Sunday, July 31, 2016

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 01-08-16

Jeremiah 28:1-17 / Matthew 14:13-21

The phrase "stand up" is incorrect because it has a double emphasis and hence the second word is redundant and incorrect in the usage.

But the phrase "to stand up" is often used in everyday language for a particular emphasis.

To stand up means to be counted, and that sounds rather heroic, bit it also means that it is certainly not comfortable.

When everyone wants to be seated and feel safe, do we want to stand up and look like a sore thumb, and even feel like a sore thumb.

In the 1st reading, the yoke that the prophet Jeremiah wore was a symbol that the people should submit to Babylon.

That would have enabled them to have some respite from the threat of being annihilated and also to slowly rethink their relationship with God and to repent.

But that was an uncomfortable message, a humiliating message, but the prophet Jeremiah had to stand up for it.

But the prophet Hananiah broke the yoke and gave the people a more comfortable and acceptable message, and that eventually led to disaster.

The history of Christianity is peppered with people who stood up and spoke the hard truth rather than sit quietly and remain comfortable.

But if all Christians were to stand up and speak the truth, especially the hard truth, the rest of the world will slowly get up on its feet.

We are all prophets by virtue of our baptism.

We need to ask the Lord for the wisdom to know the truth and to courage to proclaim it with love.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

18th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 31.07.2016

Ecclesiastes 1:2; 2:21-23 / Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 / Luke 12:13-21

There are some movies, as well as movie characters, that we will remember even long after the box-office screening.

Especially so for those kind of movies that make us laugh and cry. 

It does what good movies are supposed to do: make us feel alive and feel what it is like to be human.

One of those movies has its title which is also the name of the main movie character.

We would know what movie it is with this memorable line from the opening scenes: “My mama always said, ‘Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.’”

Yes, that’s from the movie “Forrest Gump” and it’s about this fictitious character, though not very intelligent, has accidently been present in many historical moments. But he has a sweetness and the charm of a childlike innocence.

There is this story about the day finally arrives when Forrest Gump dies and goes to heaven. He is met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter himself. The gates are closed however, as Forrest approaches the gatekeeper. St. Peter says, "Well Forrest, it's certainly good to see you. We have heard a lot about you. I must inform you that the place is filling up fast, and we've been administering an entrance examination for everyone. The tests are fairly short, but you need to pass before you can get into Heaven." 

Forrest responds "It sure is good to be here sir. I was looking forward to this. Nobody ever told me about any entrance exam. 
Sure hope the test ain't too hard; life was a big enough a test as it was." 

St. Peter goes on, "Yes, I know Forrest, but the test I have for you has only three questions. Q1. What days of the week begin with the letter T? Q2. How many seconds are there in a year? Q3. What is God's first name?" 

Forrest Gump thought for a while and said, "Well, the first one - how many days of the week begin with the letter "T"? That one's easy. That'd be Today and Tomorrow." 

The Saint's eyes open wide and he exclaims, "Forrest! That's not what I was thinking, but.... you do have a point though, and I guess I didn't specify, so I give you credit for that answer. How about the next one?" asks St. Peter. "How many seconds are there in a year?"

"Now that one's harder," says Forrest, "But I guess the only answer can be twelve." Astounded St. Peter says, "Twelve!? Twelve!? Forrest, how in Heaven's name could you come up with twelve seconds in a year?" Forest says "There's gotta be twelve seconds in a year: January second, February second, March second....." 

"Hold it," interrupts St. Peter. "I see where you're going with this. And I guess I see your point, though that wasn't quite what I had in mind, but I'll give you credit for that one, too." "Let's go on with the next and final question. Can you tell me God's first name?" 

Forrest replied, "Howard." "OK, OK," said a frustrated St. Peter, "I guess I can understand how you came up with your answers to my first two questions, but just how in the world did you come up with the name Howard as the first name of God?" 

"That was the easiest one of all," Forrest replied "I learned it from the prayer – Our Father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name … St. Peter pushed the gate open and said, “Run, Forrest, run!”

Those are certainly odd and naïve answers but they give another perspective to what is the usual and expected.

As Christians, we are not to give odd and naïve answers to the questions of life. Rather we are to give a spiritual and heavenly answer to the material and earthly questions.

Hence it is a matter of getting our hearts back to basic. But this basic is not about the usual and the expected. It is not about going with the flow of what others think and measure with.

The 1st reading gives us questions to ponder over. “For what does man gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone under the sun? What of all his laborious days, his cares of office, his restless nights?”

It’s not a matter of how much we have travelled but in which direction we are travelling. It is not about how much we are thinking but in which direction we are thinking.

Hence, the 2nd reading urges us to have our thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on earth, because the life we have is with Christ in God.

That is why we must kill everything in us that belongs only to the earthly life: fornication, impurity, guilty passions, evil desires and especially greed, which is the same as worshipping a false god.

And greed was what consumed the rich man in the gospel parable. 

And for that, God has this to say to him: Fool! This very night the demand is made for your soul; and this horde of yours, whose will it be then?

All of us, and each of us will one day have to stand before the Lord, and like the joke about Forrest Gump at heaven’s gate, we may be given some questions to answer.

But God won't ask what kind of car we drove, He'll ask how many people we drove who didn't have transportation.

God won't ask the square footage of our house, He'll ask how many people we welcomed into our home.

God won't ask about the clothes we had in our closet, He'll ask how many people we helped to clothe.

God won't ask what our highest salary was, He'll ask if we compromised our character to obtain it.

God won't ask how many friends we had, He'll ask how many people to whom we were a friend.

Let us not wait till we stand at heaven’s gate to have the answers.
The life in heaven begins with how we live our lives on earth. 

And when we stand at heaven’s gate, may we be welcomed by God who is generous with His mercy and compassion. 

There will be no questions asked when we ourselves have been generous to others with our love, mercy and compassion.

Friday, July 29, 2016

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 30-07-16

Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24 / Matthew 14:1-12

At times we wonder if being good and doing good is really worth it.

Because very often, we see, and even experienced, that good is being re-paid with evil.

John the Baptist just wanted Herod to repent and live a good life.

Because what Herod did was leading towards self-destruction.

John the Baptist had compassion for Herod.

In fact, Herod knew it, and that was why he was distressed when he had to give the orders for John's execution.

But goodness cannot be silenced or put to death.

Because in the person of Jesus, Herod was once again reminded of the goodness of John the Baptist.

When we live out the Christian values of love, patience, gentleness, humility, etc., and we get slapped in the face, we may wonder if it is worth it.

But let us remember that all good comes from God.

When we do good, the benefactors are not just the others.

We ourselves begin to realize our Christian identity and see the power of goodness and the power of God's love happening in the lives of others.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

St. Martha, Friday, 29-07-16

1 John  4:7-16 / John 11:19-27 or John 10:38-42

Whenever we talk about St. Martha, the image of an active and work-oriented as well as task-oriented person comes to mind.

That may be because of that occasion (Luke 10 : 38-42)when she invited Jesus to her home and she was caught up with all the serving.

And then she complained to Jesus about getting her sister Mary to help her with the work.

But Jesus told her that she worry and fret about so many things and yet only one is important, and Mary had chosen the better part.

Martha must have remembered what Jesus said to her, and so despite the sadness and grief over her brother's death, she knew that only Jesus could comfort her.

And true to her personality, she made the move to go out and meet Jesus and to express her faith in Jesus.

But on this occasion, she also made a profound proclamation.

Martha proclaimed Jesus to be Christ, the Son of God.

Only St. Peter had made that similar proclamation.

Hence, St. Martha, despite her active and work-oriented and task-oriented personality, came to slowly recognize who Jesus is.

St. Martha is an example for us of someone who is active and busy but yet took the time to reflect and to discover who Jesus is.

Like St. Martha we may also have very active lives and busy with a lot of things.

But let us not forget the one important thing - prayer!

It is in prayer that we will attain the peace to know that Jesus is truly the Son of God, our Saviour.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 28-07-16

Jeremiah 18:1-6 / Matthew 13:47-58

Certain things go by default such that it is made obvious that the default is the first option as well as the preferred option.

Besides the default option, there could be alternative options. Alternative options can be useful depending on situations and circumstances.

Under the normal and usual circumstances, we will hear the Word of God spoken to us at Mass and at other para-liturgical occasions.

But besides this default setting, God will also speak in other ways.

In the 1st reading, the Lord told Jeremiah to go to the potter's house and there, the Lord will let him hear what He has to say to him.

Jeremiah saw how the potter worked with the clay and whenever the vessel came out wrong, the potter worked on it again turning it into another vessel.

It was then that the Lord revealed to Jeremiah that the House of Israel was like the clay in the potter's hands and that the Lord will keep reworking on His people whenever they went wrong in their ways.

Certainly, God speaks to us when we come for Mass and He will also speak to us in the ordinary events of our lives.

More so He will speak to us whenever we go wrong in our ways so as to make us go back to His ways.

May we have the eyes to see the Lord's hand shaping us and correcting us and may we have the ears to listen to what the Lord is saying to us.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 27-06-16

Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21 / Matthew 13:44-46

It is said that evil can only thrive when the good do nothing about it.

Certainly, when there is a wrong or an evil being done, the good people must do something about it, either in word or in action, so as to address it and to put a stop to it.

But would that mean that those who are committing the evil or doing wrong would stop it?

More often than not, the reality is that evil will turn on the good and retaliate against the good.

Hence, the good people, for what they think they are, will rather do nothing so as to avoid trouble.

Otherwise, the good will have to go through what the prophet Jeremiah went through in the 1st reading.

Jeremiah spoke God's word to his people, but when they retaliated, he could only lament, complained, get depressed and disheartened, using words like "they curse me", "I suffer insult for your sake", "Why is my suffering continual, my wound incurable, refusing to be healed?"

And the Lord God replied: They will fight against you but they will not overcome you, because I am with you to save you and to deliver you. I mean to deliver you from the hands of the wicked and redeem you from the clutches of the violent.

Would we believe that? Would we put our trust in God and dare to speak up against wrong, injustice, wickedness and evil?

There are consequences but as the Lord told Jeremiah, "I am with you", He is also saying the same to us.

So if we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem. If we Christians don't address the wrong and the evil, then we are only saying so much about our faith and our trust in God.

Monday, July 25, 2016

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 26-07-16

Jeremiah 14:17-22 / Matthew 13:36-43

A lot of questions have been asked about this age-old problem of evil in the world, as well as the origin of evil.

The Latin term for this phrase "origin of evil" is MYSTERIUM INIQUITATIS.

When translated into English it is "the mystery of iniquity".

Indeed, sin and evil is so much of a mystery.

The letter to the Romans 7:19 puts this mystery in a life experience when it says - For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

So as much as sin and evil is mysterious, yet the reality and the fact is clear.

Sin and evil is merely a manifestation of the lack of goodness, whether it is around us or in us.

In the 1st reading, we hear of how God feels about the sinful and evil situation of mankind, with these words: Tears flood my eyes night and day unceasingly.

God's love for us was so deep that He sent His only Son so that He can restore our love and goodness.

But we have to make the decision to pick up the weeds of our sin and burn them in the fire of God's love.

With Jesus, we can be certain that love and goodness will triumph in the end.

In our fight against sin and evil, whether within or without, let us put our confidence in God as we cry out - O our God, you are our hope (Jer 14:22)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

St. James, Apostle, Monday, 25-07-16

2 Cor 4:7-15 / Matthew 20:20-28

St. James was one of the Twelve Apostles called by Jesus. In fact, he and his brother John was one of the first apostles to be called by Jesus at the seashore of the lake of Galilee where he was a fisherman.

He is often called "James the Greater" to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus, who is known as "James the Lesser".

Together with only Peter and John, James had the privilege of witnessing the Transfiguration and also the raising of Jairus' daughter back to life.

The Acts of the Apostles, 12:1, records that Herod had James executed by sword. He is the only apostle whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament. He is believed to be the first of the 12 apostles martyred for his faith.

We heard in the gospel that Jesus asked James and John whether they could drink the cup that He was going to drink, they confidently replied that they could.

At that time, James would not have known what his end was going to be like, and so he may not know what he was saying.

But at the end, he knew what he was doing - he was following his Lord and bearing witness to Him.

He readily gave up his life in service for the Lord. Maybe he would have even considered it an honour to be the first among the apostles to give up his life for Christ.

In a way, the James who asked to sit on either the right or left of Jesus was a different James who was beheaded by Herod.

St. James realised along the way that he was just an earthenware jar that was chosen to hold the treasures of God.

May we also realise along the way that we are earthenware jars that are chosen to hold the treasures of God.

May we also be willing to pour out our lives for others in service and sacrifice, so that the treasures of God will flow into their lives.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 24.07.2016

Genesis 18:20-32 / Colossians 2:12-24 / Luke 11:1-13

Generally speaking, people do pray. More so for us as Catholics, we pray, whether sporadically, as in once in a while, or every day. 

And when we come for Mass, we pray. So we can say that at least we pray once a week, and hopefully we pray more than that.

By and large, when we pray, we pray for our own needs and intentions. At least we begin somewhere in prayer.

How our prayer is answered that depends on God surely. But as much as prayer is a serious affair, there can be a humourous side to it.

Not to say that prayer is a joke, but jokes about prayer can at times reveal how we are praying and what we are praying for. Here are some examples.

Man - God how long is a million years to you?
God – Oh, it is just like a minute.
Man - God how much is a million dollars to you?
God – Oh, it is just like a cent to me
Man - God can I have a cent?
God – Ok, just wait a minute …

A priest preached sermons that were very long and boring. And for the final hymn, the congregation would sing “God of mercy and compassion.” 

Then one Sunday the priest announced to the congregation that he will transferred to another church and that it was Jesus' wish that he leave that week. 

Then for the final hymn, the congregation got up and sang loudly: "What a Friend we have in Jesus!" 

Just a joke, but when we say we joking, there is an underlying truth about the reality.

What we heard in the 1st reading may seem to be like a joke.

The outcry was against the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God was about to inflict a punishment on them for their grievous sin.

Abraham stood before the Lord and he began to plead by saying, “Are you really going to destroy the just man with the sinner?

He began by saying what if there were fifty just men in the town. And then he bargained for forty-five, and then forty, and then thirty, and then twenty, and then finally ten.

As much as the punishment was going to be serious, the bargaining that Abraham had with God does seem rather funny.

It sounds like something we like to do at the road-side stalls where there is no fixed price and it’s a matter of how much we can haggle to get the cheapest price.

But as much as it may sound rather funny, that is also the reality with God’s mercy. God’s mercy is funny in that it comes at the “cheapest price”.

Abraham stopped at ten, but would God have relented if Abraham went down to just one?

The Bible tells us that the Lord God is slow to anger but rich in compassion and mercy.

And in the gospel, Jesus tells us the key that would unlock this compassion and mercy of God. And the key is persistence.

In the parable, persistence will be enough to make the man get up and give his friend all he wants.

And that is why Jesus tells us this: Ask, and it will be given to you; search and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 

For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him.

So Jesus tells us to ask, to search, to knock. Not just once or twice or hope that we will be lucky the third time around. 

But when we ask, when we search, when we knock, the first time, and then a second time and then a third time, and then how? And then what?

Abraham went from 50, to 45, to 40, to 30, to 20 and then to 10. Would we go further than that by going all the way with 5, and then 4, and then 3, and then 2, and even to 1?

Every week, in the acrylic petition box that is next to that big statue of the Sacred Heart, there are about 250 petitions, and at times 300 or even more.

Let’s say that Jesus appeared to me and tells me that if I can find 50 virtuous and just persons in this parish to pray for these petitions, He will answer all of them. Do you think I can find 50 virtuous and just persons to pray for these petitions?

Will there be 50 virtuous and just persons in this parish community to pray for these petitions so that Jesus will answer these petitions.
Or will I have to say, how about 45, or 40, or 30, or 20, or 10, or 5, or just 1?

If it has to be just one, then will you be the one? Will you be the virtuous and just person who will offer yourself to pray for these petitions every day so that others will experience the love and compassion and mercy of Jesus?

For those who write their petitions, they have already expressed their sincerity and need. Will there be anyone who will pray for their need?

Every Friday at the evening Mass we offer those intentions to Jesus, and especially at the 1st Friday Mass when we offer up all the intentions to His Sacred Heart.

We pray that for those whose petitions are answered, they will have a deeper devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and in turn be the missionaries of His love and mercy.

We just have to pray and ask and persist in doing so. 

A million graces will be poured from the Heart of Jesus. And we won’t have to wait a million years for that.

So let us be united as one in Jesus and pray for those in need, because God our Father is waiting to pour His mercy and compassion and everything that is good for those who ask, and ask, and persist in asking.

Friday, July 22, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 23-07-16

Jeremiah 7:1-11 / Matthew 13:24-30

Christians deplore the practice of superstition as it conflicts and contradicts the belief in God.

Included in the superstitious practices are consulting horoscopes, fortune-tellers and palm-reading, etc.

But few of us Catholics would admit to having religious superstitions.

For e.g., what are the real reasons for hanging the palm branch on the door post, drink holy water, wear holy medals, etc.

Of course there are valid religion reasons for these practices, but yet we can also concoct our own queer reasons for doing so.

The 1st reading pointed out that the people were using the Temple of the Lord as a kind of religious superstitious object by saying delusive words like "This is the sanctuary of the Lord."

The contradiction was that they know they were in the presence of God and yet they continue with their sinful ways.

Religion becomes a sort of superstition when we say we believe in God and come to church to obtain whatever religious articles and yet there is no change in our sinful ways.

The gospel parable highlights the sinful and superstitious practices in our lives but God is loving and merciful.

May the weeds of our sinfulness slowly diminish and may we produce a rich harvest of true love for God and neighbour.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

St. Mary Magdalene, Friday, 22-07-16

Songs 3:1-4 / John 20:1-2, 11-18

One of the amazing technological developments is the advancement of artificial intelligence with its identification and recognition abilities.

So on the mobile phones there is the fingerprint recognition, on the laptop there is the face recognition,

And then there is the automatic speech recognition (ASR) which is used in speech-to-text programs, but the user is required to "train" the ASR program to recognize their voice so that it can more accurately convert the speech to text.

But it still cannot be compared to the human voice with its unique individual accent, inflections, intonations, as well as the one listening to the voice and making a discernment and a response to the voice.

This is profoundly expressed in today's gospel, when the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene.

She initially did not recognise Him physically and even though she heard His speaking to her, she thought He was a gardener.

It was only when Jesus called her by name, "Mary", that she knew who He really was.

Certainly it was the voice, but it was also the voice that expressed the name, and in such a personal way that Mary knew it was Jesus.

Just as it was with Mary Magdalene, the Lord Jesus calls out to us and speaks to us in a very personal way. He calls out to us in a way that we will understand.

So even though we may not see Jesus physically, He will call out to us in a very personal and loving way as He did with Mary Magdalene. May we respond to His call as she did.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 21-07-16

Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13 / Matthew 13:10-17

A sharp knife and a blunt knife have different uses.

A sharp knife slices and cuts things easily, be it bread or vegetables or meat.

A blunt knife is as good as a butter knife. It will be frustrating to use a blunt knife or butter knife to cut or slice meat or vegetables.

God had intended Israel to be a sharp sword, with which He will use to fight against her enemies and to drive them out of the land that He had promised them.

But from being a sharp sword, they became a blunt knife as soon as they entered the land that God had promise them.

They became unfaithful to God and turned to idol worship. As the 1st reading puts it: "My people have committed a double crime: they have abandoned me, the fountain of living water, only to dig cisterns for themselves, leaky cisterns that hold no water."

In the gospel, Jesus had this to say about the people: For the heart of this nation has grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing and they have shut their eyes.

In other words, from a sharp sword, the people of God had become a blunt knife, such that they whatever they saw and heard did not enter their hearts.

May we realize who we are as the people of God. May we be the sharp sword that the Lord God can use to fulfill His plan. May we also sharpen our hearts and ears and eyes through prayer and penance.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-07-16

Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10 / Matthew 13:1-9

For those of us who live in an urban environment, it is often said that we live in a concrete jungle.

But even though it may be a concrete jungle, we know our way around, we have electricity at our disposal and gadgets to get on with our work and other devices for our entertainment.

But when we move out to the countryside, we may be awed by nature with its so many varieties with its sounds and colours and to see how animals and plants grow and multiply.

If we were shown some seeds, we may not be able to identify them to their species nor will we know what type of plant or tree it they would grow into.

But certainly God will know, and He creates with a divine plan and order that each seed will have a future of growth and add to the wonder and beauty of His creation.

And even for us, as the prophet Jeremiah says in the 1st reading, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you."

Each of us have a purpose in God's plan. For Jeremiah it was to be a prophet to the nations.

But like the seeds in the gospel parable, there will be challenges and difficulties when it comes to fulfilling God's plan and purpose for us.

But like what the Lord told Jeremiah: There, I am putting my words into your mouth. Look today I am setting you over nations and over kingdoms, to tear up and to knock down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.

May our ears listen to the Word of God so that our mouths will always be ready to speak His Word and to bear a harvest for the Lord.

Monday, July 18, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-07-16

Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 / Matthew 12:46-50

If we have a family member who is a priest or a religious, you would be proud of him or her.

I say this because I know that my parents are happy and thankful to God for calling me to be a priest.

If you were to ask me: Are my parents important to me?

I will say "Yes". Whenever I have the time, I would go home to spend some time with them.

But they are important to me not just because of the emotional and affectionate ties.

They are important to me, because like me, they had to struggle in letting me answer God's call.

And they are important to me because they still have to make sacrifices when it comes to my duties as a priest.

But most importantly, they continue to pray for me that I be steadfast in my priesthood.

Today's gospel has a deep personal meaning for you and me.

The question for us to reflect is this - Can we say with conviction that we are the brothers and sisters of Jesus?

If we can truly say that, then be prepared to fulfill God's will above all else in our lives.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-07-16

Micah 6:1-4, 6-8 / Matthew 12:38-42

Whenever we look at a religion, we look at its spiritual founder and what he taught.

But more importantly than the teachings are the fruits of the religion.

What effects does that religion have on people?

Similarly whenever we look at Christianity, we too have to ask: What effects does Christianity have on people, especially on Christians?

Well, Jesus was asked to give a sign so as to prove Himself.

He did not. Rather He highlighted a sign that the Pharisees obviously missed.

And that was the effects of His teachings on the people.

Whenever He taught, the people saw the need for repentance and changed their lives.

Religion is not just about worshipping and offering sacrifices.

It is about how our lives are changed and what God is asking of us.

The 1st reading puts it very profoundly and very practically about what God is asking of us.

That is to act justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.

That is also the sign we need to give, the fruit we need to bear, so that others can believe in the God we believe in.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 17.07.2016

Genesis 18:1-10 / Colossians 1:24-28 / Luke 10:38-42

Our eyes are important to us. They help us to see and to make our way along in life.

Certainly, good vision is an asset, but it can only be an asset when good vision enlightens the mind to make a good decision and to say the right things.

There is a story of a man who had just drawn his pay on Friday. But instead of going home, he went to the casino and stayed out the whole weekend and spent his entire paycheck. 

When he finally appeared at home on Sunday evening, he was confronted by a very angry wife and was barraged for nearly two hours with a ranting befitting his actions.

Finally, his wife stopped the nagging and simply said to him, "How would you like it if you didn't see me for two or three days?"

To which he replied, "That would be fine with me." 

Monday went by and he didn't see his wife. Tuesday and Wednesday came and went by with the same results.

Thursday, the swelling in his eyes went down just enough for him to see his wife a little bit   : 0

Just a funny case of how the eyes can be useless when the mind is blind and the mouth says all the wrong things.

Yes, our eyes are important in so much as they can see.

But our eyes are important not for how they look or what they look at, but for what they see and how they see.

In the 1st reading, Abraham was sitting at the entrance of the tent. It was the hottest part of the day.

He looked up and he saw three men standing near him. Now it was the hottest time of the day, and he could have gone in back to his tent and pretend that he didn’t see those three men.

Instead, Abraham got up and ran to greet them and offered them the best hospitality he could. 

At that hottest time of the day when he could have looked away and pretended that he didn’t see anything, what he saw caught his heart and he acted on it. And for that he was blessed and rewarded.

Yes, God’s blessings come, and they come at the hottest time, at the most unlikely time, at the most unexpected time and at the most inconvenient time.

So it is not what we look at that matters. It is what we see and what catches our heart. What Abraham saw caught his heart and he also caught God’s blessings.

In the gospel, Martha and Mary welcomed Jesus into their home. But they welcomed Him in different ways.

Mary sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to Him speaking. Martha did the serving. Then she got distracted with all the serving when she saw Mary sitting there.

And what came forth from her mouth was nothing less than a complaint. She said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.”

And then Jesus gave this profound and memorable teaching: Martha, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.

Although Jesus said that Mary has chosen the better part, it does not mean that what Martha did was no less better.

What Martha did was equally good, but she gave in to distraction. 

Her service was her blessing, but she lost her concentration. What could have been her compliment became her complaint.

What we see is the reality before us, and if we don’t like or can’t change the reality, then instead of complaining, we need to change the eyes that see the reality.

And then we will be able to see how God is blessing us. God’s blessings come to us at the hottest time, at the most unlikely time, at the most unexpected time and at the most inconvenient time.

But may we see God’s blessings in situations and circumstances such as these:

Prayer is not a "spare wheel" that we pull out when in trouble, but it is a "steering wheel" that directs the right path throughout the journey. So pray always. It is a blessing.

Why is a car’s windshield so large & the rear view mirror so small? 
Because our past is not as important as our future. So, look ahead and move on with God’s blessings

Friendship is like book. It takes a few minutes to burn, but it takes years to write. Good friends are a blessing.

Old friends are like gold! New friends are like diamonds! If you get a diamond, don't forget the gold! Because to hold a diamond, you always need a base of gold!  

All things in life are temporary. If it’s going well, enjoy it, they will not last forever. If it’s going wrong, don't worry, they can't last long either. Just keep counting our blessings.

Often, when we lose hope and think this is the end, God smiles from above and says, "Relax, my child, it's just a bend, not the end!  
When God solves our problems, we have faith in His abilities; when God doesn't solve our problems, then He has faith in our abilities. May we be able to see that.

A blind person asked St. Anthony: "Can there be anything worse than losing eye sight?" He replied: "Yes, losing your vision!"  

When we pray for others, God listens to us and blesses them, and when we are safe and happy, remember that someone has prayed for us.  

Worrying does not take away tomorrow's troubles, but it takes away today's peace.

So let us not worry and fret about so many things. Only few are needed; indeed only one.

May we have the eyes to see which is the one. 

Abraham saw it and was blessed. Mary saw it and was blessed.
May we also see it and be blessed.

Friday, July 15, 2016

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 16-07-16

Micah 2:1-5 / Matthew 12:14-21

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and in Singapore, there are the communities of the Carmelite Fathers at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, and the cloistered nuns at the monastery near the Church of St. Teresa.

The title of "Our Lady of Mount Carmel" is given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as the patroness of the Carmelite Order.

From the late 12th to the mid 13th century, there were Christian hermits living on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land and they were called the Carmelites, and they built a chapel there and dedicated it to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Since the 15th century, popular devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel has centered on the Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel also known as the Brown Scapular.

Associated with the Brown Scapular are the promises of Mary's special help for the salvation of the one who wears it with devotion to our Lady.

The Brown Scapular is a miniature of the part of the habit that the Carmelites wear, which is a piece of long brown cloth that covers the front and the back right down to the feet.

It is said that the Scapular is given to the early Carmelite by Saint Simon Stock.

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is known to many Catholic faithful as the "scapular feast," associated with the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

It symbolizes the wearer's consecration to Mary and affiliation with the Carmelite Order.

Certainly, Mary would be the model for one who wears the scapular and the spiritual value of the Carmelite Order would be the way of life.

But devotion to Mary and whatever spiritual disciplines would certainly have its foundations in the teachings of Jesus, in whom is the fullness of love and truth, and who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 15-07-16

Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 / Matthew 12:1-8

Just imagine that we are giving our best friend a birthday present and we had it nicely wrapped up.

And when he receives the present, imagine him carefully unwrapping the present.

And then he keeps the wrapper and then ... he throws away the gift into the rubbish bin! We would be shocked at this!

But this absurd example gives us an insight into what the Pharisees in the gospel passage were doing with their religion.

They turned religion into an activity of keeping the laws. And keeping the laws became more important than core of the religion itself.

Essentially, the core of religion is that God shows us love and mercy, and He calls us to do likewise to others.

Yet, something beautiful like religion can be turned into something stiff and legalistic and ends up in empty and meaningless sacrifice.

Let us open our hearts to God's gift of love and mercy, and then whatever sacrifice we bring at Mass will also make us into persons of love and mercy.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 14-07-16

Isaiah 26:7-9, 12, 16-19 / Matthew 11:28-30

It is very difficult to move around in things that don't fit.

If our clothes or shoes are too tight or too loose, our movement becomes cumbersome and awkward and restricted.

On the other hand, good fitting clothes and shoes put us at ease and they won't bother us.

During the time of Jesus, a yoke is put on an ox to pull the plough for the farmer.

And there are no ready-made yokes. The carpenter had to come and take measurements of the ox or oxen and then proceed to make the yoke.

Hence, the yoke is always custom-made for the ox, to ensure a good fit so that it won't burden the ox unnecessarily.

So if we find life burdensome, or frustrating, then we need to ask ourselves why?

Are we taking on too many things in life that are draining us away? Or our directions in life not in accordance with the direction that God wants for us?

If so, then we are like wearing the wrong clothes and the wrong shoes. We will find life burdensome and frustrating and tiring.

But as the 1st reading says: Lord, you are giving us peace, since you treat us as our deeds deserve.

When we follow the path of God's judgements and directions, then our hope is in the Lord, for the path of the upright man is straight and the way is smooth for the upright.

When we learn from Jesus how to shoulder the yoke of the Lord, then we will find rest and peace. For the yoke that God gives us is easy and the burden will be light.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 13-07-16

Isaiah 10:5-7, 13-16 / Matthew 11:25-27

We hear of this term very often "Lord God of hosts". In fact we say it after the Preface in the Eucharistic prayer: Holy holy holy, Lord God of hosts ...

The word hosts is a translation of the Hebrew word sabaoth, meaning “armies”—a reference to the angelic armies of heaven. Thus, another way of saying “LORD of hosts” is “God of the armies of heaven.”

In 1 Samuel 17:45, in his pre-battle verbal sparring with Goliath, David evoked this name of God. In doing so, David was claiming that God is the universal ruler over every force whether in heaven or on earth.

Soon after David’s defeat of Goliath, Israel would enter the international scene. It was necessary for the nation to realize that the Lord God was King even of the many other mighty armies of the other nations.

But by the time of the prophet Isaiah, Israel had lost her glory and in the 1st reading, she was being punished for her sins and Assyria was the looming threat to her existence.

God was using the Assyrian army to threaten Israel in order to bring her to repentance and make her turn back to Him.

But Assyrians went out of their limits and savagely annihilated the nations and intended to do the same with Judah.

It was like how the 1st reading puts it: Does the axe claim more credit than the man who wields it, or the saw more strength than the man who handles it?

So the Lord of hosts sent a wasting sickness on the Assyrian warriors, like a fire that will consume them.

So if the Lord God of hosts will make us go down on our knees in order to turn back to Him, then He will. But He will not punish us more than we can take, nor will He let our oppressors have a free hand in whatever they do to us.

The Lord God is the Lord of hosts; but He is also merciful and compassionate. Let us be like little children who will be obedient and follow the ways of the Lord.

Monday, July 11, 2016

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 12-07-16

Isaiah 7:1-9 / Matthew 11:20-24

Those who have been caught in an armed conflict would certainly know what fear and danger is.

More so when they are are surrounded by the enemy who is waiting to break through their defences. They will be at the mercy of the enemy and there may be no mercy at all.

They would certainly know what it means when the 1st reading says that "the heart of the king and the hearts of the people shuddered as the trees of the forest shudder in front of the wind".

If we were king Ahaz, and being surrounded by these enemies and knowing that they will make us suffer when they break through our defences, we would certainly look for help from someone more powerful who would also be able to disperse these enemies.

King Ahaz had that option of Assyria, the superpower at that time. But the prophet Isaiah gave him another option, and that is to turn to the Lord for help.

But in these dire circumstances, we would certainly prefer the security of a power we could see and feel, to believing in the word of an invisible God spoken by a humble prophet.

And as the Lord said, after giving all the assurances, "But if you do not stand by me, you will not stand at all." Still in the end, king Ahaz chose an earthly power, and eventually he also didn't stand at all.

Neither did the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida that were reproached by Jesus, because despite the miracles that He worked there, they did not repent.

Let us repent and renew our faith in God and trust that He will save us from fear and danger. More so if we had seen the marvels of the Lord, then if we still do not stand by Him, then we will not stand at all.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 11-07-16

Isaiah 1:10-17 / Matthew 10:34 - 11:1

There is one word in today's gospel that is repeated quite a few times.

If we have been observant enough, we will be able to notice that it is the word "anyone".

Jesus is certainly making a point here.

The Kingdom of God is certainly open to anyone who wishes to receive it.

And anyone who puts Jesus before anything else in life will certainly be part of this Kingdom of God.

But the decision for Jesus must be so clear that it is like a sword that cuts and divides.

Because the choice for Jesus and the Kingdom of God is not for one who sits on the fence but rather a clear-cut decision for Jesus and to live according to His ways.

Let us pray for a renewed strength and faith to always decide to follow Jesus and to build the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

15th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 10.07.2016

Deut 30:10-14 / Col 1:15-20 / Luke 10:25-37

Last week, from Monday to Friday, the priests of the archdiocese were doing their annual retreat.

We were all housed in the far corner of Ponggol and so we were not in touch with the latest news like what’s happening in the Euro 2016, who won who lost, etc.

Of course we can use our mobile devices to see what is happening, but a retreat is a retreat and we priests have to keep the discipline. 

It’s a time to pray and not to play.

So when we finished the retreat on Friday and came back to the parish, we weren’t expecting much news. 

And it was then that I heard the most unlikely news, which was also quite unexpected and quite surprising. 

Like how someone put it: Wah, Singapore got bank robbery! (That’s how we say it ; P)

I have got to read it to believe it. It was reported that a bank was robbed of SGD$30,000 on Thursday. 

And I quote the report: “The Straits Times understands that the suspect strode into the bank and handed the teller a slip of paper with his demands. After she complied, he made off with the cash on foot. No weapon was seen during the incident, which was over in minutes.” 

It was so unlikely and so unexpected because bank robberies are rare in Singapore. 

Previous attempted bank robberies in 2008 and 2004 were foiled.

Yes, we will say that this current case of the bank robbery is so unlikely and so unexpected and even surprising.

In the time of Jesus, there were probably no bank robberies maybe because there were no big banks to begin with.

But robberies on lonely roads were common and it would be safer to travel in groups. To travel alone is like asking to be robbed. 

So when Jesus told the parable of a man on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho and got robbed, His listeners knew what He was talking about.

But they were not prepared for the unlikely or the unexpected and they were in for a surprise.

The man got robbed by brigands, they took all he had, beat him up and then made off, leaving him half dead.

A priest came along, saw the man, but he passed by on the other side, which is understandable because he didn’t want to be defiled by all the blood as that would made him impure to carry out his priestly duties.

A Levite came along and also passed by on the other side, because he also didn’t want to be defiled and unable to carry out his Temple duties.

But the next character was so unlikely and so unexpected. A Samaritan traveller came along and it was he who helped the injured man and even paid for the expenses.

To the listeners, it was a surprise, maybe even an unpleasant surprise, as Jews and Samaritans at that time were arch-enemies and they even persecuted each other.

But the parable, commonly known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, was a response to the question that the lawyer asked Jesus – “Who is my neighbor?”

The lawyer was actually asking Jesus for a name list of persons that he was to show his love to.

And Jesus shifted the emphasis of the question from “Who is my neighbour?” to “who is a neighbour?” by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Jesus called upon the lawyer, and all of us, to look and to discover what is written in our hearts.

In the 1st reading, Moses had something to say about what is written in our hearts. He said that it is not beyond our strength or beyond our reach. It is not up in the heavens, nor down below in the seas. Or locked up in a bank.

Rather the Word of God, the Word of life, the Law of love, is written right there in our hearts, for our observance.

And the word is this:  You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.

Yes, the Law of God, the law of life, the law of love, is engraved in our hearts.

Because of this Law of love that is written in our hearts, then it means that we are to be neighbours of love, and to treat our neighbours with love.

The dictionary defines neighbour as someone in close proximity, which means a short distance away, which can be as close as an arm’s length.

But the shortest distance can also be the longest journey.

Let’s just talk about our upstairs neighbour who drips the mop on our laundry. Or our next door neighbour, whose dog drops the pooh on our shoes.

It is certainly easier trying to go to the moon, then to love these neighbours.

Or how about our closest neighbours who are none  other than our family members.

The sad fact is that we sometimes treat the members of our families who are in need of us, worse than we treat needy strangers on the streets.

So the shortest distance can be longest journey.

But the parable of the Good Samaritan is more than just about who is my neighbour or how to be a neighbour to others.

This parable reminds us of what is engraved and etched in our hearts, and that is the Law of God’s love.

It reminds us that religion without compassion is simply a contradiction.

Each of us has the capacity to love and to show compassion. It’s within our power to say a kind word, to offer sympathy, to give support, to affirm others of their efforts.

These are little drops of “oil and wine” which can take the pain out of the wound.

And of course not forgetting stories of sacrifice made out of love.

Stories like St. Maximilian Kolbe who volunteered to take the place of a condemned prisoner, and gave up his life for another man.

Or, like St. Damian who went to the Molokai islands in Hawaii to minister to the lepers there and eventually succumbed to the disease.

People like them restore our belief in the essential goodness of human beings.

Goodness is as much a mystery as evil. But whereas evil saddens and hurts us, goodness delights and inspires us. 

But goodness and compassion and love shouldn’t be so unlikely or unexpected or come as a surprise to others.

We are called to be good Catholics and to show goodness and compassion and love. If we don’t show it, then that would really be a surprise. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 09-07-16

Isaiah 6:1-8 / Matthew 10:24-33

Nothing happens by coincidence. We believe that everything happens under the watchful eyes of God and that He has a plan for everything.

So too with our experiences in life. All our experiences are linked together by a mystical thread that is woven by God's hand.

Our past experiences prepare us for what we encounter in the present, and our present experiences also prepare us for what is to come.

In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah tells of his mystical vision of the holiness of God.

The overwhelming glory of God made him confess his sinfulness, and at the same time he was cleansed and healed of his sinfulness.

Yet it does not end there. That mystical experience also made him respond to the call of God to be His messenger.

And would that be easy? Certainly not! But that mystical experience of God's holiness was seared into the being of Isaiah, and in the toughest of times, it will be this experience that will pull him on.

That is also the story of the numberless martyrs and witnesses as they persevered and persisted in the face of persecution and mortal danger.

May that also be our story as we reflect and meditate on our experiences in life and may we be able to see God's hand upon us, guiding us and protecting us.

May we hold on tightly to God's hand as we declare our faith and our love for Him in the presence of men.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Annual Priests Retreat 2016

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be having their annual retreat from 4th July Monday to 8th July Friday.

I will also be at this retreat and I am really looking forward to it for a time of silence and prayer.

As such, the next weekday homily post will be for 14th Week Ordinary Time, Saturday, 9th July 2016, this week.

Requesting prayers for myself and my brother priests that we will be renewed and re-focused so that we will continue to faithfully serve the Lord and His holy people.

Thank you. May God bless you!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 03.07.2016

Isaiah 66:10-14 / Galatians 6:14-18 / Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

The cross the most universally recognizable symbol of Christianity.

Any institution that would want to identify itself as Christian would have a symbol of the cross.

And for us Catholics, it would be more than just the symbol of the cross. It would also be the crucifix – the cross with the figure of Jesus on it.

And more than that, we would identify ourselves as Catholics whenever we make the sign of the cross. In a way it is a uniquely Catholic gesture.

We make the sign of the cross when we pray. And more so in church we will make a big sign of the cross.

But in the food court, when we say the “Grace before meal” we make a small sign of the cross, maybe even a tiny one, and we may even wish that no one will see us doing it.

But whether we make a big sign of the cross or a small one, it is an expression of faith.

As we make the sign of the cross, we call upon the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

As we make the sign of the cross, we remind ourselves that God dwells in us and we are to live our lives in God.

But there is also another often forgotten reason why we make the sign of the cross.

When we make the sign of the cross, we mark ourselves five times – on the forehead, on the chest, on the shoulders, and on the heart.

These five markings represent the five wounds of Jesus. Those are the five wounds He suffered on the cross and even after His Resurrection, even in His glorified body, He retained those five wounds.

It is by those wounds that St. Thomas made that profound proclamation – My Lord and my God.

It is by those wounds that we are healed (1 Peter 2:24) and it is by the blood that flowed from those wounds that we are saved.

That is why in the 2nd reading, St. Paul tells the Galatians that the marks on his body are those of Jesus, and he is referring to those five wounds.

He explains it like this: The only thing I can boast about is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world.

He goes on to say that peace and mercy comes to all who follow the way of Christ, and by bearing the wounds of Jesus, we will also accept our own sufferings for the sake of Jesus (Col 1:24).

When we see in our own sufferings the wounds of Jesus, then we would be willing to be labourers in God’s harvest.

And we would be willing to be sent out like lambs among wolves and to bring peace to a troubled and dangerous world. 

It is in this midst of trouble and danger that Jesus said He would give us power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy.

Well to that, a missionary can give testimony as he relates his encounter with danger. This missionary was serving in a rural area where electricity was generated by a diesel generator.

One stormy night, the generator failed and his house was in total darkness. He had no torchlight but he remembered that there were candles and matches in the church.

So he felt his way around, got out of the house and using the walls as a guide, made his way to the church, all this in pitch darkness.

Finally, he got to the candles and lighting a candle he made his way back to the house safely.

A few days later, there was another storm, and again the generator failed. This time around, the missionary was prepared and he had a torch light.

So, with confidence, he made his way to the church to get some candles.

But as he opened the door to step into the church, his steps came to a sudden halt.

Because, as he shined his torch light ahead of him, he saw a snake coiled up at the entrance of the door; it was taking shelter from the rain.

He turned back immediately and headed straight for his house, and when he got back, he went down on his knees to thank God (of course he made a big sign of the cross)

As he thought about it, just a few days back, he made the same way in pitch darkness and, thank God, there was no snake.

This time around, he was not going to tread on the snake to see if it would bite; that would be crazy.

Putting it in any way we want, we can be sure that Jesus was protecting that missionary, when he made his way to the church in pitch darkness.

Jesus wants to protect us as we make our way in this world that is darkened by fear and danger, where the wolves howl, the snakes bite and the scorpions sting.

Jesus sends us forth into the world to be instruments and channels of His peace in the midst of fear and danger.

But let us also remember that peace is not the absence of fear and danger. There will always be fear and danger.

Peace is the presence of God, in the midst of fear and danger.

At every Mass, Jesus says to us – Peace I leave you, My peace I give you.

So Jesus already gave us His peace. That’s what we have. That’s what we must be – a people of peace.

Because Jesus is our peace; from His wounds flow peace and mercy.

So as we face fear and danger, let us make the sign of the cross. The wounds of Jesus will protect us. By His wounds we will be healed and we will be saved.

Friday, July 1, 2016

13th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 02-07-16

Amos 9:11-15 / Matthew 9:14-17

In the Old Testament, the phrase "It is the Lord who speaks ... " appears many times and what follows can be called a prophecy and it is usually through the mouth of the prophet that the word of the Lord came forth.

Such is the case in the 1st reading and it contains two prophecies. Both begin with "It is the Lord who speaks:"

Both also started off in a similar way - "That day ... " and "The days are coming now ... "

It gives an expectation of sometime in the future where something wonderful is going to happen where there will be restoration and blessings to come.

Indeed, it is a time to look forward to. It is a time to hope for.

But there are two sides to a prophecy. Like two wings of a dove, biblical prophecy contains twin characteristics which are in harmony with one another.

The first, foretelling, predicts the future by announcing the will of God and his plans for his people. Foretelling calls the faithful to cooperate with God’s holy intentions through prayer, patience, and faithful obedience.

The second, forthtelling applies to the present circumstances. Forthtelling calls God’s people to repentance and draws them back to the covenant promises and lessons of old. The Old Testament prophets frequently served as social and political reformers.

The prophecies of the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus when He came. He came to bring us out of mourning and sadness to rejoicing and gladness.

That day or the day to come is already here and now. Jesus has spoken. He will lift us from mourning and sadness so that we will rejoice and be glad.