Monday, September 30, 2013

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Tuesday, 01-10-13

Isaiah 66:10-14 / Matthew 18:1-5

Today is the feastday of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. In our archdiocese, this feast is celebrated as a Solemnity.

St. Therese is the Patroness of the Missions; St. Francis Xavier is the Patron of the Missions.

Whereas  St. Francis Xavier went far and wide all around Asia and as far as China to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ and baptized many, St. Therese did none of the above.

She spent her religious life cloistered in a Carmelite convent in Lisieux. As much as she wanted to go to Asia to help set up a foundation there, ill health was her obstacle.

Yet within the four walls of the convent in Lisieux, she developed a missionary spirit by doing small deeds with great love.

As her union with Jesus grew deeper, she offered all her sufferings to Jesus as an act of union with Him on the Cross.

She had the desire to be a missionary, a martyr, a saint. In the end she found what her true vocation was.

She discovered this when she read 1 Cor 12:39 "Strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way"  – the way of love.

St. Thèrése wrote: "I understood that the Church had a heart and that this heart was burning with love." In delirious joy she cried out, "O Jesus, my love, my vocation, at last I have found it. My vocation is love!"

With that she began to see what her mission was as she wrote : I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love him, of giving my little way to souls. If God answers my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world. Yes, I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.

We often think that when one gets to heaven, one will enjoy eternal light and eternal rest from labour.

Yet St. Therese tells us that her mission continues in a greater extent in heaven, and she even promised: I will let fall from Heaven a shower of roses.

Let us pick up the blessings of roses from heaven and follow St. Therese in her missionary spirit of doing small deeds with great love for God and others.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 30-09-13

Zechariah 8:1-8 / Luke 9:46-50

The relationship between God and His people is often liken to that of a romantic relationship between a man and a woman.

But as it was often the case, and as it is often the case still, it is a love relationship that is certainly not love at first sight.

God loves His people and it was He who chose them to be His own.

Yet God's Chosen people was also often portrayed as a woman who scorns this loving and sincere suitor and instead flirts with other men.

But God the suitor does not give up on His beloved and relentlessly continues to go after her and win her heart.

As we heard from the 1st reading from the prophet Zechariah, the Lord God says this: I am burning with jealousy for Zion, with great anger for her sake.

Yes, God still loves His people and wants to win back their hearts even though they have sinned and turned away from the Lord God.

Does all that sound rather incredible and even impossible that God should be like this?

Does it also sound rather incredible and ridiculous that one who has the heart of a child would be the one who is great in the eyes of the Lord?

What is incredible and ridiculous and impossible for us is certainly not for God. We only need to turn back to God in love and then we will realize that nothing is incredible and ridiculous or impossible.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 29.09.2013

Amos 6:1, 4-7/ 1 Timothy 6: 11-16/ Luke 16:19-31

I wonder how many of us ever thought of going into business.

And if we ever thought about that, then what kind of business would we go into?

For those stallholders who are selling food at the fun fair outside, they might have thought of going into the food business.

Well, it may be good profits, but it is certainly a lot of sweat and fret.

Going into retail business might be easier and maybe safer.

We just need to know what is the consumer demand and we get the right supply.

And if you were to ask me what small retail business is in demand now, I would suggest this: handphone covers.

Yes, handphone covers, and screen protectors, and those kind of accessories.

Why that kind of business? Well, just the other day, I happened to pass by a “pasar malam” (those temporary night market that are set up in the neighbourhood).

I was surprised at the number of stalls that were selling handphone covers and I was also amazed at the variety of designs on the covers.

There are all sorts of colours, all sorts of designs like “Hello Kitty” and “Minions” for the teenagers and smart leather covers for the stylish and sophisticated.

It might sound strange, but to have only one cover for a phone is too boring.

And the funny thing is that the handset companies spend millions of dollars in R & D to make the phone light and slim.

And then people buy some cheap cover to make it thick and bulky again. That’s so strange and ironic.

The parable that Jesus told in the gospel has got nothing to do with phone covers.

Yet, in a certain sense it does refers to covers.

There was Lazarus, the poor man outside at the gate, and he was covered with sores.

Inside the gate was a rich man, covered in purple and fine linen, and it can also be said that he “covered” himself with rich food.

It was a parable of two human beings of the same species, but with two totally different so-called “covers”.

One had a rich luxurious cover and the other had an ugly repulsive cover.

But as the parable goes, the covers will be taken away.

Because when death comes upon the two characters in the parable, there is a reversal of situations.

The rich man is now in agony and covered with flames, whereas the poor man Lazarus is now safely covered in Abraham’s bosom.

Jesus directed this parable to the Pharisees who thought that externals were all important.

So they wore long tassels and phylacteries to give the impression that they were pious and religious.

And they despised those sinners whose sin is public knowledge, and they would not go near them or even look at them.

And that was what Jesus was pointing out at in the parable.

As much as the rich man did not abuse or ill-treat or drive Lazarus away, he did not look at him; he chose not to look at him. He did not care at all about him.

We may not be rich (or that rich!) but when it comes to the poor, we may also look away and not bother or care about them. Or we simply put covers over our eyes.

As the 1st reading says of the rich and affluent: about the ruin of Joseph, they do not care at all.

Similarly, we may not be that pious or religious, but when it comes to the sinners of society, we rather not look at them, or bother about them. Better to keep them out of sight so that they will be out of mind.

So, how different are we from that character of the rich man in today’s gospel parable?

Of course, it is uncomfortable, and even repulsive, to look at or think about the sinners of society, like those gangsters whose bodies are covered with tattoos.

It would be better that these “public sinners”, these gangsters and criminals, be imprisoned and kept out of sight and better still, be forgotten.

Yet some good-hearted people, and they are doctors, have gone to Changi Prison to volunteer in a tattoo-removal program.

The tattoo-removal program is for those prisoners who want to have their tattoos removed, as a demonstration of their desire to renounce their former gang affiliations.

One of the doctors, Dr. Lam Bee Lan, said that the prisoners have to undergo an excruciating procedure.

She added : I’ve seen muscular and tough men wince and tear in pain when I use the laser to remove the tattoos. Tattoo removal is much more painful than making one.

But despite the agony the inmates undergo, they thanked the doctors afterwards for helping them leave their gang identifications behind.

Yes, those doctors chose to look, and to help those prisoners remove their tattoos, to heal their “sores”, to remove their ugly “covers”, so that they can reintegrate into society.

We may not be able to do what those doctors did for those prisoners, but we can certainly do something for the poor and needy.

We only need to remove the “covers” from our eyes and see the face of Jesus in the poor and needy and to reach out to help them.

Well, we may get cheated, and we have been cheated before. 

But it might be better to be fooled a thousand times by people who may be taking advantage of us, than to miss the chance just once to help a genuinely poor person. (St. Robert Bellarmine)

Friday, September 27, 2013

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 26-09-13

Zechariah 2:5-9, 14-15 / Luke 9:43-45

Whenever we talk about a house, we would presume that it has walls that would determine its size and boundaries.

Who would ever think of a house that is without walls? What kind of security would that house have?

So it would certainly surprise us when we heard in the 1st reading that Jerusalem was to remain unwalled.

What kind of city would that be if it is without walls for protection and security?

Yet the Lord God was quick to add that He would be the wall of fire for her all round her, and He would be the glory of the city.

Indeed, if the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain would its watchmen keep vigil, and in vain would its stone walls offer any protection and security.

Jesus said in the gospel that He would be handed over into the power of men.

Yet Jesus also knew that His security and protection would be in God alone, and that God will save Him out of death and raise Him back to life.

May we also know that if God does not watch over us, then all other physical means of protection will be in vain.

With God in our midst and watching over us and protecting us, let us give thanks, let us sing, let us rejoice in the Lord our Saviour.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-09-13

Haggai 1:15 - 2:9 / Luke 9:18-22

The ministry of prophets was a main feature in the Old Testament.

God spoke to His people through the prophets, and the prophets themselves had no reservation whatsoever that they were indeed proclaiming an oracle from the Lord God.

Such was the case in the 1st reading. Taken from the book of the prophet Haggai, the prophet himself said that the word of the Lord was addressed to him.

He was told what to say, who to say it to, and to say it with the authority of the Lord God.

So in the Old Testament, the prophet spoke the unmistakable word of God, and with it the people knew the will of God and the direction to take.

The last of the Old Testament prophets was Malachi, and until John the Baptist appeared, there was no prophetic voice for more than 400 years.

And when Jesus appeared preaching and proclaiming the Kingdom of God with authority and power and healed the sick and cast out demons, the people saw Him as a prophet.

Presumably, the people would expect Jesus to proclaim good news, like liberation from their oppressors, and freedom and independence.

And yet He told His disciples that He was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and to be to put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.

That sounds depressive. But if we believe that it is the prophetic voice of God, then we will accept the sufferings of life, and at the same time we will also believe that God will raise us up from our sufferings, just as He raised Jesus from the dead.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-09-13

Haggai 1:1-8 / Luke 9:7-9

KIV stands for "Kept In View". It means that an item or an issue or a project is to be looked at along the way.

But it has become a practice that when we say KIV we don't really mean it.

KIV can be substituted with another word called "later".

And when we say "later", we may mean it to be more like "never".

And that was what happened when the exiles returned to Jerusalem to build the Temple.

At first they were enthusiastic and foundations were laid.

Then they began to encounter problems with the building. And then they had their own concerns with their own business of their own lodging.

So the building of the Temple was "KIV" which means "later" but it could end up as "never".

The prophet Haggai was called to remind the people of the building of the Temple.

But his message was for the people to reflect for themselves and see how things had gone for them.

Essentially it is also a message for us. When we put God first, everything will be gathered together. But when we don't then everything will be scattered.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 25-09-13

Ezra 9:5-9 / Luke 9:1-6

It is necessary as well as important to understand things in context. Whatever is written or said has to be understood in the whole context in order to get the better picture and meaning.

And when we don't understand the context or situation, then we might end up having the wrong opinions or getting frustrated and just get simply puzzled.

If we had thought about the 1st reading, we might wonder why Ezra, the priest and the scribe, was recounting how God had been merciful to His people and freeing them from exile and helping them to build the Temple.

And even before he said all that, he was like just out of some kind of stupor and his garments and cloak were torn.

In fact, only yesterday we heard how the people completed building the Temple and dedicated it with rejoicing and celebration.

But following that the people began to slack and backslide and they began marrying foreign wives and that slowly led them away from God and turn to idols again.

Ezra was recounting the mercies of God so as to plead again for God's forgiveness for the sins of his people.

Ezra was following the biblical tradition of remembering the wonders the Lord has done for His people so as to have the confidence to beg for mercy and forgiveness.

And that was what Jesus came to do. He gave the Twelve power and authority over devils and to cure diseases and to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.

The essential message here is that God had forgiven in the past and He will always forgive. We only have to repent and be healed. Even if it means over and over again.

Monday, September 23, 2013

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 24-09-13

Ezra 6:7-8, 12, 14-20 / Luke 8:19-21

The Temple that was mentioned in the 1st reading was completed around 450 BC.

It was built on the site of the 1st Temple that was destroyed by the Babylonians about a hundred years earlier.

The exiles that came back to build this Temple met with a lot of resistance.

One of the problem was from the Samaritans, who tried to block their efforts.

At times, the workmen found themselves building with one hand and fighting off their enemies with another.

And on top of that, the crops failed during that year.

Those were certainly not just teething problems.

But when eventually the Temple was completed, the people rejoiced and celebrated.

This experience of the Jews serves to remind us that perseverance and commitment do not go wasted or uncounted.

Especially so when our perseverance and commitment to God is put to the test.

Hearing the Word of God must lead us to do His will, and that will demand perseverance and commitment.

It is when we do the will of God despite the difficulties that we show that we are brothers and sisters of Jesus.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-09-13

Ezra 1:1-6 / Luke 8:16-18

When God speaks, one cannot but listen. He speaks not just to His Chosen People but also to all peoples for whom He has a message and a mission.

After all, God created all human beings and so in the heart of every person, there is an ear for the Word of God, whether they are believers or otherwise.

We can see this in the 1st reading when the Lord roused the spirit (or the heart) of Cyrus, king of Persia to issue a proclamation.

And the proclamation was that God's people who were exiled in Babylon were free to return to Judah and to build the Temple in Jerusalem.

And God also roused the spirit of His people who were exiled in Babylon to return to their homeland and to rebuild the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.

Indeed, when God speaks, one cannot but listen.

In the gospel, Jesus also urged us to take care how we hear, how we listen, especially to the voice of God.

Just as the people listened to the proclamation of king Cyrus, let us also open our hearts to listen carefully to what the people around us are saying.

We will know it is the voice of God when what they say will shine a light into our hearts. And it is a voice that we cannot but listen to.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 22.09.2013

Amos 8:4-7/ 1 Timothy 2:1-8/ Luke 16:1-13

There are some phrases that we can just remember easily, and they come from various sources.

It’s not as difficult as that game show “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” because these are phrases that we heard since young and they are easy to remember.

For example, “Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall” and we can easily continue with “Humpty Dumpty had a great fall” (It’s from a nursery rhyme).

And how about this: Mirror, mirror on the wall…who’s the fairest of them all? And that is from the fairy tale “Snow White”.

That popular phrase was from the evil queen who had a magic mirror and she would ask the mirror “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?”

And the mirror would reply: You, O queen, are the fairest of them all.

All was well until one day, when she asked the mirror that question and she was shocked to hear this reply: Snow white is fairer than you, O queen, and she is the fairest of them all.

And of course we know how the story went on from there, with the 7 dwarfs coming in.

Well, we don’t talk to mirrors (or maybe we do?) but we will surely look at the mirror whenever we have the opportunity.

Whether we do it out of necessity or out of vanity, we look into the mirror so as to get something out of it.

We want the mirror to “tell” us how we look like, and from the mirror, we will also know what we want to look like.

In other words, when we look at the mirror, we want to get something out of it.

But it is not only from the mirror that we want to “get something”.
The greedy tendency in us will always make us ask this question: What can I get out of it? 

So we will tend to ask: What can I get out of my job/company? What can I get out of the people working under me? What can I get out of my friends/children/spouse?

In today’s gospel, the dishonest steward knew what he could get from his master and he went about with dishonest gains from his 
master.

But as it is, dishonesty will be discovered, sooner or later, and the dishonesty steward was to be removed from his job.

But instead of repenting, that dishonest steward turned to his master’s debtors and now he was looking at what he could get from them.

He went about securing their favours with yet more dishonest means at his master’s expense.  

Yes, that dishonest steward was very shrewd and crafty.

He knew where to look, how to look, and who to look, in order to get something and to gain something.

And even his master, whom he had cheated, was impressed with his astuteness.

Jesus told us such an astounding parable to show us this – when it comes to gaining an advantage, the people of this world will spare no effort to get what they want and to feed their greed.

And the 1st reading shows how people may be practicing religion, and yet at the same time they were also looking forward to swindling and cheating.

What was disgusting was that it was the rich and the greedy who were cheating and trampling on the poor and needy.

Essentially, it was the same old human story – we look at others to see what we can get from them, to see what we can gain from them.

And the greedy tendency can even make people go so far as to cheat and trample upon the poor and the needy.

Here we get another famous saying: The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

And the Lord says this in the first reading: Never will I forget a single thing you have done. (That is something that we must not forget!)

Yes, for better or for worse, the Lord God never forgets.

It is said that elephants have a good memory and they also seem to never forget.

There is this incredible but true story of the elephant’s memory.

We may not remember or know who Lawrence Anthony was.

He was a legend in South Africa. He bravely rescued wildlife and rehabilitated elephants all over the world from human atrocities, including the courageous rescue of Baghdad Zoo animals during the US invasion in 2003.

On March 7, 2012, Lawrence Anthony died. He is remembered and missed by his wife, his 2 sons and his 2 grandsons, and by the elephants he had rescued.

Two days after his passing, the elephants that he rescued showed up at his home.

They came to say goodbye to their “man-friend”.

A total of 31 elephants had walked over 12 miles to get to his South African home.

The people who witnessed this were awed by the sense of those elephants over the passing of Lawrence Anthony.

They were also awed by the profound memory and emotion those elephants had for their friend.

The elephants obviously wanted to pay their respects and honour their friend who had saved their lives.

They came, stayed for two days and two nights, without eating anything, and then they left. Incredible but true story.

Yes, the elephant remembers.  The poor and the needy will also remember when we help them.

People will also remember how we look at them, whether out of greed, or to help them in their need.

And the Lord will also remember. Like the elephants He created, He will never forget! May we also not forget this.

Friday, September 20, 2013

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Saturday, 21-09-13

Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 / Matthew 9:9-13

We know that God planned creation and everything goes according to the law of nature and that everything happens for a reason.

That being said, we can also see that everything is graced by God to fulfill His will.

More so for persons; as the 1st reading puts it: Each of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.

In the gospel, we heard the call of St. Matthew when he was sitting by the customs house.

Yet, it sounded rather abrupt and sudden. There was Jesus, walking by and he saw Matthew sitting by the customs house and He told him to follow him and he got up and followed Jesus!

There seemed to be no dialogue, no discernment, no questions asked, nothing to indicate why Jesus chose to call Matthew and why Matthew got up immediately and followed Him.

But just as there is an order and a plan in creation, and everything happens for a reason, there was certainly a lot going on in St. Matthew before Jesus called him.

Being a tax collector, which already categorized him as a sinner and despised as an outcast and a traitor, God's grace in him was probably making him look at himself and asking questions about his life.

So when Jesus looked his way, the grace of God prompted him to get up and follow Jesus.

And St. Matthew went on to write a gospel that tells of the fulfillment of God's grace in the person of Jesus.

Yes, each of us has been given his share of grace, given as Christ as allotted it. What our mission is will be revealed to us along the way.

What we need to do now is to let God's grace act in us and to get up and follow Jesus, who came not to call the virtuous but sinners.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 20-09-13

1 Tim 6:2-12 / Luke 8:1-3

It seems that things have changed so much from the time when Jesus went around preaching and proclaiming the Good News.

From what we heard in the gospel, it sounded so basic and so simple.

Basic in the sense that Jesus knew what He had to do and the people around Him knew what they had to do; simple in the sense that they lived on what they had.

They seemed to be contented and they were not longing for anything more. After all, they had Jesus with them, and there was nothing more they shall want.

That was then. The here and the now seemed so different. We the Church seemed to be so bloated and cluttered with the question of money and fund-raising and other financial concerns.

But before we go on that track of thinking that the Church is always asking and talking about money, let us recall what we heard in the 1st reading.

Already during the time of St. Paul, the Church had to deal with money matters. But there were also some who imagined that religion is a way of making a profit.

They are still around now, and teaching something different and making a profit out of it.

But as St. Paul said in the 1st reading, people who long to be rich are a prey to temptation.

Let us believe that God will provide for our needs, just as God provided for the needs of Jesus and His disciples when He went round preaching and proclaiming the Good News.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 19-09-13

1 Tim 4:12-16 / Luke 7:36-50

For every stalk of rose, there are a couple of thorns, or even more.

But of course what is available at the florist are stalks of roses with the thorns trimmed away.

What is said of a stalk of rose can also be said for every person - each person has some thorns in life.

For Simon the Pharisee in the gospel passage, when he looked at the woman who wiped the feet of Jesus with ointment and with her tears and hair, he only saw the thorns in her life - her bad name and her sins.

Jesus saw the rose in that woman, with its thorns, and He reached out to her to trim away the thorns of her sins by forgiving her and granting her peace.

Jesus touched that part in her life that needed most healing: her sins, those thorns in her life that keep hurting her.

In doing so, Jesus brought out the true beauty in her; He brought out the rose among the thorns.

Very often, it is the thorns in our lives that prevent us from seeing the beauty of the rose in us and also prevent others from seeing the rose in us.

If we want Jesus to trim away our thorns and grant us forgiveness and healing, then we must do like what the woman did.

We must kneel at the feet of Jesus and lay our sins before Him. We need to acknowledge our sins before Jesus can forgive and heal us and bring out the beauty in us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 18-09-13

1 Tim 3:14-16 / Luke 7:31-35

One of the thorniest issues for authorities and establishments is when a person or a group propagates an opinion or a practice that is against their liking.

Moreover,  it is dangerous to be right in matters when the established authorities are wrong (Voltaire).

It is dangerous both, for the establishment as well as for the person or group.

It is repeatedly mentioned in the gospels that the religious establishment and Jesus were in constant conflict.

The chief priests and scribes and Pharisees had their own interpretation of religion and its practices, which was challenged by Jesus.

The religious establishment tried to make Jesus dance to their tune but He wouldn't and as He said of them in today's gospel: We played the pipes for you, and you wouldn't dance; we sang dirges, and you wouldn't cry.

And when Jesus and John the Baptist didn't conform, the religious establishment labelled them as "possessed" and "glutton and drunkard".

Yes, it is dangerous to be right in matters when the establishment is wrong.

As we heard in the 1st reading, Jesus came to bring us together as God's family and to establish the Church of the living God which upholds the truth and keeps it safe.

So we ought to live and behave as people of the truth. But if we don't and others point it out to us, what will be our response?

May the Spirit of Wisdom guide us to do the right thing and to live in the truth.

Monday, September 16, 2013

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-09-13

1 Tim 3:1-13 / Luke 7:11-17

Not very often do we hear of this phrase "noble work".

In fact whenever the word "work" is mentioned, people may turn their faces away and hope that they won't be called upon because work would demand them to make sacrifices.

Even if it is doing some "noble work" like social work or charitable work or volunteer work, we still may not call it noble because we don't think that it is that it so distinguished or magnanimous.

Yet the "noble work" that we heard of in the 1st reading is not so much about what is done but more about the character of the person doing it

St. Paul listed out the requisites for a person to be a presiding elder, which may be the equivalent to a cleric or an ordained minister.

The work or ministry that the candidate would be doing could only be noble when the person in question is of noble character.

Because the noble work here is about teaching and sharing with others the life of Christ - it is a life-giving work and hence it is called noble.

And that was what Jesus came to do. He came to do the work that His Father had given him, and that is to save and to give life to others.

Pope Francis asked the Church and the world this question on the prayer vigil at St. Peter's Square on the 7th September:

"Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace?"

Yes, we can. Only when we live the life of Christ in us. And then we will go forth to do the noble work He has set before us.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 16-09-13

1 Tim 2:1-8 / Luke 7:1-10

The Church is founded on prayer and in all its undertakings and directions, the prayer factor cannot be missing or diminished.

Hence the mission of the Church is to pray for the needs of the Church and all the faithful and also for the needs of the world and its salvation.

Yes the Church is not separated from the world and its affairs and needs and concerns. In fact we need to be an integral part of the world in order to proclaim the Good News to the world.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul emphasized to Timothy the need for prayers to be offered for everyone.

And then he made a particular mention of prayers for the rulers and those in authority, so as to be in harmony with them.

The Church cannot see the world as a hostile opponent but rather as a friend to build a relationship with.

In the gospel Jesus showed His favour to the request of the centurion by healing his sick servant.

Jesus even affirmed the faith of the centurion by saying that not even in Israel had He found faith like that.

The Church no doubt has faith. But the faith of the Church should be the catalyst to stir up faith in the world.

May we pray fervently and reverently so that the Church with the world will give glory to God.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 15.09.2013

Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14/ 1 Timothy 1:12-17/ Luke 15:1-32

Children love to play games. Yet the image that may come to our minds when we say that children love to play games could be that of a child having a handphone or a tablet in the hand and playing some kind of computer game.

Or for the older children, it may be at the laptop or desktops playing some kind of serious online games. 

But when it comes to children playing games, we may want to go retro and recall the games that we play when we were children.

And those games are usually very interactive. For example, in the game of “catching” there will be laughing and shouting and screaming as the children run around and try to catch each other.

And then there is “hantam-bola”. In those days, there was only the soft rubber ball. I can’t imagine if we used golf balls to play “hantam-bola”. (OUCH!) 

And then there is the game of “hide-and-seek”. All the children would go hiding and the seeker, after the countdown, would go looking for them.

It is quite an intriguing game in the sense that those children who were hiding would always want to peek out of their hiding place to see where the seeker was.

Somehow they won’t just be contented with hiding and concealing themselves until the seeker can’t find them.

In other words, those who are hiding will somehow give away their hiding place.

So the seeker will somehow be able to find those who are hiding.

But that is where the fun is. The children can hide but the seeker can find them.

It is not going to be that much fun if the children hide and cannot be found.

Well, the fun of “hide-and-seek” is to hide so as to be found. Strange isn’t it? That’s why it is rather intriguing.

In the gospel, Jesus told two parables about something that went missing, something that was lost.

There was a parable about lost sheep and another one about the lost coin.

It is obvious that the sheep and the coin did not play hide and seek. They were lost, they went missing.

And then there was the puzzling and ridiculous search for what was lost and missing.

The shepherd leaving the 99 behind to look for the missing sheep; and the woman lighting a lamp and sweeping out the house just to find a lost coin.

Yes, puzzling and ridiculous, just to look for that one lost sheep and that one missing coin.

Yet, Jesus is telling us how puzzling and ridiculous God is. It is quite difficult to believe that God will go all out just for one that is missing or lost.

But Jesus told these two puzzling and ridiculous parables in response to the criticisms against Him.

The Pharisees and scribes complained that He welcomed sinners and ate with them.

But the fact is that Jesus came to seek and to find what was lost and missing.

In a way it is like some kind of spiritual hide-and-seek.

The tax collectors and sinners, were hiding from public view because of their sin and yet Jesus came looking for them.

But this hide-and-seek drama was first played out in the Book of Genesis.

After Adam and Eve fell into sin, the Lord God came walking in the garden and they hid themselves.

Then the Lord God called out: Where are you?

Well, Adam and Eve did not go into deeper hiding; they responded to the Lord God.

As for the tax collectors and sinners in the gospel, they too responded to the call of Jesus.

In fact, they were all seeking the company of Jesus to hear what He had to say.

Yet there may be many others who don’t know how to respond to the call of Jesus.

They may be lost in the troubles and difficulties and anxieties of life. Jesus calls out to them but they may not know how to respond or that they may have lost the voice to respond.

Well, exam time is coming (only secondary and P6) and the students are all hyped up and stressed out with the studies.

Not only the students are stressed, their parents, are also stressed out. Students and parents seem to be taking exams. (In Singapore, exam is a family affair!)

Today, we have called the students, to come for this Mass to pray for their exams and we too will pray for them.

Yet there may be other students who are not here. Some may even skip Mass to mug for their revision.

We need to pray for them too, because they have lost the voice to call out to the Lord for help.

But more than just praying for the students for their exams, we the Church have to be the voice for the world to call upon the help of the Lord God.

Last Saturday, Pope Francis called upon the Church for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the world and especially for Syria.

More than 100 000 people joined the Pope in a prayer vigil at St. Peter’s Square, and the Church throughout the world also heeded the call of the Pope.

The Pope is leading the Church to be the voice for the world to call upon God for His saving help.

Let us join our voices in prayer to cry out to God for His help, be it for the students preparing for exams or for peace in the world.

Jesus came to seek and to save the lost. Our voices in prayer will tell Him where we are and that we desperately need Him to find us and save us.

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Saturday, 14-09-13

Numbers 21:4-9 / Phil 2:6-11 / John 3:13-17

Death by crucifixion, to say the least, is barbaric. It is indeed a cruel death.

And we don't deny the fact that Jesus died the cruel death of crucifixion.

But for St. Paul, and also for us, the death of Jesus on the cross, is the essence of our hope.

The cross is the sign of divine love, the sign of how much God loves the world that He gave away His only Son.

But the cross as the sign of hope and love is a paradox, a contradiction.

Because a cruel death seems to exclude any kind of hope or love.

Yet in Jesus, the symbol of death has become the symbol of life and love.

When we see Jesus stretched out on the cross, we do not just think about the pain that He suffered; we also must think about the love that He showed as He stretched out His arms on the cross.

So what the cross was meant to do, is no longer as important as what Jesus now meant it to symbolize and to show.

The cross that belonged to evil and death has now become the cross of life and love because of Jesus.

In the cross, Jesus showed how much God loved the world as He emptied His life on the cross.

In the cross, we also now know that God sent His only Son into the world not to condemn the world, but rather through Him, we and the world might be saved.

So let us look at the cross, let us embrace the cross, and let us carry the cross as we follow Jesus in the triumph of the cross.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-09-13

1 Tim 1:1-2, 12-14 / Luke 6:39-42

We all know of the "Golden rule" and that is to do unto others what we want others to do unto us.

But going one step back, actions take shape from the thoughts that go on within us.

Hence, if we want to do unto others what we want them to do unto us, then what do we think of others and what do we wish for them?

In the 1st reading, St. Paul began his letter with a greeting to Timothy and wished him grace, mercy and the peace of God.

St. Paul himself experience the grace and mercy of God, and he himself admitted that he was a blasphemer and all he did was to injure and discredit the faith.

But God was merciful to him and even granted him the grace to be a believer and to serve the Lord, and hence he experienced the peace of God.

All that he received from God, he now also wished that Timothy would receive too.

Hence, we have to ask ourselves if we are blinded by planks in our eyes and yet at the same time wishing that others would also be blind and fall with us into the pit of adversity.

If we have such bad thoughts, then let us ask for the grace and mercy and peace from God.

Let us asked to be forgiven and healed so that we can do unto others the good that God has done unto us.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-09-13

Col 3:12-17 / Luke 6:27-38

We read in the New Testament that we have to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect ..." (1 Peter 3:15)

So it goes without saying that we must be able to explain why we believe in what we believe; at least we must be able to sound logical and reasonable.

Yet we are also confronted with the hard teaching of Jesus in today's gospel, we may find ourselves saying "That is too difficult" or "I am not able to do this" or simply "How can?!?!"

But just as good things don't come for free, the truth won't come as easy.

Yet as disciples of Jesus, we are chosen in truth and in turn we too must choose the truth.

And the truth in today's gospel is that when we give ourselves wholly to the truth, we too will be given the freedom that comes from the truth.

And by the amount of commitment we give to the truth, that amount of freedom in the truth we will be given back.

As the 1st reading puts it, we are God's chosen race and His saints. We should be clothed in sincere compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.

Over and above everything else, we must put on love. Love is the answer and the reason when we love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, when we bless those who curse us, when we pray for those who treat us badly.

If that is not love, then any other answer is not going to logical or reasonable.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 11-09-13

Col 3:1-11 / Luke 6:20-26

To be focused would usually mean to keep our eyes fixed on a target or on the object of our concentration.

To get an idea of what it means to be focused, we just have to see those documentaries on the wild life and see how the big cats were hunting their prey; their predator eyes were fixed on their prey in the chase and nothing would seem to distract them.

In a deeper sense, it also means more than just having a fixed line of sight on our targets or objectives.

It would also mean that our hearts are directed and fixed on what we desire in order to achieve our goals.

St. Paul told the Colossians in the 1st reading that they must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is.

Their thoughts must be on heavenly things and not on the things that are on the earth.

The imagery is powerful in that when they get distracted and start to turn their eyes to the things of earth, then they will be lured by the things of earth - fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and greed.

But in the gospel, it is Jesus who was fixing His eyes on His disciples as He taught them about the kingdom of God.

His focus is also on us as He calls us to strive to live the teachings of the kingdom of God in our lives.

May we also be focused on Jesus so that we commit our lives to Him here on earth, our reward will be great in heaven.

Monday, September 9, 2013

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 10-09-13

Col 2:6-15 / Luke 6:12-19

What we would put at the top of our priorities in life would be our independence and freedom.

We treasure our independence and our freedom and as a matter of fact it is a human right.

We would not normally surrender our independence and freedom to anyone that easily, no matter how great that person might be.

When Jesus summoned His disciples and picked out twelve of them to be His apostles, would they have understood that He was asking them to surrender their independence and freedom to Him?

Because that would mean that they would also have to surrender their will and do only what Jesus commands of them.

As much as it sounds rather demanding, yet that is also the meaning of "apostles"; because an apostle is one who is sent to do the will of the one who sent him.

It also means that the apostle must be united with his master and has the mind of the master and knows his master's will.

Hence St. Paul exhorted the Colossians by saying: You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received - Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.

We are not called to be just followers of Jesus. We are called to be His disciples. Hence we are also called Christians.

In order to truly understand the meaning of our independence and freedom, we must be deeply united with Jesus so that in surrendering ourselves to Him and doing His will, we will find true fulfillment in our lives.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 09-09-13

Col 1:24 - 2:3 / Luke 6:6-11

No one would normally think of suffering as something pleasant or would welcome it.

Much less would anyone sincerely say that it makes him/her happy to suffer for another person.

To suffer for yourself might make sense in that it is either in reparation for your own wrong doing or maybe there is something to gain from it.

But to suffer for others and to suffer willingly and happily does sound strange and puzzling.

But when St. Paul told the Colossians in the 1st reading that it makes him happy to suffer for them, he states the reason for it.

In his suffering, he hoped to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church.

In this suffering, St. Paul said that he will struggle wearily on, helped only by the power of Christ driving him irresistibly.

Jesus came to heal us of our sicknesses and take away our infirmity. Yet He too had to suffer for it.

In the gospel, He healed the man with the withered hand, but it only made the scribes and Pharisees furious and that eventually got Him nailed to the cross.

We may think that we can't be that noble to suffer so that others can be healed. But like St. Paul, may the power of Christ drive us irresistibly so that we will undertake this suffering lovingly and joyfully.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

23rd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 08.09.2013

Wisdom 9:13-18/ Philemon 1:9-10, 12-17/ Luke 14:25-33

One characteristic of most Singaporeans when they travel overseas, especially when they travel out of the Asian region, is that they will bring along a particular spice.

And that particular spice is none other than chilli.

For most Singaporeans, or at least a number of Singaporeans, chilli is the spice of life.

So into the luggage will go a bottle of chilli, be a dried chilli, or chilli powder, or sambal chilli or whatever chilli. 

If there is such a thing as chilli perfume, it will also be brought along. (Not to spray on the body but on the food! : P )

Yes, in Singapore, chilli is the spice of life. So if you are a Singaporean, and you don’t eat chilli, then it may mean that you have a crisis of identity.

Having said all that, chilli after all, is only a spice. And spices are used to add flavor to food or to preserve food.

We don’t eat chilli as food, or consume spices as food!

Food will still be food, with or without spices. And when we are very hungry, we will eat whatever food there is, even without the chilli or the other spices.

In other words, without chilli we won’t die. Even without the other spices of life, we also won’t die.
And the spices of life is not just about what we put into our food.

Broadly speaking, there are many things that can spice up our lives.

For example, there was the “Spice Girls”, though they are not so hot now. There is also a smartphone model called “Desire”.

Oh yes, these kind of spices certainly fuel our desires and make us forget our essential needs, just like how too much chilli can make us forget the original taste of food. 

When there is too much of these spicy flavoring in our lives, then the 1st reading has this to say: The reasonings of mortals are unsure, and man’s intentions become unstable.

Then like the examples that Jesus gave in the gospel, we will build but we won’t be able to finish. We can fight with all our might but we won’t be able to win.

When there is too much clutter in our lives, then we lose the clarity of our vision, and hence our reasoning become unsure and our intentions become unstable.

In today’s gospel, Jesus gave a rather severe teaching on discipleship.

Jesus makes it clear to us that if we want to be His disciple, then He must be over and above what we treasure most.

And that means that He must be above father, mother, spouse, children, brothers and sisters.

And as if that is not tough enough, He asks for where it will hurt most – and that is our very own life!
And that is where Jesus brings in the cross.

As we all know, and for those who are listening to Him knew it as a reality, the cross was the ultimate punishment for those who are sentenced for rebellion or subversion.

Hence, His listeners know, as a matter of fact, what crucifixion was, how horrible it was, how gruesome it was and shockingly cruel.

And yes, Jesus said that anyone who does not carry his cross and come after Him cannot be His disciple.
Certainly the cross meant pain and shame. And along with that it also means fears and tears.

So the cross challenges us in a very shocking way.

The cross challenges our fears of losing our loved ones – father, mother, spouse, children, brothers and sisters.

The cross challenges our fear of pain and suffering.

And finally the cross challenges our fear of dying to ourselves and giving up our lives for others.

Because our understanding of the survival of the fittest is that the one who has the most and who possess the most, will survive.

It is so unnatural to let go and sacrifice and give ourselves for others.

Here is where we can learn something from the grey squirrel. As we know, the grey squirrel would run around gathering nuts for food for the winter.

It would hide the nuts in a few places. Yet very often it would also forget where it has hidden the nuts so in the end it would only consume about 10% of the nuts that it had gathered.

Well, as for the rest of the 90% of the nuts, after winter, they will germinate and bear fruit for the next cycle.
So unintentional and out of forgetfulness, the squirrel helps in the reproduction of the food cycle.

Like the grey squirrel, we too will gather, but as a disciple carrying the cross, what we gather we must scatter and give to others.

The cross is painful because it challenges us to give up ourselves for others.

The cross will cut away all that we spice up our lives with, but when all the spice of life is cut away, we will get the real taste of life. 

No doubt, the cross will bring tears to our eyes, but very often tears are the lenses we need to see Jesus (quote from Pope Francis); yes, to see Jesus clearly and to continue to carry our cross and follow Him as His disciple.

Friday, September 6, 2013

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 07-09-13

Col 1:21-23 / Luke 6:1-5

Traditionally speaking, Saturdays are dedicated our Lady and the Eucharist is also offered in her honour. It is an ancient custom of the Church and there are many reasons for it.

Among the more recent ones is the message of Fatima, especially in the apparitions of June 13 and July 13,1917, when Mary drew attention to the custom of devoting Saturdays to her and praying the rosary in reparation.

For this year, the Pope has a special message and purpose for today, the 7th September. Also since tomorrow, the 8th September, the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary is not celebrated as the Sunday liturgy takes precedence, the Pope has called for a day of prayer and fasting today.

He has called upon all the faithful worldwide to join in a day of prayer and fasting of September 7 for peace in the Middle East, and especially in Syria.

He even issued an invitation to “each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.”

The Pope said, “Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace!”

Troubled by conflicts around the world and especially the dramatic developments in Syria, the Pope said, “How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed!”

In calling for a day of prayer and fasting, the Pope has taken recourse to the intercession of Mother Mary for this crisis in Syria.

As St. Paul told the Colossians in the 1st reading, they were once enemies of God in the way they used to think and the evil things they did but now there are reconciled with God through the death of Christ.

May the prayer and fasting that we are offering today, together with the intercession of our Lady, bring about peace and reconciliation in Syria and in the world.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 06-09-13

Col 1:15-20 / Luke 5:33-39

The parables of Jesus are always full of images and that is why they are easily understood in the practical sense.

The parables are also easily understood at the first layer in that it makes sense and is logical.

For example, the parable that Jesus told in today's gospel passage is easily understood in the practical and logical sense.

Certainly a piece from a new cloak sown onto a old cloak would look awkward, and new wine would certainly be too strong for old wine skins.

But at a deeper and maybe in a spiritual sense, it is not so much about the differentiation but rather about the integration.

Because, as the 1st reading would put it, God wanted all perfection to be found in Christ and all things to be reconciled through Him and for Him.

By His death on the cross, He brought about peace and reconciliation.

So today's gospel parable acknowledges the existing tension between persons and communities, and between races and countries.

But because of Jesus and His death on the cross, we know that reconciliation in the midst of tension is possible.

Let us begin by accommodating and adjusting to the ways of the people around us, so that where there is reconciliation, peace and harmony will follow.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 05-09-13

Col 1:9-14 / Luke 5:1-11

Whenever I go to the hospital to visit the sick, it may not necessarily be visiting hours.

As such, I will meet the doctors and the nurses doing their rounds and duty.

And we maintain a fairly "professional" attitude; I won't interrupt them when they are with the patient and they won't interrupt me when I am praying with the patient.

In other words, I don't tell them what to do, and they don't tell me what to do either.

So we can imagine, what we heard in the gospel, the reaction of the fisherman Peter when a carpenter told him where to fish.

Skepticism from pride was brought to humiliation on his knees when Peter saw the miraculous catch of fish.

But just as Jesus did not leave Peter on his knees, Jesus will not leave us on our knees either.

He will raise us up so that we can follow Him into the deep and catch souls for Him.

So as much as we believe that God is loving and He won't punish us, there will be times when He will bring us down to our knees in order to realize that He is calling us.

Yes, He will bring us down to our knees but He won't leave us - in fact that is the moment that He is deeply loving us.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

22nd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 04-09-13

Col 1:1-8 / Luke 4:38-44

Physical ailment, in whatever forms and in whatever degree of gravity, is something that we will have to face in life.

And as if that is already not bad enough, we also have to be on the watch for the dangers that wicked people would try to inflict upon us.

Yes, life can be terribly stressful and anxious when we come to the bends and the corners of life.

So when Jesus came about healing diseases and casting out evil, as we heard in the gospel, the people immediately saw in Him the long-awaited Saviour.

Surely we can understand their excitement over the appearance of the Saviour, and at the same time we can also understand their desire to be in possession of the Saviour.

After all, who would want to let go of someone who can heal their sickness and protect them from evil.

Yet in moving on to other towns to preach the Good News, Jesus also left them a teaching on faith and hope.

More than what they can get from Jesus, they must have faith in Him so that even when He was no longer with them, they will still have the hope of God's promise of salvation.

It is the same faith that St. Paul talked about in the 1st reading that led the Colossians to show love towards all because it was a love driven by the hope that is stored up for them in heaven.

May we also have that faith in the saving love of Jesus for us so that we will continue to live our lives in hope of the blessings that God has promised us in Jesus Christ.

Monday, September 2, 2013

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 03-09-13

1 Thess 5:1-6, 9-11 / Luke 4:31-37

The Church has this tradition of reading and reflecting on the writings of the early Church Fathers and the saints.

Even though they lived in bygone era and way back into the past, yet their words still have relevance for us today in the areas of spirituality and how we live out our Christianity.

Their words carry an authority then as they do now. But more importantly their words give us encouragement and direction.

In the gospel, we heard that the teaching of Jesus made a deep impression on the people because He spoke with authority.

His words not only had the power to cast out evil but His words also gave the people the encouragement and the direction that they were longing to hear.

Similarly for St. Paul, he told the Thessalonians that he was not going to write about "times and seasons" and other frivolous stuff.

He encouraged them to live in the light and to be sons of the day. His words were meant to encourage and to strengthen them in their Christian way of life.

Those are simple words but the simplicity carries with it an authority that makes people listen and understand.

So simple and encouraging words have the power to influence lives and change the world. May we, by the grace of God, continue to speak those simple and encouraging words.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 02-09-13

1 Thess 4:13-19 / Luke 4:16-30

Debuts are important in that they form the foundations for the next step ahead.

It is usually associated with the first public appearance, as of a performer, or a beginning of a course of action.

So it may be an actor, a singer, a musician or a footballer, that first formal public presentation may be a make or break situation.

Because if the debut comes crashing down, it may mean the end of a career or aspiration or dreams.

In the gospel, Jesus made His first "debut" by preaching to the people of His own hometown.

It was going quite well and they were even astonished by the gracious words that came from His lips.

Then things suddenly turned and in the end the crowd got so enraged that they hustled Jesus out of the town and even intended to throw Him down the cliff.

If it were us, we would have been very bitter about this and given up the whole mission altogether and never talk about it again.

Yet Jesus moved on with His mission. Because He had the conviction of who He is and what He came to do.

May the Spirit continue to anoint us with His power and follow Jesus to bring Good News to the poor and may we bring about a new beginning of the Lord's favour.