Sunday, June 30, 2013

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 01-07-13

Genesis 18:16-33 / Matthew 8:18-22

In the 1st reading, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were described as cities that had committed grievous sin, and the outcry against them had come up to the Lord.

Then we also heard of Abraham pleading for mercy from God not to destroy the two cities.

It also sounded like some kind of bargaining as the number of innocent persons was reduced from 50 to 10 in order to save the cities from destruction.

There were no records of what the population in those two cities were, but rough estimates have it from about 1,000 to 1,500.

So even if it was only a population of about 1000, then 10 out of that number is a negligible percentage (0.01%!)

Yet for the small and almost negligible percentage of innocent in a city that was steeped in grievous sin, God was willing to spare the sinful city, then God's mercy is certainly incomprehensible.

And if for such a small number, God shows His boundless mercy, then all the more, with a small number of people, God can also work wonders.

Here in Singapore, the local Catholic population is about 5%. That is a small number, but it is with such a small number that God can and will work marvels and pour forth His grace.

On our part we only need to have the conviction and commitment that God wants to work through us.

We only need to follow Jesus faithfully and leave the rest to God.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 30.06.2013

1 Kings 19:16, 19-21/ Galatians 5:1, 13-18/ Luke 9:51-62

The month of June can be called a month of beginnings and endings.

The school holidays started in June and it’s also going to end in June.

And as we look at the calendar, the month of June signals the end of the first half of the year and after that it be the beginning of the second half of the year.

But for the Church in Singapore, the month of June this year has a special significance in terms of beginnings and endings.

In the month of June, we are blessed with three priestly ordinations – Fr Bernard Wee (21 June), Fr Eugene Lee CSsR (27 June), Fr Gerard Danker SJ (29 June).

We rejoice with these three young priests as they began their priesthood in the month of June.

Yet, it is also in the month of June that we bade farewell to two priests as they returned home to the Lord – Fr Alfred Chan (1 June) and Fr Joseph Yau (22 June). May God grant them eternal rest and reward them for their labours.

So for some, God has called to follow Him and serve Him; for some, God has called home to be back with Him.

So, for the Church in Singapore, the month of June is indeed a month of beginnings and endings.

In the gospel, we hear of beginnings and endings too.

Jesus was beginning His journey to Jerusalem. And it will be there that His earthly journey would also come to an end.

And as He began His journey to Jerusalem, He immediately faced rejection from a Samaritan town.

But instead of retaliation, as James and John suggested, Jesus resolutely went on in His direction.

Along with that, Jesus also gave His disciples a teaching on the cost of discipleship.

Yes, to be His disciple, one would have to face rejection. Also there would be no comfort and no security – there would be nowhere to lay the head.

Even priorities are changed as one has to leave family ties aside.

Even personal sentiments have to give way to the direction set for the disciple.

In short, if we want to be a disciple of Jesus, we do not have the freedom to do what we like.

That sounds like tough news, even more like bad news!

But a true disciple of Jesus will understand the good news of discipleship, and that is to be free from other attachments so as to follow Jesus totally and freely.

For the disciple, there is only one direction – to focus on Jesus and to follow in the direction of Jesus.

We are very familiar with that classic children’s story of the hare and the tortoise. Maybe let us revisit the story and see what new lesson we can learn from it.

Once upon a time there was a hare who, boasting how he could run faster than anyone else, was forever teasing tortoise for its slowness. 

Then one day, the irate tortoise answered back: “There’s no denying you’re swift, but you can be beaten!” The hare squealed with laughter.

“Beaten in a race? By whom? Not you, surely! I bet there’s nobody in the world that can win against me, I’m so fast. Now, why don’t you try?”

Annoyed by such bragging, the tortoise accepted the challenge. A course was planned, and the next day at dawn they stood at the starting line. 

The hare yawned sleepily as the meek tortoise trudged slowly off. 

When the hare saw how painfully slow his rival was, he decided, half asleep on his feet, to have a quick nap. “Take your time!” he said. “I’ll have forty winks and catch up with you in a minute.”

The hare woke up after a while and gazed at the tortoise. But the tortoise was only a short distance away, having barely covered a quarter of the course. 

Then the hare decided he might as well have lunch and off he went to munch some cabbages he had noticed in a nearby field. But the heavy meal and the hot sun made his eyelids droop. With a careless glance at the tortoise, now halfway along the course, he decided to have another snooze before flashing past the winning post. 

And smiling at the thought of the look on the tortoise’s face when it saw the hare speed by, he fell fast asleep and was soon snoring happily. 

The sun started to sink, below the horizon, and the tortoise, who had been plodding towards the winning post since morning, was scarcely a yard from the finish. 

At that very point, the hare woke with a jolt. He could see the tortoise a speck in the distance and away he dashed. He leapt and bounded at a great rate, his tongue lolling, and gasping for breath. Just a little more and he’d be first at the finish line. 

But the hare’s last leap was just too late, for the tortoise had beaten him to the winning post. Poor hare! Tired and in disgrace, he slumped down beside the tortoise who was silently smiling at him.

And the tortoise said, “Slowly and steady wins the race!”

But the hare could not accept it and so he asked for a re-match. 

And this time he trained hard for the race.

So came the day for the race, and the hare stretched every muscle and warmed up thoroughly.

The gun was fired, the race began, but in the end, the hare still lost the race! Why?!?! Well, the hare ran in the wrong direction.

So besides the moral of the story being that slow and steady wins the race, there is also another essential factor – One must be focused and be firm in going the right direction.

To be a disciple of Jesus, we need to be focused on Him and follow Him faithfully in His direction.

When we are focused and faithful to Jesus, then we will have a good beginning as well as a good ending.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, Saturday, 29-06-13

Acts 12:1-11 /2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18/ Matthew 16:13-19

Today's feast is in some ways unique because we remember the two great saints who are the pillars of the Church - St. Peter and St. Paul.

Both were martyred in Rome in the first century and tradition has it that in AD 258, their remains were temporarily removed on 29th June to prevent them from defilement during persecution.

That is the primary reason why although the two saints have feast days of their own, today they are joined together in one feast.

But as we reflect on the readings, then we see today's celebration of the feast of these two great saints has more than just a commemorative reason.

Today we celebrated mystery - that the Church is founded on Jesus Christ and that He has given spiritual authority to St. Peter and the apostles and their successors, and that the gates of the underworld can never hold out against the Church.

We celebrate communion because the authority is for service and unity and in St. Peter and St. Paul, we see that although they had their disagreements with each other, they understand that their fundamental task is to serve the Lord and build the Church in unity.

We also celebrate mission because the Church does not exist for its own sake but for the proclamation of the Good News and for the salvation of the world.

So on this feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, let us contemplate on the mystery of God in the Church, let us work for communion in the Church and let us also be ready to respond to the call of mission of salvation.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 28-06-13

Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22 / Matthew 8:1-4

It is not that easy to laugh at yourself when you are the brunt of a joke.

It would also take a lot of sense of humour to laugh at yourself when the joke went on for 24 years.

When God made the promise to Abraham of land and descendants, Abraham was already 75 years old.

Time and again, Abraham wondered how this promise of God is going to be fulfilled.

He and his wife Sarah even came up with their own ideas as to how to fulfill the promise on their own.

Yet, everything had failed, and as we heard in the 1st reading, when God told Abraham, who was then already 99 years old, that Sarah (who was 88 years old) would conceive and bear a son, just what would be the response of Abraham?

Well, he could have flared up at God for His empty promise and for telling him that he was going to have a child at 99 years old!

But after waiting for 24 years, maybe Abraham had "matured" in that he had the sense of humour to laugh at it instead of fuming over.

Maybe that is where we get the saying - Laughter is the best medicine.

But leprosy is certainly no laughing matter. Yet the leper in the gospel passage had the faith and the courage to come to Jesus for a cure.

And we can say that the leper had the last laugh. And we can also say that those with faith will also have the last laugh. Let us ask God for that kind of faith.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 27-06-13

Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16 / Matthew 7:21-29

Very often, a well-intentioned act or motive with noble objectives is tarnished by our human failings.

Such was the case between Sarai and Hagar, and Abram was caught in the middle.

Sarai intended to have descendants through Hagar, and Abram agreed, and presumably Hagar consented.

The Lord had promised Abram an heir of his own flesh and blood, and Sarai thought that this would be the way it would be done.

But when things subsequently went wrong between Sarai and Hagar, it only goes to show that when God's ways are replaced with human ways, then things will go down the wrong way.

Essentially it shows that despite all good human intentions and motives, we are prone to our sinful tendencies.

As Jesus said in the gospel, we may be able to prophesy and exorcise and work miracles, but we may forget that we are sinners and the fact is that we have sinned.

Hence we need to pray and ask for forgiveness and to be cleansed of our sins so that we can truly listen to the Lord and follow His ways.

We may have the good intention of building a nice house for the Lord but we have to let Him show us where to build it.

Only with the Lord's help will we know whether we are building on sand or on rock.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 26-06-13

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18 / Matthew 7:15-20

A good presenter always sounds attractive to us. Whatever product they may be selling or whatever idea they are advocating, the presentation is slick and sharp.

If ever we get impressed by them, it is because they are able to connect our issues in life and that they seem to understand our current situation in life.

And they might even gain our trust and confidence to accept whatever they are saying and believe in it on the basis of our impressions.

But impressions are only skin-deep. More important than the impressions these people make on us, we need to ask if we are aware of the intentions in their hearts.

In the gospel, Jesus tells us to beware of false prophets who come to us disguised as sheep but underneath are ravenous wolves.

The imagery of ravenous wolves is quite amazing actually. The word ravenous means extremely hungry and ordinarily speaking, a ravenous wolf would waste no time devouring a prey.

But that is how Jesus describes a false prophet - someone who is like a ravenous wolf but would do all he can to impress us, win our total confidence and when he strikes, it will be total disaster.

But a true prophet is like a sound tree that bears good fruit. They may not be impressive or be spectacular but their fruits are true and good.

One such person is Abram whom we heard about in the 1st reading. He questioned the Lord but still trusted in the Lord. That is why we call Abram the "father of our faith".

Abram was sincere and honest with God and with himself. May we too be sincere and honest with God and with ourselves and with others  and be the true prophets that God has called us to be.

Monday, June 24, 2013

12th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 25-06-13

Genesis 13:2, 5-18 / Matthew 7:6, 12-14

It is a kno wn nutrition fact that a well-balanced diet is a means to healthy living.

And equally as important, if not more important than a well-balanced diet is a well-balanced life.

In the gospel, we hear Jesus giving three components of a well-balanced spiritual life.

It is reverence to God, our attitude towards others, and our direction in life.

We give reverence to God by being grateful and giving thanks for His blessings and we must not be like the "dogs and pigs" that Jesus used as a symbol of irreverence and ingratitude.

Our attitude towards others is often mirrored in their attitude towards us. How we treat them will be how they treat us - what goes around comes around.

As for direction in life, it is about taking the road less travelled, the long, narrow and winding road. We need to accept that life is difficult, and when we accept that, then we won't waste time and energy finding for easy ways out.

In the 1st reading, we see how Abram lived out these principles of a balanced life.

He trusted in the Lord; he was generous towards Lot by giving him the first choice over the land; he accepted the challenges and difficulties with faith in God.

So we know what it takes to be healthy and holy. May we pray for the wisdom to live a life that gives glory to God.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Monday, 24-06-13

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

Today the Church celebrates the birth of John the Baptist. John the Baptist has a special place in the story of salvation because it was he who pointed out Jesus the Saviour to the people.

It was he who also baptised Jesus in the Jordon before Jesus began His ministry.

John the Baptist was like a forerunner who prepares the people for the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ.

If it can be said of John the Baptist, he was like that sharpened arrow that was concealed in the quiver that was described in the 1st reading.

As in ancient warfare, the shooting of a volley of arrows signals the impending attack of an army, John the Baptist was that one single arrow that carried a message of repentance and conversion.

Like an arrow that is concealed in the quiver, John the Baptist was hidden in the desert until the appointed time came for him to be the prophet who proclaimed the message of repentance in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

We too are like arrows in the quiver of God. Concealed in the quiver, we prepare ourselves in prayer for whatever mission that God has for us.

And just as an arrow has only one target, so may we be focused on what God's will is for us just as John the Baptist was focused on what his mission was.

When his mission ended, John the Baptist also gracefully decreased in order that Jesus would increase.

May we too carry out our mission faithfully so that God's love will increase in the hearts of those whom we serve.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

12th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 23.06.2013

Zechariah 12:10-11, 13:1/ Galatians 3:26-29/ Luke 9:18-24

In a dictionary, we can find the meanings and the definitions of words.

Depending on the size of the dictionary, there can be anything from 200,000 words to 600,000 words.

And yet, every year, new words are added into the dictionary, on the average, about 3000 words.

Among the many words, what is of interest are the nouns.

A noun is a word used to name a person, animal, place, thing and abstract idea.

Hence, it can be said that whatever exist can be named, and that name is a noun. 

So nouns are naming words. Everything that we can see or talk about is represented by a word which names it, and that naming word we call a noun.

So, everything has a name to it, and when we don’t know the name of something, we just call it a “thing” until someone tells us what the name of that thing is.

And one noun that has come up frequently over the past week is this is this 4-letter word called haze.

And yes, we see it, we smell it, it irritates our eyes, our nose, our throat and it has become a national issue.

Connected with the haze is an abbreviation noun called PSI, which stands for Pollutant Standard Index, but Singaporeans have coined up words like “Please Stay Indoors”, “Poisonous Smoke Index”.

So, whether it’s that smoky thing that irritates our eyes, nose and throat, or that noun that is used to name it, there is a name for it.

So, if animals and places and things and ideas can be named, then all the more a person should have a name.

In the gospel, Jesus asked His disciples who they say He was. 

Jesus did not ask them what His name was. Jesus asked them a rather prodding question.

He asked them: Who do you say I am? In other words, He was asking them who He is in their lives, what influence He has on them, what meaning and direction does He give to their lives.

That same question is also now put to us: Who is Jesus in our lives?

It’s not just about His name. It is about knowing where He is in our lives, what meaning in life He has for us, and what influence and direction He is giving us.

But to say who Jesus is, would also mean to say who we are.

And Jesus made it very clear to us that if He were to mean anything to us, then it would be that we follow Him, renounce ourselves, and take up our cross every day.

That is the long and short of what Jesus means to us – to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him.

To renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him would mean to listen to Jesus, and to see what He is showing us and making that decision to follow His direction.

Over this weekend, there was a camp planned for the Sec 3 students.

The youth facilitators were on a high note after doing the Sec 1 and 2 camp last weekend and they were all geared up to do this camp for the Sec 3 students.

When the haze started getting bad on Wednesday, the facilitators were still undeterred as they had prepared intensely for this camp.

As the PSI rose to unhealthy levels, the camp organizers and facilitators prayed fervently for the success of the camp.

On Friday morning, despite the heavy haze and the high PSI, about 40 camp facilitators and Sec 3 students were gathered at the retreat centre to begin the camp.

Everybody was excited and raring to get into the mood of the camp and spirits were high.

But towards the late morning, the haze was bad and the PSI indicated a very unhealthy level and even crossed over to the hazardous level.

I could even feel my eyes smarting and the throat getting hoarse.

Then I received news that MOE has instructed that all school activities for June are to be cancelled.

Also, other churches have cancelled their planned youth camps.

Even parish groups have cancelled their meetings.

So I was faced with a dilemma. Should I stop the Sec 3 camp, now that they have already started?

I discussed with the camp organizers, facilitators and they said it would be a pity to stop the camp and send the students home because a lot of money was spent on the logistics already.

I was tempted to go along with the popular opinion of letting the camp go on, but as I look at the facts before me, I had to do some critical praying.

Finally, with a heavy heart, I had to make the decision to stop the camp.

There were whines and groans, and more so when the PSI dropped a bit and the air cleared a little, I was asked to reconsider the decision.

But Jesus had shown me the signs. If I were to listen to Him, then I had to renounce the temptation to be popular and think of the health and safety of the students.

To know who Jesus is would mean that we must believe that His way is the best way, although it is the way of the road less travelled.

May we have the faith, the courage and the clarity to follow the way of Jesus, so that we can say we know who Jesus is.

Friday, June 21, 2013

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 22-06-13

2 Cor 12:1-10 / Matthew 6:24-34

Time pieces come in analogue and digital models. Depending on how you like the display of time, you will prefer one model over the other.

The analogue model is of course a more traditional model than the digital one.

The analogue model has three hands - the hour hand, the minute hand and the second hand.

There is something interesting and worth reflecting about the ticking of the second hand.

If we do some calculations, that second hand goes 60 ticks a minute, 3600 ticks an hour, 86,400 ticks a day, 604,800 ticks a week and 31,449,600 ticks a year.

Now that is a lot of ticking. Yet that humble second-hand shows us something.

It takes one tick at a time.

That is what Jesus is telling us in today's gospel. Putting it simply, it is: Take one tick at a time.

We don't have to worry about how many ticks we have to accomplish in a year, or in a week, or in a day or even in a minute.

That is all taken care of by God.

What we need to do is to let love, joy , peace, patience, compassion, kindness, generosity start ticking in our lives.

That is what is meant by setting our hearts on the Kingdom of God and on His righteousness.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 21-06-13

2 Cor 11:18, 21-30 / Matthew 6:19-23

The people of today are very much better informed than the peoples of any other age in history.

There is the vast amount of information on the Internet. There is news on hour on tv and the radio.

Yes, there is a vast amount of information out there and we are very much better informed.

Yet, does better informed also mean that we are clearly informed? Does being better informed make us into better persons?

Today's gospel informs us about the essential difference between the treasures of earth and the treasures above.

And that information can give us a clearer vision only when we decide to seek the treasures of above.

Yes, we would be able to see what is temporal and what is eternal and know what to decide to choose in order to know how to live our lives.

Jesus tells us that the lamp of the body is the eye. We must guard our eyes as to what we see and what we read.

When we look at violent and impure images and read those kind of material, those kind of "information" only darken and corrupt our hearts.

But when we look at what is true and good, what is beautiful and eternal, then our hearts will be enlightened.

Our hearts will know where and what are the eternal treasures and where our treasure is, our hearts will head towards.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-06-13

2 Cor 11:1-11 / Matthew 6:7-15

If we happen to drop by a bookshop, one of the sections that might interest us is this section called "Self-help".

In that section, there are books for anyone who wants to learn something new or just to know more about how to get something done right.

There are books for enrichment, there are also books about health, and there are also books about how to be successful and wealthy.

But we can presume that these books have a market in that people buy them to read.

Maybe because the methods and techniques that are described in those books sound so simple and easy.

Even in the area of the spiritual life and prayer, we may also want to look for a prayer that will win God's attention and get a response from Him.

And especially in the time of dire need, we may want to have recourse to a "power prayer" or a "guaranteed prayer" because it seems that all other prayers have failed and that there was no response to the prayer.

In the gospel, Jesus taught His disciples the "Lord's Prayer" or the "Our Father". It is a simple and easy prayer to remember as even children can say that prayer.

Yet, that simple prayer does not mean it is easy to understand or easy to put it into practice, much less easy to get God to respond to our needs.

Yet it is the heart of all prayers and it is a prayer for the humble hearts. When we come to realize that we can't really help ourselves, then we will surrender ourselves into the hands of God our Father with this prayer.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-06-13

2 Cor 9:6-11 / Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

We certainly won't like it when others think of us as a "show-off" or that we like to brag and boast about the things we do.

As much as we don't like it, yet we also cannot deny that we have this tendency or an urge and even impulsion to try to impress people and to give ourselves a good standing.

It happens in job interviews, in presentations, and even in ordinary conversations with others, we like to impress and to make an impact on others.

Some people may even be so obsessed with it that they will even exaggerate and even go to the extent of lying.

The 1st reading talks about sowing - thin sowing means thin reaping; the more you sow, the more you get.

But there is also another proverb - what you sow is what you get. When one sows lies in order to impress and to make an impact, then in time for reaping comes, others will know who is the liar.

Jesus taught about the spiritual disciplines of almsgiving, prayer and fasting in the gospel.

Yet, there is also the temptation to twist these three spiritual disciplines with our ulterior motives so as to make an impression and impact on others.

Hence Jesus cautioned us - everything we do must be done in secret, and God our Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward us.

Let us embark on the "secret way" and that is to avoid attracting attention to ourselves and to turn our attention to God.

In doing so, we will help others to turn their attention to "the One who provides seed for the sower and bread for food" and to give thanks to Him and to give glory to Him in our humble and quiet ways.

Monday, June 17, 2013

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 18-06-13

2 Cor 8:1-9 / Matthew 5:43-48

The Christian life is essentially a life of love - love for God and love for neighbour.

Yet, the life of love is not something that comes automatically or naturally for us as Christians.

In fact, being more aware of the commandment of love, it is not up to our likes and dislikes or up to our feelings any more, because love is now a decision.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the churches in Macedonia, throughout great trials and suffering, have persevered with the grace of God.

In fact, in the midst of such adverse and challenging situations, they persevered in love, and that resulted in their constant cheerfulness and even overflowed in a wealth of generosity.

It is amazing to see the power of love overcoming adversities and difficulties, and even bearing fruits of love in cheerfulness and generosity in the midst of poverty.

It is with this understanding of the power of love that we can understand the oddness of the truth of teaching of Jesus when He says: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Indeed, our enemies cannot be overcome by the sword, nor persecutions be stopped by armed resistance.

But with the gentle truth of the power of love, our Lord Jesus has shown that though He was rich, He become poor for our sake, in order to make us rich out of His poverty.

Hence it is only when we pour out and empty our love on others, whether friend or foe, good or bad, that they can know love and in turn bear fruits of love.

Indeed the Christian life is an amazing life of love. Yes, it calls for a decision, but to choose otherwise would be to choose emptiness and nothingness.

So let us choose love, let us decide to love, just as God chose to love us and decided to save us in Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

11th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 17-06-13

2 Cor 6:1-10 / Matthew 5:38-42

The "Enter" key is just one of the many keys in the keyboard of the PC set up or in the keyboard of a laptop.

Besides the fact that it may be one of the most used keys, it is also a powerful key.

When installing a program and prompted to press the "Enter" key, that one stroke of the key can have an almost irreversible effect, whether for better or for worse.

Yet with that, a computer can run smoothly and effectively, or on the other hand, it will get infected with a virus and cause hours or days of headache and frustration.

So as much as we have to be very careful when pressing the "Enter" we also must decide whether to press it or not.

In the gospel, Jesus taught about non-violence and forgiveness.

So as much as there is an instinct in us to go for an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, hitting the "Enter" key would certainly infect our heart with anger and resentment; there will be no peace and happiness.

Yet Jesus is also offering us the path of non-violence and no resistance; there is another choice of forgiveness and charity.

Choosing to "Enter" the truth of Jesus would bring us peace and joy, and it would also pave the way for reconciliation and understanding.

Pressing the "Enter" key is just one simple action; making a choice of revenge or forgiveness is also one simple act.

But the consequence is great - for better or for worse.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

11th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 16.06.2013

2 Samuel 12:7-10, 13/ Galatians 2:16, 19-21/ Luke 7:36-50

A good number of us present here should be going for yearly medical checkups or yearly health screening.

The obvious reason is that as we get older, it would be good and necessary for us to maintain our health, or whatever that is left of it.

But as much as it is good for us, and even necessary, we tend to delay it and even try to avoid it.

Because we like to think that as long as there is no severe pain and that we can eat and sleep and do everything else in between, then there is nothing really seriously wrong with us.

And our cars seem to get a better treatment. We send our cars for regular servicing, car wash, car polishing, etc.

Actually a medical checkup is not that troublesome, nor is it that painful.

It just requires a bit of fasting and that is for the blood test.

Well, there is this joke about a boy who went for his first medical checkup.

As he was waiting for his turn to see the doctor, he met his classmate, who seemed to be crying and clutching his finger in pain.

When he asked what happened, his classmate told him that he just had his blood test. The doctor took a big needle and poked it into his finger and drew out a lot of blood. And it was so painful.

When the boy heard this, his eyes grew big and then he jumped up and ran out.

But the nurse caught hold of him and asked him where he was going.

With a frightened voice, the boy said: If the doctor poked the finger for the blood test, then where will he poke for the urine test?

Well, pain is real, although some other kinds of pain may just be imaginary.

But painful or otherwise, a blood test and a urine test will show us what is really happening inside of us and also the state of our health.

Whatever it is, a test is necessary in order to get some results that will tell us the truth.

Today’s gospel began with Simon the Pharisee inviting Jesus to a meal at his house.

Simon the Pharisee had some respect for Jesus as a prophet, so maybe that was why he invited Him.

And then when they were at table, a woman with a reputation, came in with an alabaster jar of ointment, and we heard what she did to Jesus.

Simon the Pharisee began thinking. “What’s happening?!?! That woman is touching Jesus like that!!! If Jesus were a prophet, then He should know what kind of woman she is. Hmmm …Jesus cannot be a prophet then. Maybe both of them are the same kind.”

So in the mind of Simon the Pharisee, he had made a judgement on Jesus and on the woman. Just that he was not saying it.

But what Simon didn’t know was that he was in the presence of the Divine Doctor who knows what is in the heart of a man.

And Jesus, the Divine Doctor, was about to give Simon a spiritual checkup.

Jesus told Simon a parable of two men in debt, one owing a much larger sum than the other.

Both of them were unable to pay, but they were pardoned. So which of the two would be more grateful and thankful?

The answer was obvious and Simon got it right.

So the test was conducted and the results were out and put before Simon.

It was quite clear to Simon that he had judged the woman as well as Jesus.

And now, from his own mouth, he had proclaimed a judgement on himself. Can he still deny it?

How Simon reacted or responded to Jesus, we were not told.

But reading between the lines of the gospel, comes a lingering question: Are we like Simon the Pharisee?

We scrutinize others to see what they are thinking and what they are doing, and yet we don’t examine our own conscience.

There is a story about a turtle family that decided to go on a picnic. 

Turtles, being naturally slow about things, took a long time to prepare for their outing. Finally the turtle family left home looking for a suitable place.

After more than a year of their journey, they found a place ideal for them. So they cleaned up the area, unpacked the picnic basket, and completed the arrangements. Then they discovered they had forgotten the salt. Now a picnic without salt would be a disaster, and they all agreed.

After a lengthy discussion, the youngest turtle was chosen to retrieve the salt from home. Although he was the fastest of the slow moving turtles, the little turtle whined, cried, and wobbled in his shell. But he agreed to go on one condition: that no one would eat until he returned. The family consented and the little turtle left.

A year passed and the little turtle had not returned. Then two years … three years… then on the third year of his absence, the oldest turtle could no longer contain his hunger. He announced that he was going to eat and began to unwrap a sandwich.

At that point, the little turtle suddenly popped out from behind a tree shouting, “Ah ha! See! I knew you wouldn’t wait. Now I am not going to go get the salt”.

The point of the story is that we waste our time scrutinizing others and forming judgements on them.

We seemed to be concerned about what others are doing and they wrong they had done, but we don’t examine ourselves and the wrong that is in us.

But Jesus our Divine Doctor and Healer wants us to go through a spiritual checkup and to be healed of our sinfulness.

Jesus wants to forgive all our sins, and heal us with His love, so that we can love God, love others, and love ourselves.

Let us ask for this forgiveness and healing, for ourselves, as well as for others.

Friday, June 14, 2013

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 15-06-13

2 Cor 5:14-21 / Matthew 5:33-37

When it comes to making appointments, there is a time that we need to keep.

Yet when it comes to keeping the time for the appointment, how do we fare in being early, and in time, and being late?

If we are often late for appointments and meetings, then we have to ask ourselves if we are serious with our words and with what we say.

So if we agree to a time for a meeting or appointment, and we don't keep to it as in that we are often late, then how about making promises and oaths?

If we cannot keep to our words in small things, then how sure are we that we will keep to our words in big things?

That is what Jesus is highlighting in today's gospel - whether we make a commitment to God or to man, we must be serious about it.

Being serious about our commitment does not just reflect our character.

It is also an indication that the love of Christ has overwhelmed us, and that we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died and was raised to life for us.

So keeping to our words has a spiritual dimension - it shows that we are a new creation in Christ. The old creation is gone and it is all God's work.

Yes, it was God who was committed to saving us in Jesus Christ. Let us also be committed in being faithful to Him.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 14-06-13

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 5:27-32

Earthenware vessels are almost like a thing of the past. Probably it is used only as some kind of decoration or give a retro kind of ambience.

But gone are the days when cooking is done with earthenware vessels and food was kept in earthenware vessels.

Certainly it is because earthenware vessels are fragile compared to the modern day metal pots and pans that have special qualities about them.

Even though there may be no sophisticated metals pots and pans with non-stick and induction heating qualities, St. Paul in the 1st reading used the imagery of earthenware jars to refer to himself

It was these earthenware vessels that contain the treasures for God's people and the purpose was to make it clear that such an overwhelming power comes from God.

Indeed man is only an earthenware vessel that is fragile. Yet it is in that fragile state that God uses man as an instrument and a vessel for His treasures.

And we too are like earthenware vessels containing God's treasure, and we must be careful not get knocked by falling into sin.

To sin is liken to hitting an earthenware vessel with a hard sharp object.

Hence whatever that causes us to sin we have to cut it off, as Jesus would say in the gospel.

Let us be that earthenware vessel that contains God's treasure, than to be the broken pieces that cause others harm.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 13-06-13

2 Cor 3:15 - 4:1, 3-6 / Matthew 5:20-26

There are some pictures or images (like the one below) that can have a surprising effect on the eyes.

We just have to look at it for about a minute and then we just close our eyes.

Then somewhere and somehow in the darkness of our closed eyes, a defined face of Jesus appears in the darkness.

But in order to "see" that defined face of Jesus, we have to focus on that picture or image, without which we can only get vague images.

This gives us an idea of what the 1st reading is talking about when St. Paul says that "we, with our unveiled faces, reflecting like mirrors the brightness of the Lord, all grow brighter and brighter as we are turned into the image that we reflect : this is the work of the Lord who is the Spirit.

So the more we focus on God, the more defined will be of our reflection of God to others.

It is our mission to reflect the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

The 1st reading also urged us to beware of the temptation for self-glory - "For it is not ourselves that we are preaching, but Christ Jesus as the Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake".

Hence our virtue must go deeper than that of those who have yet to know Christ, for if not then what have we to offer them or reflect to them.

In our life, in our prayer, in our work, may Christ be before us as we focus on Him so that we will reflect what is in our hearts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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

2 Cor 3:4-11 / Matthew 5:17-19

A constitution is a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed.

Generally it is understood that the purpose of the constitution is for the good of the country or organization.

Hence to change the constitution is no light matter. If that is the case, then to abolish the constitution is a very grave matter indeed, and the consequence will be chaos and havoc.

In the gospel, Jesus said to His disciples: Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete them.

Probably the reason for saying this was that His disciples were thinking that Jesus was starting a revolution against the system.

More so for those who were already not happy about the religious system at that time, they were looking forward to some radical change.

And with Jesus teaching with authority, they could be thinking that He would be the one to lead them to a revolution and a radical change.

So Jesus had to tell them solemnly that till the end of time, there will be no change in the Law and its purpose must be fulfilled.

And that is what Jesus is also telling us - that His teachings are to guide us to live a life that is centered on love and charity.

Yet, we must also keep to the discipline of His teachings so that we can experience true freedom.

True freedom is not to break from the Law but to keep it. Because true freedom is about keeping the ways of the Lord so that we can live a life focused on God.

May we keep to the teachings of Jesus and help others do the same.

Monday, June 10, 2013

St. Barnabas, Apostle, 11-06-13

Acts 11:22-26; 13:1-3 / Matthew 10:7-13

St. Barnabas was not one of the twelve Apostles chosen by Jesus, but the book of the Acts of the Apostles named him as an apostle (Acts 14:14).

Together with St. Paul, they preached the Good News to the gentiles. But there are some distinct characteristics about them.

St. Paul wrote epistles but there was none from St. Barnabas in the New Testament. There are quotes from St. Paul in Acts and in other passages in the New Testament, but there seems to be nothing written of what St. Barnabas said.

Yet it can be said that St. Barnabas was as much a man of words as he was of action.

His name means "son of encouragement" and he was given that name when he converted to Christianity and sold his goods and property and gave the money to the apostles.

Indeed he lived up to that name as he was the first to take in St. Paul after his conversion when others were still suspecting him.

In the 1st reading, we heard that St. Barnabas was sent to Antioch to look into the great numbers of conversion, and when he was there, more people were won over to the Lord.

He then went to look for St. Paul to help out in the work in Antioch and it was there that the disciples were first called "Christians" and that became the most identifiable term.

In word and in deed, St. Barnabas was a sign of encouragement for others in their faith and in their lives.

May we follow the example of St. Barnabas and be for others an encouragement and consolation in word and in deed.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

10th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 10-06-13

2 Cor 1:1-7 / Matthew 5:1-12

It is always easier to preach a message of happiness and prosperity rather than about pain and suffering.

People generally like to hear a message of happiness and prosperity and if a person has garnered enough of public speaking skills he can actually make a living by being a motivational speaker.

But when it come to pain and suffering, it can be rather challenging and difficult to motivate people - who would want to be motivated and look forward to pain and suffering?

In the gospel, when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up the hill and sat down and He began to teach. 

And up there in the hill, where the air is fresh and the vision is clear, He taught the Beatitudes.

As we look at the Beatitudes carefully, they are actually about pain and suffering.

Yet, the underlying message is that pain and suffering are temporary. Beyond the pain and suffering lies true blessing and happiness.

As St. Paul said in the 1st reading: When we are made to suffer, it is for your consolation and salvation.

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, a gentle Father and the God of all consolation, comforts us in our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we have received from God ourselves.

Yes, pain and suffering are only temporary. Consolation and blessing are eternal. Let us bear with the temporary, and have faith in the eternal.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

10th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 09.06.2013

1 Kings 17:17-24/ Galatians 1:11-19/ Luke 7:11-17

If we have to choose a name, whether for ourselves or for someone or for something, what criteria would we use.

What do we think a name should have, or should be?

Certainly a name must have a good meaning. No one would choose a name with a strange or funny meaning.                         
 By the way, Teresa (the name of our patron saint) means “harvester”.

A name should also have a nice sound to it. And it should also be easily pronounced by aunties and grandmothers, because a difficult-to-pronounce name might displace their dentures.     

With all these considerations, what would we think of the name “Barnabas”?

Although that name is found in the New Testament, it is not that common or popular a name.

But it has a good meaning. It means “son of consolation” or “son of encouragement”.

The apostles gave that name to the convert who sold away his property and gave the money to the apostles.

And Barnabas, who was that convert, lived up to his name. He went around preaching the Good News that brought consolation to those in distress, and he encouraged the Christian communities to stand firm in their faith in the face of trials.

St. Barnabas was indeed a great figure in the early Church, and his feast day is on the 11th June.

So the name Barnabas has the meaning of “one who consoles and encourages”.

Consolation and encouragement are two qualities that also express the love and mercy of God.

Consolation and encouragement are also two qualities that people yearn for in times of grief and brokenness.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus was on His way to a town called Naim with His disciples and a great number of people.

When He was near the gate of that town, there was another crowd coming out.

It was a funeral procession of a dead man, the only son of a woman, who was a widow.

In that moment, a celebrity was met with a tragedy; life was met with a death.

When Jesus saw the widow, He felt sorry for her. His heart went out to her.

Then He told her, “Do not cry.” He then went up and put His hand on the bier, and the next thing He said was, “Young man, I tell you to get up.”

And then the young man was brought back to life, and with that the people were filled with awe and praised God.

Jesus felt for the widow. His heart went out to her. He consoled her, and He even brought her son back to life.

With that, Jesus gave the widow and the people the faith in God and the courage to face the trials of life.

In what Jesus said and did, He taught the people about the heart of God – the heart of God that goes out to us to console us and to encourage us.

There is a story by an unknown writer and the title is “The most important part of the body”. The story goes like this.

My mother used to often ask me what the most important part of the body was. Young as I was, I thought sound was very important to us as humans. So l’d say, “My ears, Mommy!" 

“No!” she would say. “There are so many people who are deaf! But you keep thinking and I will ask you again soon.” And so it went on until several years passed before she asked me again. 

Since making my first attempt, I contemplated on the correct answer. Or so I thought I had! 

So this time I told her, “Mommy, sight is very important to everybody, so it must be our eyes.” 

She looked at me and told me, “You are learning fast, but the answer is not correct because there are many people who are blind.” 

Stumped again, I continued my quest for knowledge and after a few years, mother asked me a couple of times more and always her answer was, “No. But you are getting smarter every year, my child!” 

Then one year, my grandfather died. Everybody was sad and everybody was crying. 

Even my father wept. I remember that especially because that was only the second time in my life that I had ever seen him cry. 

My mom looked at me when it was our turn to say our final good-bye to grandpa. She asked me, “Don’t you know the most important body part yet, my child?” 

I was shocked when she asked me this now. I always thought this was a game between her and me. 

She saw the confusion on my face and told me, “This question is very important. It shows how you have lived your life. For every body part you gave as the answer in the past, I have told you that it was wrong, even giving you the reason why. But today is the day you need to learn this important lesson.” 

She looked down at me as only a mother can. I saw her eyes welling up with tears. She said, “My dear, the most important part of the body is your shoulder.” 

“Is it because it holds up my head?” l asked. 

“No,” she replied, “it is because it can hold the head of a friend or a loved one when they cry. Everybody needs a shoulder to cry on sometime in life, my dear. l only hope that you have enough love and friends that you will always have a shoulder to cry on when you need it.” 

Then and there I knew that the most important body part is the part that shows sympathy to the pain of others. 

People will forget what we said. People will forget what we did. But people will NEVER forget how we made them feel. 

Our names may not be Barnabas, it doesn’t matter. Our shoulders may not be broad and strong, it doesn’t matter either.

But let us be a consolation and an encouragement for others so that they can feel the heart of God and a shoulder to cry on.

In times of grief and anguish, in sorrow and in pain, let us be a consolation and encouragement for others, so that they will know that God has visited them to give them life and hope. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Immaculate Heart of Mary, Saturday, 08-06-13

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

The heart of a mother is a heart that is so lovable and understandable, and yet it is also so mysterious.

We may think that we understand our mothers, but they actually know more about us that we can ever imagine.

After all, we were conceived in the womb of our mothers, and hence we are a part of them and nothing can ever eradicate this mother-child relationship.

And it can be said that nothing can ever separate a mother from her child. A mother's bond to her child is something that goes beyond logic and explanation.

In today's feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the gospel reading gives us a good reflection of the heart of Mary.

Mary made it a point that Jesus had a religious upbringing and that was why she and Joseph brought Jesus to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover.

Mary had a heart for God and she wanted Jesus to have what she treasured most - a heart for God.

When Mary and Joseph lost contact with Jesus, Mary would have felt that void most deeply.

Yet when they found Jesus, Mary was like a typical mother reprimanding her son. That makes her so lovable and understandable.

Yet when she did not understand the reply of Jesus, she kept quiet and stored it in her heart. Mary knew how to respond in the face of mystery.

May we too have a heart like that of Mary, lovable and understandable by others. And may our hearts be also open to mystery and to store and reflect in our hearts what we cannot understand immediately.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Friday, 07-06-13, Year C

Ezekiel 34:11-16 / Romans 5:5-11 / Luke 15:3-7

The heart can be understood in various ways. Scientifically and medically speaking, it is understood as a vital organ.

Psychologically speaking, the heart is understood as the center of emotions and feelings.

Morally speaking, the heart is the seat of good or evil, because out of the heart flows our words and actions that define us as a moral being.

In today's feast of the Sacred Heart, we celebrate God's unconditional love for us that is expressed in the heart of Jesus.

That heart of Jesus is expressed in the gospel as a shepherd who would do the ridiculous thing of leaving the 99 behind to go looking for that lost sheep.

And when he found that lost sheep, he would carry it on his shoulders and rejoice and call for a celebration.

What we would write off and "forget it", Jesus would write it in the palm of His hands (Isa 49:16) and remember by heart.

Today we are invited to enter into the heart of Jesus to experience love, forgiveness and healing.

In His heart, we come to see that Jesus, in His love for us, died for us while we are still sinners and hopeless in our sin, in order to reconcile us with God.

May our heart be like that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so that we can forgive and even love our enemies, and give thanks for those who show God's love to us.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

9th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 06-06-13

Tobit 6:10-11; 7:1, 9-14; 8:4-9 / Mark 12:28-34

In the Bible there are many examples and samples of prayer.

One of which are the psalms, which are actually prayers for various kinds of needs and occasions.

Other than the psalms, there are also many other prayers in the Bible that may give us a model or a format of composing a prayer.

In today's 1st reading, we hear of the prayer of Tobias. He asked Sarah, his newly wed wife, to pray with him for protection for himself and their marriage as he began the prayer

Yet his prayer was not all about asking for protection for him and Sarah. In fact that petition was just one line of his prayer.

Tobias began by blessing and praising and acknowledging the Lord for His wonderful creation and for bringing man and woman together in marriage.

Essentially, his prayer was to thank God for His love and Tobias prayed that God's love will be poured out on him and Sarah so that they will be protected by His love in their marriage.

In the gospel, Jesus stated the two fundamental commandments - love for God and love for neighbour.

So even in our prayer, let us thank the Lord God for His love for us. And let us pray that we too will love God and may that love be expressed in our love for neighbour.