Wednesday, July 31, 2013

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 01-08-13

Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38 / Matthew 13:47-53

Israel's experience of God while in the wilderness was so dramatic and spectacular as compared to our experience of God in the present times.

They saw the presence of God in smoke and thunder, in cloud and fire, in the radiance on Moses' face, in wonders and miracles.

God was journeying so closely with them that they know when to continue their journey and when to stop by the indication of the cloud that covered the tabernacle.

On the other hand, our experience of the presence of God seemed to be so bland and flat.

There is no smoke and thunder, no cloud and fire, no wonder and miracles. There is also no need to talk about what is radiating from our faces.

Yet, there is no doubt that if more is given, then more is also expected.

Hence if the more the profound signs of God's presence are manifested, then the lesser will there be room for doubts and unbelief.

We are called to walk by faith and hope for the eternal things that we cannot see.

Yet, we also must be like the householder in the gospel who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.

In other words, we must believe that God had revealed and manifested Himself to His people in the past.

As for the present, we must pray that with faith we will be able to see Jesus in the Sacraments. That is the one thing necessary and that would be enough.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 31-07-13

Exodus 34:29-35 / Matthew 13:44-46      (2019)

If inanimate objects can talk, we may wonder what they will say. And will we be surprised with what they will say?

What if the chair that we are sitting on tells us that it is actually a good quality chair and that it gives us good posture and sitting comfort?

Will we treat it with special care and value it for what it is and for what it is doing for us?

What if the field and the pearl of the parables in the gospel have something to say to us? What do we think they will say?

The field might say : I am just an ordinary field but someone has buried a treasure in me. The pearl of great value might say: People say I am a precious pearl but actually I am the result of an irritant that got into a clam that encased it with calcium carbonate.

Of course the field and the pearl didn't and couldn't say anything but it takes someone to notice the hidden value in them.

On the other hand, we heard in the 1st reading that Moses' face was radiant with the glory of God.

But it was not just an external radiance; Moses was a friend of God who speaks with Him face to face, and heart to heart. It was from the radiance of the heart that that Moses' face shone with the glory of God.

Our hearts are made for the glory of God. When we are friends of God, like Moses was, then our lives and even our faces will radiate with the glory of God.

We are not inanimate objects that cannot speak. We are human beings made for the glory of God and when we speak, may it be for the glory of God.

Monday, July 29, 2013

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-07-13

Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9, 28 / Matthew 13:36-43

In life there are many choices - from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to words we use, to what we choose to do.

In our spiritual life, we also have to make a fundamental choice, and that is the choice between good and evil.

And when we do an examination of our lives, then we will see that there are times we chose to do good and there at times we chose to do evil.

So in our lives, there is a good harvest of wheat, but there are also the weeds of sin.

And till the last day of our life on earth, there will be wheat and weeds in our hearts.

As Jesus talks about the final judgement in today's gospel, let us pray for the ears to listen .

As we listen to God's Word, may we also make a choice for God.

So that in all we do and say, we will want to choose to do the good and right and loving thing.

The 10 Commandments tell us about the way to life. Jesus offers us the choice between life and death.

Let us choose life, and death will be slowly pulled out and burnt away.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

St. Martha, Monday, 29-07-13

1 John 4:7-16 / John 11:19-27 or Luke 10:38-42    (2019)

If cooks and chefs are ever in need of a patron saint, they need not look further. And not just cooks and chefs, but also homemakers and those in the hospitality industry.

Because St. Martha would be the first and obvious saint for those in these professions.

Indeed, her name means "The mistress" or "the lady", from the feminine of "master", and in many obvious ways, she lived up to her name.

In the gospel of Luke, she was caught up with all the serving and got distracted and complained.

And Jesus gently chided her that she worry and fret about so many things but only one was needed.

In the gospel of John, Martha was again seen to be complaining and even blaming Jesus for not coming earlier, otherwise her brother Lazarus would not have died.

But it was she who made that profound faith statement : Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has to come into this world.

St. Martha was of great service to others, yet she was also a woman who put her faith into her service and her life.

So she is not just Martha but St. Martha. May we learn from her to serve with faith, so that in all people and in all things, it is Christ whom we are serving.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 28.07.2013

Genesis 18:20-32/ Colossians 2:12-14/ Luke 11:1-13

It is certainly more convenient to watch a movie at home than at the cinema.

With TV screens that are 40” and more, and with Blue Ray format and with home theatre systems, we may not feel the need to go to the cinemas.

Even with a laptop, we won’t miss much when watching a movie like “Despicable Me 2”.

We don’t need to see those cute yellow minions on a big screen. 

They are so cute and small they will fit into any screen size.

And we don’t need great sound effects to listen to their minion language to try to understand it.

Because it may be obvious enough. Especially when one of the minions has alarm lights on its head, and goes around with "Bee Doo…Bee Doo…" (Either it’s a fire engine or an ambulance).

But some movies have to be seen on the big screen – in fact, the bigger the better.

One movie that I can think of is “Pacific Rim”, a science fiction movie in which action movie stars manned giant robots that fight against gigantic alien monsters. 

If you watch that movie on a laptop, then it’s going to be a waste, because you won’t be able to see clearly who’s who when the monsters and the robots clash.

And of course, the sound is much more explosive and pounding when you watch it in a cinema.

Yes, size does matter, and when we watch a movie in the cinema, we will get big picture and big sound. 

Yes, we will watch the movie in “big size”.

Yet, a number of us will say that we have not gone to the cinemas to watch a movie for quite some time already.

The reasons are that we are busy, we don’t have the time, the movie tickets are expensive, it is also inconvenient, because at the climax of the movie, we will also feel the urge to go to the toilet (and miss the best part!).

So, we settle for home theatre systems and we are contented with a “down-sized” movie.

Somehow, our movie watching experience may be similar to our prayer experience.

We downsize  our prayers when we are praying to God, the Almighty.

In the gospel, Jesus gave a teaching on prayer, and He also pointed out something about our prayer.

Jesus taught us a prayer – the “Our Father”, or the Lord’s Prayer.

He also told us to pray with persistence. In other words, we must be thick-skinned, we must not be ashamed to pray, to ask, to knock on heaven’s door.

We must not be shy or even ashamed to pray for small things, because we must believe that prayer changes things, even small things.

We may remember what Jesus said about small things. He said that if we can be faithful in small things, then we will be faithful in big things.

So, it also means that when we offer small things to God in prayer, then there is nothing too big that God will not answer.

Praying for a parking lot might seem like a small thing.

Once I went with a friend to the hospital to anoint his father who was critically ill.

When we reached the hospital car park it was full and it seemed like it was going to be a long wait for a parking lot.

Then my friend suggested that we pray the prayer for a parking space. He said that it was his father who taught him the prayer and it always worked.

So, I asked him what was that prayer and he said this: Hail Mary, full of grace, help me find a parking space.

I squirmed a bit when I heard that prayer, so I told him that he can say that prayer if he wants.

But he retorted that since I am the priest I should be the one saying the prayer!

Since I didn’t intend to sit in the car and waste time, I sheepishly and quite unwillingly said the prayer – Hail Mary, full of grace, help us find a parking space.

And then, almost immediately, a man came into the carpark, went into a car in front of us and drove out of the lot. And my friend rubbed it in by saying: See, it always works! Especially, when a priest says it.

Yes, we must not be shy. We must not hesitate, we must not be ashamed to offer up all things to God in prayer, yes, all things big and small.

But maybe that is where the crisis is. We may have neglected small things as well as big things and we choose to turn to our own reserves which inevitably will fail us.

Like the minion in the movie wearing the alarm lights and going “Bee Doo… Bee Doo…” our prayer life may be in crisis.

We may think that our prayer is some kind of minion language that God does not bother to reply.

But let us also remember that out of the mouths of children and babes (Psalm 8), out of simple and humble prayers, God will give us strength to foil our enemies and the monster problems that we face in life.

In all things, big or small, we must pray, for prayer changes things.
I want to share with you a poem about prayer and it’s called “The Difference”.
The Difference
I got up early one morning
And rushed right into the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I didn't take time to pray.
Problems just tumbled around me,
And heavier came each task;
"Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered.
He answered, "You didn't ask."
I wanted to see joy and beauty-
But the day toiled on, grey and bleak;
I wondered why God didn't show me,
He said, "But you didn't seek."
I tried to come into God's presence,
I used all my keys at the lock;
God gently and lovingly chided:
"My child, you didn't knock."
I woke up early this morning
And paused before entering the day;
I had so much to accomplish
That I had to take time to pray.

Friday, July 26, 2013

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-07-13

Exodus 24:3-8 / Matthew 13:24-30

The phrase "first blood" has several meanings, but most of which are rooted in the actions that will result in the spilling of blood when the situation turns violent.

So to "draw first blood" is the initial advantage gained by one side in any game, contest or competition.

"First blood" could also mean the time when a man kills another man for the first time in honorable combat.

Or to "draw first blood" could mean when your opponent strikes at you first, without any provocation from you. Thus, the opponent inflicts the first harm, by which he or she causes you to bleed or be harmed.

In the 1st reading, we heard that God sealed with blood the covenant between Him and His people. Moses cast the blood of bulls on the altar (which represented God) and the other half on the people.

That symbolized, in very stark terms, the sealing of the covenant in blood. And it can be said that the people of God drew first blood when they broke the covenant, and God has every right to make a demand for their blood as punishment.

In the gospel, we heard the parable in which a man planted good seed in his field but the enemy came secretly to sow darnel among the wheat and made off.

No doubt the enemy drew first blood. We might think that it refers to the evil one. But when there is sin in our hearts and when we are under the influence of the evil one, then we have become the enemy that drew first blood against God and others.

Let us ask the Lord to help us be aware of the sin in our hearts and to cast it out so that we can bear a good harvest for the Lord and keep His covenant with us.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-07-13

Exodus 20:1-17 / Matthew 13:18-23

We might have heard of this phrase: Put your money where your mouth is.

It means to support something that you believe in, especially by giving money, or to do something rather than to just talk about it.

Yes, to talk about something is one thing. To talk about it with commitment especially when that commitment is expressed by putting money or something valuable into it is quite another thing.

In the 1st reading, we heard the Lord speaking with all those words. Those are not just words but they are, as it is called, the 10 Commandments.

We usually understand the word "commandments" as laws that we must adhere to and obey, failing which we will be punished.

Yet, when God gave those 10 Commandments, He has put His commitment into His words.

His Word will be made flesh in Jesus and He will dwell among us and show us how to live out God's word.

Jesus came into this world to sow God's Word so that we will have life to the full and bear a harvest for God's kingdom.

Whether our hearts are rocky and thorny or fertile and docile, Jesus continues to sow His Word into our hearts.

May our hearts be open to God's Word so that from the rich harvest of our hearts, our mouths will proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

St. James, Apostle, Thursday, 25-07-13

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 20:20-28

There is a popular pilgrimage in Europe that is known as the Compostela.

It is a traditional pilgrimage to the grave of St. James and it is known as the "Way of St. James".

According to legend, the remains of St. James are held in Santiago de Compostela in Galicia (Spain), and St. James is also the patron saint of Spain.

And according to the local tradition, St. James went as far as Spain to preach the gospel, and there he had a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary and then he returned to Judea where shortly after he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa in the start of the persecution of the Church.

Hence he was the first of the apostles to be martyred and the first of the apostles to offer his life in witnessing to Christ.

Yes, St. James drank the cup that his Master drank and like his Master, he also offered his life as a ransom for many.

This feast of St. James also reminds us that our life is a pilgrimage on earth in a journey towards our eternal home in heaven.

In this pilgrimage we understand what St. Paul said in the 1st reading - We are only earthenware jars that hold the treasures of God.

Like St. James, let us pour out our life in service of God and others, so that, as the 1st reading puts it - the more grace is multiplied among people, the more thanksgiving there will be to the glory of God.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 24-07-13

Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15 / Matthew 13:1-9    (2019)

The grass on the other side always seem to be greener. Or so it seems. Until we get there.

And then the grass from where we came from would seem to be much better and greener and then we will start comparing again, and wishing we could go back there.

We have to admit that we are often not satisfied and contented with where we are at and with what we have and we keep imagining there is a better place elsewhere.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the Israelites had their freedom from slavery in Egypt. But now out in the wilderness, they began to complain about hunger and the lack of food.

Just hardly two months after they had left Egypt and now they were saying that slavery in Egypt was better than freedom in the wilderness.

The Israelites have a long way to go in order to learn that the Lord is their God, and that whether it was in Egypt or in the wilderness, the Lord God is teaching them something.

We too, have a long way to go in order to learn that the Lord is our God in whatever situations we are in and wherever we are at.

We may find ourselves on the edge of the path of life; we may feel that we are on rocky ground; we may find ourselves getting mangled by the thorns of life.

But there is always a reason for where we are at and the difficulties we are experiencing.

Yet, even in the face of difficulties and challenges, we are fed with God's grace and given strength to produce a harvest in spite of adverse conditions.

So let us listen to God's Word, let us be filled with the Bread of Life and let us produce a harvest of joy.

Monday, July 22, 2013

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-07-13

Exodus 14:21 - 15:1 / Matthew 12:46-50

In life, there will always be changes. Change is inevitable. There is even a philosophical saying: You can never step into the same river twice (Heraclitus)

Although for most of the time, change is usually for the better, yet it cannot be denied that not all change is for the good. In other words, changes can bring about negative effects and undesirable results.

In the 1st reading, we heard the great saving act that God did for the Israelites – the miraculous parting of the sea that saved the Israelites but doomed the Egyptians.

But the fact is that much earlier, God had sent the 10 plagues against Egypt. Yet it changed Pharaoh’s heart for the worse – it hardened his heart.

And with that, his army met its fate in the depths of the sea; whereas Israel in witnessing the great act that the Lord had performed against the Egyptians venerated the Lord and put their faith in the Lord.

In the gospel, we hear Jesus asking this very astonishing question – Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?

Is Jesus changing His family origins and identity? Is He cutting off family ties and family relationships?

Of course not! But He is stating the one necessary criterion that is necessary if we are to belong to His family – the change of heart in order to do the will of His Father.

It is a change for the better, if fact for our good, so that we can truly say we belong to Jesus. It is a change that will also save us.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

St. Mary Magdalene, Monday, 22-07-13

Songs 3:1-4 or 2 Cor 5:14-17 / John 20:1-2, 11-18   (2015/2019)

Mary Magdalene's appearance in the gospels was rather sudden, her name may mean that she was from the town of Magdala (thought to have been on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee).

According to Luke 8:2 and Mark 16:9, Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons". That could mean that she was under some kind of serious diabolic possession or influence.

But despite her centuries-old infamous reputation which was depicted in religion, art, literature, and in recent prominent fictional books and movies, it is largely agreed today that there was no solid biblical or extrabiblical evidence that suggests she was ever a prostitute,  or a secret lover or wife of Jesus, or mother of His children.

The gospel of Luke has it that after Jesus delivered her of the "seven demons", she followed Him and joined the band of women who supported Jesus and His disciples out of their own means.

But it was at the crucifixion, burial and Resurrection that Mary Magdalene became prominent.

She was there at the foot of the cross Mother Mary and the beloved disciple John; she was at that burial of Jesus; and she was there at the tomb very early on the first day of the week.

And it was there and then that Jesus appeared to her and called her by name.

In Mary Magdalene, we see a slow and silent transformation from the moment she was delivered by Jesus to the moment He called her by name at His resurrection.

She had a dark past, and maybe even after that was disregarded and labelled with rejection.

But in the events of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection, Mary Magdalene displayed faithfulness, courage and love even beyond death.

So if every saint has a past, then every sinner also has a future. But just as Mary Magdalene put her future in Jesus, may we also put ours into the hands of Jesus and hear Him call us by name.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 21.07.2013

Genesis 18:1-10/ Colossians 1:24-28/ Luke 10:38-42

Generally speaking, there are two types of personalities: the extrovert and the introvert.

But this is just a broad generalization. Between the extrovert and the introvert, there is also a mixture of both types of characters. 

And people may not really be what they seem to be.

For example, those who sit at the front seats may not be extroverts who like to be seen sitting there. 

Just that probably they were ushered to the front. And if they happen to be an introvert, then it is going to be awkwardly shy for them to sit there and to be seen there.

And those who are at the back may not necessarily be introverts. They may be extroverts who like to see everything (not a bird’s eye view but a back-eye view) 

And in a social gathering or meeting, there are those back-benchers who will voice their views aloud so that everyone can hear them and that everyone will have to turn their heads and look at them when they speak. 

That may not always be the case but introverts and extroverts have certain obvious traits that characterizes them as such.

One of which is that extroverts are expressive, like to talk and make their presence felt. The introverts would be quietly at the corner and hoping that they won’t be noticed. 

But the extroverts and introverts and all those in between make life interesting and there is a lot that we can learn from extroverts as well as from introverts.

We can assume that Jesus Himself showed traits of an extrovert. He preaches, He teaches, He heals, He eats with sinners and tax collectors.

He is always with people. And that is what He came for – to be with people and to show them the face of God as well as to show them how much God loves them.

As much as Jesus can be called an extrovert, He was also very sensitive to the needs of the painfully shy introverts. 

From the gospels, we know that Jesus reached out to those who spent their lives in dark corners and the back lanes of society.

During his time on earth, He reached out to sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, the despised and the discarded – He reached out to them all to show that God cares about them, and loves them.

Today’s gospel may not be talking about introverts and extroverts, but there is so much we can learn from Jesus about being caring and loving.

As we have heard in the gospel, Jesus was invited to the home of Martha and Mary.

And then we heard about Martha getting distracted with all the serving and then she complained to Jesus in these words: Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me. 

There is no need for us to analyze, but it is obvious that Martha is the extrovert type – she is expressive and impulsive, and even explosive.

And Jesus had to gently point out to her that she worry and fret over so many things, and yet few are needed; indeed only one.

And then comes the shocker when Jesus said: It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.

And just what is this “better part”. Martha would really want to know. Not just Martha, we too want to know.

And through all this exchange of words between Martha and Jesus, Mary was silent; there was not a word from her.

In fact, from the gospel accounts, Mary of Bethany didn’t seem to have much to say.

For example, in the gospel of John, about the account of the death of Lazarus, Martha went out to meet Jesus and said to Him: If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now, God will give you whatever you ask.

And that was Martha – bold and expressive and always have words ready on her lips, and strong words even.

Then Mary came along later, and when she saw Jesus, she fell at His feet and wept, and having no words of her own, she could only repeat what Martha said: Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

And when Jesus saw her weeping, He was deeply moved and He even wept.

So, Mary didn’t say anything more than Martha, and didn’t have anything new to say.

But her tears said it all, and that moved Jesus to tears.

In a later episode, a dinner was given in honour of Jesus and Martha was serving and Lazarus was at table with Jesus.

Then Mary came in, and without a word, she poured expensive perfume on the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair.

When Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, criticized her action, it was Jesus who replied: Leave her alone. It was intended that she use this perfume for the day of my burial.

Well, it was that Mary, the one who does not say much, who somehow sensed the impending death of Jesus and she did what she could for him.

Indeed, Jesus was right. Mary had chosen the better part, because she could see what the better part was.

We may call Mary an introvert. She may not have many words, but she feels deeply for Jesus. She feels the heart of Jesus.

She sits at His feet; she weeps at His feet; she anoints His feet.

Extroverts may be at the head and shoulders and the introverts may be at where the lowly feet are.

But let us remember that Jesus is always with the lowly and the humble, and may I also say, that He is with the quiet and the introverted.

And as much as we may assume that Jesus is an extrovert, He may also be an introvert, in that He would often go off to a lonely place and sit at the feet of His Father in prayer to feel the love of His Father.

So let us also choose the better part. Let us sit at the feet of Jesus in prayer. 

And when words are lacking, let there be love. 

As long as we love with the heart of Jesus, we will not need too many words.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Annual Priests Retreat 2013

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be having their annual retreat from 15th July Monday to 19th July Friday.

I will also be at this retreat and I am really looking forward to it for a time of silence and prayer.

As such, there will be no weekday homily postings for this week. The next post will be for the 16th Ordinary Sunday.

Requesting prayers for myself and my brother priests that we will be renewed and re-focused so that we will continue to faithfully serve the Lord and His holy people.

Thank you. May God bless you!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

15th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 14.07.2013

Deuteronomy 30:10-14/ Colossians 1:15-20/ Luke 10:25-37

We can’t help it but we are always attracted to what is free.

Be it free service, free upgrade, free flow of drinks, free WiFi. Yes, whatever that is free, we will go for it, like bees to honey.

But as we may know by now, nothing in life comes for free. So we will just have to settle for what comes next, and that is whatever that is good, cheap and fast.

Especially when it comes to service. We would like to have cheap, good and fast service. 

But we know by now that good and cheap service won’t be fast.

And good and fast service won’t be cheap. And of course fast and cheap service won’t be good.

So, it means that in life, we can’t have it all, and much less can we ever have it free.

Yet, in the area of information technology, there are certain things that can come for free – free apps, which are available for free download.

It all started when some clever and generous people decided to use their talents and create some open-source programs and applications and offer it to those who might have use for it.

So now what is available free on the internet are programs and apps that really come for free – free anti-virus, free operating systems, free email (even free encyclopedia).

Yes, we have used these free programs and apps and they have benefitted us.

Whether we acknowledge it or not, these clever and generous people have given us an example that there are people in this world who are willing to help others – for free!

And that their contributions can make a difference and indeed have made a difference.

In the gospel, we heard Jesus telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

The parable was a response to a lawyer’s question of “Who is my neighbour?”

And the parable shook the ground of the listeners because of the dramatic twist in the story.

Because the hero of the story is not one of their own people.

Rather, it was an outsider. In fact, an enemy of the Jews, someone who was despised and written off by the Jews.

But why would Jesus want to bring in a Samaritan into the parable and risk the possibility of turning away his listeners and maybe even hardening their hearts?

But the point of the parable was to awaken His listeners.

The implicit question here is that are they not going to help their own people in need? Can they just walk away from those who are half dead and let the outsiders and even enemies take care of them?

And that is also the question for us as the People of God. Are we not going to help our own people in need? Can we just walk away and leave them to outsiders?

Today we are reminded of the law that is written in our hearts – To love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength and with all our mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves.

It is with that kind of love that we can restore the hope of our own people and the hope of humanity.

We may have heard of this word “ubuntu”. For those who are geeks among us, we know of it as a free, open-source operating system for computers and electronic devices.

But there is a story behind the word “ubuntu”.

An anthropologist had been studying the habits and customs of an African tribe, and when he finished his work, had to wait for transportation that would take him to the airport to return home. 

He'd always been surrounded by the children of the tribe, so to help pass the time before he left, he proposed a game for the children to play.

He'd bought lots of sweets in the city, so he put everything in a basket with a beautiful ribbon attached. He placed it under a tree, and then he called the kids together. 

He drew a line on the ground and explained that they should wait behind the line for his signal. And that when he said "Go!" they should rush over to the basket, and the first to reach it would win all the sweets.

When he said "Go!" they all unexpectedly held each other's hands and ran off towards the tree as a group. Once there, they simply shared the sweets with each other and happily ate it.

The anthropologist was very surprised. He asked them why they had all gone together, especially if the first one to reach the tree could have won everything in the basket - all the sweets. 

A young girl simply replied: "Ubuntu! - How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?"

The anthropologist was dumbfounded! For months and months he'd been studying the tribe, yet it was only now that he really understood their true essence.

That also makes us think. How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?

Ubuntu also means, "I am because we are." Ubuntu is a Zulu or Xhosa word, and a traditional African concept. It's a term for humaneness, for caring, sharing and being in harmony with others and all of creation.
If ubuntu means “I am because we are”, then how about the word Christian?

Christian would mean “I am love because God is love”.

Jesus had said : You received without charge, give without charge. In other words, we received love freely, we too must give love freely.

In loving God and loving our neighbour, we will truly understand the meaning of happiness.

Because when others are happy, then we in turn will be happy. As that little girl told the anthropologist: How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?

So let us be a loving neighbour to one another and help those in need and share the happiness of life with one another.

Let us make a difference in this world that tends to be indifferent.

With that we will restore the hope that humanity can love freely and generously, just as God has loved us, freely and generously.

Friday, July 12, 2013

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 13-07-13

Genesis 49:29-33; 50:15-26 / Matthew 10:24-38

If we were to ask ourselves this question - Am I afraid of death? - how honestly can we answer that question?

Whatever the answer may be, it is inevitable that that is some apprehension, if not fear, about death.

Because no one whom we know of (except Jesus of course) ever came back to tell us of what lies beyond the door of death.

In the 1st reading we hear of two people who knew that the time of their death was coming up.

And they even said it as a matter of fact - Jacob said : I am about to be gathered to my people ; and later Joseph would say : I am about to die.

They seemed to talk about and take death as a part of life. They don't seem to be apprehensive or fear death. Maybe because they know who they would be returning to when their life on earth is over.

In fact the ones that seemed to fear death are the ones who are left behind on earth.

Joseph's brothers feared that with the death of their father, Joseph would now take revenge for all the harm they had done to him before.

In the gospel, Jesus urged His disciples not to be afraid (3 times even).

We become afraid when we forget who is looking after us and what we should do in life in order to prepare for death.

Yes, in forgetting we fear. So let us remember what Jesus has taught us about life, and He will remember us when we face our death.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 12-07-13

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30 / Matthew 10:16-23

Stories of courage and bravery in the face of danger and death are usually very inspiring.

Those kind of stories, especially when they are real life stories, stirs in our hearts the sentiments that people make in self-sacrifice and makes us think about whether we would do the same if we were in their shoes.

In the gospel we heard Jesus beginning His instruction of the Twelve with this line: Remember, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves; so be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.

Following which is a description that will make us shrink if we were to imagine that it would really happen to us.

But we may silently ask ourselves if it is that worth it to go through all this.

Can there be another way out in that we just live our lives quietly and have just some faith to do good to others? Can that just be enough?

But as Jesus said, the man who stands firm to the end will be saved. Yes, when we stand firm in the face of difficulties and danger, we will be rewarded.

In the 1st reading, we hear how Joseph was rewarded for his perseverance in all his trials. He was finally reunited with his father Jacob after more than twenty years, and when they finally met, Joseph threw his arms around Jacob's neck and for a long time wept on his shoulder.

It was indeed a very moving moment of reunion and the pain of trials and difficulties and danger don't seem to matter any more.

So let us stand firm in our trials on earth. Eventually when we are reunited with God our Father, He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 11-07-13

Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29; 45:1-5 / Matthew 10:7-15

St. Benedict whose feast day we celebrate today was born in AD 450. Although he lived and studied in Rome, he could not take the meaningless life of the city and he went to live a life of deep solitude as a hermit in the mountains.

His reputation spread, and some monks asked him to be their abbot, but when they could not take the discipline he imposed, they tried to poison him.

But his later followers were more matured and sincere and disciplined and with them, St. Benedict began founding communities which developed into monasteries.

Eventually he founded the famous monastery of Monte Cassino which became the roots of the Church's monastic system.

His beliefs and instructions on religious life were collected in what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict and it is still directing religious life after 15 centuries.

St. Benedict realized the strongest and truest foundation for the power of words was the Word of God itself: "For what page or word of the Bible is not a perfect rule for temporal life?"

St. Benedict instructed his followers to practice sacred reading. In this lectio divina, he and his monks memorized the Scripture, studied it, and contemplated it until it became part of their being. Four to six hours were set aside each day for this sacred reading.

We who live such a hectic stressful urban life will even wonder if we can ever manage to have four to six minutes a day to read scripture and we could hardly remember what we have read as busyness overwhelms our minds.

But just as Jesus instructed His apostles on the mission ahead, through the Sacred Scriptures, Jesus is also instructing us on the Way, the Truth and the Life.

In St. Benedict's words : "For what page or word of the Bible is not a perfect rule for temporal life?" May we take some time out in the temporary life to read about and prepare for eternal life.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 10-07-13

Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24 / Matthew 10:1-7   (2019)

The hardships of life often has the effect of hardening our hearts.

And as we face the hardships of life, it is inevitable that what arises in our minds is the person or persons that caused our hardships.

So it may be our boss or supervisor, our colleague or peers, our subordinates or family members, but with resentment and bitterness we will blame them for our predicament.

"People can live through great hardships and yet perish from hard feelings." (Solzhenitsyn)

In the 1st reading, we hear about Joseph who had the authority in Egypt to sell grain to all comers during a time of great famine.

It was this Joseph that his brothers had sold into slavery much earlier and he went through many hardships before God raised him to fame and authority.

And now his brothers were bowing before him though they did not recognize him. So it could be pay back time and Joseph could give his brothers a greater hardship than the famine they were facing.

But Joseph did not give in to resentment and bitterness against his brothers. In fact, after hearing their conversation, he left and wept.

In the gospel when Jesus called the apostles and sent them off to proclaim the kingdom of heaven, it was going to entail great hardships from difficult people.

But for the sake of the kingdom and because the kingdom is close at hand, they cannot give in to resentment and bitterness.

Neither can we. Because the kingdom of heaven is close at hand, let us soften our hearts so as to let the kingdom of heaven take root in us.

Monday, July 8, 2013

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 09-07-13

Genesis 32:23-33 / Matthew 9:32-38

Life has its ups and downs, its moments of excitement and monotony and drudgery.

As much as we would like life to be exciting and to get up and about, yet there is also the lethargy in us to just want to sit around and waste our time and our life away.

And then we complain that life is boring and meaningless and we may even end up looking for "excitement" in the wrong ways.

But just taking a casual look at the two readings, we can sense and feel that there is a lot of action and excitement.

In the gospel we hear of Jesus doing an exorcism, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness.

And in the 1st reading, we hear of Jacob wrestling for a blessing with a mysterious character and even getting a dislocated hip in the process.

But all this action and excitement would not mean anything to us if we are not going to get up and get involved.

Jesus said that the harvest is rich but the labourers are few. The labourers that Jesus is talking about is none other than we.

If we don't labour for the harvest, then evil will only multiply, the Good News will be silenced, and the suffering will not find relief or compassion.

To labour for the harvest would be like Jacob wrestling for a blessing. It calls for perseverance and at times it will be painful.

But it will be exciting and it will give meaning to our lives.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 08-07-13

Genesis 28:10-22 / Matthew 9:18-26      (2015 / 2019)

In a time of anxiety and distress, it is difficult to see what God is doing or even where God is.

But that is because we are looking more at our own concerns and desperate for solutions rather than to be still and to listen and feel the promptings from God.

Yet it is precisely when everything is spinning and in chaos that we need to stop and look and listen.

In the 1st reading, Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. But it was not a journey of leisure or a business trip.

Jacob was fleeing from the elder twin brother Esau after he had tricked his father Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau.

So Jacob was running for his life and he was not ready for any kind of God-experience until he had to rest for the night.

And there in a dream God spoke to him and made him the promise that he and his descendants shall be a blessing for other nations and that God will not desert him.

Only then did Jacob realized that God was with him and that "the Lord is in this place and I never knew it!"

But in the gospel, we hear of two people who knew who to look for when life was bleeding away or came to a dead end.

In their turmoil and distress the official and the woman with the haemorrhage had the sense to turn to Jesus for healing and salvation.

May we always to turn to Jesus in our turmoil and distress for He has promised to heal us and save us.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 07.07.2013

Isaiah 66:10-14/ Galatians 6:14-18/ Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

We may remember one of the sayings of Jesus that goes like this: Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has its own worries. Today has enough worries of its own.

Yes, today has enough of troubles and worries of its own.

Yet, it seems that we have an addiction to worries and anxieties, not just for today, but for tomorrow also, and the day after, and the day after that, and so on.

Yes, we worry and get anxious about what will happen later on today, what will happen tomorrow, what will happen in the future.

That is why one of the things that we are often tempted to read is the horoscope, although we shouldn’t.

We can find it in the newspaper everyday or even just log in on the internet to read the horoscope for the day.

Whether we take it seriously or lightly, that’s another matter altogether.

But life is really no laughing matter especially when our future is at stake.

There is this conversation between a fortune teller and his client.

Fortune teller: For the first 40 years, your life will be hard and unhappy.

Client: Oh?! And then, after that?

Fortune teller: After that, you will get used to it.

Of course we shouldn’t consult fortune tellers or palm reader (or the horoscope), because our future is in the hands of God.

And in the gospel, we hear what Jesus has to say about our future.

Jesus tells us that we are going to be labourers for His harvest.

And going out there into the harvest, it would be like lambs among wolves.

And if we are going to be honest about it, we would surely be thinking: Is it going to be that difficult? Is it going to be that scary?

But if we really want to face the truth of discipleship, then the reality is that it is going to be that difficult, it is going to be that scary.

Yes, that is the truth of discipleship. Yet, that truth will set us free from our anxieties and worries.

And when we are freed from the grip of our worries and anxieties then we will have peace of heart.

And that is what Jesus wants us to be - messengers of peace. He sends us out into the harvest of the world to be witnesses of peace.

But it is hard to be a messenger of peace; it is difficult to be a witness of peace.

Because in this world, the wolves will be howling at us, the snakes will bite us and the scorpions will sting us.

It is said that “people can live through great hardships and yet perish from hard feelings” (Solzhenitsyn)

The hardness of this world can also harden our hearts.

And when our hearts are hardened, then instead of giving peace to others, we may end up giving them a piece of our mind.

Yet the hardness of heart can only be softened and healed by the waters of peace that flow from the heart of God.

As we heard God saying in the 1st reading : I will send peace flowing like a river.

The image of peace flowing like a river is indeed very fitting.

Because true peace is like a river – the deeper it is, the less noise it makes.

Also the image of peace flowing like a river is fitting because as a river glides along smoothly, it remains the same river flowing in the one direction.

The only thing that changes is the landscape on either side of the bank.

And it is the waters of a river that gives life and peace and softens the hardness of the world.

The hardness that we receive from the world is like a label that is stuck on a bottle.

The easiest way to remove the label from the bottle is to soak the bottle in water and leave it there until the label is softened and detaches from the bottle with little effort.

Similarly we come for Mass to be soaked in the healing waters of the river of God’s peace so that the hard labels of bitterness and resentment can be removed, and our hearts softened.

God wants to heal and comfort us just like a mother would comfort her child.

That is why we have to observe and respect the sacred ambience and the decorum and the solemnity of the Mass.

Because we have come to be healed and comforted by God, and to let God’s peace flow into our hearts like a river.

When we are healed and filled with peace, then we can go out into the world to be messengers of God’s peace and to be channels of peace that flows like a river.

The world is too used to hardness. It has heard too much of the howling of the wolves and felt the pain of the bite of serpents and the sting of scorpions.

But deep in the heart of every person is a longing for peace – the peace that can heal the pain of the world.

May that healing begin with us; may God’s peace flow into our hearts like a river.

And may that peace flow from us into the world to heal the world.

Friday, July 5, 2013

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 06-07-13

Genesis 27:1-5, 15-29 / Matthew 9:14-17

It is easy to find the drama of deception and trickery in fiction literature as well as in real life stories.

But to find it in the Bible (of all books) would be rather surprising to some, yet it shouldn't be that surprising at all.

Because the Bible is about the book of life and how God has loved and saved a sinful humanity from self-destruction.

Nonetheless we read about deception and trickery in the 1st reading. Whether it was Issac or Rebekah, or Esau or Jacob, none of them can say they were truly honest or truthful.

Earlier in Genesis 25:29-34) there is the account of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob over some stew that Jacob had just made. Jacob offered to give Esau a bowl of stew in exchange for his birthright, to which Esau agreed. So already Esau was not true to his word.

Isaac also wanted to bestow the birthright to Esau, but he knew he was not doing the right thing because he wanted it done privately and secretly.

That was probably because he had known that Rebekah had received the prophecy that the twins Esau and Jacob were fighting in her womb and would continue to fight all their lives, even after they became two separate nations. The prophecy also said that "the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger;" (Genesis 25:23)

Yet Rebekah also took things into her own hands and not leaving it into the hands of God.

So it was a really messy story of God's chosen people resorting to deception and trickery and even committing grave sin just to have their way and get what they want.

Yet despite the crookedness of His people, God still made things straight for the coming of His only Son to save the people from their sins.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. May we walk the ways of God in truth and love so that we will  live a meaning life of honesty and integrity.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 05-07-13

Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67 / Matthew 9:9-13

The Old Testament literature is full of imagery and symbolic language.

So it may be necessary to understand the imagery and the symbols in order to understand the significance of the message.

In the 1st reading, we hear of Abraham making his steward swear an oath to choose a wife for his son Isaac according to his specific instructions.

Then we hear of a peculiar action - Abraham made the steward put his hand under his thigh to make the oath.

In other words, the steward had to reach down and grasp Abraham's manhood,  and then swear an oath upon the seed of Abraham's tribe, that he would make every effort to adhere to the promise he was to make. That is a rather graphic description and rather obscene to think about.

In fact that is how the word "testimony" derives, as the Latin root "testi" refers to the glans from which the seeds of life, and each man's future progeny or legacy is propagated.

But the steward was not to take hold of his own groin while making his pledge, but that of Abraham's,  and so it symbolically stood for that of every member of Abraham's tribe.

Abraham was instilling in his steward the grave importance that Abraham himself invested in what was being demanded of his steward. Abraham was staking the future of his entire tribe on this one oath.

In the gospel, we hear of a testimony, and that is from Jesus the Son of God. Jesus proclaimed to us the promise of God.

"What I want is mercy, not sacrifice. And indeed I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners".

Only when we confess that we are sinners will we be able to understand the saving mercy of God. And only then will we be merciful and compassionate to others who sinned against us.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 04-07-13

Genesis 22:1-19 / Matthew 9:1-8

When what we have is sufficient and even in surplus, it is easy to think that God will provide for our needs.

But when we are down to nothing, can we believe that God will come up with something?

Abraham was blessed by God with almost everything and the most precious was an heir, a son in his old age.

But in the 1st reading, we heard God telling him to take his only son Issac and to offer him as a burnt offering!

What were Abraham's thoughts and emotions, we were not told. But without any delay, he set off the next morning to the place of offering, bringing along Issac and two other servants.

Along the way when Issac asked him where was the lamb for the offering, Abraham replied with this profound faith statement: God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.

Yes, to believe that God will provide is something we need to learn from Abraham.

But from Jesus, we learn something more about God. We learn that God loves us, that God will forgive us, that God will heal us.

God does not just provide for us. God has given us His only Son to be sacrificed on the cross so that we can be saved from our sins.

God has given us everything. Hence we can never say that we are down to nothing. Let us give thanks, let us praise the Lord, and let us offer ourselves whole-heartedly to serve Him.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

St. Thomas, Apostle, Wednesday, 03-07-13

Ephesians 2:19-22 / John 20:24-29

Empiricism is a theory of knowledge which states that knowledge comes only or primarily from sensory experience; empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory experience, in the formation of ideas.

Hence for some people, the only way of convincing them is to let them have an experience rather than through arguments or discussion or deduction.

St. Thomas may not be a hard-core empiricist, but he was not one who would easily believe what others tell him, especially when the disciples told him that they had seen the Risen Christ.

He needed an experience of the Risen Christ and he even stated his demands - he not only wanted to see the holes that the nails made in the hands and side of the Risen Christ, he even wanted to put his finger and hands into the holes.

So for St. Thomas, seeing is not enough. He even wanted to touch! And if he had asked the disciples whether they had touched the Risen Christ, they would have been stumped for an answer.

St. Thomas saw how Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. So nothing short of touching the Risen Christ would convince him that He is risen from the dead.

The gospel account did not say whether St. Thomas actually put his finger and hand into the wounds of the Risen Christ. He only made the proclamation - My Lord and my God.

But from what Jesus said to him, it seems that St. Thomas believed when he saw Him; touching Him was not necessary already.

So for those who do not believe in Jesus or want to believe in Him, we have a mission to them.

From what they see of us and in us, they will come to a decision about Jesus.

May St. Thomas pray for us that we will be an experience of the Risen Christ for them.

Monday, July 1, 2013

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 02-07-13

Genesis 19:15-29 / Matthew 8:23-27

The town of Zoar does not exist anymore. It is not known when it disappeared and even its exact location is not known, though excavations have given some clues.

Yet, that town served as a shelter and refuge for Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim.

Zoar was suppossed to be one of the 5 cities slated for destruction by God; but Zoar was spared at Lot's plea as his place of refuge.

In all that drama and running for their lives, Lot asked for that city to take refuge in and even noticed the size of that town - "is it not little?"

Yes, it was a little town that provided refuge and safety for lives of Lot and his family, although Lot's wife looked back at the other "bigger" towns and was turned into a pillar of salt.

There is something in littleness and humility that often conceals and yet manifest the power of God.

Even in the gospel, Jesus would ask His disciples: Why are you so frightened, you men of little faith?

But even though their faith was little, they also saw a marvel, and they were astounded and asked: Whatever kind of man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey Him?

So in times of danger and distress, let us keep hanging on to  whatever little faith we have in God.

With just a little faith in Him, God will show us the power and might of His saving hand.