Monday, August 31, 2015

22nd, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 01-09-15

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

It is when people are saying "How quiet and peaceful it is" that the worst suddenly happens. That is one of the statements from the 1st reading.

That may be similar to what they say about the lull before the storm. It is also a strategy used in warfare to attack the enemy when the enemy is most unprepared and not alert.

It seems to be such a drastic contrast that when things are quiet and peaceful, it is also a time that chaos and havoc can spring up suddenly.

The point in the 1st reading was the call to stay awake and sober, and not to slide to complacency and carelessness and forget that we are called to greater and higher things in life.

The urgency of the call is not for a later time or to be postponed, but it is for an immediate response.

In the gospel, as the people came to the synagogue for a time of prayer, they were expecting a time of quiet and peace.

But that was shattered when a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil shouted at Jesus with the top of its voice.

The people could be shocked by it, or perturbed or irritated or agitated by it, and the initial reaction would be to drag that possessed man out of the synagogue and restore the quiet and peace.

But let us remember that peace is not the absence of disturbance. Rather peace is about being aware of THE Presence.

In the gospel, the presence of Jesus drove out the evil from the possessed man. May the presence of Jesus also bring about peace and quiet in our hearts amidst the chaos and havoc around us.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 31-08-15

1 Thess 4:13-18 / Luke 4:16-30

Life and death may sound like opposites. But there is also a ironic connection between life and death.

That connection is put into quotes like: If you don't live for something, you will die for nothing.

So as much as the finality of life ends with death, yet life without a purpose is also a life that is meaningless. In that sense death has already taken place.

With that we may understand what St Paul said in the 1st reading: We want you to be quite certain about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope.

He was referring to those who have come to believe in Jesus during their lifetime and have died.

It was because of their faith that they had the hope that death would be the passage to the glory that Jesus had promised them in the afterlife.

And Jesus Himself, in the gospel, had this great vision to live for as He proclaimed that passage from the prophet Isaiah.

It was really something to look forward to, something great to live for and Jesus knew that He was the one who is to bring and as well as to be the Good News to the poor.

So the rejection from the people of His home-town was not going to deter Him nor was He going to let them end His life just like that.

Jesus had something great to live for, and in the end He had something even greater to die for.

He died in order to save us so that in turn we can bring the Good News to others and even be the Good News for others. That is really something to live for. To wait further is to let death push us down the cliff.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 30.08.2015

Deut 4:1-2, 6-8 / James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 / Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23

The word “smart” is generally used to describe the intelligence level of some people.

When we say that a person is smart, it would mean that the person is clever, bright, intelligent, sharp-witted, quick-witted and maybe even shrewd and astute.

And if we say that a person looks smart, it means that the person is neat and well-dressed and maybe even stylish. But that’s only for the looks; it does not say much about the intelligence.

Nowadays the word “smart” is not just used to for people but also for devices and appliances.

So there is the smart phone, the smart TV, the smart car, and whatever they could make smart and smarter.

But no matter how smart things can become, they depend on one thing – that little chip that is called the CPU (central processing unit).

So smart devices or appliances can’t choose to do whatever they like. They can only do what they are programmed to do, and we can’t tell them to do otherwise.

So there is no point shouting at the computer or handphone or calling it “stupid”. They are only following their programmed instructions and they will stick to it.

In a way we can call them “robots of habit” – they will just do what they have been programmed to do and they won’t ask why. They can’t.

In today’s gospel passage, we heard the Pharisees and scribes asking Jesus why His disciples do not wash their hands before eating, and hence not respecting the tradition of the elders.

Jesus called them hypocrites, because they were only interested in regulations and traditions.

Putting it in another way, the scribes and Pharisees are like “robots of rituals”.

They have been programmed by human regulations and human traditions which they follow meticulously.

And these “robots of rituals” can also talk – they criticize others for not following the programmed regulations and traditions.

And the quotation from the prophet Isaiah sums up the crux of the matter : These people honour me only with lip-service, while their hearts are far from me.

In other words, the scribes and Pharisees follow the regulations and traditions like “robots of rituals” and they can even criticize others for not doing so.

But the heart is not there. Just like robots have no heart; they only a CPU that runs the program.

While regulations and traditions have a useful purpose and rituals can help to sanctify, it is the heart that matters.

Because it is the heart that gives life to regulations and traditions and rituals, and then they become expressions of love.

Without the heart, we become like “robots of rituals” that only look smart but with no meaning or understanding.

There was once a monastery, where the abbot had a very punctual cat. Every morning, just before prayer, it would begin wonder around and distract the monks.

After a few weeks of this irritating habit, the abbot gave permission for the cat to be tied up. After a few years, the abbot died, and the cat outlived him, and the practice to tie up the cat continued. Eventually, the cat died.

The monks of the monastery, upon realising that there was no cat to tie up before prayer, brought in another cat, and so, every morning, the cat would be tied up so that prayers could go ahead.

The tradition continued and original cord that was used to tie up the cat was revered as a relic. Books on devotions and novenas were written on the spiritual significance of tying a cat before prayers. 

Prayers to the “holy cat” were compiled and studied devotedly and pictures of the cat were being mass produced.

Just a story to show how absurd traditions can become and people can turn into “robots of rituals”.

And this can even happen at Mass. We come for Mass and a programme kicks in and we become “robots of rituals”.

We know when to stand, when to sit, when to kneel, when to say “Amen” and when to take out some money to put into the collection bag.

But is there anything happening to our hearts? Do our hearts feel the love of God that makes us aware of the sinfulness that is lurking in our hearts?

Jesus pointed out what could be the sinfulness of our hearts – fornication, theft, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.

All these make our hearts unclean but we come before the Lord in the Mass so that He can cleanse our hearts with the precious blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross.

When we want to be cleansed, then our hearts will change. We won’t be “robots of rituals”; we become God’s holy people and we offer a worship that is pleasing to God as we offer to God a humble and contrite heart.

We are not called to be smart. We are called to be holy so that we will be holy in our worship and in our relationships and we become truly human and we will also become truly loving.

Then we will be able to cleanse this world of sin and evil, and we will also help to turn robotic human beings into persons of love.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Passion of St. John the Baptist, Saturday, 29-08-15

Jeremiah 1:17-19 / Mark 6:17-29

Today's gospel for the memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist has a rather intriguing sentence that sticks out like an extra digit on a finger of a hand.

The mood of the passage would have flowed quite well except for this sentence: When he heard him speak, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him.

Why was Herod perplexed when he listened to John the Baptist speak, and yet he liked to listen to him?

Given the historical facts about Herod, it would be quite obvious that he would have ordered the head of John the Baptist to be lopped off before he could finish saying anything about Herod and Herodias.

But Herod being Herod, he probably wanted to watch John the Baptist die a slow and painful death for saying such embarrassing things about him.

Yet, that hideous desire slowly became a great perplexity for him. But he still liked to listen to John the Baptist.

Logically it may sound strange but that's the power of the Word of God.  It comforts those who are disturbed but disturbs those who are comfortable.

And the Word of God is to be proclaimed by prophets such as John the Baptist and by Jeremiah (1st reading).

And the Word of God is to be proclaimed by us who are baptized into the prophetic mission of Jesus.

It may mean that we are to stick out and cause others to be perplexed. But deep in the heart of hearts we still want to hear the Word of God. The question is what are we going to do about it?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 28-08-15

1 Thess 4:1-8 / Matthew 25:1-13

There is this quote from an unknown Greek poet : "I shall walk this way but once, therefore, whatever good I may do, let me do it now, for I shall never walk this way again."

It is a very profound reflection because it is so true that we only live this life but once, there is no going back, and yet there is so much to give to life and to learn from it.

Cardinal John Henry Newman had this to say: God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another.

Indeed, as we journey on in this life, there is so much to learn and there is so much to give when we realized how much we have received.

Only if and when we realized how much we have received and to use it wisely and to be holy in all that we do.

As the 1st reading puts it, what God wants is for all of us to be holy.

Today we celebrate the memorial of St. Augustine.

In his early years, he knew about God from his mother St. Monica, but he didn't want to have anything to do with God, until much later in his life.

And when he started searching for God, God was right there for him.

His sombre reflection about his journey of conversion was worded like this:

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you.

May we always remember that we walk this way once and will never walk this way again.

Whatever good we can do, whatever love we can give, let us do it now.

There is always the work of love to carry out, and we will not rest until our hearts find rest in the Lord.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 27-08-15

1 Thess 3:7-13 / Matthew 24:42-51

When the clouds are heavy, the rains come down. (Ecclesiastes 11:3). Similarly when the heart is heavy, the tears will fall.

The earth has received many tears from humanity since time began and the tears have yet to cease.

We shed tears when in pain; we shed tears when in grief and sorrow; we shed tears when overcome by emotions. When the heart is heavy, the tears will fall.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul mentioned a little about his own troubles and sorrows but with not much details.

But in other letters to the other early Christian communities, he did mention about shedding tears for them.

To shed tears over our own trials and tribulations is understandable; but to shed tears for someone would mean that the person(s) really matter to us.

Such was the story of St. Monica in her prayer for the conversion of her son St. Augustine.  St. Monica never gave up her prayers for her son. She would fast, cry and beg God for her son’s conversion. Legend says that a drain formed in the ground where her tears fell while she prayed for her son. St. Monica approached the local bishop and ask him to win her son over to the faith.

The bishop would often console her saying, “God’s time will come. Go now, it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish”. St. Monica was a mother who never gave up.

In a way, it can be said that St. Monica "stayed awake" and kept waiting for God's time to come. Her tears for her son St. Augustine saved him from possible "weeping and grinding of teeth".

May we also stay awake at all times, praying and making sacrifices for others, so that their tears will cease, and so that there will be no more weeping and grinding of teeth.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 26-08-15

1 Thess 2:9-13 / Matthew 23:27-32

It is said that the greatest tragedy in life is not death, but life without a purpose. (Myles Munroe)

And by the fact that we are here early in the morning for Mass indicates that we have a purpose in life, or many purposes in life, and we come to the Lord first for directions in life.

So our direction in life is very much determined by our purpose in life, which in turn is very much determined by what we believe in.

Some may believe in the power of riches and wealth and so their purpose in life would be to gain as much money as possible and that would be the direction that they take.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that the Good News that he brought to them was to help them to live a life worthy of God, who is calling them to share in the glory of His kingdom.

And they have accepted it as God's message and not some human thinking, and it became a living power among them who believed in it.

When we believe in the power of the Good News, then we too would want to live a life worthy of God and look forward to the eternal glory of His kingdom.

We will be able to see that the things of this world are passing and we use them for God's glory and to serve the people around us so that they too will come to believe in the living power of the Good News.

To be stuck with the things of this world is, like what Jesus said in the gospel, to be pretty like the whitewashed tombs. That would be the greatest tragedy in life.

Monday, August 24, 2015

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 25-08-15

1 Thess 2:1-6 / Matthew 23:23-26

To speak politely and gently is certainly a good trait and it is an expression of the character and the attitude of the person.

It is certainly very pleasant to talk with such a person and we would be open to the opinions and suggestions of that person.

On the other hand, a person who is frank and straight-forward and who calls a spade a spade may be too much for our liking.

But as St. Paul said to the Thessalonians in the 1st reading, "You  know very well, and we can swear it before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money, nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men ... "

What St. Paul is saying is that he may have sounded frank and straight-forward and his words may not be too pleasing to the ears, but he is sincere and that he has no ulterior motives or vested interests or deception.

What he preached to them was the Good News and that in itself was good enough. There is no need to sugar-coat the message or to flatter the listeners in order for them to accept it.

And like what Jesus said in the gospel, the power of the Good News will cleanse the inside of the cup and dish.

Our hearts must be cleansed by the Good News and be filled with its message, and from the bounty of our hearts we will speak.

And we will not have to worry about what to say or how to say it. When our hearts are filled with the Good News, the Holy Spirit will put the words into our mouths.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, Monday, 24-08-15

Apocalypse 21:9-14 / John 1:45-51

St Bartholomew was from Cana in Galilee, and he was often identified as Nathaniel because the Gospel according to Matthew listed him together with Philip as one of the first apostles chosen by Christ.

From the gospel, we can make a presumption of what kind of character he was.

For one, he was a straight-forward person, who says what he means and means what he says.

We can make that presumption when he made that statement: Can anything good come from Nazareth?

Nonetheless, he was an open-minded person because he followed Philip to see who that person Jesus was.

He was also a person of prayer, as attested to by Jesus, because to sit under a fig tree means to be under its shade of coolness and to pray and meditate on God's righteousness.

So in effect, Jesus was affirming Bartholomew about his character. It was like He knew what kind of a person Bartholomew really was.

Similarly, Jesus also knows each of us through and through and He also wants to affirm our goodness.

Like St. Bartholomew, let us continue to follow Jesus as He reveals Himself to us.

May we also come to know ourselves deeper and be strengthened in our goodness.

May we also always meditate on God's righteousness and proclaim it in our lives.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 23.08.2015

Joshua 24:1-2, 15-18 / Ephesians 5:21-32 / John 6:60-69

Language is made of words by which we communicate with one another.

It is not a matter of how many languages we know but how well we can use a language to communicate with others.

But as much as we should use simple words so that others can understand what we are saying, language can be quite a complex matter.

There is politically correct language. So a short person is not called short but vertically challenged.

Or a fat person is not called fat but horizontally challenged. And the homeless are called residentially flexible. 

Why are those terms called politically correct is logically challenging – it has got nothing to do with politics or correctness.

It may sound nice but whether it is clear or not is another matter. 

When it comes to language, it is said that if we can’t say it simply enough, then it may mean that we don’t have a good command of the language.

Because language to the mind is more than light to the eye.

So there is simple language that enables us to speak the same language and we understand and get connected.

And then there is abusive language and foul language that contains swear words or “f” words that are repulsive that does no good to anyone at all.

And in today’s gospel, we hear of another description of language – intolerable language.

That was how some of the followers of Jesus described His doctrine of the living bread that came down from heaven.

Jesus said that He is the living bread that came down from heaven, and the bread that He gives is His flesh for the life of the world.

What Jesus said is neither abusive nor foul, and it is simple enough to be understood.

His followers understood what He said but they could not accept what He taught. And so they call it intolerable language.

Putting it simply, they were saying that Jesus was talking nonsense, and that He was absurd and ridiculous.

And that was because Jesus said that the bread that He shall give is His flesh for the life of the world.

And that anyone who eats His flesh and drinks His blood will have eternal life.

It was nonsensical and absurd and ridiculous to them, and they could not tolerate it so they left Jesus.

And what about us? Can we accept the teachings of Jesus? Don’t we feel disturbed by His teachings?

Well, by the fact that we are here for Mass may mean that we accept and believe in the teachings of Jesus. 

We say “Amen” when we receive Holy Communion, and we believe that we are receiving the Body of Christ, that we are eating His flesh.

But what about the other challenging and difficult teachings of Jesus? 

Like for e.g., “love your enemies, and pray for those who and persecute you” (Mat 5:43-44).

Or how about this : “Offer the wicked man no resistance; if anyone strikes you on your right cheek, offer him the other as well” (Mat 5:39)

Or, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be my disciple” (Lk 14:27).

In fact, every page of the gospels is filled with some kind of hard teachings of Jesus.

These teachings of Jesus may sound absurd and ridiculous, yet His words are spirit and they are life, and they contain the message of eternal life.

In fact, Jesus and His message are like a paradox, which may initially seem absurd and ridiculous, but nonetheless true.

Yes, it is the truth, but it is only after going through the pains of the trails of life, when we let others “eat our flesh” that we can discover the truth of Jesus and His message.

Because it is in these trials of life that we will have to decide whether to leave Jesus or to believe in Him; whether to stay with Jesus or to stay away from Him.

And if we believe in Jesus and want to stay with Him then we too must speak His language.

His language may not be politically correct but it is the language of love and it uses words like “sacrifice”.

Besides the spoken language, there is also another language called the body language.

In other words, our bodies must also communicate what our mouths have spoken. 

If we believe that Jesus has the message of eternal life, then we too must speak the same language, and we too must offer our lives in love and sacrifice and let others “eat our flesh and drink our blood”.

That sounds like intolerable language and rather repulsive.

But if we were to believe in Jesus, then we will have to speak His language of love.

Jesus expressed His language of love in His sacrifice on the cross.
May we speak likewise and act likewise.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Queenship of the BVM, Saturday, 22-08-15

Isaiah 9:1-6 / Luke 1:26-38

Eight days ago, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven.

In the course of these eight days, the Church meditates deeper on the mystery of the Assumption, and on the Octave of the Assumption (8 days later) the Church concludes the reflection with the celebration of the Queenship of Mary.

In short, it could be said that God assumed Mary into heaven to share the victory of Christ and to reign with Him in glory as Queen of Heaven.

So the proclamation and celebration of Mary's queenship in essence points to the Kingship of Christ.

In celebrating the queenship of Mary, we are also reminded that we are the Chosen people of God and we are also His royal children.

So as God's Chosen and royal people, all that we do and say must be geared towards giving glory to God.

Mary showed us how to do that in the gospel when she responded to God's call by accepting God's will.

In doing so, Mary gave us the concrete example of obedience in the form of servanthood.

We are not just the Chosen and royal people of God. We are also the Chosen and royal servants of Christ the King.

With Mary as our queen, let us offer ourselves in service to the Church, so that in all that we do and say, God will be glorified and exalted.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 21-08-15

Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22 / Matthew 22:34-40

Desperate situations always evoke desperate actions.

Especially when the situation is about survival, then one tends to be just think about oneself and leave out the rest.

It is an instinctive action and it is ingrained in the way human beings think and act.

In the 1st reading, a man had to leave his country with his wife and two sons to the land of Moab in order to survive the famine.

They survived the famine, the two sons even married Moabite women but the inevitability of death takes away the man and his two sons, leaving behind the three women who were almost helpless and defenceless.

So Naomi decided to go back to her own country since there is food there. The other two Moabite women will have to decide where to go in order to have some livelihood and security.

One decided to go back to her own people and it was the most sensible option. The other woman, Ruth, however decided to follow her mother-in-law.

That decision would leave her in a very fragile situation of being helpless in a foreign land.

Other than love for another human being who needed more help and companionship, it is difficult to say why Ruth decided to do this.

In the gospel, Jesus gave two parts of the great commandment - love for God and love for neighbour.

Ruth fulfilled it and her name is now engraved in the genealogy of Jesus.

When we put that commandment into action, our names will also written in the book of eternity.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-08-15

Judges 11:29-39 / Matthew 22:1-14

Making promises are always a risky undertaking.

Because promises are made to be kept and not to be broken.

To break a promise would say much about the person's character and what the person thinks about making promises to people.

But what if one were to make a promise to God, and it is a promise that would involve a blood sacrifice?

In the 1st reading, when Jephthah made a vow to the Lord to offer the first person to meet him from the door of his house when he returned in triumph, would he be expecting that person to be his daughter, his only child?

Certainly he regretted making the promise but he had to keep the promise - "I have given a promise to the Lord, and I cannot unsay what I have said."

But in the first place, the question is that was it necessary for Jephthah to make that promise to the Lord?

The Lord did not ask him for anything. It was Jephthah himself who wanted to secure triumph over the Ammonites that made him make that promise to the Lord.

But it was the Lord who called Jephthah for the mission. So the Lord did not ask anything of him.

As Romans 8:30 would say this - "And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified."

So there is nothing that we can offer to the Lord to justify ourselves. If God calls us, we only have to offer ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. That will be enough.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-08-15

Judges 9:6-15 / Matthew 20:1-16

One of our human follies is that we have this tendency to be jealous and to envy others.

We get jealous of others for getting a better deal than us, or better treatment than us, or simply just because they are better than us.

We get jealous of others instead of rejoicing with them in their good fortune, and we get envious when we don't get what others get and when we don't have what others have.

But if we are able to look at envy and jealousy clearly, then we will also see that we get jealous and envious simply because we are not looking at what we already have.

We look at what others have, and we say that it is not fair because their grass is greener, or so we think.

That was what happened to the workers who worked a full day in the vineyard.

Instead of rejoicing that the last-minute workers who were hired had something to bring back to their families, they resented that they were paid the same amount as them.

Yes, resentment is the product of jealousy and envy.

Let us ask the Lord to heal our resentment and jealousy and envy, so that with generous hearts we will rejoice with the Lord for His gifts and blessings to all of us.

Monday, August 17, 2015

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 18-08-15

Judges 6:11-24 / Matthew 19:23-30

Pope Francis chose the motto "Miserando atque eligendo", meaning lowly but chosen; literally in Latin 'by having mercy, by choosing him'.

That motto expresses the essence of the call by God to him to be the pope. That motto is the same one the Pope had already chosen as Bishop.

In the Bible, we see it over and over again who God calls for a special purpose - the lowly.

In the 1st reading, the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon and addressed him as "valiant warrior".

But Gideon could not understand it because his clan was the weakest in Manasseh and he was the least important in his family.

So he was not a warrior, much less a valiant warrior; in fact he had to hide himself while threshing wheat so that the oppressors would not find out.

But the Lord turned to him and said, "Go in the strength now upholding you, and you will rescue Israel from the power of Midian. Do not I send you myself?"

Yes, it is the Lord who empowers, who strengthens and who sends forth those He had called and chosen.

So as much as we see the weak and lowly as impossible candidates for any great mission, yet what is impossible for men is certainly not impossible for God.

Pope Francis was lowly but God chose him. We have to remember that each of us are already chosen by God for a special mission.

We just need to be lowly and humble in order to be empowered and strengthened in order to fulfill our mission.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 17-08-15

Judges 2:11-19 / Matthew 19:16-22

What we heard in the 1st reading is also what we will read about in almost every page of the Old Testament.

And just what is that? It is this recurring problem of the Israelites. They turn to idols and worshipped the idols and they did what displeased the Lord.

Two idols were mentioned in the 1st reading: Baal who was chief of the Canaanite pantheon and worshipped as the source of life and fertility, the mightiest hero, and the lord of war.

The other idol was Astarte who was worshipped as the beautiful goddess of fertility and sexual love.

That brief description would already give us an indication of why the Israelites fell into idolatry.

Because the worshipping of these idols was an expression of the cravings and desires of a human heart that longs for power, might, wealth, sex and the freedom from moral obligations.

And the problem was that the worshipping of these idols did fulfill these yearnings and cravings and desires.

Just like how the obsession with money and wealth can fulfill the yearnings and cravings and desires of the modern world.

Worshipping the one true God has its moral obligations and it also disciplines the wild and straying heart.

Yet, in worshipping the one true God, we will have the peace and joy that no amount of money can buy. For all that we give up on earth, God will reward us. That can also be found in every page of the Bible.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Assumption of the BVM, 16.08.2015

Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 / 1 Cor 16:20-26 / Luke 1:39-56

The statue of our Lady that is in the front is a restored statue. 

Until recently, it was kept away at the loft of the church. But if we had seen the statue before the restoration we would know why it was kept away at the loft and away from public view.

Among other reasons, it was quite poorly painted over and hence not suitable for public veneration.

There was also not much information about the origins of this statue and what was its purpose, besides the fact that there is already another similar statue of our Lady which is now at the side altar.

But in the course of the restoration, there were some discoveries. 

There were at least five coats of paint on it and that changed the expression of the face. (It was like Our Lady had too much makeup).

Also when the paint was all removed, we realized that it was a bronze statue with fine details and good features. And being a bronze statue it is certainly a solid statue.

(After Mass you may want to come and admire the statue and of course say a prayer to our Lady on this her feast-day)

The intention is to put the statue at the shrine outside the church which will be erected in due time.

You may ask why is the statue all white. Why not put some colours on it? 

Well, let it be white for the time being. Also white represents purity and virtue, which is also very appropriate for Our Lady.

And today as we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven, this statue in its whiteness tells us about the blessing that God bestowed on Our Lady.

As Mary said in the gospel – “He has looked upon His lowly handmaid. Yes from this day forward all generations will call me blessed, for the Almighty has done great things for me.”

The Assumption of Our Lady is the fruit of the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. 

In gaining salvation and opening the gates of heaven for us, Jesus brought Our Lady body and soul into heaven to reward her with the fullness of salvation.

But her reward did not come about just because she was the “mother of my Lord” as Elizabeth would put it.

Yes, Mary was immaculately conceived to prepare her to bear the Son of God at the Annunciation.

But when she said “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said be done to me” it was not just only at the Annunciation.
For Mary, the will of God is to be done for all her life.

And so the Assumption is God’s acknowledgement of His lowly handmaid who did His will during her entire life, from the Annunciation to the Crucifixion.

And as God rewarded Mary with the Assumption into heaven, we also remember that Jesus gave Mary to us to be our mother when He was on the cross.

The last mention of Mary in the Bible is in Acts 1:14. There she was in prayer with the rest of the disciples.

And just as she was there praying with the early church, Mary is also praying now with the present church, praying with all of us, praying for all of us.

And we better believe in the power of Mary’s intercession, because it’s prayers from heaven.

There is this story about a Catholic girl who wanted to get married to this non-Catholic man.

During the pre-nuptial inquiry, the non-Catholic man readily agreed to baptizing the children.

Usually it is like this:  Before marriage anything also can, but after marriage, it is another story.

Anyway after marriage and when the couple was expecting their first child, the husband said to his wife.

“Now if it is a girl, you can go ahead and baptize her, but if it is a boy, then I want him to follow me in being a free thinker.”

But the wife protested and she said:  But you agreed when we met the priest.  How can you go back on your word?

But the husband was adamant.  The wife was sad and she said:  I’ll tell my mother.

The husband said:  Go ahead; she is not going to change my mind anyway.

Well, the husband didn’t know which mother she was referring to. She went before Mother Mary’s shrine and she prayed, “Dearest Mother I am so sad that my husband did not keep his word.  But I really want to have all my children baptized:  Please help me.”

And, help she did, because the first child was a girl, the second was a girl, the 3rd was a girl and the 4th was also a girl.

Now of course, the husband was happy with his 4 girls.  But one day he just happened to ask his wife if they will ever have a boy.

The wife said:  As long as you don’t allow the boy to be baptized, then we are only going to have girls.  I told my mother about it, and so, that’s why it’s like that.

The husband said “Your Mother?” And so the wife related the whole story of praying to Mother Mary and all that.

Well to shorten the whole story, the husband took back his words, their next child was a boy, he got baptized, and eventually the husband was so amazed that he also got baptized.

Amazing story.  You better believe it, or I’ll tell my mother.

Whatever it is, Mary’s intercession will help to remove all the obstacles and doubts that we face just as all the unnecessary paintwork was removed from her statue.

And what we will see is the purity of our faith and then like Mary we will do the will of God.

And just as God has done great things for Mary, God will also do great things for us.

Not just on earth but also in heaven. Let’s believe it.

Friday, August 14, 2015

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 15-08-15

Joshua 24:14-29 / Matthew 19:13-15

Modern psychology has discovered that the formation of person's personality and character can be traced back to the childhood years, and even right before birth, when the baby is still in the mother's womb.

Depending on what the child had been exposed to, the child can either gain or suffer from it.

That is why in the Church's "Book of Blessings", there is a prayer for expecting mothers and for the baby in the womb.

All this shows that the early years of a child are the most important years, because that's when the character is formed and the faith built.

So for us adults, the greatest thing we could do for a child is to give them tender love and an assuring word.

And as Catholics, it is even more important to share our faith with our children.

We must, and this is imperative for parents, to pray with our children as well as to pray for them, by blessing them with the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

We can do this whenever they go off to school, and when they come back home, before they go to sleep and whenever they are sick.

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children.

So whenever we bless our children, we ourselves will also receive a blessing.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 14-08-15

Joshua 24:1-13 / Matthew 19:3-12

Marriage as it may seem to many people, is like a social norm and a social practice.

Once a person comes of age, one of the things in the "to-be-achieved" list is to get married.

And as a person gets older, he/she becomes a bit more desperate in finding a partner for life.

The social expectation, as well as the social trend is so strong that singlehood, and even celibacy, have become the bunt of jokes.

But no one is laughing when problems emerge in marriage or when a marriage ends in divorce.

With the rising divorce rate, the question to ask is: What is the problem? Or where is the problem?

But the question that should be asked is: Who is the problem?

Because when a person sees marriage as just a social practice or a social expectation, then marriage loses its essence and direction.

Because marriage in the first place, is a vocation, it is a calling to a way of life.

When a person understands that marriage is a calling to a deeper commitment to another person, then finding a partner will make sense.

And God will provide the partner, because it is God who calls the person to marriage.

When God calls, He will provide.

We just have to listen, then we will receive.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 13-08-15

Joshua 3:7-11, 13-17 / Matthew 18:21 - 19:1

Human intelligence is truly an amazing thing. Human beings are able to use their intelligence to create solutions to problems and also other inventions to make life more comfortable and easy.

On the other hand, there are limits to what human intelligence can do, especially when it comes to the laws of nature. The brilliance of human intelligence cannot go against the laws of nature.

The 1st reading recounted the crossing of the river Jordan by the people led by Joshua. Although it was not as dramatic as the crossing of the Red Sea, it was still something amazing.

When Joshua told the people how they were going to cross the river Jordan, it was not something that the human mind or human intelligence was able to comprehend.

Just how can the waters of the upper Jordan flowing down will be stopped in their course and stand still in one mass?

It can be possible with a lot of engineering and construction and take some time. But for it to happen immediately is almost out of the question. Out of the question if not for divine intervention.

Similarly when Jesus taught about forgiveness in the gospel, we may think how is it possible to keep on forgiving those who keep on hurting us.

Certainly not possible if not for divine assistance as well as divine enlightenment. Not only we need to ask God to help us forgive those who have hurt us or done us wrong.

We also need to ask God to let us experience His love for us so that His love will heal our wounded hearts so that we can forgive others from our hearts.

Human intelligence may be able to comprehend forgiveness but it is the healed heart that will put it into action.

Let us ask the Lord to forgive us our sins and heal our hearts so that we in turn can forgive as God has forgiven us.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 12-08-15

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 / Matthew 18:15-20

With a name that means "to pull/draw out" [of water], Moses was rescued by Pharaoh's daughter from the reeds, but his life ended on high and arid ground.

And in between for 40 years, he had to lead the people of God through the desert sands and he had to bear with a stiff-necked people who complained about almost everything.

At one point when the people were at Kadesh (Numbers 20:6-12) and they complained for water, God told Moses to strike the rock and there will be water.

Moses struck the rock twice, and he gave in to his frustrations and anger and insulted the people by calling them rebels and taunted them for their lack of faith in God.

But he was chided by God for not being respectful to God for His providence to His people and so it seems that because of this Moses was not granted entry to the Promised Land.

But that aside, Moses must be acknowledged for his leadership in very harsh and difficult conditions and his handling of a very difficult people.

He managed to bind the people  together and formed them as a nation before they entered the Promised Land.

Whatever he bind on earth was certainly acknowledged by God and rewarded by God as Moses goes not into some earthly Promised Land but to the eternal Promised Land.

We too, have our trials and frustrations here on earth, trudging through muddy waters and on hot burning sands and wondering if it is worth it to make sacrifices for God.

But whatever sacrifices we make on earth will be acknowledged by God. Our reward may not be on earth but it will certainly be in heaven. We must believe that and then making sacrifices will be worth it.

Monday, August 10, 2015

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 11-08-15

Deuteronomy 31:1-8 / Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14

Whenever we hear the word "great" what usually comes to our minds are size, strength, power, ability, achievements, etc.

That is usually how we understand the word "great". It seems to be even more than good. 

Between a good place and a great place, it is quite obvious which is more in the qualitative as well as in the quantitative sense of the word.

Yet in the spiritual sense of the word, greatness does not seem to have much association with the ideas and concepts above.

Greatness, in the spiritual sense, is associated with littleness and humility.

And in the gospel, Jesus sets before us a symbol of this greatness - a little child.

And He even taught us that unless we change and become like little children, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

In the 1st reading, we heard that the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land.

Moses addressed the people and he made it clear to them that the Lord God will cross it before them and lead them into the land that He promised as their inheritance.

Yet, they must follow the Lord in littleness and humility like a child.

Likewise, in littleness and humility, we will be able to follow the Lord into our eternal Promised Land.

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 10-08-15

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 / Matthew 17:22-27

When we read the gospels and reflect on it deeper, especially on the things that Jesus did, we may wonder why He did what He did, especially since He is the Son of God.

He seemed so much more human than He was divine.
He didn't have to be born in a stable, yet He did.
He didn't have to work as a carpenter, yet He did.
He didn't have to wash His disciples' feet, yet He did.
He didn't have to die on the cross, yet He did.

But did He have to pay the half-shekel? Well, to begin with, the half-shekel was for the upkeep of the Temple and also for the upkeep of the priestly services.

So Jesus paid the half-shekel, and He paid that Temple tax from the coin that was in the mouth of the fish that Peter caught.

In doing so He also revealed a bit about His true identity and He also said that kings collect tax from foreigners and not from their own sons, implicitly implying that the Temple is His Father's house and that He is the Son.

But by paying the Temple tax, Jesus taught us a lesson on humility and to avoid offending people unnecessarily.

He is the Son of God, He is Lord and Saviour, He is Master, He is Teacher.

Yet, He humbled Himself and took the form of a servant and became obedient even until death, and death on the cross (Phil 2:7-8)

In life, we may be pushed to pay many "half-shekels" that we are not obliged to do so.

Somebody's work may end up on our desk; we may be stuck with a dirty thankless task; we may take the rap for someone else's mistake.

But let us be humble and obedient just like Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

And we will be repaid a hundred fold with God's love and more so, in the eternal feast of heaven as His children around His table.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

National Day, 09.08.2015

Isaiah 63:7-9 / Colossians 3:12-17 / Luke 12:22-31

A couple of weeks ago, a movie was shown in the cinemas and it’s still showing, although it’s coming to the end of its run.

The movie had an uninteresting title – “Ant-Man” – but what is interesting is that Ant-Man is one of the original superheroes of the Avengers in the Marvel comics series.

Maybe compared to the size and power of the other superheroes like Superman and Iron Man, the profile of Ant Man was getting smaller, literally, and maybe slowly forgotten until the recent movie.

That’s why there is this tag line in the movie trailer “Heroes don’t get any bigger”. Quite appropriate to describe Ant Man and his role.

Besides the size of the hero, in that he can become as small as an ant, there are also some cute lines from the movie.

Like when the scientist who developed the Ant Man suit was trying to convince the main character of the movie to help stop the villain, his reply was this – I think our first move is to call the Avengers.

And when the scientist was getting desperate, he put across this direct proposal to the main character – I want you to be the Ant Man.

And the response was this – Just one question … is it too late to change the name?

Obviously, the name Ant Man doesn’t sound like a grand hero’s name and the size of an ant almost says it all.

But there is an interesting line in the movie that expresses the profound meaning of size, and the smallness of it.

“When you are small, you have superhuman strength; you are like a bullet”.

Yes, size does matter, but if size is all that mattered, then the king of the jungle would be the elephant, and not the lion. But as it is, we call the lion the king of the jungle.

And talking about the lion, our country’s name is  “Singapore”, which means “Lion-city”.

The name sounds big and grand, but the reality is expressed in the logo for this year’s National Day, which is the SG50 and the little red dot. 

The little red dot represents what we have come to know as home and our 50 years of independence. The logo celebrates the Singaporean spirit – signifying that our dreams are not limited by the physical size of our island nation.

So being small does not mean that we are invisible. In fact as a little red dot, Singapore has become quite visible on the world map, and also quite incredible.

And for a country that does not have any natural resources and can’t produce enough food to feed its population, Singapore is like a survival miracle and we need to be proud of that.

And the gospel text chosen to celebrate our country’s National Day is indeed appropriate as Jesus tells us this: Do not worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life means more than food, and the body more than clothing.

And Jesus concludes by saying : Your Father well knows you need them. So set your hearts on His kingdom, and all these other things will be given you as well.

To live in Singapore in certainly to live quite precariously. We are such a small country, almost like an ant compared to the other countries around us.

Although the ant is small, tiny actually, it has a remarkable strength. It is said that ants can carry about 100 times its own body weight.

In the gospel, Jesus used the images of ravens and birds, flowers and grass to teach us that just as God provided for them, then all the more God will provide for us and for our country.

And the image of the ant, or ants, can also be relevant for us who are the Church in Singapore.

The book of Proverbs 6:6-8 tells us this about the ant – “Go to the ant; ponder her ways and grow wise: no one gives her orders, no overseer, no master, yet all through the summer she makes sure of her food, and gathers her supplies at harvest time.”

We may remember one of Aesop’s fables about the ant and the grasshopper. It goes like this:

In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. 

"Why not come and chat with me," said the Grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" 

"I am helping my fellow ants to lay up food for the winter," said the Ant, "and recommend you to do the same." 

"Why bother about winter?" said the Grasshopper; "We have got plenty of food at present." But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. 

When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger - while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. 

Then the Grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for days of need.

It is said that Singapore is an economic miracle and a success. 

And we the Church in Singapore has the duty and obligation to pray that our country will not only progress economically, but that there will be peace and democracy, justice and equality.

St. Augustine has this to say: Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

Yes, we must work, like the ants, that our country will grow and progress materially.

But we also must pray, as St. Augustine had taught us, that God will continue to watch over our country and guide the leaders in governing so that there will be peace and democracy, justice and equality.

May God bless Singapore and also the Church in Singapore.

Friday, August 7, 2015

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 08-08-15

Deuteronomy 6:4-13 / Matthew 17:14-20

Some people would say that love is a feeling, others would say it is an action, yet others would say that love is a decision.

But love is a combination of a feeling, an action and a decision.

In the 1st reading Moses told the people: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart (feeling), with all your soul (action) and with all your strength (decision).

It is a love in totality. It encompasses feelings that must be expressed in action, and reinforced continuously with decisions.

Yet, like the mustard seed that Jesus used as an imagery in today's Gospel, love is also a growth.

How we understand love in our younger days, we understand love now in much deeper ways.

To say that we love God might be quite easy, as in our love for God is merely confined to feelings.

Now we know that our love for God must be experienced in love for others, and that can be difficult.

There are mountains of resentment, bitterness, anger, disappointment etc to move.

But as long as we love God, these mountains can be moved.

Then we will understand that love is a feeling, an action as well as a decision.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 07-08-15

Deuteronomy 4:32-40 / Matthew 16:24-28

Our experiences in life are mostly with people and with the events that happen around us.

Nonetheless there are also spiritual experiences when we get an enlightenment or a deep internal stillness that we know is not fabricated by ourselves.

Those kind of experiences can be termed as experiences of God and usually there is a message for us in that experience.

In the 1st reading, Moses recounted for the people how God had revealed and spoken to them.

Their experience is God is beyond their own fabrication and as God spoke and revealed Himself to them, He also gave them laws and commandments so that the people will know how to relate with God.

In the gospel, Jesus gave the requirements of being His disciple, or what is often called, the cost of discipleship.

So if we really want to follow Jesus, then we have to renounce ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.

And that might mean even putting our needs aside and make sacrifices for others without thinking of gaining any benefit for ourselves.

That would sound difficult and challenging especially when we are so used to thinking of ourselves and having things our way and even making others give way to us.

But for all that we might gain, it will be a gain in vain because we cannot offer what we gain in exchange for our lives.

But when we lose our lives for Jesus, what we will gain will be a revelation of God's love for us. It is a love that we will gain not just in this world but also in the world to come.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Transfiguration of the Lord (Year B), Thursday, 06-08-15

Daniel 2:9-10, 13-14 / 2 Peter 1:16-19 / Mark 9:2-10

There is a story of a young man who somehow thinks he is a worm, and he would hide under the bed whenever he sees a chicken. (Because chicken eats worms).

So one day, he was hiding under the bed because he saw a chicken roaming around.

His best friend decided to help him overcome his problem by going under the bed and there he told him to repeat after him, “I am a man, not a worm.”

After a few repetitions, his best friend urged him to come out and prove himself a man.

So he came out and walked around confidently. Until he saw a chicken. Then he immediately hid under the bed again.

Hid best friend went under the bed and asked him, “Why didn't you believe you are a man, not a worm.”

The young man replied, “ I believe I am a man, not a worm, but does the chicken believe that?!?”

Jesus believed that He is the Beloved Son of the Father. Even in His most painful and despairing moments He believed that.

The disciples also kind of believed that Jesus was the Son of God.

But the moment the trials and persecutions came along, they ran and "hid under the bed". But later on, they believed, and truly believed and even laid their lives down for Jesus.

The feast of the Transfiguration, reminds us who Jesus is, and also reminds us of who we are.

May we slowly come out of our fears and weaknesses and sinfulness, and show others what we really believe in.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 05-08-15

Numbers 13:1-2, 25 - 14:1, 26-29, 34-35 / Matthew 15:21-28

When a promise is kept and delivered, it is an expression of the character and integrity of the person who made the promise.

But on the other hand, if the promise is not kept or broken, it says so much about what the person thinks of making promises.

In the 1st reading, we heard that God told Moses to send a reconnaissance team to the land of Canaan which He was giving to the sons of Israel.

This reconnaissance team was made up of the leaders of each tribe of Israel. The team was tasked to give a report of the land that God had promised to give to Israel after 40 days of reconnaissance.

When they came back, they showed the people the produce of the land and indeed it was a good and fertile land, a land flowing with milk and honey.

But they also said that the people in that land were a powerful people, that they were no match against them, and they began to disparage the land.

As the people began to raise their voices and cry aloud and wail in despair, they also forgot that it was a land that the Lord had promised them.

They forgot that what the Lord had promised, He will deliver. On the contrary, it was the people who didn't want to believe in the promises God made to them. God did not break His promise; rather it was the people who broke faith in God.

In the gospel, it was a Canaanite woman who came before Jesus, a woman from the land that God had promised to His people.

She had no promises to rely on. In fact the promises were somewhat against her people. But she had faith in Jesus that God can do more than He promised.

May we have that faith of the Canaanite woman that God will not only keep His promise but He will have great things in store for those who believe and trust in Him

Monday, August 3, 2015

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 04-08-15

Numbers 12:1-13 / Matthew 14:22-36

There are many stories of why St. John Vianney became the patron saint of priests, and especially priests who serve in the parishes.

One particular story is about St. John Vianney and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He was noted as a confessor who spent many hours in the confessional. But there is something else about his ministry in the confessional.

When St. John Vianney was asked about his method in the confessional which caused even hardened sinners to melt, he replied, "My recipe is to give sinners a little penance and do the rest myself."

So St. John Vianney practiced penance not as his own work but as a minimal participation in Christ's sacrificial offering of His life on the cross for the salvation of sinners.

In the 1st reading, we heard how Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses, even though Moses was the humblest of men.

The punishment was that Miriam became a leper, and when Aaron saw her turned into a leper, he begged Moses to intercede for them to the Lord.

And Moses cried out to the Lord and begged the Lord to heal Miriam. He did this as though he had sinned, although he was innocent.

That is the spiritual attitude of St. John Vianney and the saints. They took on the sins of the people and did penance for them in order that they may be saved.

In that way, they followed Jesus who came to save sinners and offered His life in sacrifice for their salvation although He was without sin.

So praying for the salvation of sinners must also be followed by doing penance for them. May we follow Jesus who died on the cross for sinners, and like St. John Vianney continue the work of salvation.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 03-08-15

Numbers 11:4-15 / Matthew 14:13-21

We often hear this phrase: A hungry person is an angry person.

Quite true, hunger has that ability to diminish our rationale and even contort our spirituality, so much so that we can even end up doing something crazy and stupid.

But being grumpy is another story altogether.

We can be grumpy not because we are hungry, but because we are fussy.

In the 1st reading, we heard how the Israelites began to be grumpy, not because they were hungry but because they were tired of eating manna, day in day out.

And their complaints burdened Moses to the extent that he in turn complained to the Lord.

But what Moses felt about the people's complaints was a much lesser intensity about how Jesus felt over the execution of John the Baptist.

For Jesus, it was a personal tragedy, it was a time to drop everything and spend some time in great grief.

But when people came to Him with their needs, He put aside His grief and even took pity on them and healed their sick.

Moses was burdened by the people's complaints. Jesus was grieved over the death of John the Baptist.

We have experienced both kinds of situations before.

How did we react before? And how would we react in the future?

We can continue to complain about our burdens and be grumpy about things that didn't go right.

Or like Jesus, we will trust in God's grace to turn burdens into blessings, and help others to do likewise.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

18th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 01.08.2015

Exodus 16:2-4,12-15 / Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 / John 6:24-35

The month of August can be called the month of flags. And it is not just any flag but the flag of our country.

And we would have noticed as we come to church today, the flags fluttering in the wind at the entrance. Yes not just one flag but a few flags. 

And as we celebrate our country’s 50th year of independence in a week’s time, putting up the flag is not just being patriotic; it is the most profound sign of who we are and what we are as Singaporeans.

And the flag is not just a piece of cloth with some design on it. It is a national symbol and it has to be treated with respect – it is not to touch the ground and flags that are discoloured or worn out are to be returned to the Community Centers for proper disposal.

So the flag is the symbol of our nation. The elements of the flag denote a young nation on the ascendant, universal brotherhood and equality, pervading and everlasting purity and virtue, and national ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

So putting up the flag is a sign that we are proud to be Singaporeans and that we are the symbols of the ideals of our nation.

But if we are not the symbols of our nation’s ideals, then the flag is just a piece of cloth with some designs but with no real meaning.

In today’s gospel passage, Jesus mentioned something about signs.

He told the people that they were not looking for Him because they have seen the signs but because they had all the bread they wanted to eat.

And He continued by telling them not to work for food that cannot last but to work for food that endures to eternal life.

And the people asked Him what must they do if they were to do the works that God wants.

And Jesus gave this reply – to work for God means that they must believe in the One He has sent.

And then they asked – what sign will He give to show them that they should believe in Him.

And it is here that Jesus brought them back to the purpose of why they were looking for Him.

Earlier they had eaten the bread to their hearts’ content. But it seems that they did not understand the sign that Jesus was showing them in the bread.

The bread was the sign of God’s love for them. Jesus is the true bread that came down from heaven, the true bread that gives life to the world and fill empty and hungry hearts.

But for the people they were just interested in filling their empty and hungry stomachs, but their hearts are still empty and hungry because they were not filled with the bread of life and truth.

As St. Paul would urge the Ephesians in the 2nd reading, not to go on living the aimless kind of life that is corrupted by illusory desires. 

To see the sign that Jesus is giving is to undergo a spiritual revolution so that they can put on the new self that is created in God’s way, i.e. the goodness and holiness of truth.

And so it is with us. Just what are we working for and what are the directions and the goals of our life?

Are we happier now that we were before? Are we happy with our job, with our marriage, with our family?

Are we happier now that we are older? Or do we think that we were happier when we were younger?

Are we like the Israelites in the 1st reading who think that they would be happier to be under slavery in Egypt than to have freedom in the desert? 

But that is certainly an illusory desire which thinks that happiness and contentment is found everywhere else but not in the here and now.

No point going even to the moon and the stars to search for happiness, because as long as we are not happy on earth, even if we go to heaven, we might think it is hell.

The purpose of receiving Jesus the bread of life, is to open our eyes to life, and to see where are the areas of our lives that we can grow in happiness and love. 

God made all things good, and He made man the best, because man is made in the image and likeness of God.

And God uses His beautiful creation to remind us of the beauty of our lives, and how to be happy.

The following are some images of creation, symbols of happiness, so that we can see for ourselves, what we need to be, in order to be happy.

Be like the sun. Arise early, and do not go to bed late. 
Be like the moon. Shine in the darkness, but submit to the greater light. 
Be like the stars that decorate the dark sky and make it beautiful.
Be like the birds. Eat, sing, drink, and fly free.
Be like the flowers. Loving the sun, but faithful to the roots. 
Be like the faithful dog, but faithful only to the Lord. 
Be like the fruit. Beautiful on the outside, and healthy on the inside. 
Be like the day, which arrives and leaves without boasting.
Be like the well, giving water to the thirsty. 
Be like the firefly, although small, it casts its own light.
Be like the water, good and transparent 
Be like the river, always moving towards a greater goal.
Be like the flag, so that we can be proud of our nation.
And above all things, be like the heavens: A home for God.

If any of these images caught our attention, then act on it.

Let that image be our inspiration and motivation in our journey towards happiness.

May Jesus, the bread of life, fill the hunger of our hearts and the thirst of our souls, so that we become signs that point to God.