Sunday, November 30, 2014

1st Week of Advent, Monday, 01-12-14

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Matthew 8:5-11

The famous philosopher Plato said this - Only the dead have seen the end of war.

And there is also another interesting saying about war - War is not about who is right; it is about who is left!

And yet till now, nations have not learnt the lessons of war and to this day, nations and races and tribes lift up swords and other kinds of weapons against each other and want to annihilate each other from the face of the earth.

As we begin the season of Advent, we are also aware of the hostilities and violence that are happening now and the lives that are tragically lost.

No doubt we yearn for that peace that is given in the vision of Isaiah - peoples will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles; nation will not lift up sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.

But that vision of Isaiah is not some yearning or wishful thinking but something that will happen "in the days to come" because it is the Lord who speaks in that vision of Isaiah.

In the gospel, when Jesus went into Capernaum, He was met by a centurion, a soldier, a man who is trained for war, and probably had fought in wars.

But that centurion put aside his military significance and pleaded with Jesus to heal his servant.

All the swords and spears in the world cannot do what Jesus can do for the centurion and his servant. And the centurion had great faith in that.

So "in the days to come" let  us put aside our pessimism and cynicism that war and violence had created in us.

Let us ask for that faith of the centurion and to turn to Jesus who can heal the world and grant us peace.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

1st Sunday of Advent, Year B, 30-11-14

Isa 63:16-17, 64:1, 3-8/ 1 Cor 1:3-9/ Mk 13:33-37

There are many ways to know how healthy we are or how our body is feeling.

We can go for a medical check-up, or take advantage of those free consultations to see how well we are.

But one of the best ways to know how healthy we are and the physical state of our body is to see who we feel when we wake up.

If at the point of waking up, we feel fresh and rejuvenated then we can be sure that we will go through the day energetically, and we will even go be in a good mood throughout the day.

We may not even need that cup of coffee to get us started and we may even be waking up before the alarm goes off.

But this is often not the case. Very often, the alarm wakes us up and at times we can even not hear the alarm!

Oh yes, we can oversleep and we jump-start the day and get into that morning rush as we try not to be late for work or for school or for whatever.

If we can oversleep and the alarm can’t even wake us up, then we must be very tired and not in good shape.

And even if we can wake up and drag ourselves out of bed and when we look at ourselves in the mirror, then we can really see how we feel.

Very often, we look sleepy, with eyes only half-opened.

Our face looks tired and feels tired. It looks like as if we had been working all night instead of sleeping. It is strange to look tired when we wake up.

Even a cup of coffee may not get us started. May a few cups are needed.

And if we wake up feeling tired, then most likely we will feel tired throughout the day, tired and maybe moody.

So, how we feel when we wake up in the morning will certainly have a bearing on the rest of the day.

Today, we begin a new liturgical year, a new Church year, with the 1st Sunday of Advent.

We can say that today we wake up to a new Church year.

The season of Advent prepares us for Christmas. So the 1st Sunday of Advent is like the alarm clock ringing. The 4 weeks of Advent to slowly wake us up to Christmas.

But are we hearing the alarm and slowly waking up?

Or do we just wake up for a while and then back to sleep and end up oversleeping?

If after sleeping one whole night and we still can’t quite wake up or feel tired upon waking up, then something must be wrong.

Well, we can ignore the signs and continue to sleep and end up oversleeping and then jump-start and rush through Advent and through Christmas and rush through life, and end up getting more and more tired about life.

In today’s gospel, Jesus kept repeating this phrase – stay awake!

Jesus wants us to look at the areas of our lives that tire us out physically and spiritually.

He wants us to look at it and stay awake and keep looking at it instead of closing our eyes and sleeping through it and think that they will go away somehow.

Yes, we open our eyes and look at our lifestyles and our eating habits, especially those that are unhealthy and doing damage to our health.

We open our eyes and look at our spiritual life, eg, our prayer life and our awareness of the presence of God in our lives.

We also look at what is bothering us – our frustrations, worries and anxieties, our disappointments, resentment and anger.

All these trouble our hearts and burden our minds so much so that as we are sleeping, our minds and hearts are not resting.

Hence, when the alarm wakes us up, or when we try to wake up, we feel too tired and we just want to continue sleeping.

But to continue to sleep and then end up oversleeping will not solve any problems – in fact, the problem will only keep increasing.

And that’s why Jesus tells us to stay awake and to open our eyes to look at our problems. It is only when we keep looking at the problem, then we will slowly see the solution.

Friday, November 28, 2014

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 29-11-14

Rev 22:1-7 / Luke 21:34-36

Before we jump into a swimming pool, it would be wise to just dip our foot into the water to feel the temperature of the water.

This is what it probably means by "to test the waters". We won't want to dive in without testing the waters first.

But when we decide to dive in, then it is certainly not a question of testing the waters anymore. If we dive in, it is because we want to do something in the water, be it for swimming or whatever.

The 1st reading mentioned about the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb, and flowing crystal-clear down the middle of the city street.

And on either side of the river were the trees of life, which bear twelve crops of fruit a year, one in each month, and the leaves of which are the cure of the pagans.

We would certainly want to dive into that river, because it is the river of life. But we have actually already dived into that river.

By our baptism into Christ, we have be immersed in the waters of life, the waters that flow from the river of life that has its source in God.

But as Jesus said in the gospel, if we don't watch ourselves, then our hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of the world will drown us.

Then even in the river of life, we end up like flotsam and jetsam or some floating rubbish.

Let us remember that when we dive into the waters, it is not to test the waters. We dive into the waters to make waves, waves that will wash away our sins and the sins of the world.

It is either we make waves on the world, or the waves of the world will drown us.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 28-11-14

Rev 20:1-4, 11 - 21:2 / Luke 21:29-38

If we had lived or spent time in a place or a country where there is a winter season, we will know how dreary it is.

It can be wet, cold, gloomy, and life comes to almost like a standstill.

But winter will slowly give way to spring, and spring is beautiful.

The sun would be shining but yet it is cool. Everything had a bright tinge to it, from the colour of the grass to the colour of the sky.

So winter does not have the last say in the cycle of the seasons and in the cycle of life.

Out of an apparent lifelessness comes about new life.

Jesus had been talking about the disturbing signs of the end times, signs of violence and distress.

But in today's gospel, He talks about yet another sign, the sign of the kingdom of God.

Hence, the disturbing signs are inevitable, but they do not have the last say.

Because the last say belongs to the kingdom of God and to the glorious coming of Jesus.

So when we face a turmoil in life, let us know that the turmoil or distress do not have the last say and neither is it the deciding factor.

The deciding factor rests on our hope in Jesus, who will come and reveal Himself to us in the calm after the storm.

It is in that calm that we know the final word belongs to Jesus.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 27-11-14

Rev 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9 / Luke 21:20-28

No one likes to face a disturbing and distressful time. Even just thinking about it makes us uneasy and anxious.

Yet, if we do not have a good grip on our faith, we might just fall into the two-pronged trap of the devil.

This two-pronged trap is called deception and disappointment.

In the midst of trials and turbulent times, it is easy to be deceived by false promises of security and safety, and we may be disappointed when these securities and safety nets break and fail us and we begin to lose our faith in God.

Yet, in the midst of this fear and disappointment, Jesus comes to proclaim the Good News.

He tells us that we see disturbing and distressful things happening around us, that is a sign that the kingdom of God is approaching.

Even the 1st reading gives a similar portrayal - after the persecutions, those who suffered are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

So let us overcome the deception and the disappointment of the evil one by asking the Lord to renew our hope and strengthen our faith.

Only in trusting in the Lord do we dare to look hopefully into the future and journey on in faith.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 26-11-14

Rev 15:1-4 / Luke 21:12-19

There is one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, be nothing (Aristotle)

That may not seem like very wise, especially in the midst of eloquent speeches and profound sayings.

Certainly we are impressed with the eloquence and profundity of great orators and we may even wish that we have that kind of gift and talent.

In the gospel, Jesus said that when we are persecuted, that will be the opportunity to witness to Him and He will give us an eloquence and wisdom that none of our opponents will be able to resist or contradict.

Even during His own passion, Jesus defended Himself against His accusers and He made profound statements of truth.

But there were also times when He just remained silent, while His persecutors mocked Him with insults and even spit at Him.

In that sense, we can say that confidence is silent and dignified, whereas insecurities are loud and offensive.

So eloquence and wisdom in the face of persecution may come in the form of a smile and keeping silent.

A smile is the way to solve many problems. Silence is the way to avoid many problems. And at times, being silent with a smile is a really good answer to insults and false accusations.

And if we ever open our mouths, may we join those in who were praising God in these words: How great and wonderful are all your works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are all your ways, King of the nations.

Monday, November 24, 2014

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 25-11-14

Rev 14:14-19 / Luke 21:5-11

A sickle is a hand-held agricultural tool with a variously curved blade typically used for harvesting grain crops or cutting succulent forage chiefly for feeding livestock.

It is an ancient tool that is effective for reaping and harvesting. But when modified and used as a weapon it is deadly and dangerous.

In the 1st reading, the word "sickle" is mentioned more than just a couple of times and the sickles are described as being sharp sickles.

The sickles were being used for a harvest of a different sort; it was the harvest of the earth, and symbolically it means the judgement of the earth.

The image portrayed is rather terrifying as the whole vintage of the earth was harvested and put into a huge winepress, the winepress of God's anger.

The imagery given in the gospel is not that consoling either, when Jesus said that the time will come when not a single stone in the Temple will be left on another - everything will be destroyed.

These descriptions are rather terrifying and they portray a reality that will happen, or maybe is happening even.

Terrifying as it is, it is also meant to awaken us from our complacency and our indifference to the call for repentance.

To turn away from sin is as good as good as letting God cut off sin from our hearts with a sharp sickle, and it can be painful.

But He who hurts is also He who heals (Job 5:18). But when sin is cut off from our hearts, what we will reap is a harvest of joy.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 24-11-14

Rev 14:1-5 / Luke 21:1-4

Whenever the gospels mention about widows or orphans, the reference is to a group of vulnerable and defenseless people.

The society at that time was when the man of the house was the sole breadwinner, and the wife and the children were totally dependent on him.

To be a widow meant having to fend for herself and maybe even to depend on public charity, which was quite slow in coming.

In the gospel, Jesus used the offering of the widow as an occasion to teach about generosity.

The measure of generosity is not about how much is given but rather how much is left over.

For the widow, after her offering to God, there was not much left over, maybe almost nothing at all.

For that widow, she had given all that she could.

Jesus in turn would have to give everything He had, all He could give, just to save us.

Let us remember that generosity begets generosity and love begets love.

Let us be loving in our generosity and know that God always blesses our love and generosity.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Christ the King, Year A, 23.11.2014

Ezk 34:11-12, 15-17/ 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28/ Mt 25:31-46

I am a priest and I should be preaching the gospel, but today I would like to give the ladies a little fashion tip when they go out for a date.

It is said that when a lady goes out for a date, she must put on at least three items – high heels, earrings and lipstick.

Oh, talking about lipstick, there is a little joke: Why did the girl put lipstick on her forehead? Ans: Because she wants to make up her mind.

So, when people can’t make up their minds, just tell them to put lipstick on their foreheads! :D

And talking about make-up, it is meant to enhance the beauty of a person.

Of course, there must be some natural beauty but a little make-up here and there can either enhance some features or cover up some blemishes.

On the other hand, too much make-up will make a face look too artificial and bad make-up can make a face look like something from a horror movie (especially if the make-up is not water proof).

But there is one more purpose for make-up, and that is, it is used for disguises.

With some skillful make-up, a face can look quite different, be it for younger or older, or be it for prettier or uglier.

Now we can’t say that Jesus wears make-up (He always looks good), but He is pretty good (excuse the pun) at disguises.

There is this story of St Martin of Tours who was a Roman soldier and a Christian.

One cold winter day, as he was riding into the city, a poor beggar stopped him and asked him for money.

Although St Martin had no money, he was moved with compassion for the poor man who stood shivering in the cold.

St Martin gave him what he had. Taking off his soldier’s coat, he cut it in two and gave half of it to the beggar.

That night, St Martin had a dream. In his dream, he saw heaven and all the angels and Jesus standing in their midst.

Jesus was wearing half of a Roman soldier’s coat. It was that half that St Martin had given to the poor beggar and St Martin realized that the poor beggar was actually Jesus in disguise.

Yes, Jesus is very present in this world but He always moves around in disguises.

So, if people were to ask us where to find Jesus, we can point to the tabernacle we may even dare to point to ourselves – after all we are the Body of Christ.

But today’s gospel parable tells us where to find Jesus and also who He is disguised as.

He is disguised as those who are hungry and thirsty, as the stranger, the sick and those in prison.

And that’s why it is so challenging to see beyond the disguises of Jesus.

His disguises are what we frown upon, and what we would rather avoid because they are not nice to look at.

Jesus says: I was hungry. We would be standing in the middle of a buffet and say: I don’t know what to eat.

Jesus says: I was thirsty. And we say: Upsize the drink for me.

Jesus appears as a stranger. And we will call the police.

Jesus may be in the naked and we would look at our wardrobes bursting with clothes and say: I have nothing to wear.

Jesus is in the sick. And we ask: Is it contagious?

Jesus is in the prison. And we say: Better keep those behind bars!

Yes, it is not that easy to recognize Jesus in His various disguises.

But there is a blessing behind the disguises of Jesus. (Maybe that’s where we get that phrase – A blessing in disguise)

Because we heard in the gospel parable: Come, you whom my father has blessed. I was hungry you gave me food; I was thirsty you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome; naked and you clothed me; sick and you visited me; in prison and you came to see me.

In other words, the poor, the needy, the homeless, the least, the lonely, and these we find at the bottom of the social ladder as actually God’s blessings in disguise.

Let us remember these words of Jesus: I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.

Friday, November 21, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 22-11-14

Rev 11:4-12 / Luke 20:27-40

A relic usually consists of the physical remains of a saint or the personal effects of the saint.

And there are even classifications of relics: First-Class relics are items directly associated with the events of Christ's life (manger, cross, etc.), or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, a hair, skull, a limb, etc.); Second-Class relics are items that the saint wore (a shirt, a glove, etc.); Third-Class relics are any objects that are touched to a first- or second-class relic.

In the practice of venerating the relics of the saints, we make a connection and a communion with the holy. We unite with the saints and ask for their intercession.

If such can be said about the relics of the saints, then the resting place of the deceased in the cemeteries and columbaria will remind us that although they have died, yet they are existing now in a different dimension.

As Jesus says in the gospel passage, God is not God of the dead, but of the living, for in Him all men are in fact alive.

And in the 1st reading, we heard about the two witnesses of God who were killed but God raised them to life. God is indeed the God of the living and the Lord of life.

So if there is life after death, then what lies ahead is far better than what lies behind us. There are far better things ahead than anything we have left behind (C S Lewis)

But if we keep living in the past, with its failures, regrets and disappointments, then we become a relic in the present that is meaningless and even hopeless.

But if we truly believe in the God of the living and the God of life, then the relics and the memories of the past become living testimonies of life and love. Let us be that living testimony.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Presentation of the B.V. Mary, Friday, 21-11-14

Zechariah 2:14-17 / Matthew 12:46-51

It is not unusual that devout Catholic parents consecrate their new-born baby to the Lord.

That is especially so when they have prayed for a child and the baby was like an answer to their prayers.

But of course more than just consecrating their child to God, they will also baptize the baby in Church.

The feast of the presentation of Mary in the Temple is not found in the New Testament but from sources outside of the Bible.

According to those sources, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne had been childless and eventually having Mary was a heavenly gift from God.

In thanksgiving, they brought the child Mary to the Temple to consecrate her to God and she remained in the Temple till puberty.

The spiritual significance of this feast is that God chose Mary to be the Mother of His Son and He had prepared her since the Immaculate Conception to be ready for this mission.

Hence, the feast of the Presentation of Mary is part of the fulfilment of her mission as the Mother of God.

The celebration of this feast also reminds us of our own baptism, in that we are not just consecrated to God in baptism but we have become God's chosen children.

As His children, we are to carry out and carry on the saving mission of Jesus our Saviour. May Mary our Mother pray for us and help us to fulfill this mission.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-11-14

Rev 5:1-10 / Luke 19:41-44

Tears are words that the heart can't say.

Tears can be how our heart speaks when our lips cannot describe how much we have been hurt.

Or tears can be how our heart feels when we are grieved and sorrowed beyond description.

In the 1st reading, the writer, John, wept bitterly because no one was able to open and read the scroll that was in the hand of the One sitting on the throne.

The scroll represented the secret purposes of God that are to be revealed to the Church in times of persecution and distress.

These secrets and revelations are certainly desirable to be known but as no one could open and read it, hence John wept bitterly.

But he was consoled by an elder that the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, the Lamb who was sacrificed will be able to open and read that scroll and reveal it to the Church.

And yet when this same Jesus who shed tears when His people did not listen to what He said and by their own stubbornness it was hidden from them.

God would not hide His plans for us and make us cry tears of distress and confusion.

But let us also remember that Jesus had shed tears over His people because they refused to listen.

Let us listen to Jesus and He will wipe away the tears from our eyes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-11-14

Rev 4:1-11 / Luke 19:11-28

It is undeniable that we yearn for a beautiful place to live in, to work in and to spend the rest of our days in.

And so we may be searching and looking for that beautiful place, and yet we may wonder if such a place really exists.

Well, some people look for a beautiful place; others make a place beautiful.

In the 1st reading, we are given a description of heaven. Indeed it is a beautiful and wonderful place.

What made it more beautiful and wonderful was the presence of the 24 elders and the 4 animals as they sang continuously "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God the Almighty".

In the gospel parable, we heard of the different attitudes of the servants when they were given the money by their master.

Some made more money for their master. But there was one who did nothing with the money.

So in life, there are some who would make life more beautiful with what they have.

And then there are others who just do nothing and expect things to turn beautiful.

As it is, happiness will never come to those who don't appreciate what they already have.

When we appreciate what we have, we will want to make life more beautiful, so that this world would be a foretaste of the beauty of heaven.

Monday, November 17, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 18-11-14

Rev 3:1-6, 14-22 / Luke 19:1-10

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.”(Elbert Hubbard)

When we have already decided what to do, the strength to do it will come consequently and subsequently from the decision.

So it is actually the process in making a decision that a great deal of strength (mental strength) is called upon to decide upon a direction.

In the gospel, the wealthy senior tax collector Zacchaeus was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was.

But he had other things to consider - he was short and the crowd may make things unpleasant for him. Nonetheless he decided to get a glimpse of Jesus, and so he climbed a sycamore tree.

That decision led to other decisions like giving half his property to the poor and if he had cheated anyone, he would pay back four time the amount.

Those were great decisions that he made willingly because he took the strength to make that first decision to see Jesus.

In the 1st reading, we heard of warnings given to the churches in Sardis and Laodicea - "Repent and wake up"  and "I will spit you out of my mouth".

They will have to decide what to do from there. Of course they can decide to do nothing about it but that would lead them into even greater turmoil.

We need to pray for strength to follow Jesus. And we need to pray for even greater strength to decide for Jesus. The strength will come when the decision is made.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 17-11-14

Rev 1:1-4; 2:1-5 / Luke 18:35-43

In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream will eventually win. In fact it will always win.

The stream wins, not through strength, but through persistence. And where the stream wins through persistence, we often fail through lack of it.

We may start off on a project or a direction with zest and fervour, but we are more like a bucket of water than a stream. When we run out of water, so goes our zest and fervour.

In the 1st reading, the church in Ephesus were told that they started off with zeal and with fervour.

They had worked hard, they resisted the wicked, tested the impostors and they were patient in their suffering.

But the complaint that the Lord is making about them is that they have less love now than they used to have.

The church in Ephesus may not have persisted in their love for the Lord. But the blind man in the gospel showed what persistence was all about.

When he cried out for Jesus to have pity on him, the people scolded him and told him to keep quiet, but he shouted all the louder for Jesus until he caught His attention.

There is no need to shout to the Lord to get His attention. We just have to be like the water in the stream that flows persistently and faithfully until we reach the ocean of God's love.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 16.11.2014

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 / 1 Thess 5:1-6 / Matthew 25:14-30

There is one profession that is hardly talked about but at the same time we can hardly do without.

It is also a dying profession, and ironically it concerns the dead.

This profession is the grave digger and there isn’t a more polite term or politically correct term to it.

A newspaper article some time ago mentioned that there are only about 10 grave diggers in Singapore.

Even though cremation of the dead is a more preferred means, there are still some who opt for burials and that is where the grave digger comes in.

Modern machinery like the excavator may make the job easier but the grave digger will be needed to “tailor” the hole for the coffin to go in.

So there will always be a need for this profession though it is not nice to say that they make a living out of the dead.

In the gospel parable, it can be said that the 3rd servant is like a grave digger – both were into digging holes.

But unlike the grave digger who makes a living out of his digging, the 3rd servant lost his living from his digging. It can be said that he dug his own grave.

Whatever talents or money that his master gave him, he dug a hole in the ground and buried it.

In the parable, the talents that the master gave the servants represented something more than money.

It represented a gift – a gift of life and love.

In burying this gift, the 3rd servant exposed his attitude towards life and love.

Not only that, he even defended his attitude by focusing on his master’s hard and demanding expectations.

In doing so, he tried to shift the problem from himself to his master.

But that’s also our tendency, isn’t it? To always say that others have a problem, but not ourselves.

Like the ostrich, we bury our heads in the ground, refusing to look at the reality of our lives.

But as how the parable goes, the master exposed the servant’s attitude.

And we too will be exposed, sooner or later, but exposed for our own good, if we are willing to accept it.

There is a story of a young successful businessman who owns a big company.

Then he came to know a girl and he was attracted by her simplicity, humility, kindness and pleasant personality.

As they entered into a love relationship, the young successful businessman decided to check on her background.

So he called his assistant to engage a private investigator to check on the girl, but of course, without saying that he was the one who wanted the report.

After a couple of weeks, the private investigator’s report came in and the assistant passed it to that young successful businessman.

The report went like this: The girl in question comes from a middle class family. She holds a decent job in a manufacturing company, is hardworking and honest, kind and helpful.

But there is a problem. Lately, she has been going out with this young businessman who is noted for being ruthless in his business deals. He is crafty and cunning, and will resort to any means just to make money.

End of the report. Just a story, but what a twist it had at the end.

The story does not go on to say what happened to the young businessman.

And as in any story, if we were to put ourselves in the shoes of that young businessman, then what would our reaction be.

Would we refute the private investigator’s report and bury our heads in the ground and refuse to see the reality of ourselves?

Would we say that the private investigator is biased against us and tarnishing our reputation? Or worse, would we think that the “young businessman” in the report refers to someone else?

Say what we may, but like the 3rd servant, we have this tendency to bury our heads in the ground and shift the problem towards others.

But on the other hand, we can also be like the other two servants who used their gifts and talents to help others discover themselves in an enlightening and non-threatening way.

Let me share another story to show you what this means.

A boy had a very bad temper that was getting out of hand.

His father prayed about it and came up with this idea to help him.

He gave his son a hammer and a bag of nails, and he told his son: Every time you lose your temper, go to the wall and hammer a nail.

So the boy did just that – every time he lost his temper he took the hammer and hit the nail into the wall.

And if you have tried hitting a nail into the wall, you will know it is not that easy. Because you often end up hitting your thumb

So after a while, the boy thought that it was easier to control his temper than to keep hitting nails into the wall.

Then one day, the boy told his father that he could now control his temper because he had stopped hitting nails into the wall.

The father said: Well done, my son.  Now for every occasion that you felt like losing your temper but managed to control it, pull a nail out of the wall.

The son thought it was strange but did as he was told. So slowly the nails came out of the wall. And after some time, all the nails were pulled out of the wall.

The son told this to his father, and the father brought the son to look at the pock-marked wall.

He said to his son: My son, every time you lose your temper, it is like a nail being hammered into someone’s heart.

You may have apologized and the nail taken out, but the crack and the hurt remains, like this pock-marked wall. But learn this lesson, and you will be a better person.

It is interesting to note what the father did. He prayed first, and then he called upon whatever wisdom and experience he had to help his son overcome his bad temper. 

Today’s Gospel parable reminds us that God has given each of us, all the gifts, talents, wisdom, experience, that we need to make the most out of life.

That’s God’s gift to us. Our gift to God will be to use His gifts to us to help others make the most of their lives.

In other words, we are not called to bury hopes and joys. Rather we are called to share life and love.

Life and love are God’s gifts to us. What we do with that life and love is our gift to God and to others.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

On Leave

Dear Readers,

I'm on leave and am not able to publish any posts these few days. The next homily post will be for the Mass on Sunday, 16th Nov 2014.

God bless you.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 09-11-14

Ex 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 / 1 Cor 3:9-11, 16-17 / John 2:13-22

In 1980, Pope John Paul II went to Sicily, and as we might be aware, Sicily is the heartland of the Italian mafia.

There the Pope proclaimed the dignity of the human person and the sacredness of life.

He told the people that they have a right to live in peace.

Those who are guilty of breaking this peace have many victims on their conscience.

Out rightly, the Pope declared that killing is NOT allowed, and no man, no organization, no mafia can ever violate this holy law of God.

What the Pope said was merely to reiterate what St. Paul said to the Corinthians in the 2nd reading: that we are the Temple of God, and that the temple in us is sacred, and if anyone destroys this temple, God will destroy him.

But the mafia wanted to have a say too.

To ridicule the Pope's teaching, they killed two priests.

And to push the point further, they bombed the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the feast of the dedication which we are celebrating today.

The mafia thought that by bombing the mother church of the Catholic faith, which is also the Cathedral of the Pope, they have put a dent on the Church.

But they forgot; they forgot that the Church is not just about buildings and structures.

The Church in essence, is the faithful, which is  a living Temple, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Just as that Temple is sacred, we too are called to holiness.

So let us cast out all that is sinful, and renew ourselves in this Eucharist, as temples of prayer.

Friday, November 7, 2014

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 08-11-14

Philippians 4:10-19 / Luke 16:9-15

People are created to be loved. And things are created to be used. That sounds plain and simple enough.

But the reason the world is in chaos is because things are being loved and people are being used.

The things that we own might just end up owning us without we realizing it and we end up being a slave to things instead of being master over them.

One of those things that is so common and which Jesus pointed out in the gospel is none other than money, which we are all too familiar with.

We may not be that rich but it can be said that we don't know how to handle riches and it might just be that the riches will handle us.

But as St. Paul said in the 1st reading, he had learnt to manage on whatever he has. He knows how to be poor and he knows how to be rich too; whether full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty.

He was talking about the money that the Philippians had given to help him but then again he was not talking about the shortage of money.

What he was emphasizing was that more than the money that the Philippians had given him, it was the Philippians themselves who are a gift to him that he values and treasures.

So it comes back to that basic lesson in life. People are to be loved. Money is to be used.

Let us not reverse that order and turn our lives into a chaos.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 07-11-14

Philippians 3:17 - 4:1 / Luke 16:1-8

To be astute is to have or to show an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one's advantage. Other associated qualities would be shrewdness or smartness or even craftiness or cunningness.

Whether that is a good quality or not depends on what is the advantage is used for.

To be dishonest is to behave or prone to behave in an untrustworthy, deceitful, or insincere way, and the purpose is to cheat or swindle someone, that is obviously bad and immoral.

In telling the gospel parable, Jesus ended off by saying that the master praised the dishonest steward for his astuteness.

He added by saying that the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.

That would be a compliment to the children of light in that they are more honest and sincere and trustworthy.

But it would be so easy for the children of light to follow the children of the world and be absorbed in the ways of the world, and even take for their model the dishonest but astute steward.

Hence in the 1st reading, St. Paul would urge the Philippians to take as their models those who are faithful to the Lord and living a true Christian life.

Because those who are behaving as the enemies of the cross of Christ are destined to be lost.

No doubt, being honest and sincere and faithful may not get you a lot of friends, but it will get you the right ones.

May we be models of faith that others can look to and may we give them the encouragement to remain faithful to the Lord.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 06-11-14

Philippians 3:3-8 / Luke 15:1-10

Whenever there is a plane crash or when a ship sinks or in any kind of  accident, search and rescue teams will be activated and sent immediately to the accident site.

The people in these teams have a common experience. They may have been in danger before, and may possibly in danger of death.

But they have been rescued from that danger and hence they know what it means to be saved.

And there is also one essential element in them - they have a sense of urgency. They know that time is short and speed is critical.

Otherwise, those who are trapped and waiting to be rescued might just easily give up hope and sink into despair and give up the will to live.

In the gospel, Jesus told three parables about the lost-and-found. This was in response to the Pharisees' complaint that He welcomes sinners and eats with them.

In doing so, Jesus showed that He came to seek, to search and to save what was lost. For Jesus the search was urgent because further delays would mean that those tax collectors and sinners would sink deeper into sin.

In the 1st reading we heard from St. Paul, who is also known as the "Apostle to the Gentiles".

For him, the experience of salvation was when he was a Pharisee and in working for the religion, he persecuted Christians.

On the road to Damascus, he saw the light and experience Jesus as the Lord and Saviour. In turn he became part of the team that went out to search and rescue those trapped in sin and brought them the Good News of salvation.

We too are saved from our sins and called to join in the mission of our Saviour. There is a sense of urgency. Because heaven is waiting to rejoice over the repentance of even one sinner.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 05-11-14

Philippians 2:12-18 / Luke 14:25-33

Generally speaking, we like to listen to songs, especially the songs that we grew up with.

When we were younger, we may pay more interest to the beat and the melody.

But now that we are older, do the songs mean more to us? Especially when we have faced the complexities of life?

It is said that when you're happy you will enjoy the music, but when you're sad, then you will understand the lyrics.

In the gospel, Jesus taught the crowds about the cost of discipleship. To be His disciple, Jesus must be over and above the other relationships, even if they are intimate blood relations.

We have to constantly think about the price we have to pay if we really want to be disciples of Jesus, otherwise we may try to build but we are unable to finish.

But giving up all for Jesus begins in small ways, as the 1st reading would put it.

When we do what is expected of us without complaining or arguing, then we can be innocent and genuine, and we will shine in the world like bright stars because we are offering the world the word of life.

That might sound like music to our ears, but let us also pay attention to the lyrics.

When we understand the cost of discipleship that Jesus is talking about, then we will understand what St. Paul meant when he said in the 1st reading: If my blood has to be shed as part of your own sacrifice and offering, I shall be happy and rejoice with all of you.

The we will be willing to make the sacrifice and offering of being a disciple.

Monday, November 3, 2014

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 04-11-14

Philippians 2:5-11 / Luke 14:15-24

Very often in life, people do not appreciate nor understand what you do for them, until you stop doing it.

In other words, people may take for granted what you do for them until you don't grant it to them anymore.

But when things come to such a situation, it is neither a pleasant realization nor would it be an amicable discussion.

In the gospel, Jesus told the parable about the man who gave a great banquet. When those who were invited refused to come, the host was in a rage.

It was a great banquet, it entailed great preparations, and yet the invited guests made excuses not to go, took things for granted, and did not appreciate nor understand what the host did for them.

And they can also forget about ever being invited again. Although it is just a parable, nonetheless, parables tell us something about God, about ourselves and about life.

The truth in the gospel parable is that such things happen in life, and more so it happens between God and us.

We take God for granted, and we do not appreciate nor understand what God is doing for us. But God will not stop doing whatever He is doing for us.

On our part, let us in our minds be the same as Christ Jesus, as the 1st reading would urge us.

Christ emptied Himself and became humble even to accepting death. May we too empty ourselves and be humble, so that we can truly be grateful and give thanks for the wonderful things that God is doing for us.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 03-11-14

Philippians 2:1-4 / Luke 14:12-14

In its most basic meaning, happiness is defined as an emotion that is generally associated with behaviours like laughter and smiles and maybe even a bit euphoric.

Usually happiness is generated when we experience good luck and good fortune and a good outcome, and hence the corresponding behaviour.

So what brings out the happiness in us is when we have something nice happening to us. But when something nice happens to others, will we also be just as happy?

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells the Philippians that the one thing that will make him completely happy is when they are united in their convictions and united in their love, with a common purpose and a common mind.

For St. Paul, his happiness lies more in whatever good that happens to others, than in whatever good that happens to him.

The gospel also has the same message when Jesus told His host, one of the leading Pharisees that a man is fortunate when people can't repay him back for whatever good he had given them.

Unfortunately, that is not our idea of happiness. For whatever good we do unto others, we want it back and maybe more than we give.

We would be happier still when we are constantly on the receiving end of every good thing that we want to happen to us.

But are we determined by what happens to us? Or are we who we choose to become?

May we choose to be happy for others when good things happen to them, and be even more happy for them when they grow in virtue and in goodness.

In doing so, we have already chosen to be a happy person.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

All Souls Day 2014, 02.11.2014

Isa 25:6-9 / Rom 5:5-11 / Mt 11:25-30

One of the most emotionally charged occasions that we often come across would be at a funeral.

The death of a person, and more so a loved one, is usually accompanied with grief and sorrow and tears.

Words of condolences are few and short because no amount of words, no matter how profound can bring a dead person back to life.

And if words are to be used, then they must be carefully chosen and it is certainly not a time to take the matter lightly or make a joke out of it. But things can go wrong, unintentionally of course.

Like this one about the florist’s mistake. On opening his new shop, the owner received a bouquet of flowers. He became dismayed on reading the enclosed card because it read “Deepest Condolences”.

While he was wondering about the message, his phone rang. It was from the florist, apologizing for having sent the wrong card.

“Oh, it’s alright,” said the man. “I am a businessman and I understand how these things can happen.”

The florist said, “But I accidentally sent your card to the funeral wake.”

The man asked, “Oh! What did it say?”

The florist replied, “Congratulations on your new location.”

Certainly it was an awkward mistake, unintentional and no one would be laughing at it.

Nonetheless, it may reflect in a certain way, our hope for a departed loved one.

We hope and we pray that our departed loved ones would be in heaven and enjoy eternal rest, and are at peace.

As we would often hear at funeral wakes – he/she is in a better place, a better location, so to speak.

And that’s the purpose of coming for Mass on All Souls Day. We pray that God will grant our departed loved ones eternal rest in His presence.

But things may not be as simple as we would like it to be, as in that when we die we will go straight to heaven.

Because the reality is that as in life, so it is in death.

We who live in this world would know how much we can be attached to this world.

We are attached not just to things but more so to our loved ones and to the relationships that we have built in this world.

Even at our last breath, we may not want to let go easily of our life and detach ourselves from our loved ones.

Even though the Lord of life is calling us to the eternal light, we can’t help but keep glancing at the lights of this world that we have shared with our loved ones.

My father passed away in June, just three months before he could celebrate the diamond wedding anniversary with my mum and the family.

He had hoped and talked about it before his death but he didn’t get to live to celebrate it.

Although he died peacefully, we also know that he had some earthly hopes that could not be fulfilled.

And so this year’s All Souls Day is especially meaningful for my family and me as we pray that my father will rest in peace.

Similarly, you too have come to pray for your departed loved ones that they will rest in peace.

As the Church teaches us, “all who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation. But after death, they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

Yes, we must pray for our departed loved ones, as well as for those who are forgotten or who have no one to pray for them.

More than just moving to a “new location”, we pray that they will see the eternal light and set on a new direction, a direction towards the God of life who will give them eternal rest.

And even as we pray, may we even while on earth, set our direction towards God and find life and love, peace and joy.