Friday, November 30, 2012

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday 01-12-12

Apocalypse 22:1-7 / Luke 21:34-36

The price of security and safety is none other than constant vigilance and alertness.

More so in a time of warfare and national security, every possible defence must be on alert and on the watch for anything suspicious.

Yet, to be careful about every minute thing, can be quite taxing on resources and energy and, fatigue will set in and we will be tempted to drop our guard when things seem quiet and peaceful.

The 1st reading was written in a time of persecution and tribulations, and hence the spiritual state of the Christian community was sharp and and the faith was on high alert.

The Christians were also assured that in the end God will defeat the evil surrounding them and rescue and save them and the glory of God will be upon them.

Yet when the persecutions are removed and the tribulations quelled, the sense of danger will also be lessened and subsequently the vigilance and alertness will also be dropped.

We live in an environment which is relatively safe and peaceful and we don't face and hostilities towards our faith.

Yet we must heed what Jesus said in the gospel - Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of this life.

Yes, it is in times like these that we become slack and become focused on worldly things and look for the pleasures of life.

Let us be calm but vigilant and alert to the signs of spiritual erosion and decay. Let us be faithful in prayer and may Lord help us to face every trial with confidence.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

St. Andrew, Apostle, Friday, 30-11-12

Romans 10:9-18 / Matthew 4:18-22         (2019)

The New Testament states that Andrew was the brother of Simon Peter. The gospel of John states that Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist who pointed out the Jesus as the Lamb of God to him.

Andrew followed Jesus and recognized Him as the Messiah, and hastened to introduce Him to his brother Simon Peter, and from then on the two brothers became disciples of Jesus.

But in today's gospel, we heard Jesus called them, while they were casting their nets in the lake, for they were fishermen.

Jesus called them to be His disciples, saying that He will make them "fishers of men".

Yet both gospel accounts complement each other in that we can see the faith of St. Andrew and his openness to the mission of a higher calling than just being a mere fisherman.

Besides bring Peter to see Jesus, St. Andrew also accepted that he was to bring others to encounter the person of Jesus and that would be his mission and purpose in life from then on.

Of course as the 1st reading puts it, everyone (and anyone) who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

But, they will not ask for His help unless they believe in Him, and they will not believe in Him unless they have heard of Him, and they will not hear of Him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent.

Like St. Andrew, we too are called and sent to the deep and cast the net of the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Like St. Andrew, we too must speak about our Lord Jesus Christ. If not we, then who?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 29-11-12

Apocalypse 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9 / Luke 21:20-28

Rome was known as the Eternal City even among the ancient Romans themselves. It was so called because the Roman people thought that no matter what happened to the world, no matter how many other empires might rise and fall, Rome would go on forever.

In the 1st reading, the city of "Babylon" does not refer to the city of Babylon which was an Akkadian city-state of ancient Mesopotamia.

The "Babylon" in the 1st reading was a symbolic name for the city of Rome, which in the first century was the center of the Roman empire.

It was during that time of the first century that Christians were persecuted throughout the Roman empire and it was in Rome that St. Peter and St. Paul and many other Christians met their martyrdom.

Yet the 1st reading predicted that Rome will fall, and indeed it fell together with the crumbling Roman empire in the later centuries.

Yet now Rome is still known as the Eternal City and the Vatican city is within Rome, and hence Rome is somewhat considered as the center of Roman Catholicism.

So what about the prophesies of the 1st reading concerning Rome? Are they not true or are they not fulfilled?

With regards to Rome, we can say that out of a sinful chaos, a new creation came forth, one that is used for the service of God.

And that is what Jesus is saying in the gospel - when terrible things begin to take place, we must trust and believe and stand erect and hold our heads up high.

Because God is doing something wonderfully marvellous - out of chaos, He is recreating something new and it will be for His glory.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 28-11-12

Apocalypse 15:1-4 / Luke 21:12-19

When we read about the Passion (the sufferings) of Jesus in the gospel, we can see that He underwent three types of tortures.

The first was the scourging and that is to whip the convicted person 39 times (which was seldom needed) with leather straps that has lead balls at the ends.

The purpose was to whip the person till within an inch of his death and then stop so that the other forms of torture can continue.

The third was the crucifixion - make Jesus carry the cross, march Him to Calvary and then execute His slowly.

Those were the soldiers' orders and they carried it out precisely.

What was difficult to understand was the in-between torture, the second torture.

The soldiers wanted to mock and make fun of a half-dead Jesus. So they put a purple robe on Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, put a stick in His hand, and hailed Him "King of the Jews".

And then they spat Him. Spittle is not intended to hurt the body; it can't. Spitting at a person is meant to degrade, to insult, to humiliate.

As disciples of Jesus, we can be assured that we will never be spared of the spittle of humiliation.

It comes in the form of gossips, slandering, accusations and all those tribulations that we heard Jesus talked about in the gospel.

We have had our share and in retaliation, we also have given others our share.

But let us remember what Jesus told us - Our endurance will win us our lives.

Others may spit at us but we don't have to spit back. Jesus didn't. In fact He endured the spittle and the pain all the way to the cross and there He won life for us.

Monday, November 26, 2012

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 27-11-12

Apocalypse 14:14-19 / Luke 21:5-13

Prophesies about the end-times or about the end of the world may sound interesting. Yet contrary to expectations, it may not have produced the desired results.

There is no widespread panic or alarm, nor great numbers seeking forgiveness and mercy or even nation-wide or international movements of reformations.

In fact, the wrong-doings and acts of evil seem to continue to rise and fill the world from end to end, with no sign of repentance in sight even.

So end-time prophesies has just become another topic of conversation, and we may also have become numbed to its message.

The 1st reading gives the image of two harvests. In the first harvest, a son of man with a gold crown on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand reaped a harvest.

This is to symbolize the gathering of the righteous, and they are gathered by the love and mercy of God and vindicated for their faithfulness.

The second harvest seems to be at vintage time, when all the grapes are ripe, and this harvest is reaped by the angel with a sharp sickle and put into the winepress of God's anger.

This to symbolize the judgement of the the wicked and evil-doers and their subsequent punishment.

What must be stated is that God is love and mercy and forgiveness, and He waits patiently for sinners to repent and be reconciled with Him.

We may take a while to realize the message of repentance and forgiveness but let us not take forever. Because forever in the wrong place is a very very long time.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 26-11-12

Apocalypse 14:1-5 / Luke 21:1-4

The number 144,000 has been the topic of discussion and speculation. Of course if that number is understood as literal instead of symbolic, then many absurd problems will arise.

One absurd fundamentalistic opinion would be that there will be only 144,000 that will be saved and these are the chosen ones for salvation.

But as it is, the number 144,000 is the product of 1,200 multiplied by 120 and the meaning here is that the number 12 represents God's people and hence 144,000 represents the multitude of God's people in heaven - actually a countless number.

As the 1st reading puts it, they are the people who "never allowed a lie to pass their lips and no fault can be found on them."

Yes, these are the people who know the cost of following Jesus and were prepared to pay the price and indeed paid the price.

The poverty-stricken widow in the gospel also knew what it meant to present an offering to God - and that means everything.

Her two coins were of little value but it was her all and her everything, and that was why Jesus said she had put in more than anybody.

We may think that it was absurd that the poverty-stricken widow would want to give her all and everything.

But would we also think that it was absurd that we would never allow a lie to pass our lips and that no fault can be found on us?

The "144,000" didn't think it so, because they knew the price of following Jesus and were prepared to do so. May we also think likewise.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Christ the King, Year B, 25.11.2012

Daniel 7:13-14/ Apocalypse 1:5-8/ John 18:33-37

The word “legacy” will give rise to some images and ideas in our minds.

One of which is that of how a person has left his influence and his mark in this word even is he is no more in this world.

Another is that the mention of the person’s name will make others recall what he has done and contributed to mankind.

Examples of this would be people like Alexander the Great, Beethoven, Thomas Edison and maybe even Steve Jobs.

Alexander was the first king to be called “the Great” and subsequently the title of “the Great” was used for people with great achievements.

Beethoven was a great musician who left behind a legacy of great classical compositions (eg, the famous 5th Symphony).

Thomas Edison left behind a legacy of inventions, and one of the famous ones was the lightbulb.

And Steve Jobs’ legacy is in the digital world of mobile phones, laptops and computers.

So for a person and his name to go down into history and be remembered through the ages, it means that he has left behind a legacy, a legacy that lives on.

In today’s gospel, we come across a person who didn’t really leave behind a legacy. Maybe we can only say that he was just part of a legacy.

The name Pilate, Pontius Pilate, has gone down into history as the man who sentenced Jesus to death.

His name is mentioned in the Creed, but not as someone with a great achievement, nor did he leave behind a legacy.

Pontius Pilate could have left behind a legacy, but he became a tragedy.

He became a tragedy in the sense that he will always be known as the one who sentenced Jesus to death, despite knowing that Jesus was innocent.

He even tried to deny any responsibility in the death of Jesus by the symbolic gesture of washing his hands.

But the truth is that he had the final say in the sentencing of Jesus. Yes, that is the truth.

Pontius Pilate has the power and authority to acquit or condemn Jesus.

He himself knew that Jesus was innocent and in fact he was eager to release him.

But after the chief priests and the people mentioned about Caesar being their only king, Pilate became anxious for his own security and his own interests and future.

Yet, as we heard Pilate question Jesus about His authority, we can see that the tables were being turned around.

Jesus stated that He is a king but His kingdom is not of this world.

He came into the world to bear witness to the truth and those who are on the side of the truth will listen to His voice.

And Pilate was left to decide. Which king was he going to serve? The king of this world?

Or will he serve the King of truth and hence stand on the side of truth?

Pilate was to judge Jesus, but in the end he had to judge for himself.
He had to decide for which side he will stand on.

And Pilate went down in history and into our Creed as the one who choose to stand on the dark side of falsehood.

He could have been a legacy but he ended up as a tragedy.

Because in condemning Jesus, Pilate also condemned himself.

By not standing for the truth, Pilate did not have anywhere to stand on, neither in this world nor in the next.

And yet the tragedy that Pilate left behind continues to fester in the dark side of our lives, as we turn away from the truth and hide from the truth.

There is this story of a little boy and his sister who went to visit their grandparents in the countryside.

He had a catapult and he practised in the fields but he could never hit his target.

As he came back to his grandma’s backyard, he happened to see her pet duck.

Out of impulse, he took aim and let fly a shot. The stone hit the duck squarely and it fell dead.

The boy panicked. Desperately, he hid the dead duck in the barn, only to look up and see his sister watching.

His sister, Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing.

After lunch that day, Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” 

But Sally said, “Johnny told me that he wanted to wash the dishes today. Didn’t you, Johnny?”

And she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny had to wash the dishes.

Later, Grandpa wanted to bring the two children fishing. Grandma said, “Oh, I am sorry but I need Sally to help prepare dinner.”

Sally smiled and said, “Oh, Johnny said that he wants to do it.” 

Again, Sally whispered, “Remember the duck?” And so Johnny stayed and Sally went fishing.

After a couple of days of doing the chores, Johnny became frustrated and desperate and he couldn’t take it anymore.

So he confessed to Grandma that he had killed her pet duck.

Grandma held his face in her hands and said, “I know, Johnny. I was standing at the window and saw the whole thing. There and then, I forgave you because I love you. I was wondering how long are you going to hide the truth and let Sally make a slave out of you.”

Yes, when we hide the truth, we become slaves of sin and end up in tragedy.

But Christ our King invites us to listen to His voice and stand on the side of truth and the truth will let us free.

Christ our King wants us to be free so that we can be His living legacy of honesty, sincerity, humility and faithfulness.

Just as Christ the King called out to Pilate to stand by Him, Christ the King also calls us to stand by Him.

If we don’t stand by Christ our King, then we won’t have anywhere to stand at all, neither in this world, nor in the next.

Friday, November 23, 2012

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 24-11-12

Apocalypse 11:4-12 / Luke 20:27-40

The 1st reading is taken from the Book of the Apocalypse (or Revelation) and that is the last book in the Bible.

Yet to understand adequately the contents of that last book, we will need to have a general knowledge and understanding of the whole Bible.

The use of symbolic language and graphic descriptions can be interesting for reading but has to be understood in the context of the whole Bible and also of the tribulations of those times.

Of interest are the two witnesses, described as olive trees and lamp stands that stand before the Lord. Just who are they specifically?

Well, they could represent Elijah and Moses who was present at the Transfiguration and bearing witness to Christ.

Or they could also represent St. Peter and St Paul who bore witness to Christ with their lives in Rome.

But the point of the passage of the 1st reading is that even in the face of trials and tribulations, of hostility and harassment, the Church must continue to bear witness to Christ.

Christians will be persecuted and many will die as martyrs, but God will certainly save them and grant them their eternal reward.

They must persevere and be faithful and believe in Christ who Himself died and rose from the dead.

What they believed and died for is also what we believe - God is not God of the dead but of the living, and all who truly believe in the risen Christ will surely be saved.

That would be enough for our direction in life and beyond.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 23-11-12

Apocalypse 10:8-11 / Luke 19:45-48

There is a local dish that is probably of Chinese origin called sweet and sour pork. It is a savoury dish as the meat has a distinct taste of being sweetish and a bit sourish at the same time.

In the 1st reading, the scroll certainly isn't referring to any particular dish although John refers to eating it and tasted sweet in the mouth and turned sour in the stomach.

The scroll is a symbol of the revelation of God about the judgement of the world when the time comes, and John has to prophesy the message of the judgement of God.

The sweet-sour taste of the scroll can have several meanings. One could be that there will be the coming judgement of God and yet there will be mercy.

Another could be that the Church would have to suffer persecution but there is also God's promise of salvation.

Yet it message is not just for the world but also for the Church.

In the gospel we heard of Jesus cleansing the Temple, saying that the Temple is God's house of prayer and yet the people have turned it into a robbers' den.

That should also remind us that the Church is where people gather to pray and to experience the sweetness of God's love. The Church is a sign of God's saving love.

May we never cause any scandal within the Church and turn it into a sour and bitter taste for others.

More importantly, may we ourselves taste and see the goodness of the Lord and share it with others.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 22-11-12

Apocalypse 5:1-10 / Luke 19:41-44

In the year 70 AD, the city of Jerusalem was captured after a long siege and destroyed by the Roman army, and the Temple which took 46 years to build was razed to the ground.

Needless to say, the revolting Jews were slaughtered and the rest of the survivors were deported. It was certainly a great tragedy for the Chosen People of God.

Yet it was not the first time that it had happened. Back in the 586 BC, the city was captured by the Babylonians and the grand Temple of Solomon was razed to the ground and the inhabitants were deported to Babylon.

We can't help asking "What was wrong? Why must this happen to the People of God?"

The key to that question lies in what Jesus said today - if only the message of peace is understood. Yet it seemed to be hidden from the eyes of the people and Jesus even shed tears over this.

But the symbols given in the 1st reading are certainly not hidden from our eyes - the 7 horns symbolize the fullness of power; the 7 eyes symbolize knowledge and wisdom and the four prostrating animals represent the cherubim, the spectacular angelic beings who surround the throne of God.

Yet the most prominent figure is the Lamb that was slain, the Lamb that was worthy to take the scroll and break the seals, because the Lamb was sacrificed and by its blood bought men for God.

There is no doubt that the Lamb is Jesus who was crucified and by His precious blood He has saved us.

So the message of salvation is given to us and it is a message that is brought to us by the blood of Jesus on the cross.

Let us heed this message of salvation. The alternative will be the tears of destruction and it will cost us our blood.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Presentation of the B.V. Mary, Wednesday, 21-11-12

Zechariah 2:14-17 / Matthew 12:46-50

It is not unusual that devout Catholic parents consecrate their new-born baby to the Lord.

That is especially so when they have prayed for a child and the baby was like an answer to their prayers.

But of course more than just consecrating their child to God, they will also baptize the baby in Church.

The feast of the presentation of Mary in the Temple is not found in the New Testament but from sources outside of the Bible.

According to those sources, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne had been childless and eventually having Mary was a heavenly gift from God.

In thanksgiving, they brought the child Mary to the Temple to consecrate her to God and she remained in the Temple till puberty.
Pilgrim Virgin of Fatima

The spiritual significance of this feast is that God chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son and He had prepared her since the Immaculate Conception to be ready for this mission.

Hence the feast of the Presentation of Mary is part of fulfillment of the her mission as the Mother of God.

The celebration of this feast also reminds us of our own baptism, in that we are not just consecrated to God in baptism but we have become God's chosen children.

As His children, we are to carry out and carry on the saving mission of Jesus our Saviour. May Mary our Mother pray for us and help us to fulfill this mission.

Monday, November 19, 2012

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 20-11-12

Apocalypse 3:1-6, 14-22 / Luke 19:1-10

Generally speaking, a miracle is an event attributed to some kind of supernatural intervention; there is an interruption to the laws of nature or just simply something that is unlikely to happen yet beneficial and even wonderful.

So it can be said that a miracle usually brings about something good, such as escaping danger and injuries, surviving from a certain deadly situation, or just beating the odds.

We don't usually say that what happened to Zacchaeus, that wealthy senior tax-collector in today's gospel, is a miracle.

We may simply call it a conversion and repentance. But the effect of Jesus calling out to Zacchaeus was simply amazing, if not miraculous.

The man changed immediately and became a generous, open-handed and charitable benefactor.

Jesus called out to him in love while he was on that sycamore tree and he listened and responded.

If anything, we can say that the miracle was that Zacchaeus listened and responded to Jesus.

Yet in the 1st reading, it seems that the Lord Jesus is pleading with the churches in Sardis and Laodicea to listen to Him and He said this: If anyone has ears to hear, let him listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

But what is said to the churches is also said to us and it is up to us to listen and respond to the call of conversion and repentance.

What happened to Zacchaeus was indeed a miracle. And miracles will happen to us too - when we listen and respond.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 19-11-12

Apocalypse 1:1-4; 2:1-5 / Luke 18:35-43

The book of Apocalypse (or Revelation) is written in a graphic style and filled with imagery, which is called apocalyptic literature, and it is certainly something for the imagination.

Yet before the imagination starts to run wild, we need to remember that apocalyptic literature has a purpose and aim.

Besides the heavily laden symbolic language which is understood only by the Christian community, its aim is to encourage and strengthen the community in times of persecution.

It also serves to remind the Christian community that in the end, God will judge and punish the wicked and evil doers and those who are faithful will be vindicated.

That is the message of the 1st reading. Yet the 1st reading also ends off with a warning to the Christian community of Ephesus.

And that is their love was waning and they have less love now than before, and they were told to reflect and repent in order to love as before.

The gospel also calls for a deeper reflection and subsequently to a repentance.

The crowds sees Jesus as someone from Nazareth (Jesus the Nazarene) but the blind man addressed Him as "Son of David" which is a royal title for the Messiah or Saviour.

We too may have lost some of the fervent love for Jesus over time and we need to repent of our indifference and lukewarmness.

It was faith that healed the blind man in the gospel. It is also faith and a deep love for Jesus that will save us.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 18.11.2012

Daniel 12:1-3/ Hebrews 10:11-14, 18/ Matthew 24:42-44

Next Thursday is the 22nd November. It will be an anxious day for parents who have 12-year-old children and of course for the 12-year-old children too.

Because on next Thursday, the results of the PSLE will be announced!

Yes, the PSLE – Primary School Leaving Examination results will be announced.

And the PSLE results will determine which secondary school the 12-year-olds will be studying in for the next phase of their education.

Already there is much discussion on how stressful the PSLE is for the 12-year-olds and whether things can be changed and adjusted for the better.

And amidst all that serious discussion, there is also the lighter side of what PSLE stands for:
-Please Start Learning Everything
-Please Start Learning Early
-Parents Should Learn Everything
-Procrastinate Sure Liao (Fail) Exam

And all this is over the Primary School Leaving Examinations. It goes to show how stressful and how tensed it can be even at Primary School level.

We can surely imagine what it is like when it comes to exams at Secondary School, Junior College and at University.

Exams are indeed a big thing in Singapore and the results somehow determine what kind of future will be in store for the children.

So, next Thursday, the 22nd Nov is like some kind of judgment day.

It will be a distressful time and heaven will be stormed and shaken with prayers (will that be too late?)

And when the results are out, those who scored brilliantly will shine like bright stars.

It is actually quite amazing to see how much the Primary School Leaving Examinations means to the students, the parents and the schools.

At the bottom of it all, there is something at stake. For the students, it is an achievement; for the parents, it is an investment; for the schools, it is the reputation.

Undeniably, there is a lot of hard work that went into the preparations for the exams, the extra tuition, the sacrifices and also the bottles of chicken essence.

And yet, when it is over and done, for better or for worse, it will pass on, everyone will move on and there will be another exam to face.

So for all that is achieved with whatever brilliant results, the shine will begin to fade as soon as the next day arrives.

And in time to come, this year’s results will just fade into history and the students will face other exams.

Yes, exams come and go, not only in school but also at work, when we sit for promotion exams or in pursuit of higher qualifications.

Yet, the objectives are also quite similar as at the PSLE, and that is for achievement, investment and reputation.

But for all that we work so hard for, we have to realize that it is all transient, all will fade into history, all will pass on.

In the gospel, Jesus talks about the end times. He has a grim reminder for us as He says this: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

That should make us stop and think. We have studied a lot, we have learned a lot, and we also know a lot.

We have taken one exam after another, we have collected certificates, diplomas and degrees.

But just how much of what Jesus said have we remembered? And how much of what Jesus said have we put into practice in our lives?
For example, on the teaching on love, Jesus said this, “I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you.”

So it is a new commandment, and not a new suggestion or a new option.

And that means that just as Jesus loved us, we too must love God, love our neighbor, love our enemy and love those who hurt us or even do us harm.

We will remember that Jesus said, “Love your enemy, do good to those who harm you, bless those who persecute you.”

Certainly a difficult teaching to follow but in the exams of life, we must remember it.

Not to remember that teaching and to fail in the exam of life would certainly spell disaster for us.

And just like the exams in school, where we prepare for it by working hard and making sacrifices and denying ourselves, so too in the exams of life.

Again we need to remember that Jesus said this, “What then will a man gain if he wins the whole world and yet ruins his life? Indeed what can a man offer in exchange for his life?”

Yes, we may work hard for our achievements, recognition, status, wealth, and may even win the whole world, but how much and how hard do we work for life eternal?

We need to remember what Jesus taught us because His words will never pass away because His words are Spirit and they are life and He has the message of eternal life.

And what is this message of eternal life?

Maybe let’s talk about exams again and there is this story of a student who went to see a wise and holy man to ask for prayers for success in his final exams.

The student made his request and the holy man said: I will pray for you but how successful do you want to be in your exams?

The student answered: I want to be the top student.
The holy man asked: And then what?
The student answered: Then I will graduate and find a good job.
The holy man: And then what?
The student: Then I will work hard and earn good money.
And then what? Then I will look for a wife, get married and buy a nice house.
And then what? Then I will retire and enjoy life.
And then what? The student: And then errr… and then err…

Yes, and then what? After our studies and exams, after meeting the demands of life and work, are we prepared to take the final exam of life?

Or are we going to be that student who thinks only of what is in this passing world and when it comes to the world that will not pass away, we can only say, “And then err… and then err…” 

We may have passed our Primary School Leaving Examinations but will we be able to pass the primary exam of life, and enter into eternal life?

Every day we will have to sit for the exam of life. Let us pray that we will pass each exam and finally be rewarded with a life that will not pass away. It’s an exam that we cannot fail.

Friday, November 16, 2012

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 17-11-12

3 John 5-8 / Luke 18:1-8

Travelling overseas, either for work or study or leisure, can be a chore for some people, especially when it comes to packing their luggage.

If they could, they would want to bring along everything that is at home, so that they can feel secure and comfortable in a foreign land, even if it is only for a week.

And it can be anything from medicine to books to electronic gadgets, from hair-dryers to mini kettles, all of which might be available in the land of destination.

For the missionaries of the Church, as they go forth to a foreign land to spread the Good News, it is usually in a land that does not have the comforts and the securities of their own homeland.

The 1st reading assures such missionaries of God's providence as it states that it is the duty of the Church to welcome such missionaries in charity and even to contribute a share to their work.

But even if there is a dire lack of resources and support, then we have to heed what Jesus said about the need to pray continually and not to lose heart.

The gospel parable tells us that the perseverance and the persistence of the lowly widow eventually made the arrogant and proud judge give in to her request.

Yes, we have to persevere and persist in our prayer when we are in a desperate need.

Yet, we also must remember that we are paying God a great compliment when we ask great things that are to be used for His glory.

That must be the faith that we should have as we persevere and persist in our prayer.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 16-11-12

2 John 4-9 / Luke 17:26-37

To be on "stand-by" can be quite taxing and draining in that we are like on our toes but not going anywhere yet and may not even need to go anywhere at all.

It's just like the tv or the hi-fi set that has the stand-by light that is on - pressing the button on the remote control will kick it into action immediately.

But for human beings, that stand-by mode is certainly an anxious and even a stressful time.

We are to be prepared to do something and yet there is also that uncertainty whether we will actually have to do it at all.

In the meantime, standing on our toes is not really that exciting and we want to relax and even get lax and we may even start to switch off.

The 1st reading talks about the life of love and also a plea to be always loving and to be ready to love at all times.

Yet it also warns of a deception that comes in the form of enjoyment and pleasures of the world and the commandment of love and the readiness to love can be forgotten.

Yes, evil does not attack love head on but employs deception and distraction and even disappointment to erode the readiness to love and to forget the commandment of love.

Hence we have to be on stand-by to love always and to keep focused on the commandment of love.

It is in carrying out the commandment and putting love into action that God's love is revealed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 15-11-12

Philemon 7-20 / Luke 17:20-25

Letter-writing can take many forms, from the legal and the formal to the casual and the personal.

In whatever form it takes, letter-writing requires some skill as it is an art to convey ideas and feelings through carefully chosen words and constructed sentences.

And the written word can remain for a long time as in the case of St. Paul's letter to Philemon.

It is a very short letter, just verses and no chapter even, and yet it is a skillfully written letter.

St. Paul began by affirming the goodness of Philemon and how he had put new heart  into the members of the Christian community.

Then St. Paul steered the focus on Onesimus, who was a slave of Philemon. The name "Onesimus" means useful, and St. Paul told Philemon that he was sending Onesimus back to Philemon.

Onesimus was useful to him and he hoped that Onesimus will be useful to Philemon too, and urged him to take Onesimus back as a brother-in-Christ, and he pleaded with Philemon to forgive Onesimus for whatever wrong he had done before.

If we were Philemon, how could we not be moved by the plea of St. Paul and accept Onesimus back?

And if Philemon was moved to accepting Onesimus back, then we can indeed see how the kingdom of God was made present by that letter of St. Paul.

Indeed, the kingdom of God is right among us and in us, and it is our mission to make it present.

So before we put anything into writing, be it a card, or a letter, or an email, let us ask ourselves if we are making the kingdom of God present with our written word.

Just like St. Paul's letter to Philemon was useful for making the kingdom of God present, our written word also has to power to build the kingdom of God.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 14-11-12

Titus 3:1-7 / Luke 17:11-19

Of all living creatures, human beings take the longest time to become independent.

From the time we were babies till we become really independent, which can vary from person to person, we are actually dependent on our parents and the people around us.

And during that period of time, we are also absorbing and learning about the ways of life that will eventually form our character and our principles and views about life and about those around us.

Those who are Christians will certainly have a formation in the faith. Yet Christians or otherwise, we will all be exposed to the worldly formation, e.g., to be selfish, to be greedy, to hoard, to be materialistic, etc.

That was why in the 1st reading, St. Paul urged Titus to remind his people to be obedient to authorities and to do good at every opportunity, and also not to slander and quarrel but to be courteous and polite to all.

Because it is so easy to forget the precepts of our faith and slide sinfully into the ways of the world and be disobedient to God and be misled and enslaved by different passions and luxuries, as well as wickedness and ill-will, as we heard in the 1st reading.

But when the kindness and love of God was revealed in Jesus Christ, it is not because of any merit of ours but by the grace of God.

And as we heard of the healing of the ten lepers in the gospel, they were healed not because they deserved it but because of God's compassion.

Yet of the ten lepers who were healed, only one came back to give to give thanks. So as we can see it is so easy to take God's grace for granted, even miraculous healing graces for granted.

So today we are reminded that we are totally dependent on God and on His mercy and graces.

Our obedience is the sign of our dependence on Him. There is no need to say what disobedience will lead to.

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 13-11-12

Titus 2:1-8, 11-14 / Luke 17:7-10

Whenever we talk about a matured person, we are also talking with some assumptions as well as even presumptions.

For example, we may say that a mature person isn't defined by age as much by action and the way that person handles life's challenges.

Besides that, there are also other perspectives of maturity, like psychological maturity and legal maturity.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul was obviously talking about spiritual maturity. And he linked spiritual maturity with the advancement in age and seniority.

In short, he was saying that the older men and women of the community should be models of holiness and spiritual maturity to the younger generation.

At the basis of it all, they must not be the cause of scandal and hence disgrace the message of God.

When we work for the good and lead religious lives, then nobody can ever make any real objections to us or have any accusations to make against us.

Yet the motive for living a matured spiritual life is not just for our good but as witnesses of the Good News it is essentially our duty.

We, like our forefathers of the faith, are servants of the Good News that brings salvation to all.

And as servants of the Lord, we work for no reward on earth other than the eternal reward that is awaiting us. That is the first step in the growth of spiritual maturity.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 12-11-12

Titus 1:1-9 / Luke 17:1-6

People who are given responsibilities have a heavy task on their shoulders. The least that is expected of them is to have honesty and integrity.

More so for parents, teachers, clerics and political leaders, they will have to practise what they preach and their words and actions will be observed and noted by the people around them.

Because those who are tasked with the teaching and formation of others, like those mentioned above, are certainly very influential, for better or for worse.

For this reason, we hear in the 1st reading that when St. Paul instructed Titus to appoint elders for the community, the one overriding criterion is that they should be of irreproachable character.

That is certainly a very tall order but certainly a necessary one especially when it comes to appointing elders and cleric in the Church.

Because they are to lead the community by word and by example. And that is certainly crucial when it comes to teaching and instructing others.

Yet, as we know, in every age the Church has seen heresies and schisms. And the warning that Jesus gave to those who caused obstacles to the faith is that it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.

That is the punishment for those who would lead others astray, especially the simply and the little ones.

Let us remember to pray for parents, teachers, priests and political leaders that they will not only have honesty and integrity and be truthful.

May they also have the faith to know that they are accountable to the responsibilities that God has given them.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

32nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 11.11.12

1 Kings 17:10-16/ Hebrews 9:24-28/ Mark 12:38-44

We have an attitude when it comes to how we look at our possessions and our wealth.

When no one wants to borrow or take our things, we do not worry much about it.

But the moment someone wants to borrow something from us, or when we are asked to share something with others, or even to give it away, then something strange happens.

Suddenly our things become very precious to us and we hold on to it with both our hands and maybe even with all our strength!

For example, for those of us who have a car, just how do we feel if someone wants to borrow our car?

Somehow we instantly become very possessive of our car, and for someone to borrow it and use it, it's like taking a part of our flesh away.

In fact, this attitude can be seen in little children too. Just ask a child to share his toys with other children and he will immediately grab his toys with both hands and he would guard it with his life.

It is strange to see how important our things seemed to us even though they are not critical for our survival.

And it seems even more important when someone wants to borrow it and use it.

If things seem so important to us, then what about things that are critical for our survival, like for example, food?

In the 1st reading, we heard about the prophet Elijah asking for food and water from a widow.

We must remember it was a time of famine, there was a severe food shortage because there was a severe drought for 7 years. So there was no rain, no crops and no food.

As for the widow, she was going to prepare the last meagre meal for herself and her son and after that there will be nothing left to eat. They will just wait to die of hunger.

Yet when Elijah asked for food, that widow, despite her desperate hopeless situation, shared the last of what she had to eat.

For her generosity in that kind of extreme situation, she was rewarded with the miracle of a jar of meal and a jar of oil that would allow her and her son to survive the famine.

Yes, miracles happen in extreme circumstances, but only when people are willing to make the sacrifice.

In the gospel, we heard of yet another widow who gave all she had to God; just two small coins, two small coins of the smallest denomination.

Jesus acknowledged her generosity, saying that from the little she had , she gave it all, even what she had to live on.

We do not know what happened to that poor widow as the gospel made no further mention of her.

But what do we think? Will God bless her for her generosity? Will God provide for her needs now that she has nothing left?

We might be thinking, that poor widow should have kept at least one coin for herself in order to buy some food, isn't it?

Whatever we might be thinking, the widow in the 1st reading and the poor widow in the gospel certainly gave us an example of radical generosity.

What the two widows gave was hardly anything of value - just a bit of food and two small coins that were hardly with anything.

But what was given was desperately needed by the two widows. It was a sacrifice because they had to let go of it.

Very often, we who have much more, believe very little in God's promise of providence. Because letting go is so hard to do.

There is a story that is simply titled "The Rope". It begins with a mountain climber who wanted to climb the highest mountain.

Since he wanted the glory just for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone.

So he climbed and climbed, and even right into the night he climbed, even though he couldn't see much in that pitch darkness.

As he hastened his climb to the summit, he suddenly slipped and fell into thin air.

Great fear seized him as his life flashed before him.

As he kept falling into certain death, suddenly he felt the rope that was tied to his waist pulled him very hard.

His body was hanging in the air with only the rope holding him, and in desperation he screamed "Help me, O God, help me!"

Suddenly in that pitch darkness, a deep voice came from the skies "How do you want me to help you?"

The man was surprised but he quickly answered "Save me, O God, save me!"

The voice said "Do you really believe that I can save you?"  The man answered, "Yes, yes, I believe, I believe!"

The voice said, "Then do as I tell you. Cut away the rope that is tied to your waist."

There was a moment of silence. The man decided to hold on to the rope with all his might.

The next day, the rescue team saw an intriguing sight. The climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope with his hands holding it tight. His body was only 10 feet from the ground.

Indeed, letting go is hard to do. But it is in letting go that we live and become alive.

Jesus had said that he who tries to save his life will lose it, but he who gives up his life for Jesus will save it.

The widow of Sidon in the 1st reading tells us this truth. We can also say the same of the widow in the gospel that God will provide for her.

And we can also say that God will provide for us. Yet like the two widows, we have to learn to let go.

We have to learn to let go of ourselves and give ourselves to others - our life, our love, our time, our energy.

Every little sacrifice is appreciated by Jesus, just like how He commended that poor widow on her offering.

So let us not say that God does not see, or that he has forgotten what we have let go of and offered to Him.

The prophet Isaiah would say this : Don't ever think that the Lord does not take care of you. He is always holding you with His right hand (Isaiah 41:17-20)

Yes, almighty God holds us with His powerful right hand.

We just have to let go of our little rope and hold on to His right hand.

Friday, November 9, 2012

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 10-11-12

Philippians 4:10-19 / Luke 16:9-15

We know that money can wield power and exert influence and no one can be spared of the temptation and the lure of money and the luxuries of life it can buy.

Hence the love for money and the greed for it is the root of all evils imaginable.

Over the topic of money there can be prolonged discussions on it as well as endless worries over it.

Even in today's readings, the topic seems to be on money. St. Paul talked about money but it was not about his worry over it; rather it was to be used for service and for how he managed with whatever he had.

He had been through his initiation (his experience of Jesus) and he was ready for anything, whether full stomach or empty, whether in poverty or in plenty.

There was nothing he cannot master with the help of the One who gives his strength.

Indeed, when we understand the teaching of Jesus about money, we will be able to manage money and not let it manage us.

And if we cannot be trusted with money which is not ours, then how can we be sure we won't lose what belongs to us?

When we give in to greed, we will be the losers; but when we live by honesty and integrity, then we show who is our Master.

We serve Jesus our Master when we can be trusted even in small things.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Friday, 09-11-12

Eze 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 / 1 Cor 3:9-11, 16-17 / John 2:13-22

Today the Universal Church celebrates the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome because it is the head and mother church of all churches in the world.

The fact is that the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Pope’s cathedral because St. John Lateran's Basilica is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope.

The first basilica on the site was built in the 4th century when the Roman emperor Constantine donated land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family.

That structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the Church where popes were consecrated until the popes returned from Avignon in the 14th century, after which they resided in St. Peter's.

The dedication of this Church is a feast for all Roman Catholics because St. John Lateran is the parish church of all Catholics since it is the pope's cathedral.

This church is the spiritual home of the people who belong to the Roman Catholic Church.

In celebrating the dedication of the Pope’s cathedral, we show our unity with the Pope and our love and respect for him, as well as our obedience and faithfulness to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It also shows that we are united with each other in the  Universal Church. St. Paul described this unity in the Church in the 2nd reading as God's Temple with the Spirit of God living in us and uniting us.

Henceforth it is our duty and mission to keep ourselves free of sin and defilement so as not to turn God's house into a market or, worst still, into a thieves' den.

More importantly, we must be united in heart and mind, and worship in Spirit and truth, so that the Church would be like what is described as the Temple in the 1st reading - with living waters flowing out to bring about healing and reconciliation, and bearing fruits of life and love.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 08-11-12

Philippians 3:3-8 / Luke 15:1-10

When we do an honest assessment of ourselves, then we may have to admit that we are quite comfortable and secure in life.

Most of us are fairly healthy, besides some aches and pains here and there; we have adequate food, clothing and shelter, even though we have to deal with some worries and anxieties along the way.

So generally speaking, we do have what it takes to go on in life. We are not really in dire straits or in any great disadvantage whatsoever.

Yet, St. Paul would say in the 1st reading that he had come to consider all the advantages that he had as disadvantages.

Indeed, all would seem as disadvantage if he does not have the supreme advantage of knowing Jesus Christ as his Lord.

In the gospel, the tax collectors and sinners were deemed as outcasts and a disadvantaged lot. The Pharisees, especially would see them as unfit for salvation and beyond redemption.

Yet Jesus would say that it was the tax collectors and sinners who had the advantage now because they have come to seek the company Jesus and to hear what He had to say.

Indeed of all the things that we are seeking and yearning for in life, none can ever be greater than that of seeking the company of Jesus and listening to what He had to say to us.

Jesus is always and everywhere with us - in our prayer and in every moment of our lives.

We just need to seek His company and listen to His promptings in our hearts. Then like the angels, we too will rejoice.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 07-11-12

Philippians 2:12-18 / Luke 14:25-33

On a clear night sky, we may be able to see a few stars. Yet in other places (as in other countries) we may be able to see a night sky filled with stars.

But whether it is a few stars or a multitude of stars, we are usually mesmerised by them.

Some stars twinkle, some don't. Whatever it may be, stars give us a sense of mystery and songs have been  composed about them, from nursery rhymes to ballads to pop.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul used the imagery of stars to refer to the Christians of Philippi.

He told them to "do all that has to be done without complaining or arguing and then you will be innocent and genuine, perfect children of God among a deceitful and underhand brood, and you will shine in the world like bright stars because you are offering it the word of life."

But as we know by now, stars shine because they burn themselves and give out light and heat.

Similarly, the Philippians were urged to make sacrifices and offerings to God so that they will continue to shine like stars.

In the gospel, Jesus said that any who does not carry his cross and come after Him cannot be His disciple.

In other words, we must be willing to deny ourselves and make love sacrifices and offerings for the salvation of the world.

Then we will shine like stars in the night sky and point to the mystery of God's love.

Monday, November 5, 2012

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 06-11-12

Philippians 2:5-11 / Luke 14:15-24

One of the main distractions in our prayer time is that our minds are filled with thoughts about almost anything and everything.

But it is not just about anything and everything; it is anything and everything about ourselves.

Our thoughts will just surface when we want to settle down for prayer and we will start thinking of the things we have not yet done and the things that we want to do but have not found the time for.

And on top of that there are also the worries and the anxieties of life that come flooding in and often we feel that prayer time is a distressful time instead of a peaceful time.

We get discouraged because we feel we are not going anywhere in prayer and we may eventually give up on prayer.

Yet the gospel parable tells us that God is inviting us to sit down at the banquet with Him and feast on the riches of His love.

Just as the 1st reading said of Jesus in that He did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself  to assume the condition of a slave, we too need to empty our hearts in prayer and to know that we can't solve all the problems of our lives just by thinking about them.

We have to put it into the God's hands in prayer and then to let God's love and peace fill our hearts.

When our hearts are filled with God's love and peace at prayer, then we will know what to do.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 05-11-12

Philippians 2:1-4 / Luke 14:12-14

One of the ways to motivate people is to entice them with rewards.

Organizations use that strategy, companies use it, society uses it and even the family would use it.

This idea of rewards springs from the fact that we usually ask ourselves before we embark on a task: What is in it for me? What am I going to gain from it?

At the back of our minds, we are already thinking of the possible reward, the kind of returns, the expected gains and the tangible as well as intangible benefits.

Yet all that points to our self-centeredness and our ego, our pride and our desires that are connected to it.

And that is what the 1st reading as well as the gospel is addressing.

St. Paul urged the Philippians that if their life in Christ meant anything to them, then they would be united in heart and mind, and there will be no competition and conceit.

Also nobody will think of his own interests first but everybody will think of other people's interest instead.

In the gospel, Jesus went further against the grain of human behaviour by teaching the way of total giving without even thinking of getting anything in return.

The point is that all we do should be for God and before God. After all whatever we do and whatever we give is not ours but given to us by God in the first place.

So if all that we do is for the glory of God, then we won't be looking for rewards and returns. Then we will truly feel the joy in doing whatever we do and giving in whatever we give because we know we do it for God and before God.

Friday, November 2, 2012

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 03-11-12

Philippians 1:18-26 / Luke 14:1, 7-11

Usually when we talk of a dilemma, we are probably talking about a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable.

In other words, in our minds, it is the the worst case scenario with two choices. The imagery would be like that of a choice of a crash landing on a rock or on a hard ground.

In the dilemmas of life, when life seems like a mess of rotten scrambled eggs, what come to the minds of people would be to press the self-destruct button and end it all.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul spoke of a dilemma. But it was a very different kind of dilemma in that there were two options or possibilities and both of which were good for him.

It was like a best case scenario, in that life to him is Christ and death would mean that he would be forever with Christ.

He would want to be forever with Christ but he also thought that to stay alive on this earth would be a more urgent need for the sake of the community.

Whichever way it goes, what made him happy was that Christ is proclaimed and that he will also receive the fruits of salvation - it was a happy dilemma for him.

And from the parable that Jesus told in the gospel we know this truth about life. When we want to exalt ourselves we end up in the dilemma of the worst case scenario - either embarrassment or humiliation

But when we humble ourselves we will have the "dilemma" of the best case scenario. So to be humble or want to be exalted is our choice, but we will have to face the dilemma of our choice.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

All Souls Day ( Yr B), Friday, 02-11-12

Isaiah 25:6-9 / Romans 5:5-11 / Mark 15:33-39; 16:1-6

Today, we the Church observe All Souls Day and we commemorate the faithful departed and we remember them in our prayers and especially at Mass.

Yesterday, we the Church, joined with all the Saints who already rejoice in heaven, and today we unite ourselves spiritually with all those who are being purified in Purgatory, so that they may join the saints and angels of the heavenly city in time to come.

Today, as we remember our departed loved ones and the faithful departed, we not only call to mind their memory, but more importantly we also offer Mass and prayers for them.

That is indeed a great act of faith in that we believe that our prayers can help those in Purgatory and that one day they too, will enter the heavenly city and enjoy eternal rest and peace.

This act of faith stems from our belief in the Resurrection, that Jesus died and rose again, and that God is God not of the dead but of the living.

Indeed, the departed do not just vanish out of sight and hence out of mind. In faith and in prayer, we are connected to them and it is by the love of God that we the living are united with the departed.

Visiting the departed at the cemetery or at the columbarium is a very profound sign that we are still in relationship with the departed as well as an affirmation of the fact that they are spiritually alive.

Although death leaves a heartache no one can heal, yet prayers offered with love leave a memory for the departed that no one can steal.

Yet, let us remember that "death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come" (Tagore).

May our departed loved ones, and the faithful departed, rest in God's peace and may eternal light shine on them.