Monday, November 30, 2015

1st Week of Advent, Tuesday, 01-12-15

Isaiah 11:1-10 / Luke 10:21-24

People change for many reasons. But there are usually two common reasons.

Either their minds have been opened or their hearts have been broken.

In the 1st reading, the words of the prophet Isaiah were for his people who have been disappointed time and time again by their kings.

With their hearts either broken or close to breaking, their minds have also closed up and not thinking much about the future.

But the prophet Isaiah tried to open their minds with the imagery of a humble shoot and a lowly scion.

If a shoot or a scion can spring from the stump, then growth is a possibility and a reality.

Where there is growth, then there can be change for the better and the broken heart can be healed.

But it is for hearts that are humble and simple and childlike to see what others can't see and to hear what others can't hear.

May our minds be opened to the Word of God and may our hearts be sensitive to the Spirit's promptings so that we will be opened to change into what God wants us to be.

St. Andrew, Apostle, Monday, 30-11-15

Romans 10 : 9-18 / Matthew 4 : 18-22

Most of us would shy away from the limelight and rather work behind the scenes.

Well, that is until we have basked in the limelight and gotten a taste of the attention and the applause.

 After experiencing the taste of the limelight, it might be difficult to step back into the background and go back to being behind the scenes.

We often call it "cannot let go".

St. Andrew was always referred to as the brother of St. Peter.

That title gives the impression that St. Andrew was someone who was always behind the scenes, someone who tags along behind St. Peter.

Even today's gospel seemed to imply that idea when it tells of Jesus calling Peter and Andrew, in that order.

But in the gospel according to St. John, it was Andrew who first followed Jesus, and it was Andrew who told Peter that he had found the Messiah.

St. Andrew's role in the gospels may be few but nonetheless significant.

Besides being the first to follow Jesus and leading Peter to Him, St. Andrew was also instrumental in pointing out the boy with the barley loaves and the fish that later led to the miracle of the multiplication of loaves.

In St. Andrew, we see a reflection of ourselves and our mission.

Following Christ is our top priority and leading others to Christ is our mission.

But stepping back in order that God can continue to work through us must also be our conviction.

When we can do that, then we know what it means to let go and let God.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C, 29-11-15

1st Sunday of Advent, Year C
Jeremiah 33:14-16 / 1 Thess 3:12 – 4:2 / Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

The word terror means a very strong feeling of fear, or something that causes very strong feelings of fear, or something that is terrifying.

It is certainly not a new word. Neither is the word terrorism. But terrorism has become profoundly significant, especially since September 11th 2001.

Ever since then, terrorism and the use of violence or the threat of violence, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of so-called political goals, has resulted in the loss of many innocent lives.

The spread of terrorism has certainly caused fear and raised security measures, and as what we heard from the gospel “men dying of fear as they await what menaces the world”.

But looking at the root of terrorism is something that is actually quite common that happens in schools, at the workplace, over the internet and even at home and at playgrounds.

It is called bullying. A bully is a person who uses strength or influence to harm or intimidate those who are weaker.

And just like terrorism, bullying also has dreadful consequences – people are scarred by it and some even die from it.

Often it comes in the form of violent actions, but it usually begins with hurtful words that are aimed at humiliating the other person.

But the fact is that calling someone ugly won’t make you pretty. Calling someone fake won’t make you real. Calling someone dumb won’t make you smart.

In other words, those who are war with others, are not at peace with themselves.

Jesus said this in the gospel: Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.

To be coarsened means to become rough, or to become vulgar and unpleasant.

For the heart to become coarsened means that it has become rough, vulgar and unpleasant. It is layered with hate and anger.

And that’s what a bully is all about. A bully hates himself. And the more we hate ourselves, the more we want others to suffer by bullying them.

But if we love ourselves, we won’t want to hurt others or harm them or make them suffer.

And more than that, we would also want to prevent others from being hurt and from being harmed.

Yes we want to love ourselves and we want to love others, as Jesus had taught us to do so.

But we have had our own share of being bullied. People say all sorts of nasty things against us and even do nasty things against us.

Our hearts are coarsened by such things and hate may even consume our hearts and in turn we may become bullies and cause hurt and harm to others.

But it has to stop somewhere otherwise bullying will just grow into terrorism and lead others to think that violence is the solution to problems.

The famous actor Jackie Chan has starred in dozens of martial arts movies and is famed for his combat skills.

When he was younger, Jackie admits he wasn't so brave, and was often picked on by the other children at his school because he was such an easy target and he was "too scared" to stand up for himself.

Jackie endured years of torment, only learning to defend himself after he stood up for another child.
"I was bullied quite a lot when I was growing up in my Peking Opera School," he explained.

"I allowed myself to be bullied because I was scared and didn't know how to defend myself. I was bullied until I prevented a new student from being bullied.

"By standing up for him, I learned to stand up for myself."

By the way, the bully that Jackie Chan stood up to was that big burly Sammo Hung, another kung fu actor.
The kid that he stood up for was Yuen Biao. But somehow the three became friends and did movies together. So it was a happy ending to all that bullying.

Jesus told us to keep praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen.
What is going to happen is that there will be people who will hurt us over and over again. We need to pray so that we will think of them as sand paper. Why sand paper?

Like sand paper, they will scratch and hurt us, but in the end, we will end up polished and they end up as paper without the sand.

And as we begin the season of Advent, we also light the first candle of the Advent wreath.

That is a sign of our faith that the light will scatter the darkness of fear and the evil of terrorism.

That is also a sign of the promise that Jesus will come with power and great glory.

Let us continue to pray that we will be liberated from fear and that our hearts will be cleansed from hatred so that we will be at peace with ourselves and be at peace with others.

Friday, November 27, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 28-11-15

Daniel 7:15-27 / Luke 21:34-36

During the celebration of the Mass, we are often reminded of the presence of God, with this phrase : The Lord be with you

Maybe some of us may ask : why not say - the Lord is with you. After all the Lord is here, isn't it?

True, the Lord is here, yet so often, even as we are greeted with the presence of the Lord, our hearts may not be that aware that is Lord is indeed truly here.

Maybe that is why it is necessary to reflect on just that simple greeting : The Lord be with you.

Because that phrase call us to pay attention to the Lord, to pay attention to the Lord who is here and with us now.

In the gospel, Jesus says : Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened and hardened.

If we are not aware of God's presence in the Mass, how would we be aware of His presence during the course of the day.

Being with the Lord moment by moment, will help us to be ready to be with Him in eternity.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-11-15

Daniel 7:2-14 / Luke 21:29-33       (2019)

It is often said that what we see is what we get. But on the other hand, there is always more than meets the eye. 

What we see will give us first impressions and opinions. But when we start to think about it, we will discover deeper meanings and even the mystery behind it.

The 1st reading talked about Daniel seeing visions in the night. That might already give us some ideas of the meaning of those visions might be.

For one, it would not be that clear in its meanings because the night has always been mysterious and things cannot be seen clearly and there is always something hidden.

But what is obvious is the power struggle of the earthly kingdoms and the rise and fall of empires.

But as Daniel gazed into the visions of the night, he saw something more than just earthly. 

Coming from the clouds of heaven was one who was conferred sovereignty, glory and kingship, and his empire shall never pass away nor will it be destroyed.

It was like a vision within a vision, something more than meets the eye.

In the gospel, Jesus used the buds of a fig tree to tell us that there is something more than just summer is near.

It is the kingdom of God that is breaking forth and manifesting itself in the midst of the ordinary.

Yes, there is always something more than meets the eye. If we don't see a deeper meaning in it, if we don't see the kingdom of God happening in it, we may just be settling for something less.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-11-15

Daniel 6:12-28 / Luke 221:20-28

The story of Daniel in the lions' den which we heard in the 1st reading is indeed a famous and well-known story from the Old Testament.

It was another account of how God protected those who were faithful to Him and trusted in Him.

In that story, the other character, king Darius, was often seen just as a sort of supporting character.

Yet he is the character that we would look at today.

He ordered Daniel to be thrown to the lions, but he did it much against his own will.

He was trapped by his own edict and by the pressure of Daniel's accusers.

King Darius knew what he wanted to do ; he knew what he should do.

But he just couldn't do it without losing face or seen as weak.

So he finally succumbed to pressure, just like many others before him and many others after him, e.g. Pontius Pilate.

Acting under pressure from others, or to please others, or to meet the expectation of others, or afraid to lose face, or being called a softie, or no backbone, are things that we have all experienced.

We know what we should do, but to do it requires the courage to enter the lions' den.

That courage can only come about if we are faithful to God and trust like Him, like Daniel did.

The only lions that we need to fear are our lack of faith and trust in God.

But when fear seems overwhelming, let us remember these words of Jesus in today's gospel : Stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is at hand.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 25-11-15

Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28 / Luke 21:20-28

One phrase which we will use to express the idea that we can see things so clearly and so profoundly, is to use this expression - we say that "the writing is on the wall".

That phrase is taken from the book of the prophet Daniel which we heard in the 1st reading.

That phrase in the context of the 1st reading meant judgment for king Belshazzar because he desecrated the sacred vessels that were looted from the Temple in Jerusalem, and he did not acknowledge the God of all creation.

In a world that is filled with violence and terrorism, evil and sinfulness, is there any writing on the wall? Is there any judgment? Is there any vindication?

What do we see in such situations?

We can see two things : one is that those who propagate violence and evil will be accountable to God.

But we also need to see something else, something more profound.

We need to see that in the midst of violence and evil, we need to see that we are called to bear witness.

We need to bear witness to God's love and forgiveness.

We need to bear witness to the truth of way of Jesus in that we don't have to return evil for evil, but rather to overcome evil with good.

We need to bear witness and to be God's writing on the wall.

God's writing on the wall speaks not just of judgment, but of peace and love and forgiveness.

Yes, we must bear witness even when evil and sin seem to be overwhelming.

But as Jesus said in the gospel - our endurance will win us our lives.

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 24-11-15

Daniel 2:31-45 / Luke 21:5-11       (2019)

We often say that the past is history and the future is mystery. Sounds rather poetic.

And good poetry often makes a reflection on the harsh reality but puts it across beautifully.

So as much as we know the history of the past, we do not know the mystery of the future.

It is because we do not know the future, we tend to live in anxiety.

And we may secretly like to think that if we know what is going to happen in the future, then we may be relieved of this anxiety.

Well, king Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about the future. And Daniel interpreted that dream for him.

But did it quell his anxiety?

Similarly in the gospel, the people asked Jesus about the time and the signs of the future.

And Jesus did tell them something about the future, but did it quell their anxiety?

It is not good to be too anxious about the future, but yet we can turn that anxiety into something creative.

We can use that anxiety to build the foundations of our lives so that we won't be thrown about by the worries of what is to come.

The prophet Daniel mentions in the 1st reading of a stone, untouched by human hands.

We, of course, know that the stone that he was talking about was that stone that was rejected by the builders but which became the corner stone.

May Jesus be that corner stone which forms the foundations of our lives.

It is in Jesus that we can have the security in a future that is mystery.

Because with Jesus we can truly live in the HERE and NOW. Without Jesus, we will be NOWHERE

Sunday, November 22, 2015

34th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-11-15

Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20 / Luke 21:1-4

One of the common problems in the work-place is this superior-subordinate tension.

Very often, one party views the other with suspicion and caution.

And very often, one party will always have complains and grouses against the other.

But at the heart of these problems lies basically the need for understanding.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Daniel and his friends faced the dilemma of having to eat forbidden food.

Yet he understood the situation of those who were put in charge of him.

And eventually he found a way of going round the problem.

That makes us think about how we deal with the problems in our workplace, whether it is with our superiors or our subordinates or our colleagues.

Or on a wider scale, our problems with anyone.

To just complain and get worked up and get frustrated would simply be aggravating the problem.

Like Daniel, we need to understand these people that we are having problems with.

To understand literally means to stand in their shoes.

That means that we have to let our guard down and take off our armour. That means to let go of our pride and our security.

That means we would have to be like the widow in the gospel who gave all that she had, and rely on the Lord to see her through the challenges and uncertainties of life.

It is only when we are down to nothing that God will come up with something.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Christ the King, Year B, 22-11-15

Daniel 7:13-14 / Apocalypse 1:5-8 / John 18:33-37

We are all very familiar with this name Pontius Pilate.
Every Sunday, in the Creed we will mention his name.
His name is well-known but not for a good reason.

Pontius Pilate went down into history as the governor who sentenced Jesus to death, even though he knew that Jesus was innocent.

Pontius Pilate had the authority to stop an injustice.
In fact he was supposed to stand for justice and truth.

But when Jesus told him that He came to bear witness to the truth and that all who stand on the side of truth listen to his voice, Pilate asked a very intriguing question.
Pilate asked Jesus: “Truth? What is that?”

So what is this truth that Jesus is talking about?
Do we know what this truth is?

We may tend to think that truth is some kind of religious precept or a moral principle.
We may think that truth is some kind of undeniable reality like for eg, the sun rises in the east and set in the west.

But for us Catholics, the first understanding of truth is that truth is found in the person of Jesus because He said: I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.

So if we follow Jesus and walk in the Truth, will we have justice and fairness in life?
Maybe, but not necessarily so.

Jesus Himself is the Truth, yet He suffered injustice under the hands of Pilate who was supposed to stand for justice.

In life we see injustice and unfairness happening too often and even over and over again.

For example, those who work hard get more work to do and are not promoted, whereas those who just talk a lot and curry favour from the boss get promoted.

The poor seemed to be always in debt and life seems to be so unfair to them.

Those who are sincere and honest seemed to be the ones who always get cheated by others.

The weak and the helpless are often bullied and made use of by the mighty and powerful.

In short, injustice and evil seem to be victorious over truth and justice and good.
So what do we have to say about this?

To console ourselves, we will say that God knows, God sees, and there will be retribution for others who do evil and injustice.

Yes, there can be retribution, but is that how we as disciples of Jesus, look at evil and injustice?

The truth that Jesus wants us to be convinced about is that there is resurrection and eternal life.

Even for Jesus, He faced injustice and evil right up till His death on the cross.

But even in the midst of the insults and the jeering and the taunting, there was a silent witness to the truth.

It was that humble notice that was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek, and what we come to know now as expressed in these four letters “INRI”.
“INRI” stems from the Latin phrase 'Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum' meaning “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”.

This was the notice Pontius Pilate had nailed on the cross. Even when the chief priests protested over the words and wanted it changed to “This man said: I am the king of the Jews”, Pilate stood his ground and said “What I have written, I have written.” This time Pilate was firm enough.

So Pilate may be remembered as the one who sentenced Jesus to death, but he was also the one who wrote the notice that proclaimed the truth of who Jesus is.

But it was a strange and contradictory sight – the notice proclaimed Jesus as king, but on the cross the King of the Jews was nailed and condemned to a shameful and cruel death.

But even if the forces of darkness seem to prevail, the truth is that evil and death do not have the final say.

Because Jesus rose from death and conquered sin and evil.
Jesus rose from death to become King of Glory, King of Truth, King of Life and King of Love.

So the plain and simple truth is this: Our sufferings on earth are nothing compared to the glory that is awaiting us in eternity.

Like Jesus our King, we might not see justice done to us while we are on earth.
But there will be justice for us in eternal life because Jesus is the King of justice.

So we must not be discouraged by injustice or unfairness throughout our lives.
But let us faithfully follow Jesus our King into His death and resurrection and glory and into eternity.

There in heaven, Jesus our King will wipe away our tears and heal our broken hearts.
There in the Kingdom of God, our names will be written forever in the Book of Life.
That is the truth, and it will stand forever. Let us believe that as we proclaim Jesus as the King of the universe.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Presentation of the B.V. Mary, Saturday, 21-11-15

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

The feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an event that is not recorded in the gospels.

But it is found in an extra-biblical source called the Infancy Narrative of James.

According to that text, Mary's parents, Joachim and Anne had been childless, but then they received a heavenly message that they would have a child.

In thanksgiving, they brought the child Mary to the Temple to consecrate her to the Lord.

It was believed that Mary remained in the Temple to be formed and prepared for her role as the Mother of God.

The focus of this feast is to show that even in her childhood Mary was completely dedicated to God. It is from this account that arose the feast of Mary's Presentation.

A further reflection on this feast would also make us think about the environment at home and the formation that we are giving our children and our family members.

The Christian home is to be a sanctuary of prayer where the members can grow in holiness and in the ways of the Lord.

When our will is nothing less than to do the will of God, then together with Mary, we will present our lives as an offering that is pleasing to God.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 20-11-15

1 Maccabees 4:36-37, 52-59 / Luke 6:1-13

One of the most difficult attitudes to confront, whether as a teenager or as an adult, is peer pressure.

If we want to stay in and with the crowd, if we want to be accepted by the rest, if we don't want to be the odd-one-out, then we just have to submit to peer pressure.

And that might mean staying silent and not doing anything even when we see injustice and oppression and corruption and immorality happening in front of us.

When Jesus walked into the Temple that day, He already knew that there was a price on his head; His life was at stake.

It was a day when He should take it easy, keep quiet and do nothing about the scandals and the irreverence and the profanity that were happening around Him.

But it was happening in the Temple, in His Father's house!

It was the same Temple that we heard about in the 1st reading that was rededicated with so much reverence and rejoicing after the pagans had desecrated it.

The people prostrated in adoration and praised God for being with them again, because the Temple symbolized the presence of God among them.

So when Jesus cleansed the Temple that day by driving out those who were selling and making use of the Temple for their profits, He not only drove out injustice and corruption, from the holy place.

He also restored the Temple to its sacred dignity as the dwelling place of God, a refuge for those in trouble and in need, and a sanctuary of life and love.

Jesus also wants to cleanse the Temple which is in our hearts.

Our hearts is the dwelling place of God. May we keep it holy and sacred, pure and filled with God's love always.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 19-11-15

1 Maccabees 2:15-29 / Luke 19:41-44

The law of nature can be simply stated like this: if we go against the law of nature we are asking for trouble!

Natural laws describe how many parts of the natural world work. Whether we call it a law, or a rule or a process, we know we can't change it, much less go against it.

Besides natural laws, there are also God's laws that need to be followed with faith. Of course, natural laws and God's laws do not contradict each other; rather they complement each other.

In the 1st reading we heard about one law coming face to face with another law. There were the commissioners of king Antiochus who were enforcing the law of imperial worship and the law of God's covenant with His people.

The choice is one or the other. There can be no two-timing when these laws are concerned. Its also a question of temporary gains over eternal rewards.

But the fundamental question is which law respects freedom without imposing oppression, and which law is merely human and which is divine.

Mattathias and his family had to flee to the mountains in order to be faithful to God, but they are at peace.

On the contrary Jesus wept for Jerusalem because they rejected the message of peace.

Jesus still weeps for us when we don't follow God's law. But the fact is that when we go against our own nature, we will not be at peace.

If we don't want to be weeping forever in eternity, then let us make the choice for the law that will lead us to God.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 18-11-15

2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31 / Luke 19:11-28

The word "accountability" is an often used word, not just in the secular world of banking and business, but also in religious institutions.

For all the things that went wrong and ended up with people losing their investments, for money that is not accounted for, for not doing a duty, someone or some people must be accountable.

The price of accountability can be anything from just a public verbal apology to even committing suicide to make amends.

In the Christian understanding of accountability, we acknowledged that God has endowed each of us with particular gifts.

It was God's initiative to grant us His gifts. Our accountability to God's gifts is that we use these gifts for His glory in the service of others.

We can be sure of this : what God has given, He will never take away or take it back.

So we can say that what is ours can never be taken away from us.

But we can just give it up ; we can just ignore it or neglect it.

In the 1st reading, we see how the mother and her seven sons did not give up what was theirs - their faith in God.

Not even torture or death could take it away from them.

On the other hand, the third servant in the gospel parable just ignored and neglected what was given to him.

The readings of today help us to reflect and think about what are the gifts that God has endowed us with.

We may be aware of some of these gifts ; others are waiting to be discovered as life unfolds.

Whatever it is, let us use our gifts generously for the glory of God  and for the service of others in their need.

For it is only in the glory of God, that man is fully alive and responding to the talents and gifts God has given him.

Monday, November 16, 2015

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-11-15

2 Maccabees 6:18-31 / Luke 18:35-43

We don't have all the answers about life, and it's better that we don't pretend that we have those answers about life. Also we can't pretend forever.

Nonetheless, the questions about life are certainly worth thinking about and we can't pretend we have no questions about life.

And these questions will certainly arise when we are faced with distress and mortal danger.

In the 1st reading, Eleazar, the venerable teacher of the Law, respected and dignified in his way of life, had to answer the questions about life as his own life hung in a balance.

He could have pretended to eat the forbidden food which would be substituted with a food that he would be allowed to eat.

But he won't be able to pretend that he didn't cause a scandal and had given the young people a bad example. And with that he had to give up his life to stand by the truth.

In the gospel, the senior tax collector Zacchaeus also decided to come to the truth about life and about himself.

He even went to the extent of climbing a sycamore tree, an act which would expose him to public view but he was prepared for it.

So Eleazar and Zacchaeus showed what it means to come out and stand by the truth and to face the questions of life.

We can't pretend we have no questions about life, nor can we pretend we have all the answers.

The one question that we have to ask ourselves is: do we want to stand by the truth, and stand by it all the time?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

33rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 16-11-15

1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57, 62-62 / Luke 18:35-43

Generally speaking, religion is beneficial for people because it teaches people to lead good and upright lives.

But the challenge of religion is that there are religious precepts to adhere to and it calls for faith to accept and keep those precepts.

It also does not mean that just because people believe in God, they will get whatever they want; man's ways are not necessarily God's ways.

Furthermore, when the ways of the world seems more attractive than the ways of God, then the temptation is to abandon the faith and follow the world.

That was the situation that the people of God faced in the 1st reading.

Bad motives and interests were challenging them to take their faith lightly, or even to abandon it totally.

It then went to the extent that the price of faith or religion became the price of one's life.

Some deemed that their lives and worldly benefits were more important, so they followed the king's decree.

Yet, there were many others who stood firm and chose death rather than violate the holy covenant God made with them.

Those who stood firm knew what they wanted and they listened to the voice of their faith rather than the voice of the world.

The blind man in today's gospel also knew what he wanted - that Jesus would take pity on him and let him see again.

But the voices and the scoldings of the people around him could have drowned out his voice.

But let us remember that God hears the small soft voices of the poor and oppressed and those in need.

The powerful and mighty voices of the world will tell us to shut-up and keep quiet. Do we dare to do otherwise?

But do we really know what we want? Do we really know who is the real Lord and Master of the world?

Jesus is asking us : What do you want Me to do for you?

May we respond with this simple prayer to the Lord:
Lord, be our strength when we are weak,
Be our light when we are in darkness,
Show us the way when we are lost,
Give us courage when we are afraid. Amen

33rd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 15-11-15

Daniel 12:1-3 / Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 / Mark 13:24-32

If you are the business-minded type and you’re thinking of setting up your own business, what business would you want to go into?

Maybe it will depend on what skills and talents you have.

So if you are a good cook, then you may want to set up a shop in the food court or hawker centre to start your food business.

If sewing and designing clothes are your kind of thing, then you might consider the tailoring line.

But if I were to go into business, can you guess what kind of business I will venture into?
Well to begin with, I don’t have any specialized skills to start a business enterprise.
And I can’t hire out my priestly services; it’s a free service.

But if I were to start a business, I think I will rent a small little shop in a big shopping centre like Plaza Sing, and I will sell DVDs. Yes, I think I will sell DVDs of movies.
Sell movie DVDs?  Will that be a good business?

After all there is already the TV, cable TV, the cinemas and movies on the internet.
Why would people buy a copy of a movie when they could watch it on YouTube, or for that matter of fact, when they have already watched it in the cinema?

Other than watching the movie again at one’s convenience, is there any other reason for buying DVDs?

Well I have to admit that I too have a collection of movies on DVDs. 
By and large, all these movies I have already watched before at the cinemas. 

So why am I keeping a copy of a movie that I have already watched before?
Maybe just for memories, and for old times' sake.

But there is also another reason.  Most of us want to see and hear a story in which we know how it is going to end.

Yes, we want to see a movie in which we already know how it is going to end.

And why is it so?  Simply because our present reality is filled with unpredictability and uncertainty.

For eg. this year’s haze was bad. How would it be next year?
And we don’t like this unpredictability, this uncertainty; it’s a rather scary feeling.
So we console ourselves with something that we have control over; like watching the movies in which we know how the ending will be.

All this points to one of our strongest human urgings.
And that is, when we are going through an anxious, stressed-up and difficult time, we want to know when it will end, and how it will end.

For example, when students are having their examinations.  Their anxieties won’t be over when their examinations are over.
It will be over when their results are out, and with that, the time of reckoning.

In today’s gospel, Jesus talked about a time of reckoning.
Preceding this time of reckoning is a time of distress when even the heavens will be shaken.
And then Jesus will come up with great power and glory to gather His chosen ones.

What Jesus said in today’s gospel, gives us a clarity in the direction of our lives.
Jesus was clear enough in telling us that there will be distress in our lives.
We can’t avoid it, and consulting horoscopes and palm-readers can’t prevent it; in fact doing this only adds to our anxiety.

But we would like to understand and comprehend the contradictions and tragedies of life. Because if everything happens for a reason, then we would like to know the reason.

There is this story about a monastery in the outskirts of a village.
News came that invading troops were plundering the other nearby villages.
The abbot and his monks urged the villagers to flee to the mountains to save their lives.
But the villagers wanted to stay and fight the enemy.
The abbot and the monks had no choice but to leave and take refuge in the safety of the nearby mountains.
From there, they watched the enemy troops coming and plundering the village.
As they watched the carnage that was happening, the abbot said:  I wish I were God.
His monks asked:  So that you can stop that tragedy?
The abbot replied: No, so that I know why that is happening.  So that I can understand.

When we meet with unfaithfulness in marriage, grave illnesses, family problems, work difficulties and those things that we cannot understand or comprehend why it is happening, what will be our Christian response?

Do we still dare to walk on in faith and look forward in hope?
Faith in what?  Hope in what?  Let me share with you this poem about the “Folded Page”:

 “Up in the attic of an old house,
as raindrops pattered down on the roof,
I sat paging through my old schoolbook.

“I came to a page that was folded down.
Across it was written in my own childish hand:
‘The teacher says we should leave this for now.
It’s too hard to understand.’

“I unfolded the page and read it.
Then I smiled and nodded my head and said,
‘The teacher was right; now I understand.’

“There are many pages in the book of life
that are hard to understand.
All we can do is fold them down and write:
‘The Master says to leave this for now.
It’s too hard to understand.’

“Then, someday in heaven,
we’ll unfold the pages, reread them, and say,
‘The Master was right; now I truly understand.’

Yes, one day we will understand why what is happening is happening.
Things happen not just for a reason; they happen because there is a meaning, just like all the scenes in a good movie have a connection and a meaning.

In a way we are like still watching the movie of our lives. But this is one movie that we are assured of a glorious ending.
Jesus promised us that it will be a glorious ending. We have His word for it. And His word will not pass away.

Friday, November 13, 2015

32nd Sunday, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 14-11-15

Wisdom 13:1-9 / Luke 17:26-37

God listens to our prayers. And He would certainly pay attention to an earnest and persevering prayers.

And if we think that God is not answering our prayers, then maybe we have to what our prayers are all about.

In other words, do we listen to our own prayers?

Prayer is not about trying to change God's mind.

It could be rather strange to think that if we say long and persistent prayers, God will finally give in and grant us what we want.

That would make prayer look like some kind of mechanism that will make God do something for us.

But prayer is actually a unifying power and makes us partners with God to ensure that His will is done on earth.

This may mean that we become able to accept what cannot be changed; or it may mean that we are given courage to attain what we thought was beyond our strength.

In either case, our earnest and persevering prayer will bring our wills into conforming with God's will, and it is God's " to see justice done, and done speedily".

Thursday, November 12, 2015

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-11-15

Wisdom 13:1-9 / Luke 17:26-37

The term "philosophy" comes from two Greek words - philo and sophia.

It means the love for knowledge.

The ancient Greeks were known for laying down philosophical foundations with well-known philosophers like Aristotle and Plato.

One subject that was investigated by philosophy was the discussion on the existence of God.

So can the existence of God be proved? To a certain extent it can. But yet these are not infallible proofs.

The 1st reading says that men tend to believe more in the things that they can see rather on what they cannot see, and they even held these as gods who govern the world.

It is a typical case of men being awed by creation and forget about the Creator.

So in their search for God and eagerness to find Him, they went astray because they see so much beauty in creation.

Yet if men are capable of acquiring so much knowledge, how is it that they have been so slow to find the Creator of creation?

For us who believe in God as the Creator, an even greater challenge exist in the form of monotony and complacency.

Our faith in God may plateau off and become mundane and we take it easy on the spiritual life and look for excitement in the things of the world.

Eventually, we lose focus on God and time will just slip away as we run faster in the rat race of the world.

As it is, we need to remember that he who wins the rat race is ... still a rat!

But God created us with wisdom and intelligence to come to know Him, love Him and serve Him.

And may we always give thanks to God for the beauty we see around us and for all the goodness we have receive from Him

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-11-15

Wisdom 7:22 - 8:1 / Luke 17:20-25

Books and movies about prophesies and predicting the future are usually of much interest to people.

Maybe because it is our human  tendency to want to have a hold on the future in order to have a sense of security.

Yet we may get so engrossed about the future that we may lose hold of the present.

We may forget to live in the here and now.

That was what Jesus meant when He said that the Kingdom of God is among you.

In other words, God's Kingdom is in the present and in the now, and God's name is "I AM".

God wants to be present in the now of our lives and it is in the here and now that God reveals Himself to us.

Our present situation and circumstances may not be very rosy. We may be struggling with our difficulties and worries.

Yet it is in those difficulties and worries that God wants to make Himself present to us in order to reveal to us His saving power.

It is only when we walk with God in the present that we can have the hope and courage to walk into the future.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 11-11-15

Wisdom 6:1-11 / Luke 17:11-19

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power. (Abraham Lincoln)

But with power comes responsibilities; the greater the power, the greater the responsibility.

It is said that power corrupts a person. But the truth is that it is the person who corrupts the power given to him.

From whichever means the power is acquired, it will corrupt and become destructive if that person does not have the wisdom to use it.

The 1st reading is from the book of Wisdom, and it has this to say: Listen, kings and understand ... power is a gift to you from the Lord.

And with that comes the warning to govern wisely and justly, because strict scrutiny awaits those in power.

The 1st reading also used a very strong word - "despots" (a ruler or other person who holds absolute power, typically one who exercises it in a cruel or oppressive way)

People become as such when they do not think or realize that power is a gift and they think that it is a right that they had acquired.

Similarly, in the gospel, the nine lepers who were cured might have thought that they deserved it because they took the trouble to go to Jesus and asked to be healed.

But only one came back to Jesus to give thanks. And even Jesus wondered what happened to those nine lepers who were cured.

We may not be in a position of great power or authority. But it is in our power to give thanks to God for His blessings. May we not neglect or forget to give thanks to God. Because it shows who we are and what kind of faith we have

Monday, November 9, 2015

32nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 10-11-15

Wisdom 2:23 - 3:9 / Luke 17:7-10   (2013, 2019)

Our beliefs and our destiny have an intricate connection.

Our beliefs shape our destiny, not just our destiny in this life, but also our destiny in the life to come.

Because out of our beliefs flows our actions. Our actions slowly form our character, and by our character we build our destiny.

For example, if someone believes that a good education can make life better for himself as well as for others, he would take his studies seriously.

When he begins to realise that reading widely and deeply has enhanced his understanding of life and of himself, his studies begin to shape his character.

When he has attained a high educational standard, he may even see that he can indeed make life better and more meaningful for himself as well as for others by being a teacher so as to impart his knowledge to others.

This is just a simple secular example of what is meant by our beliefs shape our destiny.

The 1st reading tells us that God made us imperishable; He made us in the image of His own nature.

But it was the devil's envy that brought death into the world.

In other words, sin has distorted our beliefs as well as amplified our doubts.

Sin has also robbed us of our destiny, the destiny to be fully human and to be fully loving.

That is why Jesus tells us in today's gospel that we are merely servants.

No doubt, we are made in the image of God's nature, and God's nature is love.

Hence, to love God and to love others is our duty, because we are servants of love, and we can't expect a reward for it.

When we heed the call to this duty of love, we begin to build our destiny, our destiny in this life and also in the life to come.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, Monday, 09-11-15

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

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome because it is the head and mother church of all churches in the world.

The fact is that the Basilica of St. John Lateran is the Pope’s cathedral because St. John Lateran's Basilica is the Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope.

The first basilica on the site was built in the 4th century when the Roman emperor Constantine donated land he had received from the wealthy Lateran family.

That structure and its successors suffered fire, earthquake and the ravages of war, but the Lateran remained the Church where popes were consecrated until the popes returned from Avignon in the 14th century, after which they resided in St. Peter's.

The dedication of this Church is a feast for all Roman Catholics because St. John Lateran is the parish church of all Catholics since it is the pope's cathedral.

This church is the spiritual home of the people who belong to the Roman Catholic Church.

In celebrating the dedication of the Pope’s cathedral, we show our unity with the Pope and our love and respect for him, as well as our obedience and faithfulness to the teachings of the Catholic Church.

It also shows that we are united with each other in the  Universal Church. St. Paul described this unity in the Church in the 2nd reading as God's Temple with the Spirit of God living in us and uniting us.

Henceforth, it is our duty and mission to keep ourselves free of sin and defilement so as not to turn God's house into a market or, worst still, into a thieves' den.

More importantly, we must be united in heart and mind, and worship in Spirit and truth, so that the Church would be like what is described as the Temple in the 1st reading - with living waters flowing out to bring about healing and reconciliation, and bearing fruits of life and love.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

32nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 08.11.2015

1 Kings 17:10-16 / Hebrews 9:24-28 / Mark 12:38-44

Just about a month back, the most talked about abbreviation is the PSI. PSI stands for Pollutant Standards Index, which is a number used to provide the public with an easily understandable indicator of how polluted the air is.

But now that the air has cleared, the PSI is no more a burning issue (literally).

But even when it was at a record high of 300+, some people can still make some humour out of it:

“Haze is so bad, when I ordered some raw sashimi, it turned into smoked salmon when it reached my table.”

“The Singapore Flyer was built to blow the haze away.” “Gardens by the Bay became Gardens by the haze!”

A chocolate maker had this slogan: "Haze driving you nuts? Have a Haze-lnut."

And when the PSI was indicating a serious problem, then the solution was the N95.

The N95 mask was like the most sought after commodity, and when demand exceeds supply, then the price hike kicks in.

So it seemed that for a health hazard like the haze which affects everybody, the question of protection lies in affordability – we get an N95 mask if we have the money for it.

And if we were living near the source of the haze where the PSI is in the range of 1000, would we ever think of giving the mask to someone who needs it? 

In the 1st reading, we heard about the prophet Elijah asking for food and water from a widow.

We must remember it was a time of famine, there was a severe food shortage because there was a severe drought for 7 years. So there was no rain, no crops and no food.

As for the widow, she was going to prepare the last meagre meal for herself and her son and after that there will be nothing left to eat. They will just wait to die of hunger.

Yet when Elijah asked for food, that widow, despite her desperately hopeless situation, shared the last of what she had to eat.

For her generosity in that kind of extreme situation, she was rewarded with the miracle of a jar of meal and a jar of oil that would allow her and her son to survive the famine.

Yes, miracles happen in extreme circumstances, but only when people are willing to make the sacrifice.

In the gospel, we heard of yet another widow who gave all she had to God - just two small coins, two small coins of the smallest denomination.

Jesus acknowledged her generosity, saying that from the little she had, she gave it all, even what she had to live on.

We do not know what happened to that poor widow as the gospel made no further mention of her.

But what do we think? Will God bless her for her generosity? Will God provide for her needs now that she has nothing left?

We might be thinking, that poor widow should have kept at least one coin for herself in order to buy some food, isn't it?

Whatever we might be thinking, the widow in the 1st reading and the poor widow in the gospel certainly gave us an example of radical generosity.

What the two widows gave was hardly anything of value in normal circumstances - just a bit of food and two small coins that hardly worth anything.

But what was given was desperately needed by the two widows. It was a sacrifice because they had to let go of it.

Very often, we who have much more, somehow believe very little in God's promise of providence. Because letting go is so hard to do.

There is a story that is simply titled "The Rope". It begins with a mountain climber who wanted to climb the highest mountain.

Since he wanted the glory just for himself, he decided to climb the mountain alone.

So he climbed and climbed, and even right into the night he climbed, even though he couldn't see much in that pitch darkness.

As he hastened his climb to the summit, he suddenly slipped and fell into thin air. Great fear seized him as his life flashed before him.

As he kept falling into certain death, suddenly he felt the rope that was tied to his waist pulled him very hard.

His body was hanging in the air with only the rope holding him, and in desperation he cried out "Help me, O God, help me!"

Suddenly in that pitch darkness, a deep voice came from the skies "How do you want me to help you?"

The man was surprised but he quickly answered "Save me, O God, save me!"

The voice said "Do you really believe that I can save you?"  The man answered, "Yes, yes, I believe, I believe!"

The voice said, "Then do as I tell you. Cut away the rope that is tied to your waist."

There was a moment of silence. The man decided to hold on to the rope with all his might.

The next day, the rescue team saw an intriguing sight. The climber was found dead and frozen, his body hanging from a rope with his hands holding it tight. His body was only 10 feet from the ground.

Indeed, letting go is hard to do. But it is in letting go that we live and become alive.

Jesus had said that he who tries to save his life will lose it, but he who gives up his life for Jesus will save it.

The widow of Sidon in the 1st reading tells us this truth. We can also say the same of the widow in the gospel that God will provide for her.

And we can also say that God will provide for us. Yet like the two widows, we have to learn to let go.

We have to learn to let go of ourselves and give ourselves to others - our life, our love, our time, our energy.

Every little sacrifice is appreciated by Jesus, just like how He commended that poor widow on her offering.

When we surrender everything into God’s hand, then we will see God’s hand in everything.

No matter how hazy it is, we will see God’s hand in everything.

Friday, November 6, 2015

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 07-11-15

Romans 16:3-9, 16, 22-27 / Luke 16:9-15

The reality of death happens everyday. Not one day has passed where there are no obituaries in the newspapers.

Yet, because it happens so frequently, we have become immune to it, we are not that affected by it anymore, unless it happens to our close ones.

As it is, most of us believe that we will see tomorrow, that we won't die so soon.

There is a poster in the office of a hospice and it reads like this : We are not here to add days to our life, but life to our days.

Indeed, it is so true. Our days are limited and we should really live out those days fully.

Not just enjoying life, but to discover in this life, what eternity is all about, and to discover in this life what really has eternal value.

In the secular sense, it may be seen as a choice of value. But in the spiritual sense, it is about the choice of masters.

So the question from today's gospel is this: Who is the master in charge of my life?

If money is my master, then I will be dishonest, I will cheat, I will lie, I scheme and do anything and everything just to have money for my security. But of course in doing so, I might still exist but I am spiritually dead.

On the other hand, when I choose Jesus to be my Master, then I also will choose to be loving, to be forgiving, to be compassionate, to be honest.

Life for me might be difficult and I might seem to be like a loser, but I will be at peace with God and with the people around me.

So life essentially is a series of choices.

Life is not lost by dying.
Life is lost, minute by minute
day by day
in all those unloving, uncaring and unforgiving ways

Thursday, November 5, 2015

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 06-11-15

Romans 15:14-21 / Luke 16:1-8

As we read today's gospel, an impulsive question that one might ask is this - Why did the master praise the dishonest steward? And why would Jesus tell such a parable?

But we need to understand the parable clearly. The master did not praise the steward for his dishonesty. Rather he praised him for his astuteness.

And that is the point that Jesus is making. The steward was shrewd and had foresight in securing his future needs.

Jesus further elaborated that the children of the world are more creative and innovative when it comes to thinking of ways to make money, to get well connected with the influential and powerful and to be well-off.

Jesus seemed to be making a lament when He said that the children of this world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than the children of light.

If we truly heed the teaching of Jesus, we would surely start to build on the things that we cannot lose, on the things of eternity.

Furthermore, we would be more careful and faithful in being stewards of the kingdom of God.

What would that entail? The last line of the 1st reading would give us an idea and a direction.

Those who have never been told about Him will see Him, and those who have never heard about Him will understand.

As Pope Paul VI said : Lay people, whose particular vocation places them in the midst of the world, and who are in charge of the most varied temporal tasks, must for this very reason, exercise a very special form of evangelization.

We need not be astute or shrewd. We only need to be sincere and honest and faithful. That is what we need to be in order to be assured of our eternal future.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 05-11-15

Romans 14:7-12 / Luke 15:1-10

There had been many suggestions as to what is the most important verse or phrase in the Bible.

Well, the top contender seems to be John 3:16-17, follow by a host of profound Bible verses and passages.

Chapter 15 of the gospel of St. Luke may sound rather ordinary and today's gospel passage may just be about parables.

But nonetheless, today's gospel passage reflects the essential message of the the Bible, and that is, it emphatically illustrates God's inexplicable and infinite love to save every man and woman whom He created in His image and likeness.

There are only 3 parables in Chapter 15 of the gospel of Luke - the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, the Prodigal Son.

The scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus for always being in the company of sinners and ritually impure people and the so-called bad company.

But Jesus always had a very deep compassion towards these so-called sinners. He even said that it is not the well who need a doctor but the ill.

Even this aspect of Jesus is not often understood by us who are His disciples.

Because we too have this tendency to criticize and judge others according to our standards or beliefs.

Certainly this is not something new, because even the 1st reading reminds the Romans, as well as reminds us, not to pass judgement  on a brother or treat him with contempt.

We may be able to quote the profound verses and remember the important passages of the Bible.

May we also remember to put the core message of love in the Bible into our lives as disciples of Jesus.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 04-11-15

Romans 13:8-10 / Luke 14:25-33

Being in debt is certainly not a situation that we want to be in.

Being in debt usually means that we owe some money to someone and that we have to resolve the debt within a certain time frame or as soon as possible.

It may also indicate that we are not in a good financial situation or that we are not managing our finances well.

The 1st reading begins by telling us to avoid getting into debt. But it also gives another dimension to the understanding of debt - the spiritual dimension of the debt of mutual love.

It means that we are obligated to repay the debt of love to our neighbour. But how did we incur this debt of love?

It is because God loved us first and hence we are now obligated to love our neighbour. And love is the one thing that cannot hurt our neighbour. It is also the answer to every one of the commandments.

As much as the commandments tell us what not to do, it is like directional signs that tell us where not to go, and we are left in a standstill as in where to go and what to do.

As how the gospel parable puts it, we don't want to start building something and then stop halfway because of funds or wrong architectural  plans or whatever.

We want to move on in life and keep building our lives with meaning and direction.

But that would mean that we repay the debt of love to our neighbour. God freely gave us His love. We too must free give love to our neighbour. That is the only debt that we should be in.

Monday, November 2, 2015

31st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 03-11-15

Romans 12:5-16 / Luke 14:15-24

One of the uncomfortable experiences is to be in a place where you are new but everybody knows each other.

One example of this kind of experience is the first day at work in a new place.

We just long for someone to come and talk with us and show us how things are done and guide us along the way.

In such times, we can say that we are quite vulnerable.

We can be vulnerable to people who might befriend us but with vested interests and ulterior motives.

In the 1st reading, we are told not to let our love be a pretence. In other words, our love and concern should be real and genuine.

Hence, we must examine our motives for helping others. We also must not make excuses for not helping others when we can.

When we help others out of love and care for them, it is not for gain but to give.

To give love will cost us - it will cost us our time, it will cost us our energy, it will cost us our very selves.

Let us remember that Jesus loved us and it also cost Him His life.

But when we love others as Jesus loved us, then we have said "Yes" to the invitation to the banquet of love.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

All Souls Day, Monday, 02-11-15

Isaiah 25:6-9 / Romans 5:5-11 / John 6:37-40

Today, we the Church observe All Souls Day and we commemorate the faithful departed and we remember them in our prayers and especially at Mass.

Yesterday, we the Church, joined with all the Saints who already rejoice in heaven, and today we unite ourselves spiritually with all those who are being purified in Purgatory, so that they may join the saints and angels of the heavenly city in time to come.

Today, as we remember our departed loved ones and the faithful departed, we not only call to mind their memory, but more importantly we also offer Mass and prayers for them.

That is indeed a great act of faith in that we believe that our prayers can help those in Purgatory and that one day they too, will enter the heavenly city and enjoy eternal rest and peace.

This act of faith stems from our belief in the Resurrection, that Jesus died and rose again, and that God is God not of the dead but of the living.

Indeed, the departed do not just vanish out of sight and hence out of mind. In faith and in prayer, we are connected to them and it is by the love of God that we the living are united with the departed.

Visiting the departed at the cemetery or at the columbarium is a very profound sign that we are still in relationship with the departed as well as an affirmation of the fact that they are spiritually alive.

Although death leaves a heartache no one can heal, yet prayers offered with love leave a memory for the departed that no one can steal.

Yet, let us remember that "death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come" (Tagore).

May our departed loved ones, and the faithful departed, rest in God's peace and may eternal light shine on them.