Wednesday, September 30, 2015

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the Missions, Thursday, 01-10-15

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

St. Therese of the Child Jesus was a French Carmelite nun. She is also known as "The Little Flower of Jesus".

She lived during the second half the 19th century (1873-1897), a rather short life of only 24 years.

Yet, the shortness of years is certainly complemented by the great impact her life had on the spirituality of the Church and also in the life of holiness.

Her spiritual orientation of a hidden life coupled with simplicity and humility endeared her to many who desired to live a life of faith that wants to do small things with great love.

For St. Therese, every little act of love is like a little flower that is offered to Jesus, hence she is also known as "The Little Flower of Jesus".

Her childlike attitude is also an inspiration for many, especially in the area of prayer.

In "The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux", she said there were so many lovely prayers and that she could not possibly say them all and did not know which to choose, so she would behave like children who cannot read.

"I tell God very simply what I want and He always understands". "I say an Our Father or a Hail Mary when I feel so spiritually barren that I cannot summon up a single worthwhile thought. These two prayers fill me with rapture and feed and satisfy my soul."

Such is the childlike simplicity of the Patroness of the Missions as she prays for missionaries even though she had never set foot on a foreign land.

From St. Therese we learn that simple prayers are indeed powerful prayers. Yet, simple prayers should also form us to have a childlike simplicity and humility.

And like St. Therese, we should be like arrows that remain hidden in the quiver of God. And just as He used St. Therese to fulfill His plan, let us also be ready always to fulfill God's will for us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 30-09-15

Nehemiah 2:1-8 / Luke 9:57-62 (Memorial of St. Jerome)

Today the Church remembers and honours St. Jerome (346-420).

He is best known for his translation of most of the Bible into Latin (the translation that became known as the Vulgate), and his commentaries on the Gospels. His list of writings is extensive. St. Jerome was also known for his teachings on Christian moral life

His best known quote about the Scriptures is "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ".

St. Jerome has been a popular subject with artists, who have pictured him in the desert, as a scholar in his study, and sometimes in the robes of a cardinal, because of his services to Pope Damasus.

Often too he is shown with a lion, from whose paw, according to legend, he once drew a thorn. Actually this story was transferred to him from the tradition of St. Gerasimus, but nonetheless a lion is quite an appropriate symbol for so fearless a champion of the faith.

Also pictured with him, his writing instruments and books is a skull. That was to remind him of the finality of life where all will have to surrendered to the Lord, and also of the spiritual death that sin would bring about.

St. Jerome's life was a total surrender to God and he followed his Master who had nowhere to lay His head on.

May we read and reflect deeper on the Scriptures and come to know Jesus our Lord and Master and like St. Jerome offer our lives in service to Him.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphel, Tuesday, 29-09-15

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

Even though we are Catholics, we are certainly influenced and maybe even affected by the events of the recent  Chinese 7th month.

We are more inclined to believe that the hungry ghosts and devils are roaming around to scare the wits out of us, than to believe in angels that look like cute chubby babies with wings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can only be thankful to God.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 28-09-15

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

It is understandable to perceive power and authority in the secular world as important and even to strive for it.

So in the office, or in the school, or in the community club, to have power and authority means that a person has a say, and it means that a person is someone to be reckoned with.

But yet this secular perception of power and authority can, and has even pervaded the Church.

Church history tells us that Popes, bishops, priests, religious and the laity have succumbed to its lure and trap. They can even bask in it, and yearn for it.

Yet, the yearning and longing for power and authority is also the clear give-away sign of a person's real motive and intention for being in the Church.

Indeed, it is difficult to balance power and authority with the sincerity and honesty of a child.

But what seems impossible for man is not so for God.

In the 1st reading, the Lord reiterates His mighty power.

He will bring His people back from the nations and He will be their God and they will be His people.

Yes, God will also save and protect the Church from the corruption of power and authority.

He will also teach us obedience and service, for that is true greatness.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

26th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 27.09.2015

Numbers 11:25-29 / James 5:1-6 / Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

We cannot deny and in fact we are aware of the tension between Catholics and Christians.

Even though we believe in the same Jesus Christ and in the same God, yet very often Catholics and Christians are like enemies.

We may have relatives or friends or colleagues who are Christians.

Whenever we meet them, we will try our best to avoid talking about religion. We would rather talk about the haze. 

But very often, it is the Christians who ask us about the practices of the Catholic Church.

Of course there are times when some of the Christians just want to criticize us Catholics.

They accuse us of praying to statues and worshipping Mary and they irritate us by quoting the Bible so much.

Not only their Bible knowledge is better than us, but for some of their questions, we don’t even seem to know the answers.

They ask questions like “why go for confession to a priest when we can confess our sins directly to God?” or “why pray to saints?” or “why pray for the dead?”

Of course if we don’t know the answers to their questions then we have to find out or read up or discuss with our fellow Catholics.

Nonetheless, the golden principle is to never criticize other religions, be it Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism or Hinduism or Islam or Judaism.

Because the Catholic Church teaches that these other religions also have the seeds of truth because they teach people to live good and moral lives.

But the Catholic Church also teaches that we have the fullness of truth in Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

In today’s gospel, Jesus Christ teaches us the fundamental truth in the respect for other religions.

He told his disciple John not to stop someone from casting out devils in His name.

Because someone who works a miracle or a good deed in His name is not likely to speak evil of Him.

Because of this teaching, hence we must refrain from criticizing other religions, because they also exhibit rays of truth that teaches mankind to be good.

Even if they are the ones who criticize us, we must not do the same.

That is because Jesus taught us to pray for our enemies and for those who treat us badly.

The teaching of Jesus is that we don’t pay back evil for evil. Rather we pay back with a blessing.

When we follow these simple but truthful teachings of our faith, people will indeed see the truth of our religion.

Nonetheless, we also cannot deny that some of the criticisms against us may be valid and have a point.

We should pay attention when people say things like “can Catholics do this kind of thing?” or “how can Catholics be like that?”

Especially when our neighbours and friends and colleagues know that we are Catholics.

It would be a real shame to hang a crucifix or a holy picture at the main door of our house, and yet at home we quarrel and yell and scream at each other as if we are doing some kind of exorcism and fighting with the devil.

There is a joke that goes like this: In the first year of marriage, the husband talks and the wife listens.

In the second year of marriage, the wife talks and the husband listens.

In the third year of marriage, the husband and wife talk and the neighbours listen.

Yes, the bad examples of Catholics always undermine the faith and give the Church a bad name.

Jesus said in the gospel that anyone who is an obstacle or a bad example to the faith would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck. That is a serious warning.

So today, Jesus is calling us to reflect and examine our lives and especially our actions.

His stern teaching is this - to cut off immediately whatever wrong we are doing, lest we give a bad example to others.

When we Catholics do something wrong or something bad, people not only wonder what kind of faith we have, but they also wonder what kind of God we believe in.

So whenever we hear of criticisms against us, let us not react by getting defensive.

Let us see if there is truth in the criticism, however ugly or painful it may be.

They may even reveal to us whether we are for God, or are we against God.

May we be good and faithful Catholics, so that others can see that we believe in a God of love.

And with the love of God, let us be prepared to give a reason for what we believe in and work for what will bring people to God rather than do something wrong and turn people away from God.

Friday, September 25, 2015

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 26-09-15

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

When we ask someone "How are you?", what answer are we expecting?

Or when others ask us that question, what kind of answer are we going to give?

Surely, we would expect, as well as give, polite but rather superficial answers like: I am ok. I am fine.

But beneath these polite and superficial answers is the reality of pain and suffering.

Even for Jesus, just when everyone was full of admiration for Him, He brought Himself and His disciples back to the reality of the cross that He must face.

Indeed, the reality of pain and suffering is seared into humanity, especially that of being a Christian.

But our consolation is not in a delayed gratification as in that it will be the reward in the after-life.

Rather, our consolation is what the prophet Zechariah proclaimed in the 1st reading - that the Lord dwells right in our midst, and hence is with us in our pain and suffering.

With the Lord is our help and salvation.

For the Lord is with us, to wipe away every tear from our eyes

Thursday, September 24, 2015

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 25-09-15

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

The mood and the tone of the word "encouragement" is usually understood as of being gentle and kind in word and in action.

Another word that can be connected to encouragement is affirmation. One has the root word "firm" and the other has the root word "courage".

In the 1st reading, the word of the Lord that was addressed through the prophet Haggai to the people was certainly quite firm.

"Who is there left among you that saw this Temple in its former glory? And how does it look to you now? Does it seem nothing to you?"

Those are rather firm words to the people to make them take stock of their situation as they begin to lose the motivation in the rebuilding of the Temple.

But after those firm words, came words like "Courage" and "I am with you and my spirit remains among you. Do not be afraid!"

In the gospel, after Jesus had asked His disciples who they thought He was and after Peter proclaimed that He was the Christ, Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about it, and He was firm.

They could have wondered why, and then Jesus continued by telling them about His suffering and death.

It doesn't seem to sound very encouraging but the firmness of the words of Jesus would tell us that He had the courage to face His destiny.

May we also draw strength from the hard teachings of Jesus and gain courage in times of despair.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 24-09-15

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

Time can be understood in its various aspects. There is chronological time, there is scheduled time, and then there is the appointed time.

Whenever we look at the watch or the clock, we are looking at "real" time or the current time that almost everyone is synchronized with.

Then there is the scheduled time, a time that is planned for an event or a task. It is something that will happen soon or in the future and it needs planning.

It is with this scheduled time that the prophet Haggai had issues with the people. Because the people were saying that the time has not yet come to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.

But the prophet Haggai took them to task by saying that while they had planned and scheduled the building of their own houses, they procrastinated when it came to rebuilding the House of the Lord.

And through the prophet Haggai, the Lord is telling His people that more than just having to schedule and plan for the rebuilding of God's House, the appointed time has come for them to do it.

And when they do a reflection on the state of their lives - what they sow, what they earn, what they eat - then truly God is saying something in that appointed time.

So it was with Herod in the gospel. He heard about Jesus, he had heard about what others say about Him, and he was anxious to see Jesus.

His appointed time had come. He only needed to respond to it and to make time for it.

May we too have time for God when the appointed time comes for us. Otherwise we will not have time for anything at all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 23-09-15

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

Whenever we have to leave home to go somewhere, we would at least make sure that we will bring along whatever we need.

Whether going to the workplace, or for a social outing or to visit someone, we would have done a mental check-list. And of course the further we go, the longer the check-list would be and the more things we would bring along.

When Jesus sent His disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal, He told them to take nothing for the journey.

If we were in their shoes, what would we be thinking about? Maybe nothing at all, because we would be too stunned to think at all. How can we go out on a mission without bringing anything for the journey?

But when we come to think about it, whenever we go off somewhere, what we lack we can make up for it somehow.

More so when it is for a journey on a mission for God. It was for the disciples to have the faith in God that He will provide for them in whatever they lack.

In the 1st reading, Ezra admitted that the crimes of the people have increased until they are higher than their heads and their sin has piled up to heaven.

It seemed that the people had thought about everything they wanted for themselves but left out God in their lives.

When we have too much of everything, God is reduced to almost nothing. But when we don't have anything, then God becomes everything.

Monday, September 21, 2015

25th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 22-09-15

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

The generation that has seen WWII is passing on. Those that had survived a war that is termed as a "World War" are in their twilight years with not much time remaining.

Whether as a soldier or as a civilian during those years of turmoil, whether as a war veteran or as a survivor, they know what it was like and had a story to tell.

But more than a story, it was an experience that bound them together, a blood-and-tears experience that is seared into the flesh and into the memory for the rest of their lives.

In the 1st reading, when the exiles returned to their homeland, it was return to the desolation and devastation that they had seen 70 years before.

Those that had known what the Temple was before the exile had an experience to share with the younger generation who had not seen that Temple before. 

But it was that experience that bound the exiles together to build the new Temple and to build up the nation again.

In the gospel, when Jesus was told that His mother and brothers were looking for Him, He in turn replied that His mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

To hear the word of God is to experience the voice of God in the depths of the heart. It is a voice that speaks of peace.

May that experience of peace fill our hearts with love and may we put that love into practice.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Monday, 21-09-15

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

Have we ever wondered what were the thoughts that crossed the mind of St. Matthew as he got up from the customs house to follow Jesus?

Is it the uncertainty of abandoning a stable and profitable job, although it is not a respectable one?

Or is it the apprehension that from that moment on, things are not going to be the same anymore?

But over and above all these thoughts is the great up-lifting feeling that someone had given him respect, dignity and self-worth.

In Jesus, St. Matthew saw the mercy and love of God, who came not to call the virtuous, but sinners.

What St. Matthew saw in Jesus, he too wanted to emulate.

That is also what the 1st reading is telling us: that united in faith and knowledge of the Son of God, we strive to be the Perfect Man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ.

Jesus showed St. Matthew who and what he can become.

In turn, St. Matthew showed us in his gospel who and what we can become.

As the call of Jesus crosses and echoes in our hearts, let us answer the call like St. Matthew.

Because it is a call to the fullness of Christ Himself.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

25th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 20.09.2015

Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 / James 3:16 – 4:3 / Mark 9:30-37

Between a discussion, a debate and an argument, there are similarities and there are also differences.

A discussion is a process of talking about something, typically in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas.

A debate is a formal discussion on a particular topic in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward.

An argument is an exchange of diverging or opposite views, typically a heated or angry one, with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.

Whichever it might be, emotions are always involved, and a discussion can develop into a debate and then when the emotions get high it becomes an argument that can turn into a shouting match.

And usually in small and petty arguments, it isn’t about who is right or wrong but who can shout louder and prevail over the other.

It’s also rather funny how after an argument is over, you begin to think about more clever things you should have said (but a bit too late).

A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. Because an earlier discussion had led to a debate and then into an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. 

As they passed by some goats and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, "Relatives of yours?" The wife replied, "Yep,… the in-laws."

The fact is that when a discussion deteriorates into an argument, logic turns into emotion, and intelligence turns into arrogance.

In the gospel, Jesus asked His disciples what were they arguing about on the road.

They said nothing. Of course they said nothing because what they argued about was nothing intelligent – they argued about who was the greatest.

And obviously each was trying to prove that he is the greatest by the volume of his voice, so much so that it reached the ears of Jesus.

But when they were confronted by Jesus, they became silent.

But it was only when they were silent that they were ready to listen. 

It is interesting to note that “silent” and “listen” are made up of the same letters.

And it was when they were silent that Jesus began to teach them about what is greatness.

He taught them that if anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last and the servant of all.

And then He took a little child and set him in front of them and told them that anyone who welcomes one of these little ones would be welcoming Him.

In other words, anyone who would be as humble as a little child would be able to listen to the teachings of Jesus and attain greatness without having to prove it.

And there is also no need to try to win an argument in order to prove that one is great.

There is this story of Mother Teresa who went around begging for food for the orphans that she was taking care of.

One day Mother Teresa went to a local bakery to ask for bread for the starving children in the orphanage. The baker, outraged at people begging for bread from him, spat in her face and refused. 

Mother Teresa calmly took out her handkerchief, wiped the spit from her face and said to the baker, “Okay, that was for me. Now what about the bread for the orphans?”

The baker, shamed by her response, gave her the bread she wanted.

Truly it was an example of greatness in the face of insult. And there is no argument about that.

As we think about it, we may realize that most of the time, we react and enter into an argument with others and may even end up fighting for nothing and over nothing.

And that’s what St. James tells us in the 2nd reading when he says this – Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it, so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition you cannot satisfy, so you fight to get your way by force.

Yes, when we look at what is happening in the world, we can see that there are people who would resort to violence and even killing and they think that it is great to do so.

There is a story of a holy man who was threatened with death by a bandit.

The holy man calmly said, “Then be good enough to fulfill my dying wish - Cut off the branch from the tree.”

With one slash of the sword, and it was done. “What now?” asked the bandit.“Put it back again,” said the holy man.

The bandit laughed, “You must be crazy to think that anyone can do that.”

The holy man replied, “On the contrary, it is you who are crazy to think that you are great and mighty because you can wound and destroy. But true greatness and might would know how to create and heal.” 

Certainly, it is very brave to talk like that to someone who is wielding a sword. 

But true greatness is also having the courage and the wisdom to speak the truth with love.

Because to speak the truth with love requires the wisdom that can be attained only with the humility of a little child.

As the 2nd reading puts it, it is a wisdom that comes down from above and it makes for peace and it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good, and there is no trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.

Yes, we need to be humble and ask for the wisdom from Jesus in any discussion or debate or even in an argument.

With the wisdom from Jesus, our discussions and debates and even arguments will bear fruits of peace and even help others to grow in holiness.

Between a discussion, a debate and even in an argument, the difference lies with Jesus and in Jesus.

Friday, September 18, 2015

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 19-09-15

1 Tim 6:13-16 / Luke 8:4-15

The retention power of the memory in people varies from one person to another.

But it can be quite amazing to see how much we can remember and yet how much we don't remember at the same time.

For example, can we remember anything from the gospel passage that we have just heard? And going back a bit further, can we remember anything from the 1st reading.

If we can't remember anything at all, then we need to reflect on why it is so. Is it because it is still early in the morning and hence we are not ready to remember anything? Or is it that our retention power is so little?

But as Jesus said in the gospel, "The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you, but for the rest there are only parables, so that: they may see but not perceive, listen but not understand.

But if we look and listen and remember nothing and there is no impression, then how are we to perceive and understand?

Yet, the mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to us already. But we must look and listen.

In the 1st reading, we heard that when Jesus spoke up as a witness for the truth before Pontius  Pilate, Pilate do not know what the truth was.

Pilate saw and heard Jesus, but no impression was made on him and hence, nothing was revealed to him.

Let us ask the Lord for the grace to look beyond and to listen deeper. More so when what we see is stillness and all that we hear is silence, then let us know that God is present.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-09-15

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

Between a debate and an argument, there are similarities as well as differences.

A debate or debating is a formal method of interactive and representational argument, and in many ways it is more subtle and strategic.

In philosophy and logic, an argument is an attempt to persuade someone of something, by giving reasons or evidence for accepting a particular conclusion.

But whether it is a debate or an argument, emotions will be involved and there is no denying the pleasure when one wins a debate or argument.

St. Paul had something to say about this in the 1st reading. That those with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words are ignorant and self-conceited.

All that can come out of this is jealousy, contention, abuse, a wicked mistrust of one another and unending disputes.

In other words, we just have to take Jesus out of the debate and argument and everything will spiral out of control.

But in the gospel, we heard that as Jesus made His way through towns and villages preaching and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, along with Him were the Twelve and several other women of various backgrounds.

Certainly, there were debates and arguments between them but their focus was on Jesus. Similarly whenever a debate or argument arises, let us call upon Jesus and let Him be in that situation.

Whether it is a debate or argument, the difference lies with Jesus.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 17-09-15

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

One of the challenges that the parishes and organizations face is this lack of candidates for succession planning.

Actually, it is not so much of a lack but rather reluctance to accept the nomination or even to a surprise election to the post.

There could be many possible reasons here - prior commitments, lack of confidence, feeling of inadequacy and unworthiness, etc.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul told Timothy not to let his age (just because he was young) to be an obstacle.

Rather, he must be an example to all the believers in the way he speaks and behave, and in his love, his faith and his purity.

Nonetheless, for a young man to face the seniors of the community can be quite daunting.

But if the youth of a leader can be the cause of disdain, then what about sinfulness or a bad name.

In the gospel, a woman who had a bad name (probably a public sinner) came up to Jesus while He was having dinner and anointed His feet with ointment.

Of course that raised eyebrows but the host and those present were silent until Jesus took up the matter.

The teaching point of Jesus is that sin and other iniquities can be forgiven, and hence inadequacy and unworthiness is certainly not an issue where God is concerned.

God is certainly much bigger than our sinfulness and unworthiness. Let not our sinfulness and unworthiness be the obstacles of God's gracious and loving call to serve Him.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 16-09-15

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

No family is ever perfect. We argue and even fight with each other and stop talking to each other.

But whatever it is, family is still family, no matter how dysfunctional, and hence must continue to exist as a family.

For better or otherwise, the members of the family are like branches on a tree; we all grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one.

If that is so for the family, then it is more so for the Church, which is the family of God, which is reiterated by St. Paul in the 1st reading.

As members of God's family, we should know how to behave, to uphold the truth and keep it safe.

And what is this truth? St. Paul would say that it is the mystery of our faith and it is very deep indeed.

He summarized that truth and that mystery in the person of Jesus, who is the root of the family of the Church.

But the family of the Church is not isolated from the bigger reality of the family of the world.

As we grow and are immersed into the various aspects of the world, we also must not forget our roots - that Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches.

It is our mission to bring the people of our generation to realize that we are truly one family and that we have the same roots.

Let's not be like the children that Jesus portrayed in the gospel who are shouting to one another in the market place.

Let us be the children of Wisdom who will help others realize that we belong to one family in this world.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Our Lady of Sorrows, Tuesday, 15-09-15

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

When we reflect deeper on how the gospels presented Mary, we may see that she is presented as a rather quiet and ordinary person, someone who is not that outstanding.

Certainly, she is not one whom we would think would dance and sing in public and be the center of attention in social gatherings.

Even in the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, we don't see Mary being very exhilarating or exuberant.

On the contrary, it seemed like the joyful events of her life were laced with a tinge of sorrow. The gospel text of the Presentation showed us that aspect.

And today the Church honours Mary as the Mother of Sorrows, a feast which followed the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

And just as the cross of shame and death is now exalted as the Cross of glory and salvation, so too the Mother of Sorrows is telling us that she is with us in our own sorrows and helping us to see beyond.

Mary will do so because on the cross, Jesus gave her to be our Mother. So even when sorrow pierced her heart as she sees her Son dying on the cross, she still had the strength to accept being mother to us.

It is now for us to accept Mary to be our Mother and to let her have a place in the home of our hearts.

With Mary may we see goodness in the bad, may we find joy in the midst of sorrow, have hope in the midst of despair and journey on to the everlasting joy that God has promised us.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Monday, 14-09-15

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

Antivenom (or antivenin or antivenene) is a biological product used in the treatment of venomous bites or stings. Antivenom is created by milking venom from a relevant snake, spider, insect, or fish. The venom is then diluted and injected into a horse, sheep, rabbit, or goat. The subject animal will undergo an immune response to the venom, producing antibodies against the venom's active molecules which can then be harvested from the animal's blood and used for treatment which must conform to the standards of pharmacopoeia and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the 1st reading, when the people grumbled and complained about the unsatisfying food, fiery serpents appeared and their bite brought death to many people.

When the people repented and begged Moses to intercede for them, he was told by the Lord to make a figure of a serpent and to put it on a standard. And so Moses fashioned a bronze serpent and on a standard, and anyone bitten by a serpent would just have to look at it and be cured.

We may find it ironical that the figure on the standard was that of what caused death to the people.

In a way it is similar yet not the same; in fact it is the opposite of each other.

What caused death was a fiery venomous serpent. What was on the standard was a bronze figure of a serpent.

This account in the Old Testament prefigures the sign of salvation in the New Testament.

The cross was an instrument of torture and death used by the Romans. Jesus died on the cross. But by His rising from the dead, the cross is now turned into a symbol of salvation and even exalted as the holy cross.

We must acknowledge that we are sinners and that our sins have caused us great pain and our hearts crumble into the tomb of a spiritual death and we view the cross as a symbol of our sinfulness.

But now the Cross is exalted by the Resurrection of Christ and it has become the symbol of victory over sin and death.

Let us look at the Cross. It is no more a symbol of sin and shame. Because of the Resurrection of Christ it has become a symbol of the power and the glory of God.

Let us draw grace and mercy from the Cross of Christ and in overcoming our sinfulness may we also proclaim salvation through the Cross.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 13.09.2015

Isaiah 50:5-9 / James 2:14-18 / Mark 8:27-35

When it comes to thinking of a present to give to someone, it is certainly much more difficult than to choose which political party to vote for at the elections.

But it actually boils down to two choices. We can give the person what that person wants, and that would easy because we can just ask that person what he/she would like for a present.

Or we can decide to give that person what we want to give, regardless of whether the person likes it or not. Of course if that person is someone we care about, then we would give something that is personal; otherwise the present might just get recycled.

There is this joke about a woman who woke up on the morning of her birthday and her husband, “I just had a dream that you gave me the most beautiful diamond necklace. What do you think it means?”

“You’ll know tonight.” he said. The woman could hardly think of anything else all day and she couldn’t wait for her husband to return home.

That evening, the man finally came home with a small package and gave it to his wife. Delighted, she opened it excitedly, only to find that it was a book entitled… “The Meaning of Dreams”.

So if we find that book somewhere, then it might just have been recycled, and maybe a few times.

When it comes to giving presents, we can give what that person wants, or we can give what we want.

Similarly when it comes to giving our views and opinions, we can say what that person wants to hear, or we can say what we personally think it is.

In the gospel Jesus asked His disciples who they think He was. But He began by asking them what people were saying about Him.

That was easy for them. So they said what others said about Jesus – that He was John the Baptist, or Elijah or one of the prophets.

But that was just like a teaser. Because the next question that Jesus asked His disciples was what they themselves thought about Him. Who did they thought He was?

That was certainly up close and personal and not that comfortable. Now they can’t quote what other people were saying. They have to say what they personally think.

As His disciples and having followed Him around for some time already, they could be wondering about the consequences of their opinion.

And they could be wondering if they should tell Jesus something He wants to hear, or to be frank with Him and tell Him what was really on their minds.

And then Peter comes along with this divinely inspired proclamation “You are the Christ” and that saved the rest from that tight awkward situation.

But when Jesus began to teach them He was destined to suffer grievously and to be put to death, Peter decided to come up with his own opinion and began to remonstrate with Jesus.

With that, Jesus had to rebuke Peter with these rather sharp words: Get behind me Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.

Certainly for Peter, it was one moment of inspiration followed by another moment of humiliation. Of all things, he was called “Satan”; what else can be worse.

But the learning point that we can get from Peter’s lesson is the way we think – do we think in God’s way or do we think in our own way?

And just as Jesus asked His disciples who they think He was, in what way do we see others and what do we think of them?

Butterflies are beautiful creatures. The pattern and colour on their wings are truly amazing.

Yet it is said that butterflies can’t see their own wings. They can’t see how beautiful they are, although everyone else can.

In a way we are also like butterflies; we may not be able to see the beauty in us.

But that should not prevent us from seeing the beauty in others.

When Jesus asked His disciples “Who do you say I am?” He was also asking them if they were seeing Him in God’s way or is it in their own way.

God’s way of looking at people is always that of seeing the beauty in others.

God created each of us with His image, and it is an image of love and beauty.

When we see others with the love of God, then we are able to see the beauty in others.

That is the best present and the best gift that we can give to others.
And when we see the beauty in others, then we too will begin to see the beauty in ourselves.

Butterflies are beautiful but we are more than that. We are created in God’s image.

To see God’s image in others is truly the best gift we can give to them.

And it is also the best gift we can give to ourselves.

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 12-09-15

1 Tim 1:15-17 / Luke 6:43-49

If we had to show something as a testimony of who we are and what our life is all about, what would that be?

Probably we would think of our achievements and show our certificates and photos of our illustrious moments.

There is no doubt that St. Paul was a great figure in the New Testament.

But his testimony to us is not some great achievement or illustrious missionary zeal, but rather a humble admittance that he is the greatest of sinners.

His testimony is that Jesus made him the greatest evidence of His inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in Jesus to come to eternal life.

So it was not what he did for Jesus but rather what Jesus did for him.

And that is so with us. The fruits that we bear will be the testimony of our lives.

As much as good fruits are a sign of the goodness of our lives, yet we must be humble enough to acknowledge that the goodness in us is not of our own achievement.

Like St. Paul, it is because Jesus has shown us His mercy and cleansed us and filled our hearts with His love.

So from what fills our hearts may our mouths proclaim the inexhaustible mercy and patience of Jesus and continue to bear the good fruits of love.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 11-09-15

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

In his universal prayer intention for the month of July, Pope Francis called on people to pray for “political responsibility [to] be lived at all levels as a high form of charity”.

In the “Evangelii Gaudium” the Pope stated that “politics, though often denigrated, remains a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”. “I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor!” the Pope wrote.

Today as our nation goes to the polls to elect the government for the next four years, the two readings of today's liturgy reminds us of the importance of casting a responsible vote.

For one to run for an election, he/she must be as transparent and honest as how St. Paul described himself in the 1st reading.

St. Paul said that Jesus Christ judged him faithful enough to call him into His service even though he used to be a blasphemer and did all he could to injure and discredit the faith..

But Jesus showed him mercy and the grace of the Lord filled him with faith and love.

So whether one is called to serve the Lord or to serve the nation, that person must first be able to see the "plank" in his own eye instead of observing the splinter in other peoples' eyes.

Failing to do so would mean the person is rather "blind" to what is his own faults and shortcomings. How can such a "blind" person lead others?

As Pope Francis said, politics and political responsibility is a high form of charity.

May the Lord grant our country responsible and charitable political leaders.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 10-09-15

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

To act on behalf of someone would mean that the person have given you full authority to do whatever on that person's behalf.

This is often ratified by a legal document or some kind of recognized written permission by that person concerned.

This authority will stand as long as it is not revoked or legally revoked by the person.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells us that we are God's chosen race, His saints, and He loves us.

St. Paul also added that we should never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus.

So we have been given the authority and the power to accomplish what God has commissioned us to do.

When Jesus says in the gospel - Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who  curse you, pray for those who treat you badly - that would sound like humanly unachievable or even impossible.

But this is what Jesus entrusted us to do and to those whom He has entrusted, He has also empowered.

Whatever we do or say in the name of the Lord Jesus, God will also bring it to fulfillment and completion.

We need to ask Jesus to clothe us with sincere compassion, kindness and humility, gentleness and patience, and then we will have that power and authority to act on behalf of Jesus.

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 09-09-15

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

We can't pretend and we also don't want to pretend that we are not interested in the material things of this world, especially luxuries like a nice big house, or big car, a big bank account, etc.

There is a material streak in us, and we also want to have the things that will give us some creature comfort.

We don't want to think that by believing in God, we will have to face poverty and hunger, or sorrow and distress.

On the contrary, we would want God to eliminate all sorrow and distress, and pain and suffering from our lives.

In the gospel, Jesus is teaching us a truth in life, and that is, over and above everything else, we must long for God and trust and depend on Him alone.

That is also what St. Paul was telling the Colossians in the 1st reading - that they have been brought back to the true life in Christ, and hence they must look for the things above and not be stuck on the things of earth.

He even used the work "kill" with reference to the evil desires and sinfulness of this world.

Yes, of all the people in this world, we Christians must put to death the things that imprison us to this world and rise in order to live the life of Christ in us.

For in Christ, we have everything; without Christ then all that we might have is as good as nothing and good for nothing.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tuesday, 08-09-15

Micah 5:1-4 / Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23

In the liturgy, the Church celebrates the nativities of three persons - Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist.

Today, the Church celebrates the nativity of Mary and the date of the birth of Mary is the 8th September.

We may wonder why the 8th September is the birthday of Our Lady.

This date is connected to yet another important date - 8th December - the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1854, on the 8th December, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception of Mary to be an article of faith.

In essence, it means that by the grace of God, Mary was conceived without sin in her mother's womb.

So at the moment of her conception, Mary was freed from sin and that signalled the first stage of God's plan of salvation for mankind.

God prepared Mary to be sinless as as to bear Jesus, the Son of God, in her womb.

So God had a detailed plan as to how to go about fulfilling His promise of salvation for mankind.

So the birthday of Our Lady is not just a day of another devotion to Our Lady. It has its foundations in the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. And the Immaculate Conception is part of this great plan of salvation of mankind.

So God had a carefully thought out plan to save us.

Let us be careful and not to forfeit God's gift of salvation for us, and let us also be grateful for this gift.

Let us also ask Our Lady to pray for us sinners, and let us join her to pray for the salvation of sinners.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 07-09-15

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

The term "common sense" may look like self-explanatory and it is the basis of all thinking and reasoning.

But when things get too muddled up and the thinking and reasoning becomes unclear, then we use another principle and that is "go back to basics"

In the gospel, the scribes and Pharisees have devised a set of rules and regulations about the Sabbath and the Law, that it had become so complex and confusing.

And they were watching Jesus to see where He would step out of line.

Yet, Jesus took the situation and appealed to common sense by going back to basics.

So He asked the question: is it against the Law on the Sabbath to go good, or to do evil; to save life or to destroy it?

If the gospel passage showed how people can lose their common sense, then what St. Paul said in the 1st reading does not make much sense in the ordinary sense of the word.

He told the Colossians that it makes him happy to suffer for them, as he is suffering now. What does not make sense is that how can we be happy to suffer?

But what he said after may make us start thinking - "in my own body to do what I can to make up all that is still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church."

When we have thought and reflected deep enough, then we will come to the realization that by accepting suffering for the sake for Christ, then we will be able to make sense of our life on earth.

May our suffering for Christ help others to come to their senses and to come to see that God's way is truly the most sensible way.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

23rd Ordinary Sunday, Year B, 06.09.2015

Isaiah 35:4-7 / James 2:1-5 / Mark 7:31-37

Being selective can have a couple of meanings.

It may mean that one is fussy and selects only what is desired and wouldn’t consider the rest.

Or it may mean that one is discerning and after careful consideration will choose only what is good and necessary.

And the word selective is also used to describe other words – selective attention, selective memory, selective observation, selective quoting, selective hearing, selective listening.

And talking about selective hearing and selective listening, there is a little difference.

Selective listening is a listening technique that filters and summarizes in order to achieve comprehension. 

While the goal of listening is to fully understand what someone is saying, in practice, people don't always fully listen. People make choices when listening. They apply filters. So they half-listen to get a general impression of what's said. 

When it comes to selective hearing, it can be said that we have the ability to hear certain sounds and cut off the rest. But not so for those who wear a hearing aid. It seems that the hearing aid would just take in all the sounds and it’s a matter of which sound is the loudest.

Nonetheless, the hearing aid is certainly a great help for those who have a hearing problem.

There is a story of an elderly gentleman who had serious hearing problems for a number of years.

Finally he went to the doctor and the doctor was able to have him fitted for a set of hearing aids that allowed the gentleman to hear almost 100%.

The elderly gentleman went back to the doctor after a month and the doctor said, "Your hearing is perfect. Your family must be really pleased that you can hear again."

To which the gentleman said, "Oh, I haven't told my family yet. I just sit around and listen to the conversations. I've changed my will three times!"

It’s wonderful what the hearing aid can do, although some don’t want to use it because it can be quite irritating at times.

In the gospel, there is an account of Jesus healing a deaf man who also had a speech impediment.

And indeed, the man’s ears were opened and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly.

But for those who were there, and who could hear, it seemed that they had a listening problem.

Because Jesus ordered then to tell no one about it, but the more He insisted, the more widely they published it. 

Certainly their admiration was unbounded, so much so that they didn’t even want to listen to what Jesus had ordered. 

As for the man who was cured of his deafness and speech impediment, it would be interesting to know what would be his direction in life.

He can now hear and he would  have to choose and discern what to listen to and decide his direction in life.

There is a story of a group of frogs that set off on a hike, traveling through the woods.  Then two of them fell into a deep pit.  When the other frogs saw how deep the pit was, they told the two frogs that they were as good as dead.  The two frogs ignored the comments and tried to jump up, out of the pit, with all their might.
The other frogs kept shouting at them to stop, repeating that they were as good as dead.  Finally, one of the frogs lost heart and gave into fear.  He believed what the other frogs were saying and gave up. He fell down and died.

The other frog continued to jump as hard as he could.  Once again, the crowd of frogs yelled at him to stop the pain and just die.  But he jumped even harder and finally made it out!

When he got out, the other frogs were surprised and said, “Did you not hear us?”

The frog explained to them that he was rather deaf.  He thought they were encouraging him the entire time.

There is power of life and death in the tongue.  An encouraging word to someone who is down can lift them up and help them make it through the day.

A destructive word to someone who is down can be what it takes to kill them. 

We have to be careful what we choose to listen to and what to believe. Whether we hear as well as Superman or as poorly as Beethoven, we need to be selective in our listening.

We need to listen to what comes from God and tune out the rest.
What comes from God are words that give life and fill us with faith, hope and love.

When we hear words of encouragement, words of correction, words of forgiveness and healing, words of wisdom, words of enlightenment, let us be opened to those words.

Those are words spoken by people who care for us and love us, and in and through those people, God is speaking to us.

When we listen to those words, we will in turn speak those words.

Then others will also know that God is speaking to them. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 05-09-15

Col 1:221-23 / Luke 6:1-5

We live in this world and hence we are very much influenced by what and how the world thinks and acts.

Very often the world dictates how we should think and how we should act and even though we might think differently we end up conforming to the world's ideas.

It seems like a case of if you can't beat them then join them.

But St. Paul reminds us in the 1st reading that because of Christ, we must persevere and stand on the solid base of the faith and never let ourselves drift away form the hope promised by the Good News.

So in this world we walk by faith, and faith must guide us in how we think and act, so that what we do before God will be holy, pure and blameless.

Yes, we are in this world, yet we are not of this world; we are of Christ, and it expresses the relationship between a part and a whole.

In the gospel, Jesus proclaimed that He is master of the sabbath, which is a holy day.

Jesus is our Master, and He is also the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

May we be His faithful disciples and servants so that we can sanctify the world by living holy, pure and blameless lives so that the world can see what salvation is all about.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 04-09-15

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

Whenever people say that "God is everywhere", do they mean it literally or is it just a figure of speech?

If God is everywhere, then where and how can He be seen clearly and obviously?

Some people in the Old Testament were privileged to have seen God face-to-face (Abraham, Moses).

In the New Testament, Jesus is the image of the unseen God, and the people saw that "many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it" (Lk 10:24)

But as much as the people saw Jesus, heard Him and even touched Him, what was their perception of Him? Were they able to see beyond His humanity that veiled His divinity?

The 1st reading states that Jesus is the Head of His body the Church. So where do we see the presence of Jesus in the Church and more so in the Eucharist?

In the Eucharist, we see the presence of Christ in the sacred species of His Body and Blood; in the priest who stands in the person of Christ as he offers the sacrifice on the altar; in the Word that is proclaimed as God speaks to His people; in the faithful who are gathered as the Body of Christ for the Eucharist.

Yes, these are the sacramental signs of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

Yet, we need to look deeper in order to see Christ in these sacramental signs and also to see Christ in the people around us.

We pray that our eyes will have the spiritual vision to see that God is everywhere and in everyone.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 03-09-15

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

Menial work is considered as  unskilled, lowly, humble, low-status and inferior, as compared to the other skilled and higher professions.

Consequently, menial workers are considered to be among the lower rungs of society and their opinions and suggestions are not usually considered valuable in the discussions and debates at the intellectual level.

Though their contribution to society is essential, they are often overlooked and forgotten and not much is expected of them other than the essential services that they provide.

Being a fisherman in the time of Jesus may be considered as menial work and fishermen were classed among the lower rungs of society.

In the gospel, Jesus sat on a humble fishing boat and that was where He taught the crowds.

And from the humble fishing boat, Jesus told Simon Peter to do something that was against his fisherman sense - to put out into deep water and pay out the nets for a catch.

Simon Peter was hesitant but nonetheless he complied and then he was confounded.

Simon Peter was confounded because he didn't expect the miraculous catch of fish and more so for it to happen to him.

But that is God's way of revealing Himself - He looks upon the humble and raises the lowly.

When we humble ourselves and not think too highly or proudly of ourselves, then God will show us great and wonderful things.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 02-09-15

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

All men are created equal. In principle that is true. But it also cannot be denied that some are more gifted that others.

These are certainly a minority and in a way it can be said that they are a special breed.

Some are gifted with endurance, others with speed, others with stamina that defy age, others with intelligence that would categorize them as geniuses.

But the majority are certainly mere ordinary mortals who succumb to age and illness and even dementia.

Most people would think that Jesus could do all that teaching and healing and miracles because He is divine.

Though He is also human, yet in most instances His divinity was more emphasized than His humanity.

In the gospel, it was obvious that Jesus had a very busy time. Earlier on in the synagogue, He had driven out an evil spirit that possessed a man.

Then as He came out of the synagogue, He went on to Simon Peter's house where He healed the mother-in-law of her fever.

Then at sunset, all those who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another were brought to Him and He cured them.

It was amazing that He had that kind of energy and charity. We would say that we don't have that kind of energy and charity and we would add on to say that it is also because Jesus is God.

But the gospel also did mention that when daylight came, Jesus made His way to a lonely place, obviously to pray.

It was prayer that empowered Him to continue His mission of preaching and healing.

If it is so for Jesus, then it is all the more for us. Prayer must be our priority. All things being equal, but prayer must take first place, because that is how we get connected to our Creator.