Friday, March 30, 2012

5th Week of Lent, Saturday, 31-03-12

Ezekiel 37:21-28 / John 11:45-56

Whenever the word "prophecy" is mentioned, we are inclined to think that it is something about the future, a fore-telling of sort.

In many ways, what the prophet Ezekiel and the high priest Caiaphas said in today's readings had a bearing on the future.

Yet the more fundamental and important aspect of prophecy is the "forth-telling", meaning to say, the bearing on the present.

And precisely, the prophet Ezekiel was also doing that. He was not talking about something that will only happen in the future.

He was talking about something that was already happening during his time - that God will gather His people, and He will be their God and they will be His people.

Similarly when Caiaphas said those words "it is better for one man to die for the people, than for the whole nation to be destroyed (and not for the nation only, but to gather together in unity the scattered children of God).

That is one of the most profound prophesies at that time and also for the present.

During this time of Lent, we undertake fasting and penances to subdue our bodily desires and also offer up our sacrifices in union with Jesus.

All this is done not just for our own benefit but also for the Church and the world in reparation for sins committed.

Let us continue to do penance and offer up our sacrifices with love so that with Jesus we gather together in unity the scattered children of God.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

5th Week of Lent, Friday, 30-03-12

Jeremiah 20:10-13 / John 10:31-42

During the time of Jesus, the people were, by and large, a monotheistic people, i.e., they believe and worship in only one God.

That was the doctrine that was passed down since the time of Abraham and the people kept that doctrine worshiping only one God and it was even a commandment that there shall be no other gods that the people can worship.

Furthermore the belief was also that there was this unbridgeable void between divinity and humanity.

So for anyone saying that he is the Son of God (hence claiming divinity) or that he is in God and God is in him and claiming God to be his Father, that is certainly an unbearable blasphemy.

So we can understand why the people took stones to stone Jesus - He was saying something blasphemous and revolting to them.

Yet with Jesus, it was not a religious question of blasphemy. Rather it was an issue about the truth.

People like the truth to be static and maybe historic. Truth that is dynamic and realistic may be too acidic for people to accept.

That was the case with Jesus and also with the prophet Jeremiah in the 1st reading.

Yet if we say we believe in God, then God also wants to be dynamic and realistic in our lives.

God is truth. If we believe in God, then we must also accept the people who are proclaiming the truth.

Not to do so would be collaborating with evil and stoning the truth.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

5th Week of Lent, Thursday, 29-03-12

Genesis 17:3-9 / John 8:51-59

Whenever Jesus uses the phrase "I tell you solemnly ... " it means that He is giving a serious teaching.

It means that what he is going to say must be remembered because it is going to mean a lot to us.

In the gospel, Jesus used this phrase twice.

Jesus said that whoever keeps His word will never see death.

And He also solemnly proclaimed that He is the "I AM" which is the mystical name of God.

God's Word, especially His promises, are eternal, and His Word also gives us the sure hope of eternal life.

Hence even though we heard in the 1st reading that God made the promise the Abraham, yet Abraham never saw the fulfillment of the promise.

But believing in God who made that promise to him, Abraham knew that there would be life after death because the belief at that time was that the ancestors would have eternal life as long as there are descendants.

So Abraham and the prophets are not dead, as the people said in the gospel.

Yet it is only in believing and keeping God's word that we will have life.

Jesus promised us that when we keep His word and walk in His ways, we will have life, here and hereafter.

Let us believe in Jesus because His word is spirit and life and they have the message of eternal life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 28-03-12

Daniel 3:14-20, 24-25, 28 / John 8:31-42

Most of the martyrs of the Church come from the period of the early Church, i.e. the first few centuries, when the Church was under persecution from the Roman empire.

Besides undergoing horrendous torture and a terrible death in their witnessing to Christ, there was something more critical at stake.

It was an acid test of their faith in God. We can be sure that the martyrs were not asking to be tortured to death.

We can also be sure that they were afraid and they prayed to God to be delivered from the viciousness of their enemies.

But in the face of their blood-thirsty persecutors, they had the same answer as the three young men in the 1st reading.

It is a statement that we need to reflect and think about - If our God, the One we serve, is able to save us from the burning fiery furnace and from your power, O king, He will save us. And even if He does not, then you must know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship the statue you have erected.

Very brave words that will mean certain death. But God did rescue the three young men.

But as for the martyrs, they freely gave up their lives.

They could do this because they understood what Jesus said about the truth in today's gospel.

Yes the truth will set them free. The same truth will also set us free.

But as Jesus said, the truth that He came to proclaim must penetrate into our hearts, and make its home in our hearts.

We will know that the truth of Jesus is in our hearts when we detest sin and we want to love God.

Only God's love will set us free from fear and from sin. Then we will truly live our lives with Jesus and in Jesus.

Monday, March 26, 2012

5th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 27-03-12

Numbers 21:4-9 / John 8:21-30

As we listen to the 1st reading, we may find it surprising that God told Moses to fashion a bronze serpent and to put it on a standard.

And if anyone who was bitten by a fiery serpent, he only had to look at the bronze serpent on the standard and he will live.

That would sound rather simplistic to say the best, and rather superstitious to say the worst.

But the figure of the serpent in the Middle Eastern culture has both a divine and a diabolic meaning.

We may be familiar with its diabolic meaning as we recall how Eve was tempted by the serpent in the book of Genesis.

But we may not be that familiar with its divine symbolism.

Among other things, the serpent represents wisdom and fertility, a figure of health and life and also an emblem for medicine.

Hence the interpretation of the figure of the bronze serpent has to be seen in its context.

So in the context of the 1st reading, the bronze serpent on a standard represents health and life and medicine, whereas the fiery serpents on the ground represent pain and death.

So it depends on where we are looking from and where we are looking at.

As Jesus said in the gospel, He is from above and His listeners are from below; they are of this world but He is not of this world.

Jesus want to raise us up from this world and free us from our sins.

But we must keep looking at Him and His cross which will be the means of our salvation.

Just as Jesus was lifted up on the cross, so too must we carry the cross of our lives.

Through the cross of Jesus, we will obtain forgiveness for our sins and strength to carry the cross.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Annunciation of the Lord, Monday, 26-03-12

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

Today's feast of the Annunciation is an important event in the Church because nine months later, the Church will be celebrating the feast of Christmas, the birth of Jesus.

The feast of the Annunciation invites to enter, with Mary, into a quiet contemplation of the promise of salvation, which was first pronounced by the prophet Isaiah, and which was later accepted by Mary and fulfilled and manifested in Jesus.

But for now, we are invited to be with Mary, to hear her say "Yes" to the Lord and to the acceptance of the promise of salvation.

In other words, like Mary, we also need to let Jesus grow within us, we let Jesus become "greater" in our hearts, as we become lesser and lesser of ourselves.

The feast of the Annunciation reminds us that we are sinful and we need to be saved from the clutches of the evil one and we need Jesus to come into our hearts and to be made flesh in our lives in order to be saved.

And that is the meaning of the celebration of the feast of the Annunciation.

Like Mary, we say "Yes" to salvation and we say "Yes" to Jesus.

When we truly mean what we say, then Jesus will take control of our lives and be the center our lives.

Yes we must continue to be faithful to the "Yes" to Jesus.

One of the ways we can do this is to have a deep devotion to Mary, either with the Rosary or some other form of Marian devotion.

With Mary, we say to the Lord : I am the servant of the Lord, let what you have said be done unto me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

4th Week of Lent, Saturday, 24-03-12

Jeremiah 11:18-20 / John 7:40-52

The Bible, as we know, is the Word of God, and in it is the revealed truth of God.

Furthermore, the gospels are called the Good News because it announces the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.

Yet if an outsider who is attending the Mass of the first time and listens to the Bible passages that we just heard, may end up wondering.

Just what kind of message is the Bible giving? In the 1st reading there was scheming, plotting, being led to the slaughter-house, destruction, as well as vengeance.

Then in the gospel there is argument and confusion and arrogance.

Of course it is not fair to just take today's Bible passages and say that there is nothing uplifting or inspiring about the Bible.

Yet the first line in the 1st reading may give us enough to think about - The Lord revealed it to me; I was warned.

Yes, the Lord reveals to us in the Bible that as much as there is evil and wickedness in the world, yet in the end He will pronounce a just sentence and He will also vindicate the good people who are faithful to Him.

The sinfulness and the wickedness of the world will certainly make us shudder and quiver.

But in this Eucharist, let us receive strength and courage from the Lord and let us take the response for the Responsorial Psalm - Lord God, I take refuge in you.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

4th Week of Lent, Friday, 23-03-12

Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 / John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Generally speaking, we may think that good and kind people will be respected, and that religious and  holy people will be looked up to.

More so when we see pictures or images of saints that give us a feeling of serenity and tranquility and we tend to think that good and kind, holy and religious people have no problems and worries in life.

But a serious examination of the lives of these people will tell us quite a different story.

For example, Archbishop Oscar Romero was shot for speaking up against violence and injustice, St. Maximilian Kolbe was tortured and finally killed for offering to take the place of a condemned prisoner, Martin Luther King was assassinated for speaking on human rights and Gandhi was also assassinated for advocating non-violence in the struggle for independence.

The list of good and kind people being persecuted goes on and on, and that makes us re-think our assumptions on how good and kind people are treated.

The 1st reading also state likewise. It gives us an idea of how the godless or wicked people will think in their misguided reasoning.

In short, the wicked and evil people have no hope that holiness will be rewarded and they can see no reward for blameless souls.

Even Jesus, the Son of God had to face persecutions and evil intentions of harming Him as we heard in the gospel.

Yet just as the truth will prevail, so will goodness and holiness.

But we have to persevere. The lives of the saints and holy people tell us this: goodness and holiness will always face persecution from evil and wickedness.

But just as Jesus triumphed over evil and death, let us persevere in doing good and leading holy lives so as to share in the victory of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

4th Week of Lent, Thursday, 22-03-12

Exodus 32:7-14 / John 5:31-47

In life, when the going is tough, and we are besieged with overwhelming problems, one of the things that will cross our minds is to quit.

In a boxing match, they would call it "to throw in the towel".

So whether it is in the work-place, or in a marriage or even in serving the Lord, when the going gets real rough and tough, we will be tempted to throw in the towel and call it quits.

In the 1st reading when God wanted to punish His people for idolatry and to make Moses the founder of another great nation, Moses could have considered that offer.

After all, ever since he brought them out of Egypt, he had nothing but problems after problems from them, and he could have just called it quits and abandoned them.

Jesus could also have walked out of the descendants of those people that Moses had to deal with.

They were as stiff-necked as their fore fathers and refused to believe in Jesus, despite His signs and miracles.

But in Jesus and also in Moses, we can see a genuine love and compassion for their people.

For Jesus, and also for Moses, all their many words had only one purpose - it was for the salvation of their people.

We will meet with difficulties and problems from stiff-necked people.

But we are called to look at and learn from Jesus and Moses.

They showed God's love and compassion to their people.

May we learn likewise and do the same.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

4th Week of Lent, Wednesday, 21-03-12

Isaiah 49:8-15 / John 5:17-30

Some people feel that the Old Testament is a bit too difficult to understand with its many historical accounts and also a bit difficult to relate with especially with those accounts of violence and brutality.

So generally people would prefer reading the Gospels and leave it at that.

Yet it is undeniable that the Old Testament texts are full of imagery and it also portrays graphically the message that it wants to convey.

Today's 1st reading is an example of good news of salvation being announced in a way that the listeners can even see what they are hearing.

Yes the Lord has has not abandoned His people nor has He forgotten them, just as a women does not forget her baby at her breast.

But just as much as the 1st reading announced good news, the gospel text sounded like a confrontation and the hostility was even moving towards the intention of killing Jesus.

It is astounding to know that the good news was there in the person of Jesus, right in front of them, but yet they fail to see, and even had thoughts that were far from charitable.

We who are gathered here in the Eucharist, hear the good news, see the good news in the Real Presence of Jesus and even come into communion with Him, we should give thanks and praise the Lord.

As the 1st reading puts it - Shout for joy, exult, break into happy cries!

Yes the Lord consoles His people, and takes pity on those who are afflicted. Let us give thanks and praise the Lord.

Monday, March 19, 2012

4th Week of Lent, Tuesday, 20-03-12

Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 / John 5:1-3, 5-16

We have heard of the famous baths at the Marian shrine of Lourdes, as well as the many testimonies of how people who were ill or afflicted with some kind of incurable disease were healed when they went into these baths.

I have not been there myself, so obviously I have not went into that bath waters of Lourdes, but the common thing that I heard is that when one comes out of the bath, the water on the body dries up immediately.

How it happens is beyond reasoning but nonetheless I have no doubts about it.

There is also no doubt that God in all times and in all ages has also offered healing to His people as a sign of His love and mercy and compassion.

In today's gospel, we hear of one such place called Bethzatha where the sick people gathered in hope of a cure when the waters are stirred.

Yet, unlike the well organized baths at Lourdes, the situation at Bethzatha was quite different and it was like each man for himself.

So we can imagine the man who had an illness for 38 years hoping to get to the waters when it is stirred but was never in time.

Yet the healing grace of God does not come only when the waters of the pool are stirred.

Because in Jesus, we find forgiveness and healing, compassion and mercy.

In the Church too, there must be forgiveness and healing, compassion and mercy, because the Church is the new Temple of God, the same Temple that was described in the 1st reading.

The Church can only be that kind of Temple when we are cleansed of sin and healed of our sinfulness and filled with the love and mercy of God.

Let us seek this cleansing and healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and let us strive to be the Church where God's love and mercy and compassion can be found.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

St. Joseph, spouse of the BVM, Monday, 19-03-12

2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24

Today's feast of St. Joseph is a big feast, a solemnity actually, with the Gloria and Creed being said.

The feast is that of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

That title says very much about who St. Joseph is, who Mary is, and inevitably who Jesus is.

St. Joseph is the patron saint of workers, of the dying, of fathers, but in 1870, Pope Pius IX declared St. Joseph as the patron saint and the protector of the Church.

Today's feast celebrates the patronage of St. Joseph and the Church asks for his intercession and protection.

As we heard in the gospel, St. Joseph was called to be the husband of Mary and in accepting to do so he was also taking the responsibility to take charge and to protect Jesus as his son.

In not knowing fully the meaning of the events that led to the birth of Jesus, and yet accepting the responsibility to protect and care for mother and child, St. Joseph showed that he was not only obedient to the will of God but also carried out God's will with love.

In celebrating this feast, we also pray that fathers and workers will take St Joseph to be their model, and that the dying will turn to him for his powerful intercession.

We also pray that priests who are guardians of the sacred mysteries of the Church would also look to St Joseph as their model, that they will protect and care of the Church just as St. Joseph protected and cared for Mary and Jesus.

Friday, March 16, 2012

3rd Week of Lent, Saturday, 17-03-12

Hosea 5:15-6:6 / Luke 18:9-14

Stories are generally nice to listen to because stories can be entertaining and motivating and enlightening.

But today's story would be one that is rather uncomfortable to listen to, because it comments on us, on our spirituality, on our relationship with God and on how we look at others.

It is not exactly nice to think that we are like the Pharisee who goes to the Temple to pray "to himself".

We may have done the similar thing during prayer by forgetting about God and thinking too much about ourselves and about what we want.

So after prayer, it is good to ask ourselves if we did pray to God or did we "entertain" ourselves. But usually after prayer we just rush off to do the next thing.

As in the 1st reading, the people prayed to God in their misery but yet they prayed with a certain arrogance and self-interest, but they were not repentant and did not ask why such misery fell on them.

Yet prayer is not a time for self-condemnation. Jesus wants us to be humble and to be honest and sincere before the Lord.

It is a humble, honest and sincere heart that acknowledges God's mercy and compassion, and that He wants to save us and not to condemn us.

Before God, we can only say "God, be merciful to me, a sinner" and truly repent.

Today's gospel parable is also the story of our lives.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

3rd Week of Lent, Friday, 16-03-12

Hosea 14:2-10 / Mark 12:28-34

Generally speaking, we can say, and we believe it too, that those who are faithful to God and walk in His ways will be blessed by God.

Of course having said that, the blessings that we look forward to are not just here in the temporal world but more importantly in the world to come.

The 1st reading gives a picture of what the blessings are - I will fall like dew on Israel. He shall bloom like the lily, and thrust out roots like the poplar, his shoots will spread far; he will have the beeauty of the olive and the fragrance of Lebanon.

Yes the blessings of the Lord gives the image of beauty and peace and tranquillity and contentment.

Yet to inherit these blessings means that we have to abide with what Jesus said in the gospel: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And you must love your neighbour as yourself.

It is that simple and straight-forward, and yet it is not at all easy and we stumble and fall along the way.

We may even get discouraged and hence it would be easier to say "Our God!" to what our own hands have made.

It is easier to fall for the things of this passing world than to be faithful to God and His ways and to hope patiently for His blessings in another world.

Yet just as Assyria cannot save Israel, nothing material on earth can ever save us.

We can only say to the Lord our God: Take all iniquity away so that we may have happiness again. And let us ask the Lord to show us His ways and teach us His paths (Ps 25:4)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

3rd Week of Lent, Thursday, 15-03-12

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

The subject of exorcism has become like a subject that is shrouded in mystery and it has become one of the best kept secrets of the Catholic Church, if not the best kept.

But maybe because exorcisms and other forms of deliverances often entail some unusual happenings and noises that causes alarm and curiosity so we don't see much of these in public.

But the reality of evil oppressing human beings and even in extreme cases possessing them, still happens in the present times, and it is not an ancient mysterious phenomenon.

Today's gospel is one of the numerous passages that talks about the presence of evil oppressing human beings and at the same time Jesus doing an exorcism and also proclaiming that if it is through the finger of God that he casts out devils, then the kingdom of God is indeed upon them.

As it was then, so it is now - the kingdom of God is truly upon us.

Where are we in this kingdom depends on the criterion given by Jesus - He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

The 1st reading expands on that criterion - Listen to my voice. Follow right to the end the way that I mark out for you, and you will prosper.

Yet as it happened in the past, so it is happening now - we did not listen, we did not pay attention, we followed the dictates of our own evil hearts, we have turned away from the Lord and even behaved worse than our ancestors.

As we journey on in this season of Lent, let us ask the Lord to deliver us from evil, cleanse the evil in our hearts, heal our sinfulness and pour forth His loving grace into our hearts.

Then together with the Lord, let us go forth and help others turn from evil and gather the repentant back to Him.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3rd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 14-03-12

Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 / Matthew 5:17-19

The new translation of the Roman Missal came into effect last year in November.

It was a revised translation of the former edition of the Roman Missal and its purpose was to elevate the language so that it is more faithful to the Latin text.

Yet the new translation also caused some unsettlement among the clergy and the laity, maybe more so for the clergy.

The formulae for the prayers were changed, some greater some lesser, and the responses of the laity were also changed.

Having been used to the earlier translation for around 40 years, it was a case of old habits dying hard.

But the clergy were reminded to be faithful to the text of the new translation of the Roman Missal.

It may seem to be a small issue yet the implication is about obedience.

As Jesus said in the gospel, the man who infringes even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered the least in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps and teaches them will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven.

Whether it is about commandments or rules and regulations, the underlying factor is about obedience especially when it comes to the smaller directives.

That will be a measure of where we are in the kingdom of heaven.

Monday, March 12, 2012

3rd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 13-03-12

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

If we were to apply the teaching of Jesus about forgiveness on a concrete life situation, then one of it could be that of others owing us money.

The willingness to write-off the amount owed depends very much on the amount of money owed.

But what makes us very angry and resentful is that the money comes out from us so easily and yet it comes back to us so slowly, if ever at all.

The larger the amount, the greater will be the resentment, the deeper the anger and the less willing we are to forgive and forget.

So Jesus used the parable of debt owed by two servants in order to teach about forgiveness and it was a realistic situation that could be easily understood by everyone.

Yet the teaching about forgiveness is not only to express that God forgave us our sins and so we too must forgive others the wrong they did to us.

When we don't forgive, then anger and resentment will eat into our hearts and bitterness and even hatred will begin to spawn and gnaw our lives away.

With that, more evil will enter into our lives and we only end up as a wicked mess.

The teaching on forgiveness is difficult to follow that we need to trust in the Lord that we will be the first to benefit when we forgive.

With a contrite and humbled spirit let us trust in the Lord and we will not be disappointed.

Let us also ask the Lord to grant us deliverance from our anger and resentment and bitterness and with forgiveness let us give glory to the Lord.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

3rd Week of Lent, Monday, 12-03-12

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

There is something common about these following categories of people - foreigners, outsiders, poor, lowly, powerless.

The common denominator is that they are usually at a disadvantage, especially the latter few.

And on top of that, having an illness or disease is going to be a double blow especially if one is already poor.

In the 1st reading, the powerful (and rich) army commander Naaman who was inflicted with the dreaded leprosy had to learn the lesson of humility.

All the money and power cannot heal him but just an act of humility in obedience to the prophet Elisha healed him physically and spiritually.

But in the gospel, it was not the foreigner or outsider that was at the disadvantage.

Rather it was the Chosen people who were infuriated when Jesus told them that foreigners and outsiders were blessed by God over and above their own people.

Indeed, the prophet and his prophetic words are not accepted in his own country and among his own people.

So if we hear of something that does not find favour with us or that we get angry and agitated over, we need to see the truth of those words.

We need the humility to hear the prophetic voice and to accept the prophetic words.

Friday, March 9, 2012

2nd Week of Lent, Saturday, 10-03-12

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

A turning point may refer to a climax of a story or a book or a movie.

Or it may also mean a defining moment in a person's life when that person realizes something about his/her character or identity.

There may be a few turning points in the gospel parable, depending on the angle of our reflection.

One turning point could be that phrase about the wayward son - "Then he came to his senses ... "

It was a turning point in the gospel parable, it was also a defining moment for the wayward son and also a defining moment in his relationship with his father.

The character and the identity of the son and the father was revealed and realized.

Yet the defining moment in today's gospel passage could be at the beginning, when the passage begins with saying that the tax collectors and sinners were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what He had to say.

The tax collectors and sinners knew who they were and where they stand in the eyes of God.

They came to seek the company of Jesus and hear what He had to say because Jesus was their hope and a symbol of God's mercy and compassion.

May the gospel passage and its parable lead us to our defining moment with God and may it also be a turning point in our Lenten journey.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2nd Week of Lent, Friday, 09-03-12

Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28 / Matthew 21:33-43,45-46

In our more logical moments, we can't help but be amused with those fortune-tellers, whether they are palm-readers, or crystal-ball gazers or whatever.

We are amused because we may be thinking that if they can foretell the future of others, then why can't they foretell their own future.

Yes, it is amusing, but yet on a more serious note, the counter argument is that we don't expect a surgeon to perform an operation on himself.

In the 1st reading, Joseph was called, in contempt, by his brothers "the man of dreams".

But Joseph did not ever dream that his own flesh-and-blood brothers would think of harming him and even consider taking his life, or selling him off as a slave.

Yet in the gospel, Jesus was aware that chief priests and the scribes were plotting against Him and eventually would even take His life.

Jesus was also aware that while the people seemed to be in approval of Him, the time will come when the tide turns and they will reject Him and even oppose Him.

As for us, we do not know our future and we don't need to know.

God knows we can't handle the future so He gives us moment by moment.

And everything that happens in every moment has a reason and a purpose.

Our life and our future are in the hands of God. Let us renew our faith in God and trust that His plans are always for our good. (For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord ... plans to give you hope and a future - Jeremiah 29:11)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

2nd Week of Lent, Thursday, 08-03-12

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

What sets human beings apart from the rest of the created order in this world is that human beings are endowed with intelligence, will and freedom.

Hence human beings undoubtedly stand at the apex of creation.

Yet, the greater the gift, the heavier the responsibility.

The 1st reading states that cursed is the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of the flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.

So as much as we are gifted with intelligence and will and freedom, we can misuse and abuse these gifts and end up as accursed human beings.

Such was the case of the rich man in the gospel parable. He looked to himself, enjoyed himself, ignored Lazarus and inevitably also turned away from God.

But as the 1st reading said, a blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.

So with all intelligence, will and freedom, the heart must still decide if it is for God or against God.

We have more than Moses and the prophets to tell us the way. We even have Jesus to tell us the truth.

To decide to be blessed or cursed is our choice. And it may be an eternal choice.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2nd Week of Lent, Wednesday, 07-03-12

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

There is no doubt that gossips and rumours are always slanted towards the juicy and sleazy.

The damage that they do cannot be underestimated, as ripple effects can always turn into tidal waves when gossips and rumours go viral.

One possible outcome could be what we heard in the 1st reading when the evil doers were plotting against the prophet Jeremiah and even intending to take his life.

Because Jeremiah had spoken the Word of the Lord against them, and now as he feared for his life, he could only plead with the Lord to rescue him.

Jesus also made it known to His apostles that He would be handed over to the chief priest and scribes and they will condemn Him to death and they will hand Him over to the pagans to be mocked and scourged and crucified.

Well to follow Jesus and to proclaim the Good News and to fight against evil in people and in world, we have to be prepared to go through what Jesus went through.

We might complain like Jeremiah did - Should evil be returned for good? Remember how I stood in Your presence to plead on their behalf, to turn Your wrath away from them.

Yes we will complain when vicious rumours and gossips are hurled behind our backs when we try to do what the Lord wants of us.

But just as Jesus came to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many, let us do likewise and not let resentment lead us into sin.

Monday, March 5, 2012

2nd Week of Lent, Tuesday, 06-03-12

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

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were mentioned in the book of Genesis and they were destroyed by fire and brimstone because of their unrepentant sin and evil deeds.

At the time of the prophet Isaiah, those two cities were already non-existent.

Yet they were mentioned by Isaiah because the people's sins were synonymous with the sins of those two cities.

Hence Isaiah urged the people to wash themselves clean and to repent.

The direction of conversion and repentance is plain and simple - cease to do evil, learn to do good, search for justice, help the oppressed, be just to the orphan, plead for the widow.

It is as plain and simple as that. No need for big show like wearing broader phylacteries and longer tassels and doing things just to attract attention and to give people a false impression.

Yet plain and simple as it may be, to turn from evil and learn to do good, to be just and help the oppressed demands that we be humble and be a servant to the poor and the needy, the helpless and the oppressed.

Yes it is very difficult to be humble and be a servant of the voiceless and the faceless lowly people.

Yet it would be better to be voiceless and faceless than to be referred to as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

2nd Week of Lent, Monday, 05-03-12

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

We know how traitors and betrayers are usually dealt with.

It is usually the death sentence. If not then they will be thrown into a jail and remain in captivity for the rest of their lives.

In between there can be various forms of torture and torment to make the traitor or betrayer pay for what they have done.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Daniel cried out to the Lord for forgiveness.

For him, sin of his people took the form of a betrayal - "We have betrayed Your commandments and Your ordinances ... "

He called his people traitors because "of the treason we have committed against You".

So by ordinary human judgement, the people of Israel ought to be annihilated. Because they have done the unforgivable - they have sinned against God.

That would also be our sentence. Who can say he has no sin? Who can say that he does not deserve punishment for his sin?

Yet the Lord our God  is compassionate and merciful and will forgive.

Yet we must truly repent and turn back to God. Not to do so would be to betray God's love for us and commit treason against Him.

Yes, we must repent and beg for forgiveness because we won't be able to withstand the punishment for our sins.

Friday, March 2, 2012

1st Week of Lent, Saturday, 03-03-12

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 / Matthew 5:43-48

People who are searching for a religion to adhere to may ask this question.

How is Christianity different from the rest of the other religions?

Well, of course there are many ways to answer that question.

One answer could be this - Christianity doesn't just teach you to be good; Christianity teaches you to be like God!

That was what Jesus meant when He said: You must be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In other words, we must be holy, just as our heavenly Father is holy. We must be like God our Father, no less.

To be like God means to do what Jesus did.

And that is to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us.

People might say that that is crazy, but that is what it means to be holy.

So can it be possible to be holy as God is holy?

As the 1st reading puts it, when we declare that God is our only God, then God will also make the declaration that we are His very own people.

God will consecrate us with His love and we will be living images of His holiness in the world.

So is the Lord God our only God? That is the question that we have to answer in the purifying season of Lent.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

1st Week of Lent, Friday, 02-03-12

Ezekiel 18:21-28 / Matthew 5:20-26

We have often heard this phrase being said in an argument and in protest - That is not fair!

It is not only said by children or youth, it is also said by adults in every age bracket.

We say that because we feel that something wrong has been done to us and we seek fairness and even justice.

We hear this being said by the people in the 1st reading

They even accuse the Lord for being unjust in punishing so severely an upright man who committed sin.

Yet on the other hand, the Lord is so compassionate and merciful to a repentant sinner.

We too may think it is a bit unfair. Why can't the upright man be given a chance instead of handing him such a severe punishment.

And if we ever thought of asking that kind of question, then we also have to ask ourselves how deep is our virtue and our understanding of the ways of God.

Because if we truly understand the ways of God, then we will know the seriousness of sin and its devastating effects.

Hence we will never want to break away from God and think of committing sins.

God is just and His ways are justice and love.

Let us act justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with our God.