’s love growing in him.

He had to kick an evil habit and change to grow in goodness so that he in turn can sow seeds of goodness in his son.

And the seeds of goodness grew in his son and that gave him the courage to put his life on the line for others.
Yes, we will reap what we sow. Not just in others but also in ourselves.

God has already planted the seeds of love in us. We need to water it with prayer and let the seeds grow in us and bear fruit.

May we in turn sow seeds of love in others so that they too will bear fruits of love for the Kingdom of God.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saturday, 16-06-12

Isaiah 61:9-11 / Luke 2:41-51

The feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is closely connected to the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which was celebrated yesterday.

This feast highlights the joys and sorrows of Mary in doing the will of God, her virtues of obedience and humility, her love for God and for Jesus, and not least, her love for all people.

In Christian art, the Immaculate Heart of Mary is depicted with a sword pierced through the heart, and wrapped with roses or lilies.

In the gospel of Luke, Simeon prophesied that a sword will pierce through her heart (Lk 2:35) because of the sorrows and sufferings she will have to go through with Jesus.

Hence, closely connected to the devotion of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is the seven sorrows of Mary :

1. The prophecy of Simeon (Lk 2:35)
2. The flight to Egypt (Mt 2:13-14)
3. The finding of Jesus in the Temple (Lk 2:43-45)
4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the way of the cross
5. The crucifixion
6. The taking down of the body of Jesus from the cross
7. The burial of Jesus (Jn 19:38-42)

Usually seven Hail Marys are also said while meditating upon the seven sorrows of Mary. Furthermore, the devotion to the Immaculate Heart would also include going for Confession before or after the first Saturday of every month, receive Communion and the praying of the Rosary.

All this is in reparation for the sins committed against her Immaculate Heart, which are also the sins committed against the Sacred Heart of Jesus, because the two Hearts are closely and intimately connected.

It is also a way of expressing our union with the Hearts of Jesus and Mary and sharing in their love for all people and praying for the conversion and salvation of sinners.

Yes, we and all peoples are in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary. May Jesus and Mary be in our hearts and in the hearts of all peoples too so that all will be saved.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday, 15-06-12

Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8-9 / Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19 / John 19:31-37

The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus began as a devotion in the late 17th century, but in 1889 it was raised to a solemnity.

The most significant source for the devotion to the Sacred Heart in the form it is known today was St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647–1690).

St. Margaret Mary claimed that Jesus requested to be honored under the figure of His heart, also claiming that, when He appeared radiant with love, he asked for a devotion of expiatory or atoning love, with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and frequent reception of Holy Communion, especially Communion on the First Friday of the month, and the observance of the Holy Hour.

In one the the apparitions, Jesus reported said to her : "Behold the Heart that has so loved men ... instead of gratitude I receive from the greater part of mankind only ingratitude ...".

The Sacred Heart is often depicted in religious art as a flaming heart shining with divine light, pierced by the lance-wound, surrounded by a crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and bleeding.

Sometimes the image shown shining within the bosom of Jesus with his wounded hands pointing at the heart. The wounds and crown of thorns are symbols of the sufferings of Jesus, while the fire represents the power of divine love.

Pope Pius XI stated that "the spirit of expiation or reparation has always had the first and foremost place in the worship given to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus".

In other words, when we are able to grasp the length and breath, the height and depth of the love of Jesus as shown in His Sacred Heart, we will also want to offer Him all our love and all our heart, and do penance and offer love sacrifices for our sins and the sins of humanity.

May we worship and adore the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and may He make our hearts like His, so that we too will offer our prayers, our love and our lives for the salvation of mankind.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 14-06-12

1 Kings 18:41-46 / Matthew 5:20-26

The present weather in Singapore can be rather uncomfortable. It can be so hot and humid, and the little rain that comes along does not cool things down much.

Yet, no matter what we say about the weather, we in Singapore have not experienced drought, as far as I can remember.

We have not gone for months, or even years without any rain at all.

So it might be difficult to imagine what it is to have a drought for three and a half years.

That was the situation in the 1st reading. The land of Israel was experiencing drought for three and a half years already and there was also the consequent famine.

Yet king Ahab was not bothered by it. All he did was to think that the rain will come, the famine will go and he could just continue eating and drinking. Hence we can understand now why Elijah told Ahab to go back and eat and drink.

King Ahab is a figure of a hardness of heart and he had grown insensitive from constantly rejecting the Lord.

He had seen the fire from heaven which consumed Elijah's sacrifice; he had seen 450 prophets of the idol Baal slain by  Elijah; his kingdom was suffering from drought and famine, and yet he couldn't care less.

He still didn't even bother to turn to the Lord for help; instead it was Elijah who did the praying.

We may not have the hardness of heart like king Ahab but Jesus warns His disciples in the gospel that if their virtues go no deeper than the scribes and Pharisees, they will never get into the kingdom of heaven.

Similarly if our virtues go no deeper than those who are not Christians, then it may also mean that the teachings of Jesus have not softened our hearts.

May the teachings of Jesus soften our hearts and make us humble and trust in His providence, and may we grow in love for the Lord and our neighbour.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 13-06-12

1 Kings 18:20-39 / Matthew 5:17-19

Every religion has a form of worship, and sacrifice is a very integral part of the worship.

The devotees would make sacrificial offerings to the deity and pray for protection and favours.

Hence the sacrificial offering is always made to the deity in the form of worship.

In the 1st reading, we heard of two similar forms of worship that were offered on Mt. Carmel.

One was offered by the 450 prophets of Baal, and the other by the prophet Elijah.

And the God of Israel showed who the true God is as fire from heaven consumed the sacrifice offered by the prophet Elijah.

Indeed the Lord is our God and we are His people. God also gave us laws and established a form of worship called the Eucharist.

Yet the uniqueness of the Eucharist is that it is God Himself who provided for the sacrifice and He even gave us His only Son for our salvation.

In fact, through the Eucharist, God has bound Himself in a commitment to us and He has also fulfilled that commitment through the sacrifice on the cross.

God does not need us to sacrifice anything more. He only wants us to offer our hearts to Him, freely and lovingly.

Monday, June 11, 2012

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 12-06-12

1 Kings 17:7-16 / Matthew 5:13-16

The ways of the Lord are indeed wonderful and marvellous to see.

Yet for the rich and secure, for those who had no dire need, the ways of the Lord are hidden from them.

But for the poor and the lowly and the needy, the Lord shows them signs and wonders.

The 1st reading shows us how the Lord takes care and provides for those who obey Him and trust in Him.

In a dire situation like a famine, the widow could have cared less about Elijah, and just go on with her last meal with her son and then wait for death.

Nobody would have bothered about hospitality or concern for neighbour. It was each for for his own survival; so it was then, and so it is now.

But the widow obeyed the voice of the Lord and, putting her life and the life of her son and their needs aside, attended to Elijah.

Hence to be the salt and light that Jesus was talking about in the gospel, we have to learn from the wonderful and marvellous example of the nameless widow of the 1st reading.

We need to be lowly and ordinary like the salt, and yet humble even when we are shining like the light.

Only then will we see the wonders and the marvellous works of the Lord.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

St. Barnabas, apostle, 11-06-12

Acts 11:21-26; 13:1-3 / Matthew 10:7-13      (2019)

St. Barnabas was not one of the twelve Apostles who were chosen by Jesus.

Yet in Acts 14:14, he, together with St. Paul were called apostles, as they were sent by the Church for a mission and to preach or deliver a message.

Yet to be called an apostle was indeed a great privilege for St. Barnabas, considering the fact that he was one of the first converts to Christianity.

And indeed, he lived up to his calling as an apostle. He and St. Paul undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts against a faction which insisted on circumcision.

We also heard from the 1st reading that they also gained converts in Antioch, and it was there that the  disciples were first called "Christians".

He also participated in the Council of Jerusalem, the first Council, which addressed the status of the Gentile converts and formulated the required religious practices for them.

So St. Barnabas was a great figure of evangelization in the early Church.

Yet the 1st reading described these simple but important qualities in him - for he was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.

For us who are called by God to be His people, let us recognize the goodness that God has created in us.

Let us also ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith so that like St. Barnabas, we too will be instruments for the great work that God wants us to do.

Corpus Christi, Year B, 10-06-12

Exodus 24:3-8/ Hebrew 9:11-15/ Mark 14:12-16, 22-26

One of the greatest threats to Europe during the 5th Century came from Eastern Asia.

The Huns led by Attila had swept through Asia and in the year 452 was on the verge of invading Italy.

The Huns were savage and barbaric in every aspect, killing men, women and children, plundering, sacking and destroying.

Attila the Hun was especially and utterly cruel in inflicting torture, greedy in plundering and famous for ripping apart his enemies and drinking their blood.

Rome which was then the seat of the crumbling Roman empire waited in helpless terror for utter destruction.

The pope at that time, Pope Leo knew he had to defend his flock and so he decided to go and meet Attila the Hun at the risk of his life and try to negotiate for peace.

Before he set off, Pope Leo celebrated the Eucharist.

As he ate and drank the Body and Blood of Christ, he thought to himself: If Attila were to rip me apart and drink my blood, then he would also be drinking the blood of Christ and that might convert him.

So with that, the venerable and simple old man went forth to meet the merciless young destroyer who only would kill and plunder.

It was a tense meeting as the Pope pleaded with Attila to stop the bloodshed and spare Rome and the innocent people, and at the same time wondering when he was going to lose his life.

Then in a spectacular and surprising turn of events, Attila ordered his army to stop attacking and return to their base camp.

Many speculations were offered for this sudden and unexpected change in Attila the Hun.

It would be that a sum of money was given to him to stop him from attacking.

Or that his army was short of supplies and worn out, and there was a famine and plague in Italy at that time.

But another story has it that when Attila’s servants asked him why he suddenly changed his mind, he told them this:

While the Pope was talking to him, there appeared above the Pope’s head, two figures with drawn swords, and they seemed to threated Attila unless he consented to do as Pope Leo had requested. Those two figures were said to be St Peter and St Paul.

Well, the fact was that Attila and his savage hordes turned back and Rome was saved at the mitigation of Pope Leo.

The interesting point in all this is that although Pope Leo knew that he could lose his life, he also believed in the power of the Eucharist.

He believed that Christ was in him and that the Blood of Christ flowed in his veins.

This is also what St Augustine taught us: the Eucharist is the only food that changes us to become like what we eat. We partake of Christ’s Body and Blood, and we become like Christ.

St Paul would also attest to that. On the road to Damascus, he was blinded by the light, and he heard the voice saying: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?

He asked: Who are you, Lord? And the voice replied: I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.

Indeed, Jesus the Lord gives us His Body and Blood so that He can live in us and we in Him.

Today, we the Church celebrates the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ.

It is not just about the bread and wine becoming the Body and Blood of Christ after it is consecrated.

It is also about us who receive the Body and Blood of Christ at Holy Communion.

Yes, it is Holy Communion. We are receiving something very sacred. We are receiving Christ the Risen Lord.

And that’s why we must prepare ourselves worthy to receive Christ.

There is that mandatory Eucharistic fast before receiving Holy Communion. We should know that.

There is also the necessity to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation if we have committed serious sins.

Because St Paul teaches in 1 Cor 11:29, that we must receive the Lord Jesus worthily, otherwise we eat and drink to our own judgment.

To receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is desecration; it’s one serious sin upon another serious sin.

The sacred and the sinful cannot co-exist in us.

When we receive Holy Communion worthily, Christ abides in us and makes us His Body, and His Blood flows in us, giving us life.

We become a holy and consecrated people. That is His covenant with us.

We become His people; He will protect us just as He protected Pope Leo from the ruthless and blood-thirsty Attila the Hun.

Having said all that, we are also confronted with those who have to shed their blood for Christ, those people whom we call martyrs.

In the history of the Church, the martyrs were not as “fortunate” as Pope Leo.

They were literally ripped apart, skinned alive, roasted, impaled and underwent all sorts of horrendous torture before shedding their blood in witness for Christ.

Tarcisius was a twelve-year-old Christian orphan boy who lived during one of the fierce Roman persecutions of the third century.    

Each day, from a secret meeting place in the catacombs where Christians gathered for Mass, a deacon would be sent to the prisons to carry the Eucharist to those Christians condemned to die so that they would be able to bear the pain and torture for Christ.

At one point, there was no deacon to send, and so Tarcisius persuaded the bishop to send him to carry the "Holy Mysteries" to those in prison.

Several sacred Hosts were placed inside a white linen cloth within a little case which Tarcisius put inside his tunic, just over his heart, and with his two hands clasped over it, he started off.

Then he passed by a group of his friends who were just about to start a game, but needing one more to complete the number. Catching sight of Tarcisius they called to him to stop and join them, but he declined saying that he had to do something important.

But when they saw him carrying something in his tunic they caught hold of him and wanted to see it.

He tried to struggle but when the boys were about to pry open his arms he called out to Jesus for help.

When the boys realized he was a Christian, they began to beat him furiously but Tarcisius held on to the Sacred Hosts.

Finally a Christian came by and chased the boys away.

Tarcisius handed the Sacred Hosts to the Christian and requested him to bring Jesus to those in prison, and then he breathed his last.

The Church now honours him as St. Tarcisius, and he is the patron saint of those receiving First Holy Communion.

A young life was lost, blood was spilled, but it was the blood of Christ that was spilled.

But where the blood of Christ is spilled, there the seed of Christianity is planted.

As a matter of fact, in those places where the martyrs shed their blood for Christ, Christianity has flourished.

Indeed, we are the Body of Christ, and the Blood of Christ flows in us.

We may not be called to shed our blood for Christ as the martyrs did.

Yet we are called to make sacrifices and to pour out our lives for others in love, service, compassion, forgiveness, patience, tolerance and understanding.

And we can be sure that like what Attila the Hun saw hovering above Pope Leo, St. Peter and St. Paul, with our guardian angels, are also hovering above us and watching over us, because Christ is in us.

Friday, June 8, 2012

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 09-06-12

2 Timothy 4:1-8 / Mark 12:38-44       (2020)

Being curious and adventurous is part of our human nature.

With monotonous routine, boredom will surely set in and we will begin to look for some excitement in our lives.

So in whatever we do, or even in whatever we eat, we would like to have a variety, and we would like to try out new things.

But when it comes to our religious beliefs, then we must also be aware that the essentials truths have been revealed to us by Jesus.

In a way, we can say that when it comes to Christianity, there is nothing new that has not been revealed; maybe just a deeper understanding of the mystery of faith.

The 1st reading warns us that the time will come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty according to their tastes, and instead of listening to the truth, they will turn to myths.

That was why St. Paul urged Timothy to preach the Good News, welcomed or unwelcomed, and to insist on it.

To believe in the truth demands that we be faithful to the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So day in, and day out, we have to stay faithful to the truth we have been taught and to stay on the right course.

Jesus Christ is our only Saviour. Anything or anyone else is just another temptation.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 08-06-12

2 Timothy 3:10-17 / Mark 12:35-37

The Bible is the sacred book of the Church, and we call it the Word of God.

We revere it, read it, meditate on it, pray with it, because as we heard in the 1st reading "All scripture is inspired by God ... " so the Bible is a means of coming into communion with God.

The 1st reading also continues by saying that the Holy Scriptures "can profitably be used for teaching, for refuting error, for guiding people's lives and teaching them to be holy".

It is surely very comforting and affirming to hear all this, just as in the gospel, the great majority of the people heard the teaching of Jesus with delight.

Yet the Word of God strengthens, as well as commissions. As we read and meditate on the scriptures, we must be aware that we are being equipped and made ready to do any kind of good work.

The 1st reading painted this scenario before us: You are well aware that anybody who tries to live in devotion to Christ is certain to be attacked; while the wicked impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving others and deceived themselves.

Well, the Word of God brings comfort to the distressed, and distresses the comfortable.

The Word of God is not for us to pick and choose what we want to hear.

The Word of God strengthens and commissions; the Word of God also probes and challenges us.

May the Word of God lead us to the truth and may it also bring us comfort in our distress.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 07-06-12

2 Timothy 2:8-15 / Mark 12:28-34

We have often heard it said that silence is golden. But it certainly does not mean that we shut our mouths and don't say anything at all.

We need words in order to communicate. Yet silence is vital for good communication.

It means that our hearts need to be still and silent in order to understand the meaning of the words of a message.

But when our hearts are not still and silent, then our minds would be wrangling about words.

And the 1st reading tells us that all this ever achieves is the destruction of those who are listening.

Certainly, when everyone is talking and words are spewed all over, then no one is listening and nothing will be understood.

Yet, for the scribe who asked Jesus about which is the first of all the commandments, he listened to what Jesus said, and in the stillness and silence of his heart, he understood what Jesus told him.

And Jesus even commended him on how wisely he has spoken and even told him that he is not far from the kingdom of God.

May our hearts be still, may our hearts be silent, and we will know who God is and that He is indeed very near.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 06-06-12

2 Peter 1:1-3, 6-12 / Mark 12:18-27

To say that we are a people of faith is certainly not a light statement.

By and large, most of us live ordinary lives and we can also say that we only have an ordinary faith.

We don't work spectacular signs and wonders, and even as Christians, our lives and our faith changes like the weather and we are subjected to unpredictability.

Yet at the very core of our faith, we believe in eternity. We believe that there is something more to this present world, that there is another world.

But here is where the difference sets in. This present world is not going to be the same as that in the next world; it is not a continuation.

In the gospel, the Sadducees talk about the next world as if it was just a continuation of this world, and that was where Jesus pointed out how wrong they were.

And how different are we from the assumptions of the Sadducees?

If they thought that this world continues into the next, then our thinking would be that this world would never end for us.

Because we live like as if we won't die! But if we really believe that our lives are passing on and finally one day our lives will come to an end, then we would certainly live differently.

We certainly wouldn't let greed or selfishness or riches or wealth or status or achievements or possessions distract us because we know that these will all eventually pass away.

But we believe in a living God who wants to give us life to the full in this world and eternal life in the next.

If that is our faith in God, then let that faith be shown in our lives.

Monday, June 4, 2012

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 05-06-12

2 Peter 3:11-15, 17-18 / Mark 12:13-17     (2020)

In a way we can say that we are very lax and complacent with regards to our safety.

We would consider wearing the safety belts in the car, crash helmets when riding a motorcycle or even a bicycle, a hassle rather than as a means of protecting our ourselves.

Yes we would not fear until we see danger right in the eye and then the chilling fear runs up our spine. But would that be too late?

Similarly we do not fear death. We may attended numerous funerals of loved ones and friends, but yet the coldness of death won't hit us until we are grasping for life. But then again, would it be too late?

Even when we hear in the 1st reading about the sky dissolving in flames and the elements melt in the heat, would we jump up and start confessing our sins and repenting of our evil deeds?

We may be thinking - All this will happen, but not soon. (Maybe not even in my life-time!)

But the 1st reading warns us: Think of our Lord's patience as your opportunity to be saved.

We must always remember that our time on earth is short. As the Psalm would say - our lifespan is seventy years, and eighty for those who are strong.

Kingdoms have come and gone, Caesar has come and gone, generals and geniuses have come and gone.

We too will go, and when we go, let us pray that we will go back to God. Let us not be lax and complacent about our salvation. Let us get serious on it now.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 04-06-12

2 Peter 1:2-7 / Mark 12:1-12

We may assume that maturity comes with age, and that as we grow older we will also grow wiser.

That may not be the case always, but still we cannot take growth and maturity for granted.

Every now and then, we may need to do a reality check on ourselves so that we can see ourselves clearer and to see what is it that really matters to us.

The 1st reading states a direction for our life in Christ when it says that may we have more and more grace and peace as we come to know our Lord more and more.

And it also charts out a spiritual check on ourselves to let us see if we are indeed growing in grace and peace.

Beginning from faith, and then going on to goodness, understanding, self-control, patience, true devotion, kindness and then finally love.

So with faith, there must be a growth and maturity that bears fruit in love and the 1st reading urges us that to attain this, we have to do our utmost best.

To slack in our spiritual development and to be complacent is to end up like the evil tenants in the parable of the vineyard.

We must not take love for granted nor must we ever resort to violence to get the things we desire.

Let us have a sincere and honest reflection before the Lord and ask for the grace to see ourselves truthfully so that we will be at peace with God, with others and with ourselves.

Friday, June 1, 2012

8th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 02-06-12

Jude 17, 20-25 / Mark 11:27-33

The phrase "for the salvation of souls" may sound rather traditional and archaic even, maybe because we seldom hear of this phrase nowadays.

But it was not that long ago when we would be reminded to pray for the salvation of souls and to do penance for the salvation of souls or to work for the salvation of souls.

It may sound rather lofty but that is precisely what our mission is in reality.

The 1st reading would put that in these terms of practicality - when there are some who have doubts, assure them; when there are some to be saved from the fire, pull them out.

How much more obvious and practical than the salvation of souls could mean?

Yet the 1st reading also puts in a sort of demarcation when it says "there are others to whom you must be kind with great caution, keeping your distance even from outside clothing which is contaminated by vice".

Yes, there are some people whom we can call "hardened sinners" who will challenge our every act of love and kindness and compassion, and use all sorts of derogatory names on us.

We have to pray for the salvation of their souls, and yet we must remember that they are not challenging us but rather challenging the love of Jesus, just like how the chief priests and scribes and elders challenged the authority of Jesus in the gospel.

Jesus commissioned us to proclaim the Good News of salvation and along with that commission is His authority and power.

Whether it sounds traditional or archaic, it is urgent and critical that we continue to work for the salvation of souls, and also the salvation of our souls.