Tuesday, September 30, 2014

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Wednesday, 01-10-14

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

Today is the feastday of St. Therese of the Child Jesus. 

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 little 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 little deeds with great love for God and others.

Monday, September 29, 2014

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-09-14

Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23 / Luke 9:51-56

There is only so much of setbacks and suffering that we can tolerate and endure.

When there is no more that we can take, then we snap and we will let fly without reservations, our frustrations and our grievances.

What we heard in the 1st reading is not just Job complaining about the tragedies that had happened to him.

He was lamenting bitterly to the extent that he even cursed the day he was born.

Who would not empathize with him at that point in time.What happened to him was beyond comprehension.

It was only much later that Job would come to terms with God's plan and purpose for him.

In the gospel, the hotheaded disciples James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to burn up the Samaritan village that rejected Jesus.

They probably did not understand why Jesus would not allow it and He even rebuked them.

Only much later would they understand and comprehend who Jesus was and what He came to do.

If Jesus Himself can show understanding and tolerance, then we too must learn from Him.

With understanding and tolerance, God will slowly reveal His plan and purpose for us.

But when we give in to our frustrations and grievances, we might just forfeit God's revelation to us.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, Monday, 29-09-14

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 or Apocalypse 12:7-12 / John 1:47-51

As human beings, we can't avoid being influenced and maybe even affected by spiritual happenings.

But we may be more inclined to believe that there are evil spirits roaming around to scare the wits out of us and even to harm us, than to believe in angels that look like cute chubby babies with wings.

But in the spiritual world of the unseen and the invisible, if we believe in the existence of evil spirits, then all the more we too must believe in the presence of angels.

Today we celebrate the feast of three archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

All three names end with "el", which is the old Jewish word for "God".

The name Michael means "Who can be like God?" - it is a name that has the form of a rhetoric question.

Gabriel means "the power of God". He announced the Good News of salvation to Zechariah and Mary and manifested God's saving power.

Raphael means "the healing power of God". He brought about God's healing power in the book of Tobit.

Though God is unseen, yet through these three archangels, He manifested His power and presence.

Indeed, who can be like God, who is so almighty and loving that He saved us through His Son, and forgave our sins and healed us of our transgessions.

We just need to praise and glorify the Lord God with the response from the psalm: In the presence of the angels I will bless you, O Lord.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 28.09.2014

Ezekiel 18:25-28/ Phipippians 2:1-11/ Matthew 21:28-32

Life has many contradictions, many paradoxes and many reversals of fortunes.

What may seem to be a good thing may turn out bad.

What may seem to be a bad thing may turn out good.

But we can only see the present in its limitation, we can only comprehend the here and now.

We don’t know about the future, so we judge everything as good and bad according to how we see it now.

For example, if one of our children is rather slow, or naughty, or not very pleasing to us.

What will be our attitude towards that child, as compared to the rest of our children who might be cleverer, or smarter, or better looking or more capable?

Surely we will favour the “better” one.

As for the other one, we will just have to accept him although we will not have much hopes or expectations from him.

Yet, life has shown us over and over again that there are many paradoxes and many reversals of fortunes.

This is also a recurring theme in the Bible, that the first will be last and the last first.

Jesus told parables like the rich man and Lazarus, the prodigal son, the workers in the harvest (last week) to tell us about the paradoxes and reversals in life.

Today he told another parable of two sons and their obedience to their father.

The father asked both sons to go and work in the vineyard.

The first said yes but yet did not go. 

The other said no but later changed his mind and went.

Jesus actually addressed this parable to the chief priests and elders.

The tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners were like the first son.

They sinned, but when they heard the Good News of God’s love and forgiveness, they repented and turned back to God.

On the other hand, the chief priest and the elders were like the second son who said yes to all that God has commanded but yet did nothing to change their lives.

In many ways, this parable is also addressed to us to make us reflect on how we view people and how we treat them.

The reality of life is that we favour those who are more pleasing to us, but we are indifferent or ignore those whom we think do not meet our hopes and expectations.

There is a story of a couple had a few children. All were normal and intelligent.

Except one who had Down’s Syndrome and hence was slow and different from the rest.

The couple took joy in their children but for this special child, they had to swallow their disappointment and embarrassment.

At times, they even asked themselves why they were burdened with such a child.

It seems that they will have to care for him all their lives.

As the years went by, the rest of their children got married and left home to start their own families.

As the couple became older, their children also became busier with their own families.

Naturally, the couple felt lonelier with all their children gone. Except for one, the slow “special” one.

Because of his inabilities and disabilities, he obviously had to stay with his parents.

In the past, the parents thought of him as a burden and an obstacle to their freedom in life.

But now, the old couple realized that he is the only one who is with them day and night.

Once upon a time, he had to depend on them and they had to fend for him.

Now it seems that in their lonely old age, it is they who have to depend on him despite his inabilities and disabilities.

It is just another story about how life has many paradoxes and reversals of fortune or status.

Let us not ignore these whom we think are of little or no use to us or those who are not pleasing to us and give us problems.

God loves these people as much as He loves us.

And the paradox of life is that God will turn these people into His instruments to show us His love.

So let us accept those whom we think may not count for much in life.

A time will come when they will show us what really counts in life.

Friday, September 26, 2014

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-09-14

Ecclesiastes 11:9 - 12:8 / Luke 9:43-45

Generally speaking, as one gets older, one would also get wiser.

Having crossed many bridges in life, the older one gets, the more experience one would have garnered.

From those experiences of life, one would attain some depth of wisdom.

So how the 1st reading would be understood depends on whether the reader or the listener is a young person or one who has the seniority of years.

Nonetheless the wisdom and the realities expressed in the 1st reading need to be constantly revisited in order to grasp it fully.

In the gospel, Jesus told His disciples to keep these words constantly in their minds: The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the powers of men.

But they did not understand it there and then. But later they would. And later they would also realise that what their Master went through, they too would have to go through.

Indeed, the wisdom and experience of life tells us this - If there is no suffering to hollow out our hearts, there would be no room for joy.

Whether for the young or for those well on in years, that is the reality.

Choosing or hoping otherwise would be vanity of vanities.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-09-14

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 / Luke 9:18-22

If we were asked to form a simple sentence with the word "time" in it, one of the easiest sentences could be: I have no time.

Maybe that is because we use it so often in our own busy lives.

Yes, we sigh and we lament that we are so busy and we don't have much time.

The 1st reading mentions the word "time" more than 28 times.

But its purpose is not to tell us whether we have time or not.

Rather, all time is in God's hands and all He does is apt for its time.

Also, though God has permitted man to consider time in is wholeness, man cannot comprehend the work of God from beginning to end.

Nor could the disciples in the gospel passage comprehend fully who Jesus was, even though Peter seemed to get it correct, but it was just for that moment.

Indeed, there is a time for questions and a time for answers; a time for rejoicing and a time for suffering, a time for peace and a time for strife.

Yet, as the popular hymn goes: In His time. Yes, all happens in God's time. All that happens in our lives happen in God's time.

Having said all that, the reflection point is this: God will always have time for us; do we have time for God?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 25-09-14

Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 / Luke 9:7-9

When it comes to the subject of history, some will find it interesting while others might find it burdensome in having to remember dates and events and names that are tongue-twisters.

But if we don't know history then we may not know anything at all. We are a leaf that does not know it is part of a tree (Michael Crichton).

Hence, even Confucius would say: “Study the past if you would define the future.”

In the gospel, Herod was puzzled when he heard about all that was being done by Jesus, because some people were saying that John the Baptist had come back to life, or that Elijah had reappeared or that one of the prophets had come back to life.

If Herod had recourse to the history that was recorded in the Jewish scriptures, then he would know that Jesus was the personification of the prophetic voice that was heard throughout the history of Israel, just as John the Baptist and Elijah and all the other prophets had been.

Those who cannot remember the past are bound to repeat it, and history happens twice because people didn't listen at the first time.

Herod ordered the beheading of John the Baptist; he also had a hand in the death of Jesus, and he ended up as a tragedy in himself.

In the 1st reading, the book of Ecclesiastes gives a reflection of history and about life, when it said that there is nothing new under the sun. Long before in time it existed, just that no memory remains of earlier times. And for all his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?

Let us take that verse from the Responsorial Psalm: Lord, make us know the shortness of our life that we may gain wisdom of heart, so that from one generation to the next, God will be our refuge and we will find the meaning of our lives.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 24-09-14

Proverbs 30:5-9 / Luke 9:1-6

A proverb is a simple and concrete saying, popularly known and repeated, that expresses a truth based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim.

The 1st reading of the past few days and the next few days are taken from the Book of Proverbs.

It contains more than just wisdom sayings that are based on common sense or practical experience of moral conduct.

Because the Book of Proverbs points to the source of all wisdom, and that is God whose Word is a lamp for our steps and the law from the mouth of God means more than silver and gold.

The 1st reading reiterates this when it says that "Every word of God is unalloyed, he is the shield of those who take refuge in him. To his words make no addition, lest he reprove you and know you for a fraud".

In the gospel, Jesus had this to say to His disciples as He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal:

"Take nothing for the journey: neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic".

Have we ever taken these words seriously, or we may be wondering how serious Jesus can be about this.

Because it may not seem to us to have much common sense nor is it in our practical experience to have practically nothing to rely on.

But let us continue to ponder on those words of Jesus, and let us ask the Lord for the two things that the 1st reading talked about.

May the Lord keep us from falsehood and lies, and we ask not of poverty nor riches but that the Lord will grant us our share of bread to eat.

That may not sound much like a proverb but it would be a shield for us who take refuge in the Lord.

Monday, September 22, 2014

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-09-14

Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13 / Luke 8:19-21

Water is an amazing element. It refreshes the wearied, cleanses what is soiled, softens what is hardened and quenches the thirsty.

In its liquid state, water takes on the form of whatever vessel it is poured into.

When it is flowing, as water in a stream or river, it turns and goes into whichever direction that has been set.

The beginning line in the 1st reading says that "like flowing water is the heart of the king in the hand of the Lord, who turns it where He pleases".

Flowing water is distinct from stagnant water or water that is in a container in that it gives a sense that it is "alive" and that it is moving on.

And those who hear the Word of God and put it into practice (Lk 8:21) are like flowing water that the Lord directs to do His will.

On the other hand, flowing water that is not in the hand of the Lord is not harnessed and can become destructive and cause floods and may even take lives in its course.

And those who hear the Word of God and do not put it into practice can become like water that has a destructive aspect to it.

So let us listen to the Word of God and put it into practice, so that our lives will be like flowing water in the hand of the Lord that will refresh the wearied, cleanse what is soiled, soften what is hardened and quench those who thirst for Lord.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 22-09-14

Proverbs 3:27-34 / Luke 816-18

In Singapore we see many "Do Not!" signs. So there are signs that tell us "do not litter", "do not eat or drink", "do not smoke", "do not use hand-phones", etc.

If we abide to these prohibitions, then we will get along fine; if not we will be "fined"!

So when we break these rules and get caught for doing it, then the pain will be directed at our wallets.

In the 1st reading, we also hear of a series of "do not"s. But when we do not do as what the passage of the 1st reading tells us to, then the pain is not inflicted on us. Not initially at least.

Rather, the pain will be inflicted on our neighbour and it is us who are the cause of the pain.

But we will feel the pain eventually. Because the wilful wrong-doer is abhorrent to the Lord, He mocks those who mocks.

In the gospel, Jesus told His disciples that no one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or to put it under a bed.

By the same principle, no one should do evil, or refuse a kindness, or plot harm against a neighbour, or pick a groundless quarrel.

Yes, no one should be causing harm to another or be a pain for another.

So let us not succumb to evil or even lean towards it. Let us strive for goodness, and the Lord in His goodness will also bless us with His goodness.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 21-09-2014

Isa 55:6-9 / Phil 1:20-24, 27 / Mat 20:1-16

This weekend is the F1 (Formula One) race in Singapore.

There is much hype and publicity about this F1 race since it started a few years ago.

Whatever it is, the outcome of the race is that there will be only one winner and the rest are losers.

Yes, the winner takes it all, and the losers will be nowhere at all.

So whether it be the F1 race, or any sport or competition or in the business world, or in the hierarchy of any organization, it is the first, or the winner, that really matters.

The others just fade into the background of obscurity.

So today's gospel parable may not sound very fair to us if we put ourselves into the shoes of those who were the first to be hired and yet in the end got the same wages as that of the late comers or last comers.

In fact, we may even be resentful of the fact that the late comers did the least and got the same wages as us.

But as the 1st reading tells us, the heavens are as high above the earth as God's ways are above man's ways and God's thoughts are above man's thoughts.

We must realize that in God's eyes, there are no winners or losers, no first-comers or late comers, no Formula One or Formula Zero.

Some are called to do great things, some are called to do little things, but everyone is good for something and no one is good for nothing.

The 2nd reading urges us to avoid anything in our everyday lives that would be unworthy of the gospel of Christ.

Let us avoid the comparison between the first and the last, the good and the bad, the happy and the sad.

Such comparisons will only lead to envy and resentment.

As the landlord in the gospel parable said: Why be envious because I am generous?

Yes, God is generous to the great and little alike, as well as to the first and the last.

May we realize that and rejoice in God's generosity and give thanks for His blessings.

Friday, September 19, 2014

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 20-09-14

1 Cor 15:35-37, 42-49 / Luke 8:4-15

It is not exactly easy to illustrate a gospel teaching by using stories or examples.

There are times when the gospel teaching is clear-cut but to find an example or story to illustrate it requires time and reflection.

The parable of the sower and the seeds is indeed an excellent story with a divine message.

It is a story in which we are invited not only to listen to it but also to find ourselves being part of it.

It is not a story that we can listen to and go away unchallenged, unchanged and unmoved by what we heard.

Even though we may not be from an agricultural background, yet we can still understand what the parable means to us.

Because every time we read the Bible or hear the scriptures being read and shared, the Word is being sown in our hearts.

How much of God's Word will take root in our hearts and bear fruits in our lives depends on how deeply we want to reflect on the gospel parable we have just heard.

When we are able to reflect upon the truth in the parable, then we will also see the truth about ourselves and also the state of our hearts.

But the fundamental truth is this: Just as God cares about what happens to His Word, He cares more about us who hear His Word.

So may we hear the Word, listen deeper to the voice of the Divine Sower, and bear fruit for the kingdom of God.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-09-14

1 Cor 15:12-20 / Luke 8:1-3

We may wonder if following Jesus then would be any easier than following Jesus now.

At least going by today's gospel passage, we would have guessed that following Jesus would mean being on the road always.

Jesus made His way through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.

With Him went the Twelve and also some women and several others who provided for them out of their own resources.

So there was always this uncertainty of what was going to happen next. And they were like living from hand to mouth. And shelter for the night was not guaranteed.

Having understood that, being a Christian nowadays, and especially in Singapore, seems rather comfortable and acceptable.

Yet, when life becomes too comfortable and secure, then like what St. Paul said in the 1st reading: If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

Because we will forget what the Resurrection is; we forget what dying to ourselves is; we forget what suffering is; we forget what it means to provide for others out of our own resources.

Following Jesus then is not any easier than following Jesus now. In fact it may be more difficult and challenging. Some would even have to face the mortal peril of losing their heads for being a Christian.

But in the face of challenges and difficulties, our hope in Christ is not just in this life. There is a higher life beyond. When we rise up to the challenges and difficulties, we will also rise to that life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 18-09-14

1 Cor 15:1-11 / Luke 7:36-50

A spade is much bigger than a spoon. In a certain way they both look similar.

But the spade cannot do the work of a spoon, and neither the spoon can do the work of the spade.

In short, they are important in their own roles.

And that brings to mind the tendency of comparison. Comparison brings about the death of uniqueness and with that the death of joy.

In the gospel, Simon the Pharisee may be seen as self-righteous and critical of those who have gone wayward.

And that springs from that tendency to compare. He compared that woman with a bad name with his self-righteousness. He may even have compared Jesus' behaviour with that of his.

And even in the 1st reading, St. Paul seemed to be comparing himself with the rest of the apostles when he said that he was the least of the apostles and that he hardly deserved that title.

But he concluded by saying that what mattered was that he preached what the apostles preached, so that his listeners will come to believe and have the same faith.

So when we do not compare ourselves with what the others around us, we will certainly gain much more time and energy to look at ourselves and strive for what is good and holy.

And just like the spade and the spoon, both being important in their own roles, may the Lord God enlighten us on what our calling is and to fulfill that important role in our lives.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 17-09-14

1 Cor 12:31 - 13:13 / Luke 7:31-35

We have often heard criticisms about others and often the focus seems to be on the one who is being criticized.

But if we are wise and matured enough, we would wonder about the one who is criticizing.

And when we think deeper about it, criticisms say more about the criticizer than about the one being criticized.

And by their criticisms, we may come to see that those who criticize others may not fully understand the situation and the circumstances and as well as the people they are criticizing.

In the gospel, Jesus described those people that criticized Him and John the Baptist as being like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market place.

They were like playing games and in a way making fun of the messengers of God, calling one possessed and the other a glutton and a drunkard.

Certainly, criticism is not child's play because the aim is to find fault and to put the blame on others when things are not to their liking or when things go wrong.

But if criticizing others is like child's play, then the way of love is certainly for the matured and the wise.

As the 1st reading puts it - love is patient and kind, never jealous, never boastful or conceited, never rude or selfish, does not take offence, is not resentful, .

Love take no pleasure in other people's sins but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

These words about love and these words of love are for those who want move away from criticizing to loving. May we make these words our own and bring about love in the world.

Monday, September 15, 2014

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 16-09-14

1 Cor 12:12-14, 27-31 / Luke 7:11-17

It is said that a rich man is not the one who has the most but the one who needs the least.

That is so true because for one who is not contented, more is never enough. In fact, even having everything is not enough.

What is said about the riches of the material world can also be said about the gifts of the spiritual world.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul mentioned about the gifts of prophecy and interpretation, teaching, working miracles, healing, leading, etc.

But the human heart may not be contented with just what it had been given. It may succumb to envy or jealousy and start to desire for other spiritual gifts that it has not.

The passage in the 1st reading ends off with St. Paul urging us to be ambitious for the higher gifts.

To be able to receive any higher gifts, we ought to be aware and contented with the present gifts.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus raised a dead man back to life and gave him back to his mother.

The gift of life is indeed the greatest gift that we ever have on this earth.

And when we relish and cherish this gift of life then we will be ready for the higher gift, and that is eternal life.

When we realize that then we indeed truly rich.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Our Lady of Sorrows, Monday, 15-09-14

Hebrews 5:7-9 / John 19:25-27 or Luke 2:33-35

In our journey through life, we have walked the path of sorrow and grief. And many times too.

In fact, no one can ever say that they don't know what sadness or sorrow or grief is all about.

And maybe too many people have walked that path that each one has a sad story to tell.

And it is quite frustrating when you want to share a sadness that has overcome your heart with another person and then that person tells you that yours is nothing compared to what he is going through and then you hear another sad story that makes you even more depressed and frustrated.

Today, as we  remember our Lady by one of her titles "Our Lady of Sorrows", we know of her grief and sadness as she stood by the cross and watch her son being crucified to death.

That sword of sorrow pierced deep into her heart, and we who have experienced sorrow and grief would know what she had gone through.

Much had been said of her sorrow and much more can be said. But on this feast of "Our Lady of Sorrows", we stand with Mary at the foot of the cross.

We now tell her the sorrow in our hearts and as we stand with her by the cross may we also receive the strength and consolation that Jesus will give us through the power of His cross.

Jesus and Mary had gone through their share of sorrow and sufferings and they want to be with us as we walk the path that they had walked.

May the strength and consolation that they give us in turn empower us to be with those who are suffering and in sorrow so that we will be companions with them in their sufferings.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Sunday, 14-09-14

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

To say that God sent His only Son to die for our sins is certainly not wrong but it may not be that entirely right either.

As a matter of fact, Jesus did die for our sins and He died a cruel death by crucifixion.

Jesus was nailed to the cross and was flaunted before the face of God as if to mock God for sending His Son to earth.

If it had all ended on the cross, then evil would have scored a victory because God did nothing to prevent or save Jesus from the cruelty and death on the cross.

Yes, God did not save Jesus from death. But since God did not save Jesus from death, then how would Jesus dying on the cross save us from our sins.

Well, God did not save Jesus from death. But God saved Jesus out of death (Hebrews 5:7). And that gave the whole twist to that cruel death by crucifixion.

It  is because God saved Jesus out of death by raising Him from the dead, then by the resurrection of Jesus we too are saved from our sins.

St. Paul, in the 2nd reading reiterates that when he said Christ did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself, and He was humbler yet even to accepting death on the cross.

But God raised Him high and gave Him the name above all other names and all creation will bend the knee at the name of Jesus.

So for St. Paul, the death of Jesus on the cross is the essence of our hope, although the cruel death on the cross seems to exclude any kind of hope.

But more than just a sign of hope, the cross is also the sign of love. Although that seems to be pushing the meaning of the cross to its limits already.

But the gospel tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but so that through Him the world might be saved.

So saying that God sent His only Son to die for our sins may not be wrong but it is not the whole picture.

God sent His Son to love us and the price of that love is death on the cross.

But that love was so powerful that even the meaning of the cross was changed, for the cross of death has now become the cross of love that triumphs over sin and death.

So the holy and precious cross is now raised aloft for the Church and for all the world to see.

For in the cross is life and love, forgiveness and healing, redemption and salvation.

Let us kneel before the Holy Cross and venerate it for it protects us and the powers of evil and darkness cower and flee before it.

Let us also pray with the Cross so that we will faithfully and courageously follow Jesus in His way of the Cross and may we also glory with Him in the Cross.

Friday, September 12, 2014

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 13-09-14

1 Cor 10:14-22 / Luke 6:43-49

We may say it is easy to differentiate between a good person and a bad person. At least it is easy to spot a bad person.

A bad person does what is obviously evil and there is no question about evil concerned, e.g. murderers, terrorists, rapists, loan-sharks, drug-pushers, human-traffickers, etc.

At the root of the evil that these people commit is none other than the evil influence of the devil himself.

As St. Paul puts it in the 1st reading, those who commit evil are in communion with the devil himself.

It is not just about eating food that is sacrificed to demons. It is about being in communion with the devil and taking on the nature of evil.

In the gospel, Jesus talked about a hidden kind of evil and maybe a more sinister one.

He said that no sound tree produces rotten fruit, nor a rotten tree produces sound fruit.

But what looks like a sound tree can produce rotten fruit. In other words we may not be committing obvious evil and we may look like good people to others.

Yet, there may be some evil lurking within us that makes us sin. And in sinning we come into communion with no other than the devil.

That also happens when we call Jesus our Lord and yet we do not do what He tells us. Then we are building our house on sand.

We may look good in fair weather but we will not withstand the test of goodness.

Let us turn to our Blessed Mother and ask her to pray for us so that we will do whatever Jesus our Lord tells us.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 12-09-14

1 Cor 9:16-19, 22-27 / Luke 6:39-42

Living in HDB flats (public housing) has its conveniences as well as its irritations.

One irritation, at least on the ears, is when someone decides to start practising the piano, or the trumpet, or sings along with the karaoke.

Somehow the Do-Re-Me of the music scales, or an out-of-tune melody, or that annoying voice of the karaoke singing, pervades and invades our consciousness and subconsciousness.

At times, we wish we could be deaf for just that particular period of time.

But the intrusion on our ears should also open our eyes to see that practice and training are necessary disciplines for any kind of skill.

Even St. Paul noted in the 1st reading that athletes go into strict training just to win a prize that will eventually wither away.

One spiritual exercise that we ought to do at least twice a day is the examination of our conscience.

We can do it once in the middle of the day and another before we end the day.

As we give thanks to God for His blessings, we also ask God for the grace to see the planks in our own eyes that obstruct us from seeing the goodness of the people around us, and the lessons of love that life is teaching us.

So the next time we hear someone plonking away at the piano, or blaring away with the trumpet, or singing out of tune, let us see the perseverance and persistence of that person.

May that also help to bring out the patience and understanding in ourselves.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 11-09-14

1 Cor 8:1-7, 11-13 / Luke 6:27-38

Scandals come in many forms and often it is in big and shameful ways.

The world has had its share of scandals, from embezzlements that brought down reputable banks, to politicians having affairs, and down to aid for poor and hungry being siphoned off by the rich and those in power.

The Church also has had its share of scandals, from sex abuse cases, to power struggles and schisms and heresies, etc.

Scandals are hidden at the start, but when they explode, the reverberations travel far and wide.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul talked about scandals of a lesser nature. He warned about eating foods that are sacrificed to idols.

We may think that it is hardly a scandal, but in those times, it would be enough to cause another's downfall in the faith.

Because whatever we do or say is not a private affair. The effects and reverberations of our words and actions go further and wider than we think.

What Jesus said in the gospel may also sound like a scandal to us. He tells us love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and to pray for those who treat us badly.

And as if that is already not repulsive enough, Jesus even tells us that when a man slaps us on one cheek, present the other cheek too.

But before we start to think that what Jesus is saying is getting too ridiculous, let us remember that if what is done in the dark is set for destruction, then what is done in the light brings about restoration.

May we follow the ways of Jesus and walk in the light, and bring about restoration from the shame and humiliation that the world and the Church has seen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 10-09-14

1 Cor 7:25-31 / Luke 6:20-26

To say that we have quite a lot of faith in ourselves is not an over-statement.

For example, we set the alarm clock the night before even though there is no guarantee that we will see the sunrise the next morning.

We plan so much for our future security as if we know what is going to happen to us in the future.

Surely, we need to plan for the future, or at least for the next day, but the reality is that we won't know how things will turn out in the future and how much of the future we will live to see.

When St. Paul, in the 1st reading, talked about the issues regarding celibacy, marriage, about enjoying life and getting engrossed with the world, he had this to say - "the world as we know it is passing away".

For him, in his own opinion, the "time is short" and he expected the Lord Jesus to return soon and hence all human activity was to be geared in preparation for that occasion.

Hence, he gave his views about marriage, about being single, about life and about world affairs.

Although the Lord Jesus did not return as soon as he expected, nonetheless St. Paul's exhortation about the time being short and that the world as we know is passing away needs to be heeded.

So whether we are happy or sad, contented or in need, rich or poor, rejoicing or mourning, it will only be for a short time and it will also pass away.

And when all things have passed, only these three remain: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.

May our love for God be the foundation of our faith for the future.

Monday, September 8, 2014

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 09-09-14

1 Cor 6:1-11 / Luke 6:12-19

Between the spoken word and the written word, it is obvious which has a more lasting effect and impression.

If the written word is that of encouragement and affirmation, then it would be a joy and a pleasure to read it over and over again.

But if the written word is that of a rebuke and a reprimand, then those words certainly stab at the heart and cause turmoil in the mind.

In St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians in the 1st reading, he used strong and harsh words like "how dare one of your members ..." and "how can you be fit ..." and "you should be ashamed ..."

Such words are surely repulsive to read or even hear, but it was the necessary laxative that will purge out the corruption within the community. 

As St. Paul put it so bluntly: But you are doing the wronging and the cheating, and to your own brothers.

The Corinthians have deviated far from that occasion in today's gospel passage when Jesus picked His twelve apostles and sent them forth to preach the Good News and to heal the sick and to drive out evil spirits.

Yet, the gospel also mentioned that among the twelve men who were chosen, one of them would become a traitor.

The name of Judas Iscariot entered into history, and will continue into history, as that one who was the traitor and betrayed Jesus.

But the names of the rest of the apostles will continue into history as men who continued preaching the Good News and laid down their lives in witness to Jesus.

May our names, and what we do and say, be remembered by others as the ones who brought Good News that gave encouragement and affirmation.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Monday, 08-09-2014

Micah 5:1-4 or Romans 8:28-30 / Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23

If we have to think of a gospel passage or a bible passage to dedicate to someone on his/her birthday, we would certainly think of a profound passage that might include God's blessings on that person and how wonderfully God has made that person.

But in celebrating the birthday of the BVM, the passage that is chosen from the gospel of Matthew talks about Joseph intending to call off the marriage with Mary, and the angel of the Lord had to intervene.

Somehow the gospel passage for this liturgy seems a bit inappropriate, maybe even a bit too profane.

Yes, Mary's fears came true in that Joseph wanted to call off the marriage, and that might leave her to face an uncertain and even dangerous future.

Yet, the humanity, the humanness, of Mary and Joseph are highlighted to show us that they too had to face their fears and worries and anxieties, when it comes to doing God's will.

In fact, fear has that ability and that potential to paralyze us from doing God's will and to walk in His ways.

Yet, let us remember that as in the Annunciation, Mary was told "Do not fear"; in today's gospel, Joseph was also told "Do not fear".

As we gather for the Eucharist, we are also told "Do not fear", because God is with us.

Yes, we need not fear, because we also have a heavenly Mother who is always praying for us.

Yes, Mary knows the power of fear, but she also knows the power of prayer.

As we celebrate the birthday of our Blessed Mother, let us join her in prayer to pray for ourselves, for the Church and for the world. And what better way to do it than to pray the Rosary with our Lady. And not just today but everyday.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

23rd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 07.09.2014

Ezekiel 33:7-9/ Romans 13:8-10/ Matthew 18:15-20

Driving a car in Singapore is certainly not an easy thing. Because in order to drive a car, we need to have a car. And in order to own a car we would need to strike it big at the lottery (since Singapore is the most expensive place to own a car).

And in order to drive a car we need to have a license, which is not that easy to get and it can be quite costly too.

There is this joke about a man who won the first prize of a brand-new car.

But he had no driving license and he was anxious to get a driving license as he wanted to be the first driver of his brand new car.

So he called up the driving school and he told the receptionist that he was desperate to learn how to drive, and that he wanted to learn how to drive in just 15 minutes!

The receptionist thought for a while and then replied him: Well sir, there is a “crash” course!  : P

Learning how to drive a car is one thing; being a good driver is another.

When we are on the wheel, something strange happens to us. We turn into some kind of ugly monster.

We become a speed-demon and a road-bully. We will scold and curse other drivers.

No wonder there is a prayer for blessing of cars. So many sins are committed in the car. 

We may try to be a good driver, but what about those who road-hog, or suddenly cut into our lane without signaling, who tail-gate, who show us bad signs, and who drive recklessly.

And then there are those who text while driving. There is this warning: Pray if you love Jesus; text while driving if you want to see Him!  : 0

In times like these we wish that the traffic cops are around to catch those drivers.

But most of the time we end up scolding and cursing those kind of drivers in the confines of our cars, with the windows rolled up.

What we won’t think of doing would be to track down these reckless drivers and confront them. Oh no, we won’t do that.

Jesus said in the gospel that when your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone.

But whether it is our brother or sister or stranger, we would avoid having it out with that party concerned.

That is too risky and we might end up getting traumatized.

We would rather complain about that person to others, gossip about his wrong-doing, and slime his reputation.

And if we want to be more vicious, we will write an anonymous poison letter to some people of authority about that person’s wrong-doing. Or better still, use a pseudonym and splash it all over social media.

To say it all in one word, it is about taking revenge but without confrontation. The human way of “correcting” a person is to “criminalize” him in order to teach him a lesson.

But the way of Jesus, the Christian way, is not to teach the person a lesson but to help him learn a lesson.

There is a big difference between teaching a person a lesson and helping a person learn a lesson.

To help a person to learn a lesson in order to correct him is certainly a more difficult way, but it is the Christian way.

As Christians, we have to be good and it is also our duty to help others be good.

There is no need to teach others a lesson in order to correct them. 

Rather we must help them to learn a lesson in order to correct them.

That would mean that we ourselves must learn the lesson of correction.

Jesus says this in the gospel: I tell you solemnly once again, if  two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For when two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.

It means that first and foremost, we need to learn the lesson of prayer.

There is no crash course in this kind of prayer. Praying for the correction of others demands love and faith, perseverance and persistence on our part.

When we learn that lesson of prayer, then Jesus will show us the way to help a person learn a lesson in order to correct his wrong doing.

We just do the praying, and Jesus will do the correcting.

Let us remember that when we are united in prayer, what we ask for will be granted to us.

And Jesus will also fulfill His awesome promise to us – and that is He will be there with us.

Friday, September 5, 2014

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 06-09-14

1 Cor 4:6-15 / Luke 6:1-5

A maxim is a written set of principles or rules of conduct.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul used this word to state a simple principle or rule and that is "Keep to what is written".

Most probably he was referring to the Scriptures and to the written set of teachings that were handed to the Christian community at Corinth.

He made recourse to that maxim because the Christians at Corinth were beginning to interpret the teachings to their own convenience and advantage.

What was too demanding and affected them personally they would give leeway for themselves and go with the broadest possible options.

St. Paul wanted to bring them to their senses and to help them see the truth and the reality of their spiritual deterioration.

Yet in the gospel, it was the Pharisees who were harping on keeping to the Law of the Sabbath.

Their intention was to reinforce and propagate their religious fundamentalist ideas.

But it is not a question of rigidity or laxity when it comes to religious teachings.

Jesus came to teach us the Truth so that we will have freedom when we keep to His teachings.

In Jesus, we have the Truth who will lead us to the Way of Life.

Let that be our spiritual maxim.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 05-09-14

1 Cor 4:1-5 / Luke 5:33-39

We would like to think that reaction and response are similar.

A reaction may be described as a reverse movement or tendency; an action in a reverse direction or manner, or an action in response to some influence, event, etc.

A response may just be an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.

So a reaction and a response do not have much of an obvious difference as such.

But we may think of reaction as going against, whereas we can look at response as connecting with.

In the gospel, the Pharisees and scribes seemed to be reacting to eating and drinking habits of the disciples of Jesus by comparing them to the disciplined habits of the disciples of John the Baptist.

In their reaction, they had already formed a judgment on the disciples of Jesus.

In the 1st reading, St.Paul urged the Christian community to refrain from premature judgment about anybody's role in the community.

Because premature judgment is like a reaction which goes against others and causes dissension and animosity.

But to be able to respond to the criticisms and judgments around us instead of reacting, then we must first make a renewed response to God's call to us.

God has entrusted us with His love. Our response to God is to be found worthy of His trust.

When we start responding to God's love within us, then we will also begin to connect with people around us in love.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 04-09-14

1 Cor 3:18-23 / Luke 5:1-11

Generally speaking, the people who have a keen sense of analytical judgement would have a good standing in the eyes of people.

They are able to give a logical and rational assessment of a risk or a gamble and they lay out the consequences clearly before our eyes.

We would deem these people as wise and so indeed they are.

But in the gospel, Peter would have thought of himself as a fool if he were to follow what Jesus told him to do.

He did reason out a little as to why it would be another futile effort but nonetheless he did as he was told.

Needless to say, the consequences were beyond imagination.

But a more astonishing consequence was that Peter was not only humbled but he even acknowledged  his sinfulness.

Our faith can be explained with reason and is also rationally sound. Even St. Peter would say in 1 Peter 3:15 "always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have".

Yet, we also proclaim the mystery of faith. It is a faith that goes beyond logic and rational and it is a leap of faith into mystery.

It is in this mystery of faith that we realise that we can be wise only in the ordinary sense of the word but it is God who is Wisdom.

So there is nothing to boast about in the wisdom of man.

God granted wisdom to man so that he can understand that besides logic and rational, there is also the greater mystery of faith.

Without this mystery of faith, then all the wisdom of man will end up in foolishness.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 03-09-14

1 Cor 3:1-9 / Luke 4:38-44

There is one profound aspect in the ministry of Jesus that we can't miss and it is something that we wish to see happening more frequently.

Besides teaching the people about the kingdom of God, the other profound aspect of the ministry of Jesus was the healing.

The gospels paid special attention to the healing ministry of Jesus because it was an expression of the proclamation of the Good News that He came to proclaim.

But the healing ministry is only one side of the coin; the other equally important aspect of the ministry of Jesus was the teaching and the proclamation of the Good News of the kingdom of God.

It can be said, and quite correctly, that from the teaching and proclamation of the Good News flows the healing ministry.

People must be cleansed and formed by the Good News before any healing can take place.

In today's gospel passage, we hear of Jesus, after His healing ministry, He went off to a lonely place to pray. It was necessary for Him to go back to God in order to keep up with the ministry of teaching, proclaiming and healing.

Without prayer, then we will become like the Corinthians that St. Paul chided for not being people of the Spirit, for being mere sensual men and for being unspiritual. That was why they had their slogans and were divided among themselves.

So let us follow Jesus in finding a lonely place for prayer. Let us pray with Jesus, listen to His Word and bring healing to those in need.

Monday, September 1, 2014

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 02-09-14

1 Cor 2:10-16 / Luke 4:31-37

One of the well-known works of St. Augustine is his book called "Confessions".

It was a book that was written for the Catechumens to reflect on their spiritual journey towards baptism.

It was a book that was written based on his own spiritual journey.

In that book, St. Augustine described an occasion near the end of the life of St. Monica, his mother, who was instrumental in his conversion.

They were in Rome, in a room standing at the window, overlooking a garden.

St. Augustine wrote: "We had gone there to get away from the noisy crowd and to rest. The two of us were enjoying a very pleasant conversation.

We were asking one another, what would it be like to share the eternal life that the saints enjoy.

In the course of our conversation, the world and all its pleasure lost their attraction for us."

We heard in the 1st reading that the Spirit of God reaches the depths of everything; it reaches the depths of our hearts.

And when the Spirit reaches the depths of our hearts, we will experience what St. Augustine and St. Monica experienced.

We will experience peace and all the noisy longings of our hearts will slowly be silenced, just like how Jesus silenced the unclean spirit in the gospel.

When the Spirit of God touches the depths of our hearts, we long for nothing but God and God alone.