Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Saints, Friday, 01-11-13

Rev 7:2-4, 9-14 / 1 Jn 3:1-3 / Mt 5:1-12

Today's feast of All Saints proclaims a very profound teaching on the spiritual authority of the Church.

With the authority bestowed on her by Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Church makes the bold declaration of the names of those who have attained the reward of heaven.

There are over 10,000 canonized saints and coming up on April 27 next year will be the canonization of two recent popes - Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

When the Church officially canonizes a person to be a saint, the Church also declared that the person is in heaven and in the presence of God.

This feast is also us a feast of awareness and closeness - an awareness of the spiritual world, and the closeness, the communion, of those saints with us.

As people of God and people of faith, we believe that the saints are canonized not for their own honour but for the glory of God.

And to some of these saints are given a particular mission. For example, on Monday, we celebrated the feast of St. Jude Thaddeus, patron saint of desperate cases.

And then for lost articles, we turn to that famous saint, St. Anthony of Padua.

And as for St. Therese of the Child Jesus, who is our patron saint, she is also the patron saint of the missions and also of florists.

The awareness of the saints and their particular mission will also lead us to be in communion with them.

Because their main heavenly mission is to help us on our earth journey to live the live of holiness and to do the will of God and to grow into a deep love for God and neighbour.

The Beatitudes that we heard in the gospel is the expression of the lives that the saints lived while on earth, and it is also the life that we are called to live.

And as much as the saints want to pray for us, we must ask them for their intercession.

Yes, we have the power to call upon their intercession, for they cannot do anything for us without our asking.

So let us have a deep devotion to the saints and to ask for their intercession as we journey on in faith to join them in heaven.

The mission of the saints in heaven is best expressed by what St. Therese said: I will spend my heaven doing good on earth.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 31-10-13

Romans 8:31-39 / Luke 13:31-35

One of the unpleasant experiences of life is when friendship turn sour.

Not only friendships can turn sour, a friend can turn into a foe over a trivial matter.

But for a foe to turn into friend, that is certainly not easy to come by.

In the gospel, it seems that some Pharisees came to warn Jesus of the hostile intentions of Herod.

Were their intentions good, or were there other ulterior motives that only those Pharisees know about?

Whatever it might be, Jesus was not too concerned. He knows that friends can easily turn into foes, and it is not that easy for foes to become friends.

We too need not be too worried or anxious as to whether our friends will suddenly betray us and turn into our foes.

And even when our foes suddenly become nice and friendly towards us, we will certainly need to be wary.

Whatever the case might be, the 1st reading tells us that with God on our side, who can be against us?

Moreover, there is nothing that can come between us and the love of Christ. Christ is more than just a faithful friend. He is our Saviour. In Him is our refuge and our shelter. May we also be just as faithful to Him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 30-10-13

Romans 8:26-30 / Luke 13:22-30

There was this real-life story that I came across in a medical journal. I can't remember the details of the story but I am sure you have heard of similar cases.

A car accident left a man speechless, motionless and hopeless. He was in a coma, and he was, as what we would call, in a vegetable state.

His fiancée, ignoring the advice of everyone, quit her job just to nurse him, with the hope that he will recover.

She talked with him, prayed with him, read to him the daily news and massaged him.

For five months, there was no response from him. Then one day, she saw his eyebrow flutter.

And in the days that followed, she heard him trying to utter something.

Two years later, with her by his side to steady his steps, they walked down the aisle for their wedding.

What she did for him, is what the 1st reading said that the Spirit will do for us - the Spirit will help us in our weakness.

And we are also told that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, even when the situation seems helpless and hopeless.

So when the doors seems so narrow and the struggle to enter seems rather futile, let us allow the Spirit to help us and strengthen us.

With the Spirit's help, we will be able to tell more real-life stories of the wonders the Lord has done for us.

Monday, October 28, 2013

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 29-10-13

Romans 8:18-25 / Luke 13:18-21    (2019)

Whenever we sigh, we can be telling others a few things.

We may be bored, as when we sigh in a long boring meeting; we may feel helpless in that we cannot change a situation and so we sigh; we may be frustrated that we cannot get something to work, and so we sigh.

But sighing is not as serious as groaning. Groaning could mean that we are heavily burdened and undergoing pain and maybe even struggling to stay alive.

The 1st reading says that the entire creation has been groaning in one great act of giving birth.

Not just creation but we too are groaning inwardly. The groaning here is the longing to be set free. But to be set free from what?

It is to be set free from the clutches of the world that makes us want to think that all in life is just the here and now.

Yes, we are subjected to the worldly thinking that the temporary is the eternity. And people do succumb to the clutches of this worldly thinking and they live wildly with the pleasures and desires of life.

But for us, we know that salvation lies in eternity. And St. Paul says at the beginning of the 1st reading that he considered the sufferings of this life can never be compared to the glory that is waiting for us in eternity.

Still, we need to struggle to believe in that salvation that God has promised those who remain faithful to him.

May our faith be like the mustard seed and the yeast in the parables in the gospel. May our faith keep growing, despite the groaning, and one day reach the eternity of heaven.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sts. Simon and Jude, Apostles, Monday, 28-10-13

Ephesians 2:19-22 / Luke 6:12-19    (2014)

Not much is known about the two saints whose feast we celebrate today.

Simon was called Zealot probably because of his zeal for the Jewish independence before he was called by Jesus.

Jude or Thaddeus is the author of the letter in the New Testament in which he warned Christian converts against false teaching and immorality.

He is also venerated as the patron of "impossible cases"

Traditional sources had it that both of them were together in their missionary work in Persia and they were martyred.

Both of them also tell us something about the people Jesus chose to be His disciples.

Both of them, as well as the rest of the apostles, were insignificant people from insignificant backgrounds.

But both of them had  a purpose in God's plan of salvation.

Both of them became zealous for Christ and for the Kingdom and they also became channels of God's grace for those who were seeking God's love and forgiveness, or when they seek God's help when their problems in life seemed hopeless or impossible even.

We may think that we are insignificant persons and hence we think we have no purpose in God's plan of salvation.

But let us ask for the prayers of St. Simon and St. Jude that we will discover our purpose in life and also our purpose in God's plan of salvation.

We may be insignificant but it does not mean that we are impossible. Because with God, everything and everyone is possible.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

30th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 27-10-2013

Sir 35:12-14, 16-19 / 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18 / Lk  18:9-14

The month of October can be said to be a prayerful month.

And when we think about it, we can see that the month of October is indeed dotted with prayerful moments.

Well, the month of October began with the feast of our patron saint, St. Therese.

And then there was the feast of the Holy Rosary, and the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

Tomorrow is also the feast of a saint that all of us have prayed to before - St Jude, patron saint of desperate cases.

And talking about desperate cases, as much as October is a prayerful month, it is also a stressful month, especially for students and also for the teachers, and also for the parents.

Yes, October is exam month and so it is a stressful month, but also a prayerful month, especially for the students.

It is said that last minute preparations for exams also produces the greatest motivation to pray.

And what do most students pray for? Certainly for good results.

And good results does not mean to just pass the exams.

(For some students and some parents) Good results does not mean just a D, or a C, or even a B.

Good results means scoring an A, and nothing less.

When asked why scoring A is so important for exams, one student candidly replied: Oh, because we are A-sians! :P

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable about two persons: a Pharisee and a tax-collector.

The Pharisee was like an “A” student: he is not grasping, not unjust, not adulterous.

He fast twice a week, he pays tithes, and of course, he prays.

The tax-collector was like an “F” student: he had got nothing to say but only this: God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

He was like a student with a report card full of red marks and with the head hanging down could only shamefully say: I am sorry that I failed.

As the saying goes, we reap what we sow. So if we study hard, we will get good grades, maybe even a string of As.

If we are lazy and don’t study hard, and play play play, and then, at the last minute, we pray pray pray very hard, even St. Jude may find it difficult to help a desperate case. It is more like a hopeless case.

The Pharisee was certainly impressive with what he did, and it is understandable if he bragged about what he did, just like the students who would say how they toiled and sweat with their studies in order to get good grades.

His only problem, and which was his biggest problem was that he started to compare himself with the tax-collector and subsequently he put down the tax-collector.

The Pharisee had already exalted himself but to exalt himself further, he went on to ridicule the tax-collector by saying: and particularly, I am not like this tax-collector here.

And Jesus said it plainly, God will not accept that. 

How can one be called religious when one starts to compare himself with another and subsequently condemns the other?

As the 1st reading puts it: The Lord shows no respect of personages to the detriment of a poor man, and He listens to the plea of the injured party.

Moreover, the 1st reading states that the humble man’s prayer pierces the clouds, and the Lord will not be slow to answer him.

Yes, the Lord will hear and answer the prayers of the humble and lowly who only have Him for their help.

I came across a story taken from a magazine called Guideposts.

There was a young school teacher who really wanted to be a good teacher to her students. But a student named Billy, who was like an “A” student and a smart alec, was causing havoc in her class so much so that she was becoming a nervous wreck.

One morning before class began, the schoolteacher was at her desk writing something in shorthand. Suddenly, Billy appeared and he asked her: What are you writing?   

She said: I am writing a prayer to God in shorthand. Billy laughed and said: Can God read shorthand? The teacher said: He can do anything, even answer this prayer.   

Then she tucked that slip of paper into her prayer book and turned to write something on the board. As she did so, Billy, being Billy, took the prayer slip from her prayer book and slipped it into his text book.   

Twenty years later, Billy was going through a box of his belongings.

He came across his old text book. As he began to thumb through it, that prayer slip fell out. Billy stared at the writing on that faded piece of paper.   

When he got to his office, he gave that piece of paper to his secretary to decipher.   

As she looked at it, she blushed and told Billy that she would type it out and leave it on his desk before she left.   

That night Billy read the prayer. It said: Dear God, don't let me fail as a teacher. I can't handle this class with Billy in it. Touch his heart. He is someone who can become either very good or very evil.   

That final sentence hit Billy like a hammer. Because just hours before he was contemplating on some illegal business that would make him very rich, but very evil.   

Billy read that prayer a few times, and finally he changed his mind about what he was contemplating on.   Eventually he located his old schoolteacher and told her how her prayer changed his life.   

The old school teacher smiled and said: And I thought that God took that prayer and forgot to answer it.   

Amazing story, isn't it? Really amazing. Yes, let us remember that every prayer uttered is also every prayer answered.   

And it will be answered powerfully, when it is uttered from humble lips that are surrendered to the merciful and loving God.

So may we begin and end our every prayer with that prayer of the tax collector: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Friday, October 25, 2013

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 26-10-13

Romans 8:1-11 / Luke 13:1-9

There is this story about two angels who were bringing up prayers to God in two baskets.

One basket was filled with prayers and the other just had a few prayers.

The angel at the gate of heaven asked the two angels about the disparity of the amount of prayers in the two baskets.

The angel carrying the basket filled with prayers said that it contained petitions and needs of almost every kind.

Then angel carrying the basket that had just a few prayers said that it contained prayers of thanksgiving.

Certainly for us who live in this world, we will always have needs - health and healing, peace and reconciliation, happiness and success in study and work.

More so when we are in a desperate need, we will storm heaven and pray for help and deliverance.

Yet do we thank God when He has given us His help? Or simply just give thanks to God for His love for us?

The 1st reading talks about the spiritual and the unspiritual. Not that our needs and petitions are unspiritual. Even at Mass, we offer up needs and petitions.

But the Mass is also eucharistic - it is essentially thanksgiving. We are called to raise up our minds and hearts to God and give thanks for all He has given to us.

So as we come for Mass, we may go forth to bear fruits of thanksgiving. May our constant offering of thanks to God being about an abundance of blessing for our world.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

29th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Friday, 25-10-13

Romans 7:18-25 / Luke 12:54-59      (2019)

Our shadows are quite interesting when we come to look at it.

It has always been with us and yet it is not a reflection of ourselves as what we see in the mirror.

Our shadows change in shape, in definition and in intensity, although it is always a dark.

In a way, we can say that our shadows may be a symbol of our dark side.

There is always a dark sinful side in us, and even as we try to grow in holiness, it seems that we have to struggle more with our sinfulness.

As it is, the brighter the light, the darker the shadows will be.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul shared with us this experience of the spiritual struggle within him.

After saying that he did the wrong things that he didn't intend to, he ended the sharing by saying in that wretched state of his, the only one who could come to his rescue was Jesus Christ our Lord.

We, more than anyone else, should know what that means. Just like we can't get rid of our shadows, neither can we fight against our sinfulness on our own; we need Jesus to rescue and save us.

The clear sign of our sinfulness is our shadow. But the clear sign of the saving power of our Lord Jesus is when His light is shining on us like the noon-day sun, then our shadows are little.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 24-10-13

Romans 6:19-23 / Luke 12:49-53

Whenever we face a problem, the tendency is to solve it quickly. In doing so we may even look for compromising solutions.

For example, in order to handle a problematic child, we tend to use material and financial gifts in order to quell the problem of the child.

In the workplace, when we see something not right being done, we would rather not see and don't bother.

Yes, we rather compromise rather than to challenge ourselves to face the problem.

It is in that sense that Jesus said that He didn't come to bring peace. In fact, He said that He came to bring fire to the earth and how He wished it were blazing already.

To compromise on a solution would only mean that we are faking the peace and sweeping things under the carpet.

To compromise is to be like slaves of sin because we tend to hide from the problem until it burns out of control and resulting in dire consequences.

When we challenge ourselves to face the reality of the problem then we let the fire of  Christ burn away the impurities of our intentions.

Then like what the 1st reading said, we will be at the service of righteousness and also for our sanctification.

When we become slaves of God working for sanctifying solutions to life's problems, then we will indeed experience true peace.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-10-13

Romans 6:12-18 / Luke 12:39-48

We, the members of the Church are often referred to as instruments of God in which He will manifest His presence in the world.

Besides that we are also called channels of His peace and love, as the hymn "Make me a channel of Your peace" would put it.

All those descriptions give a picture of gentleness and docility, and it also gives the picture that we have to work and build the kingdom of God.

But the 1st reading gives us another image of being a Christian. It describes Christians as weapons.

It also gives the scenario of a battle, and the Christian has to make a decision as to what kind of weapon he/she is to be used for.

The 1st reading urged Christians not to let any part of their bodies turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin.

Rather, Christians should offer themselves to God and make every part of their bodies into a weapon fighting on the side of God.

So the spiritual life of a Christian is not just about being an instrument or channel of God and working and building the Kingdom of God under calm and  peaceful conditions.

There is also the need to protect the Church and the Kingdom of God by being weapons of God to fight evil and wickedness.

It is also by being instruments and channels of God's peace and love that we protect the weak and poor and helpless from harm and exploitation and oppression.

So whether it is being an instrument of God or weapon of God, we must be alert and always stand ready on God's side.

Monday, October 21, 2013

29th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 22-10-13

Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21 / Luke 12:35-38

No one wants to be known as the one who brought about a great tragedy; no one wants to be remembered in that particular sense.

Yet we know of people in history who had this infamous reputation - Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot.

And in recent times, we may still remember Nick Leeson, a former derivatives broker whose fraudulent, unauthorized speculative trading caused the spectacular collapse of Barings Bank, the United Kingdom's oldest investment bank.

Just that one man and a bank can go bankrupt. So the world knows what a twisted and crooked man can do and with devastating effects.

But that shouldn't be that surprising as the 1st reading reminds us of what happened to the first man.

Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin, death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned.

So the effects of the sin of one man is certainly not to be underestimated. And if everyone continues to sin, then we can imagine the epic devastating effect of sin.

Hence, Jesus warned us in the gospel to be dressed for action and to be awake and alert.

Yes, we have to be alert for those moments of temptation that will lead us to sin and destroy our relationship with God and with others.

At the same time, we also need to be dressed for action and to be alert for those moments of grace to do a good act for the salvation of the world.

In being obedient to the grace of God, even though sin may still abound, yet God will help us overcome our sinfulness and lead others to glorify God's name.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 21-10-13

Romans 4:20-25 / Luke 12:13-21

It takes a lot of faith to say that everything in life is a gift.

It is obvious enough to know that we came into this world with nothing and we will leave everything behind when it comes.

But, even to have the faith to see that reality of life is itself a gift.

In the 1st reading we heard that God made a promise to Abraham, and Abraham remained steadfast in faith in the promise of God.

And it was that faith that was "considered as justifying him". And that faith is certainly nothing less than a gift from God Himself.

And the 1st reading continues to say that just as God gave Abraham the gift of faith, so too are we given the gift of faith.

And by that faith we too are "considered as justified" - justified to receive the promise of God, which is our eternal inheritance.

Yet as Jesus said in the gospel: Watch, and be on your guard against avarice of any kind, for a man's life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.

Yes, our security, and our eternity, lies in our faith in God's promises.

Nothing on this earth will ever, and can ever justify that.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Mission Sunday, Year C, 20.10.2013

Isa 2:1-5/ Eph 3:2-11/ Mk 16:15-20     
The term “social media” is a relatively new term.

We understand what social means. And we understand what media means.

But when these two words are put together, there is a new meaning to it.

We may not understand its full meaning, just like we do not realize fully the impact of camera-phones, which play a huge role in the rise of social media.

In the past, a camera was just a camera, and a phone was just a phone.

Then the phones, the mobile phones, began to have cameras, and with that what was personal became social and that became media for mass consumption, or what is called social media.

Not that anyone is complaining (though some parents might be…) 

We get to see people on Youtube and Facebook and Instagram, and the pictures and photos and videos tell a thousand words (and sometimes they tell too much).

And one new term that has come up in social media is this word called “selfies”.

You might think that I am trying to say “selfish” but didn’t get the pronunciation right.

Well what I am saying is “selfies”, as in S-E-L-F-I-E-S.

What is done in “selfies” is that you take photos of yourself while holding a camera phone at an arm’s length. (definition from urban dictionary)

And then you post your self-portraits on whatever social media you are on. In other words, you broadcast yourself.

The purpose for this is to just share with your friends, and the entire world, through photos, about what you are wearing, eating, or where you are going or how you are looking.

And these are not just ordinary photos. Some are even very slick glamorous shots, maybe even photo-shopped.

Yet with every photo that is posted on the social media, there is a purpose.

Of course, it is obvious that we want to let others see us.

But more than that every photo has a message, because a picture tells a thousand words, or more.

A person who puts a personal photo on social media wants to give others a message.

It may be about lifestyle, about likes and dislikes, about beliefs, about character; in short, it is about something personal.

We heard in the gospel that Jesus told His eleven apostles to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News.

Putting it in social media terms, Jesus has posted eleven photos of His apostles, each of them with a message about the Good News.

One might be a photo of an apostle baptizing a person.

Another photo might show an apostle casting out devils from someone who is possessed.

Another might show an apostle picking up a poisonous snake with his bare hands.

Another might show an apostle laying his hands on the sick and healing them.

But Jesus wants to post one more photo because He has twelve apostles.

And that photo will be about each of us. So what would that photo be about? What would that photo show us doing?

Today, as the Church celebrates Mission Sunday, Jesus is asking us what we are doing to proclaim the Good News.

So as we think about it, we may remember that St. Therese, our patron saint, is also the Patroness of the Missions.

Yet, as we know, St. Therese never left her convent in Lisieux. So how could she be the Patroness of the Missions?

It all began with a man by the name of Henri Pranzini. He was among the most notorious criminals of his time and also one of the most brutal.

On the morning of March 17, 1887, the bodies of 2 women and a child were all found brutally murdered in an apartment.

The motive was robbery and a few days later, Pranzini was caught and convicted of the triple murder.

Shocking as it was, Pranzini would have been executed and forgotten, if not for Therese Martin (St. Therese) who was only 14 years old at that time.

She felt compelled to intervene for him. As she recounts in her autobiography, “The Story of a Soul”, she stormed Heaven for a man, whom many thought was beyond redemption.

St Therese wrote: Everything led to the belief that he would die unrepentant. I wanted at all costs to keep him from falling into hell, and to succeed, I employed all means imaginable, and feeling that of myself I could do nothing, I offered to God all the infinite merits of our Lord Jesus.

As Pranzini’s fate approached, St. Therese increased her prayers until he was brought before the guillotine on Aug 31.

The next day, St. Therese read in the papers that recorded what happened, how when Pranzini was about to put his head under the guillotine, he turned, took hold of the crucifix the priest was holding out to him, and kissed the sacred wounds three times!

Then his soul went to receive the merciful sentence of Jesus who declared that in heaven there will be more joy over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance.

St. Therese was convinced her prayers had helped save the forsaken Pranzini from damnation, and the experience strengthened her conviction to become a Carmelite nun, and intercede for others who are in desperate need of God’s love.

So there we see, one picture of St Therese praying for a condemned soul to be saved from the fires of hell.

Yes, her mission as a Carmelite nun began with prayer.

Each of us has a mission. But that mission must begin with prayer.
Because with prayer, our mission picture will slowly begin to form, and with that mission picture, we will proclaim the Good News to the world.

So by all means take a selfie, and make it a mission: let others know, by our photos, that we are praying that the world will hear the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ.  

Friday, October 18, 2013

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 19-10-13

Romans 4:13, 16-18 / Luke 12:9-12

The Chinese (as well as other races) have this tradition of having a family name, or what is called a surname.

By the surname, one would be identified with a family or with a clan, even though in the present times, two persons having the same surname would not necessarily have any family connection whatsoever.

The surname is not just some kind of identification with a family or clan or group of people.

It is also an indication of the blood ties between the members of that family or clan or group.

And from there the genealogy or the ancestry of the members can be traced.

The 1st reading recalled the promise made by God to Abraham and his descendants.

God promised Abraham that his descendants will be as many as the stars in heaven.

When we refer to the genealogy list in the gospel of Matthew, we see the descendants of Abraham going right down to Jesus, and from there the inheritance of the descendants of Abraham was expressed as the Church and in Christians.

So Abraham is our father in faith and we are his descendants. We carry the name of Christian and we are united in faith in that name and bear witness to the faith that Abraham had in God.

As Jesus said in the gospel, when we bear witness for God, we also bear witness to our faith and to the Church that we belong to.

On the other hand, when we counter-witness to God, we also counter-witness to our faith and to the Church.

May the Holy Spirit always help us bear witness to God in truth and in love so that we can worthily be called descendants of Abraham and receive our eternal inheritance.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

St. Luke, Evangelist, Friday, 18-10-13

2 Timothy 4:10-17 / Luke 10:1-9

To serve God by proclaiming the Good News is never an easy task.

From the 1st reading, we get to see that St. Paul had to struggle and endure a difficult time.

His band of co-workers had split up and some had even gone against him.

His only consolation was that St. Luke was with him, and he made it a point to say it.

From the few occasions that St. Paul mentioned him as his beloved physician, and from what St. Luke wrote in the Gospel and in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we get to see what the person of St. Luke was like.

He was a committed friend of St. Paul, and he paid special attention to those that were forgotten or pushed aside by society.

He wrote about Jesus reaching out to the poor, the lowly, the outcasts, the sinners and women.

What he knew about Jesus, he wrote it in his gospel, and he certainly carried out in his life.

His commitment to St. Paul in his time of need bore witness to that.

As we read the gospel according to St. Luke and mediate on it, a challenge is also awaiting us.

We too have to write another account of Jesus.

It is going to be an account that is not written in words but in actions for all to see.

From that gospel of our lives, others will be able to see who Jesus is.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 17-10-13

Romans 3:21-30 / Luke 11:47-54

It is said that the purpose of preaching the Good News is to comfort the disturbed, and to disturb the comfortable.

But when preaching ends up in comforting the comfortable, and disturbing those who are already disturbed, then the preaching may not be about the Good News, nor is it prophetic.

What is worse is when preaching is used for personal profit and benefit.

So preaching the Good News should have the effect of the double-edged sword of consolation and desolation.

And the prophetic voice of the preaching will be recognized by its call for justice.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul highlighted the justice of God, which is essentially about love and forgiveness.

Indeed, love and forgiveness is the very essence of the justice of God.

So whenever Jesus preached about love and forgiveness, He brought comfort to the disturbed and those in need of forgiveness.

But for those who wanted to silence the prophetic voice of justice, the words of Jesus brought them distress.

So if today, or any day, when we hear the voice of the Lord, when we hear the voice of love and forgiveness, when we hear the voice of justice, let us not harden our hearts and turn away.

If the Word of God disturbs us, it is because that God wants to awaken us so that we can be healed and comforted.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 16-10-13

Romans 2:1-11 / Luke 11:42-46

A common situation exists where there are leaders and followers, or where there are superiors and subordinates, or with teachers and students.

It may be in an organization, or workplace, or classroom or even in Church.

Whether the person up in the front is a superior or a manager or a teacher or a priest, he/she will inevitably treat those under his/her charge differently.

For whatever reason, some will be treated with favour, some will be treated indifferently, some will just be overlooked or ignored.

That is understandable when we look at it from the perspective of relational chemistry.

So we have to admit that we are not impartial and also we are biased in varying degrees. In other words we often look at people with partial and biased standards.

That can be detrimental in situations where the "favoured" ones get away with something that others will be severely punished.

The last line of the 1st reading says that God has no favourites.

That means that God is impartial, that He loves everyone regardless of whether they are clever or attractive or influential or whatever.

That does not mean that we can't have close friends or talk more with people that we can relate better with.

It means that with those whom we can't easily relate with or even dislike, we still must treat them with fairness and not to impose on them burdens that are unendurable of mind or body.

God may not have favourites, but He will always come to the help of the poor and helpless. May we always remember that.

Monday, October 14, 2013

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 15-10-13

Romans 1:16-25 / Luke 11:37-41      (2019)

It can be rather difficult to explain why some people believe in God and yet there are also others who don't.

As for those who don't believe in God, the 1st reading tries to give an explanation.

It says bluntly that what can be known about God is perfectly plain since God Himself has made it plain.

Ever since God created the world, His everlasting power and glory, however invisible, have been there for the mind to see in the things He has made.

The problem is that the impiety and the depravity of men keep the truth of God imprisoned in their wickedness.

But that is not confined to just those do not believe in God. Even for those who say that they believe in God, they have to be aware of this "wickedness" in them.

As Jesus told the Pharisees in the gospel: You clean the outside of cup and plate, while inside yourselves you are filled with extortion and wickedness!

So even people who believe in God, even religious people, can succumb to the internal wickedness as those who don't believe in God.

But for us who believe in God, it is necessary for us to clean out this wickedness in us, and there is a solution.

As Jesus said in the gospel: Give alms from what you have and then indeed everything will be clean for you.

So if we say we believe in God, then the proof of it is that we will give alms and serve the poor.

Not only will it cleanse our hearts, it will deepen our faith in God who cares for the weak and the poor and helpless.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 14-10-13

Romans 1:1-7 / Luke 11:29-32

Yesterday, Pope Francis consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the New Evangelization.

We have heard this term so often "New Evangelization" and we may have a certain understanding of it.

Of course, evangelization means to preach the Good News of salvation.

Hence it is the mission of the Church to preach this Good News of salvation to the world.

Yet, the New Evangelization is also two-fold: it is for the Church as well as for the world.

The Church also needs this evangelization because we need to know, to experience and to live out the Good News of salvation in our lives.

In other words, we must be people of the Good News. And only then can we become proclaimers of the Good News to the world. And it is obvious that we can't give what we don't have.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul said that he was called and chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through His prophets in the scriptures.

But in just a couple more lines, he turned it around to the Romans and say that they too were called to be saints. In other words, they too have the mission to proclaim the Good News.

And where is it all going to start? From the gospel it is obvious that it must start with the repentance.

Jonah preached and the Ninevites repented. That was the sign. And repentance will be the sign that the Good News is bearing fruit.

We have the Good News. But let us be the first to repent. That will be the sign that the New Evangelization has started to take place.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 13.10.2013

2 Kings 5:14-17/ 2 Timothy 2:8-13/ Luke 17:11-19

The year 1917 sounds like it is a long time ago. In fact, it is about a hundred years ago.

Most of us have not come into existence yet, and maybe it was a good thing that we didn’t live during that time.

Because the world was torn apart with WW I, and when it ended, the Great Depression followed, and not long after that, nations were fighting with each other in WW II.

Certainly, it was a terrible time to live in and it would seemed to be like end times.

Yet, on this very day, 13th October back in year 1917, something spectacular, astonishing and beautiful happened in a small village called Fatima in Portugal.

It was an event which was called “The Miracle of the Sun”.

In a spectacle witnessed by 70,000 to 100,000 people, the dark rain clouds opened up, revealing the sun as an immense silver disk.

It shone with an intensity never seen before, but was not blinding.

Then that immense silver disk (or the sun) began to dance. It began to spin rapidly like a gigantic circle of fire.

It even became scarlet and scattered red flames across the sky. All that lasted for about 10 minutes and then the sun returned to its original place, and once again became still and brilliant and shining brightly as before. Thus the miracle of the sun ended.

But it was not just some kind of miracle or phenomenon. Rather it was a sign that was promised by Mary on her last apparition to the three shepherd children Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia.

It all began during WWI when the then Pope Benedict XV made repeated but unheeded pleas for peace.

Finally, and desperately, at the beginning of May 1917, he made a direct plea to Mary, to intercede for peace in the world.

And Mary responded (as she always did), just after a week, with her first apparition at Fatima on the 13th May to the three children.

She made six more apparitions, all on the 13th of each month, and she told the children to pray the Rosary, and do penance for the sins of the world.

There were other revelations, including the famous Fatima secrets, but we must not miss the message of the apparitions.

On the last apparition on the 13th October, Mary revealed to the children (and to the world), that she is the Lady of the Rosary and she asked that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart so that Russia will be converted and there will be peace.

If not, evil will continue to spread and the Church will face persecutions and undergo trials.

Almost a hundred years later, on this very same day, 13th October 2013, Pope Francis is calling upon the Church to remember the message of Fatima.

Today, Pope Francis is calling the Church to prayer and to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the New Evangelization.

Like what Pope Benedict XV did in 1917, Pope Francis is making a direct appeal to Mary for the Church and for the world.

The Church had undergone, and is still undergoing, turmoil and distress.

Even though the Church had divine origins and apostolic foundations, she has also been afflicted with spiritual leprosy. 

We have heard about all the bad news and the scandals that have rocked the Church.

We are left bewildered and disappointed with the clergy as well as with the people serving in Church ministry, and our faith begin to become lukewarm and slowly drain away.

Hence the New Evangelization is first and foremost for the Church.

Like the ten lepers in the gospel who daringly approached Jesus for a cure, we must turn to Mary and consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart.

To consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart means that we want to have a heart like Mary’s, a heart that is pure and holy, a heart that is thankful and joyful.

To have a pure and holy heart, to have a thankful and joyful heart already means that we are proclaiming the Good News, because to evangelize means to proclaim the Good News of salvation.

Just like that one leper in the gospel, who was cured and who turned back praising God at the top of his voice and threw himself at the feet of Jesus and thanked Him.

Jesus had this to say to him : Stand up and go on your way. Your faith has saved you.

So, that man was not just cured; he was saved. And that’s the difference.

The other nine were cured, certainly! Did they think of thanking Jesus? Maybe they did, but maybe they said “later” and that later became never.

On the 7th September (that was just a month back, and which was the eve of our Lady’s birthday), Pope Francis called on the Church to offer a day of prayer and fasting for the volatile situation in the Middle East, and particularly for Syria.

About 100,000 people gathered in St. Peter’s Square (and many more others around the world) joined the Pope in prayer and fasting.

There was no apparition, no dancing or spinning sun. But a quiet miracle did happen.

Did we notice that soon after the worldwide vigil of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, more opportunities for nonviolent solutions were considered and taken up?

Yes, a quiet miracle happened. 

The New Evangelization is for us the Church to have faith in the power of prayer and to give thinks with joyful hearts for what wonders the Lord has done for us and for the marvels that He will do for us.

The New Evangelization is also for the world, that as we proclaim the Good News of salvation to the world, we pray with Mary, the Lady of the Rosary, that the world will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to the gods of money, sex and power.

Rather, may the world come to acknowledge the one true God, and that Jesus is the Saviour.

That may sound like a miracle (maybe even impossible!) but with faith and with prayer, nothing is impossible.

Because with God, there can be miracles.

Friday, October 11, 2013

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 12-10-13

Joel 4:12-21 / Luke 11:27-28

It is a fact that babies have a special attention and intimate affiliation to their mothers' voices.

In other words, babies respond more readily to their mothers' voices, because it is a voice that they had heard since the time they were in the womb.

At the same time, we can also say that the mother will have a special attention to her baby's cry.

In a room that may have other babies making all sorts of sounds, a mother can instinctively pick out her baby's cry and attend to it immediately.

Such is the level of attention and intimacy that Jesus is talking about when He said that blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

It is like that of a baby who has a special attention to its mother's voice because of the intimate relationship with the mother.

Yes, the Word of God resonates and calls for a deep intimacy in our hearts so that when God speaks to us, we will listen and act on it.

Yet, we also know that communication is not a one way relationship. God also listens when we cry out to Him.

Just as mothers will immediately respond to their babies' cry, God will also respond immediately when we cry out in our distress.

And when God respond, it will be like what the 1st reading described: The Lord roars from Zion, makes His voice heard from Jerusalem.

The Lord's voice is loud enough if we really want to listen. Just as we speak to God, God will also speak to us.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 11-10-13

Joel 1:13-15; 2:1-2 / Luke 11:15-26

To surrender in a battle is considered a dishonour and a disgrace. It is often said that it is better to die in battle than to surrender in disgrace.

The other alternative would be to withdraw and retreat, and hope to live to fight another day.

Of course that can be considered only when the battle is still going on and the outcome is yet to be determined.

In the gospel, Jesus said it very clearly that in the spiritual battle between good and evil, the kingdom of God has already overtaken the powers of darkness.

In other words, the victory belongs to God. Although it is a lost cause for the devil and his demons, they will continue to inflict as much destruction to mankind as possible, and drag as many souls as they can to go down with them to their eternal damnation.

But that is evil and they will just destroy at any cost and at all cost.

We need not panic nor be fearful, but we need to be alarmed and alert.

And that is the call of the 1st reading. The day of the Lord is approaching; vengeance and vindication is approaching.

We need to stand ready, we need to stand alert. Evil may be having the upper hand and may seem to gaining victory.

We must not surrender to evil. We only need to stand by Jesus and He will lead us to victory.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 10-10-13

Malachi 3:13-20 / Luke 11:5-13

It is difficult to find someone who has not had a complaint. In fact we can say that there had never existed anyone who never had a complaint.

We can even say that to complain is to be human - I complain therefore I am  :P :)

And we know in what forms the complaints come in - letters, email, phone calls, etc.

But have we ever heard about God complaining? In the 1st reading, the Lord God has this to say: You say harsh things about me.

And why did God say that? It was because the people were saying that it was useless to serve God and to keep His commandments.

Yes, the arrogant and evil doers prosper; they try God's patience and yet go free. Hence, those who try to stay faithful to the Lord God complain and say harsh things about the Lord.

And that was why the Lord God complained that the people say harsh things about Him.

But God's complaint does not stop there. He will act for those who fear Him and take refuge in His name.

The evil and the arrogant will be punished, but those who are faithful to the Lord will be rewarded.

Similarly as much as we have complaints, let us keep asking, knocking and searching for God's promises to be fulfilled.

May our complaining be turned into thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 09-10-13

Jonah 4:1-11 / Luke 11:1-4

We tend to associate the simple things with being easy to accomplish.

But simple is not synonymous with being easy, and when we think that it is a simple thing to do, then we may be surprised by how difficult it can turn out to be.

So simple exercises like body stretching and muscle toning may take only about 10 to 15 minutes, but we may have realized by now how much determination and discipline is required.

If we had been following the 1st reading for the past couple of days, then we will know that God told Jonah to do a very simple thing - to go to Nineveh and say that in 40 days, the city will be destroyed.

It sounded like such a simple task, but for Jonah, he had to run away, got thrown overboard, got swallowed by a big fish and stayed in its belly for three days.

And even after he had done what he was told, he sulked and was indignant and fell into a rage because God didn't punish the Ninevities or destroy Nineveh.

So a simple task turned out to be such a drama for Jonah. Yet in a way he brought it all upon himself; he could have avoided all that if he had simply followed instructions.

In the gospel, when His disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He gave them the prayer of the "Our Father".

It is a simple prayer but it does not mean that it will be an easy prayer. Sometimes we are careless with that prayer, we are not faithful to prayer, we doubt God even as we pray, we can't see the power of such a simple prayer.

A simple heart is also required for that simple prayer of the "Our Father". We just have to follow instructions, keep believing and keep praying.

Monday, October 7, 2013

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 08-10-13

Jonah 3:1-10 / Luke 10:38-42

It is indeed a talent to be skilled in public relations.

We are impressed with people who are wordsmiths - they know what are the politically correct words to use, they sound so polished and they can say things so indirectly and yet get the message across.

Many of us do not have these skills and we struggle with words, and we often end up with our foot in our mouth.

Especially when we have to tell someone about something they won't like to hear.

We worry and fret as to whether we are really the ones to tell that person this unpleasant remark, and if we really have to do it, we worry and fret over how to say it.

For Jonah in the 1st reading, he didn't have to worry and fret over such things.

The Lord wanted him to do it and he knew exactly what to say although he didn't like to do it at all.

And his words were like needles poking into soft sponge - Only forty days more and Nineveh is going to be destroyed - and that could also mean endangering his own life.

Jonah didn't have to worry and fret. His short sharp words resulted in an immediate and sharp conversion of the people of Nineveh.

We also don't have to worry and fret like Martha did over the chores. Like Mary we just have to listen to Word of God and act on it. The rest will be taken care of by the Lord.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Our Lady of the Rosary, Monday, 07-10-13

Acts 1:12-14 / Luke 1:26-38

The feast of the Holy Rosary originated from the naval victory at Lepanto on the 7th October 1571.

The small combined Christian fleet defeated the mighty Turkish armada, thus stopping the invasion of Christian Europe.

The victory was considered a miracle and Pope St. Pius V attributed it to the praying of the Holy Rosary and the intercession of Our Lady.

Indeed the Rosary is a very special devotion to Our Lady.

The Popes always recommend the Rosary and placed repeated emphasis on it.

It is not just a vocal prayer but also a mental prayer; it is a personal as well as a communal prayer.

It is a form of prayer that leads us to experience Christ through Mary.

The repetitive chant-like prayers brings our minds and hearts to a stillness that opens us to the presence of God in our lives.

In that stillness, we know we have a Mother who is always with us in prayer and who leads us to do the will of God in our lives.

The greatest battle that is fought is in our hearts and the greatest victory is when we surrender to God's will and become His servants, just like Mary did.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

St Therese, Parish Feast Day, 06.10.2013

When a loved one passes away, the common practice in Singapore is that the body is cremated (of course, there is still the practice of burial).

And the usual practice is that after cremation, the ashes are collected and put in an urn.

After which the urn is interned into a niche in the columbarium as its final resting place.

One of the questions that sometimes arises is whether the ashes (in the urn) can be kept at home.

Well, if we check at the NEA (National Environment Agency) website under the FAQ column, “Can I keep the cremated ashes of the deceased at home?” There is just a one word answer: Yes.

So would we want to keep the ashes of our loved ones at home? If yes, then why would we do so? 

Certainly, the reason cannot be that the niche in the columbarium is too expensive so better and cheaper to put at home.

If people were to think like that then the columbarium can close down already.

But by and large, people would place the ashes of their deceased loved ones in the niches of the columbarium.

Certainly, the columbarium is a more proper and respectable place for the ashes.

Also, people may feel a bit uncomfortable to keep ashes at home, even though it is their deceased loved ones. 

Maybe there is no proper place at home to keep it, or maybe they might wonder if the deceased will make their presence felt!(Oops!)

But if the deceased had experienced the warmth and love at home during their lifetime, then there is certainly nothing to be afraid of.

But of course, please don’t take out the urns of your loved ones from our columbarium; I will be in trouble!

But having said that, the Catholic Church has this practice of the veneration of the relics of saints.

The word “relic” comes from the Latin word “relinquo”, literally meaning “I leave behind”.

A relic is a piece of the body of the saint, or an item owned or used by the saint, or an object that has been touched to the tomb of the saint.

The veneration of sacred relics has a long history in the Church.

And it is a well-known fact that altars in the churches, when they were consecrated, were inserted with a relic of a saint which is called the altar-stone.

Although the word “relics” does not appear in Scripture, there were many instances when the remains of holy persons were venerated and held in high esteem.

For example, in the book of Exodus (13:19) when the Israelites left Egypt, they took the bones of Joseph along with them.

And then in 2 Kings 13:21, when a dead man was thrown into the tomb of the prophet Elisha and came into contact with the bones of the prophet, the dead man came back to life.

There is no doubt that the veneration of the relics of saints have brought about answers to prayers, cures sicknesses and other signs and miracles.

But of course a warped thinking would also lead to abuse and superstition, and even in the sale of relics.

Putting that aside, the relics of saints and their veneration help us to appreciate more deeply the holy men and women and even children, who followed and served Jesus their Master and all their heart.

Their relics also serve as a visible sign of their communion with us in our own journey of faith towards holiness.

And here in this parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, we are very privileged to have a great saint who is watching over us.

And along with this great privilege, we are also blessed to have her relics with us. We have three of her relics.

One is a tiny bit of her flesh; another is a fragment of her bone; and the other is the ashes from her grave.

All these three relics are encased in reliquaries, which are vessels to contain the relics.

And in the celebration of her feast-day, we have displayed her relics for public veneration and we are in the process of making this a permanent feature in this parish.

The relics are not just holy objects. They are visible and concrete signs of her presence among us.

In her famous book “The Story of a Soul”, she said that she will spend heaven doing good on earth.

We see this goodness in her relics, which point to her presence, as well as to the power of her intercession for us.

But her relics are not just for our curiosity. We come before her relics to offer her our needs and our petitions, and she in turn will offer it to Jesus on our behalf.

And we have needs. We need peace of heart and forgiveness. We need strength to face the stress and anxieties of life. We need to believe and to strengthen our faith in God.

In other words, we need to be loved by God, so that like St. Therese, we will also do little things with great love.

And as we venerate her relics, let us also take up the Novena Rose Prayer to St Therese that is printed in the cards.

With that prayer, let us offer our needs and petitions to St Therese, and as she promised, she will let fall from heaven a shower of roses.

St Therese is spending her heaven doing good for us. May we in turn spend our lives on earth doing good for others.

Friday, October 4, 2013

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 05-10-13

Baruch 4:5-12, 27-29 / Luke 10:17-24        (2019)

Euphoria is a powerful emotion that has amazing effects on people.

With euphoria, there is a lot of adrenaline pumping around and people can rise up to unexpected levels to meet whatever challenges and difficulties and to overcome them.

When people are experiencing euphoria, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with.

Such may be said of the seventy-two disciples that Jesus sent forth to preach the Good News and with authority over devils and to heal the sick.

As they went, they saw for themselves the power of the Good News in the conversion of sinners and their repentance.

They saw how the name of Jesus expelled devils from those who were possessed and brought about healing of the sick and restoration for those who lived in darkness and in the shadow of death.

Indeed a powerful light shined whenever they spoke. Not only were the people euphoric about the wonders they worked, the 72 disciples were euphoric too.

So when they came back high and rejoicing, Jesus brought them down to some sobering.

They must not forget who is the power behind those wonders.

In the 1st reading, it was because the people of Israel forgot about God that He had to be a constant reminder of Israel of their sins and also that He is their redeemer.

May we also not, in our euphoria of our success and achievements, forget that it is God who gave us those gifts and blessings.

It is in remembering to thank God always that our names will be written in heaven.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 04-10-13

Baruch 1:15-22 / Luke 10:13-16

Today the Church honours St. Francis of Assisi as we celebrate the memorial of his feast.

St. Francis is a symbol of peace and poverty, as well as a symbol of humility and simplicity.

One saying that is often accredited to him is this: Preach the gospel, and if necessary use words.

Another saying from a poem by Edgar A. Guest that begins with this line: I'd rather see a sermon than hear one any day.

Surely words have the ability to communicate a message and to clarify the ambiguities, and the written word can go down into history books and remain for posterity.

Yet action translates words into a visual meaning, and in other cases, words are used to describe an action and to put it into a teaching.

Jesus also used words in His preaching and the proclamation of the Good News.

But in today's gospel, He had a warning for the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida. And He added that if the miracles done in these two towns had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago.

Those miracles were visible signs of the Good News and the Kingdom of God, calling people to conversion and repentance.

Just as St. Francis of Assisi was a sign of peace and poverty, of humility and simplicity.

Yes, what we need to see, we have already seen; what we need to hear, we have already heard.

What we need to do from here, we have to decide; we must decide.