Wednesday, August 31, 2016

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 01-09-16

1 Cor 3:18-23 / Luke 5:1-11

We have heard of words like ordinary and extraordinary and we know what those two words mean in everyday language.

Probably the words with the closest meaning to that would be usual and unusual.

Whether extraordinary or unusual, we are not likely to associate the meaning of those two words with weird.

Because weird would mean like strange or funny or annoying or foolish.

But the ways of God can be said to be unusual or extraordinary in a polite sense, and it also be said to be weird in crude sense or in a more spiritual sense, it is mysterious.

Some examples in the Bible are Abraham and Sarah having a child in old age; the fall of Jericho where the Israelites marching around the city blowing trumpets before the city walls crumbled; the donkey talking with the pagan prophet Balaam, etc.

The 1st reading says that the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God. Hence, it can also be said that the ways of God seems to be foolishness and weird and strange.

In the gospel, Peter may have also thought that what Jesus told him to do was rather weird and strange and maybe even foolish. But it was until he did it that he discovered for himself the wonderfully mysterious ways of God.

Today as the Church observes the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, let us also do our part in protecting our environment and to care for the world we live in.

Making the effort to recycle materials and prevent wastage may not not be extraordinary or unusual.

But in doing so we are acknowledging that God is the Creator and we are stewards of His creation.

May our prayer for the care of creation also lead us to into action in caring for creation and enhancing the beauty of God's creation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 31-08-16

1 Cor 3:1-9 / Luke 4:38-44

If others were to give an honest opinion of us as Christians, would they say that we are different from non-Christians?

Or would they say that we are no different from non-Christians, and maybe at times behave in a lesser way than them!

In the 1st reading, St. Paul would not accept that Christians in Corinth were behaving like non-Christians and even regressing into behaviours like jealousy and wrangling.

They were even dividing themselves into unspiritual clans with slogans like "I am for Paul" and "I am for Apollos".

Obviously, they had forgotten the teaching and example of Jesus of which we saw in the gospel.

Jesus loved and cared for the people by teaching them and healing the sick and He restored the spiritual dimension in the lives of the people.

In fact, He Himself highlighted how important the spiritual aspect is when He would go to a lonely place early in the day to pray.

People saw how different Jesus was and what an extraordinary life He lived.

They saw the spiritual dimension in His life and they experienced God's presence in Him.

Jesus showed us how to live life. We cannot live it any lesser.

Monday, August 29, 2016

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 30-08-16

1 Cor 2:10-16 / Luke 4:31-37

All kinds of people come to Church. Of course, by and large, it is mostly Catholics who come to Church.

And there may be visitors who just stroll in to find out what the Church is like. but these may be far and few between.

People come to Church for Mass, to worship, to pray, to find peace, to reflect and meditate upon the things of God.

In the gospel, Jesus was in Capernaum and on the sabbath, He taught in their synagogue, and His teaching made a deep impression because He spoke with authority.

And then something unusual happened. In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil and it started shouting at the top of its voice.

What is unusual is that why would a man who was possessed by the devil go to the synagogue in the first place. In fact, that would be the last place for a man who was possessed to go to.

Could it be that the possessed man was seeking deliverance in other places and by other means and finally came to the synagogue as a last resort?

Could he have been led there by another spirit, namely the Holy Spirit, who reaches to the depths of everything, as the 1st reading puts it.

And it was there at the synagogue, that the possessed man finally received deliverance from Jesus.

We who come to Church are certainly not possessed by any kind of evil spirit. But at the same time, are we filled with the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit reaches into the depths of our being, so that as we come to Church to hear the Word of God, we will go forth to proclaim the Good News of salvation to the world.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Passion of St. John the Baptist, Monday, 29-08-16

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

The life of St. John the Baptist is indeed very dramatic. Even in his mother's womb, he leapt when Mary greeted Elizabeth at the Visitation.

At his birth, there was this amazing occasion of the choice of his name which restored the power of speech of his father Zechariah, and which also left the astonished neighbours wondering what would he grow to be.

His appearance at the river Jordan preaching repentance and baptising people earned him the reputation of "the Baptist" and he even baptised Jesus.

He had an illustrious ministry. Yet in essence, St. John the Baptist was a prophet and his greatest deed as a prophet was to point out Jesus as the Lamb of God.

And as a prophet, he had to fulfil his mission by proclaiming the ways of the Lord and pointing out sin and evil and calling for repentance and conversion.

For that St. John the Baptist paid the price when he pointed out Herod's sin, and for that he was captured and imprisoned in Herod's fortress.

If his life was dramatic and illustrious, his death was equally dramatic, although it was also very gruesome.

His death by beheading revealed the characters of Herod, Herodias, her daughter, and also all the guests present, who did nothing and said nothing to stop the heinous act.

For a great prophet like St. John the Baptist who had such a dramatic and illustrious life and ministry, his death seemed so humiliating.

Yet, today, we the Church honour him. Over and above all else, we honour him for his faithfulness to God and for his courage to accept and fulfil the mission of being God's prophet.

Even for us, in all the drama of life, the spills and the thrills, or even in the mundane and the monotony, what counts for us will be our faithfulness to God.

Because in the end, it is our faithfulness to God that mattered. It mattered to St. John the Baptist. It also mattered to God.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 28.08.2016

Ecclesiasticus 3:17-20, 28-29 / Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 / Luke 14:1, 7-14

The history of mankind has seen many great conquerors who built great empires.

We have read about Alexander. He was called the Great and rightly so. His empire stretched from Europe to Asia.

Then there was Caesar and the great Roman Empire.

Then a period of time passed before another great conqueror surfaced in Europe. We have heard of Napoleon Bonaparte. He also marched through Europe and conquered most of it.

In the year 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte captured the city of Rome, and took Pope Pius VI prisoner.

Napoleon thought that he could intimidate the Pope and force him to become his puppet because the Church had considerable political power at that time.

But the Pope refused to neither cooperate with Napoleon nor be his puppet, and in a fit of anger, Napoleon shouted at the Pope: If you do not do as I command, I will destroy the Church.

The Pope replied: Oh no, you won’t. Napoleon retorted: Oh yes, I will - within a year.

To which the Pope calmly replied: If we, who are the Church, have for 1800 years, failed to destroy the Church with our sins, I doubt very much you will succeed.

Well, the Church still exists, whereas Napoleon Bonaparte had passed on as just another memory in the pages of history books.

One of the follies of becoming mighty and powerful is that one also becomes proud and arrogant.

Power and might become a “right” that is used to push and to pull in order to get what is wanted.

And usually the casualties are the lowly and the powerless and those who cannot defend themselves. They get swept aside to make way for the powerful and the mighty.

But the 1st reading has this to tell us: The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, He accepts the homage of the humble.

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable when He noticed how the guests picked the places of honour.

The parable highlights the fact that our human desires go for the first place and not the last; we desire for the lofty and not the lowly; we want the most and not the least.

But the Lord looks on the lowly and He accepts the homage of the humble and He fills the hungry with good things.

Yes, there is something that the lowly and humble can teach us about the ways of God, because it is to the lowly and humble that God gives His blessings.

It is also through the lowly and humble that God shows His power and might, as this story of the lion and the mouse will show us.

A small mouse crept up to a sleeping lion that had just finished his meal. The mouse longed to have some of the scraps of the leftover meal.

"Since he's sleeping," thought the mouse, "he'll never suspect I'm here!" With that, the little mouse sneaked up and tried to pull off a scrap of the meal. The lion awoke and quickly caught the mouse between its claws.

"Please," said the mouse, "let me go and I'll come back and try help you someday." The lion laughed, "You are so small! How could ever help me?"

The lion laughed so hard he had to hold his belly and he let go of the mouse. The mouse jumped to freedom and ran until he was far, far away.

The next day, two hunters came to the jungle. They went to the lion's lair. They set a huge rope snare. When the lion came home that night, he stepped into the trap and was caught in it.

He roared and roared! He tried with all his might but he couldn't pull himself free. The mouse heard the lion's pitiful roar and came back to help him.

The mouse eyed the trap and noticed the one thick rope that held it together. He began nibbling and nibbling at the rope until the rope broke. 

The lion was freed and was able to shake off the other ropes that held him tight. He stood up free again!

The lion turned to the mouse and said, "Dear mouse, I was foolish to ridicule you for being small. You not only helped me, you saved my life too!" 

So as much as the mighty and powerful lion is noted for its strength and is even called ‘the king of the jungle”, the lowly and humble mouse can be called upon in the time of need.

Well, back to Napoleon Bonaparte. Towards the end of his life, he was exiled on the small rocky island of St. Helena.

There, the former conqueror of civilized Europe had time to reflect on his life and even on Jesus Christ.

He made this statement: Other conquerors founded their empires by force. Jesus Christ alone founded His empire upon love and humility.

Napoleon Bonaparte finally understood why he cannot destroy the Church. His pride is no match for the love and humility that the Church is built upon.

So as the Church we must remember what the 1st reading taught us: be gentle in carrying out your business and you will be better loved than a lavish giver.

The power of love is seen in gentleness and humility. To be gentle and humble is what we are called to be. With that we will overcome the pride and arrogance of the world.

Friday, August 26, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 27-08-16 (Memorial of St. Monica)

1 Cor 1:26-31 / Matthew 25:14-30

Today we celebrate the memorial of St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, whose memorial we will celebrate tomorrow.

We celebrate this memorial not simply because St Monica was the mother of a great saint.

The opening prayer for Mass goes like this and it is worth to take note: God of mercy, comfort of those in sorrow, the tears of St Monica moved you to convert her son, St Augustine to the faith of Christ.

St Monica was born of Christian parents. She married a good man but he had a violent temper and was sometimes unfaithful.

But St Monica managed to convert him to Christianity and he was later baptized.

Her son, Augustine, proved to be a much greater challenge.

When she was exhausted and tired with her son's wild and wheeling ways, she approached a bishop to ask him to intervene.

The bishop responded with these prophetic words: Let him be, and continue to pray for him. It is impossible that a son of so many tears should be lost.

St Monica dedicated most of her life praying for the conversion of St Augustine.

All in all, she prayed for something like 30 years before she finally had the joy of seeing St Augustine baptized.

St Monica trusted in the Lord and kept believing that the Lord would be faithful to His promises of salvation. And the Lord rewarded her for her faithfulness to Him.

The consolation, experienced by St Monica and her total abandonment to God can also be ours today when we persevere in patience and in trust.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 26-08-16

1 Cor 1:17-25 / Matthew 25:1-13

The term "simple truths" may give the impression that truth is simple enough to be immediately understood.

That may be the case in a logical truth, like the saying "what you sow is what you will reap". This is clear and simple enough as a truth of life.

But there are also other simple truths that require some reflection in order to understand what that truth is.

Because what initially seems to be foolish from the human perspective may actually have the seeds of divine wisdom.

As St. Paul said in the 1st reading, the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed in terms of philosophy because the language of the cross is illogical from the human perspective.

The Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, and hence the crucified Christ does not make sense to them.

Yet, the foolishness of the cross is the power and wisdom of God, for God's foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God's weakness is stronger than human strength.

But to understand this, we have to look at the cross and the crucified Christ as the supreme expression of God's love for us.

When we understand how much God loves us, then we would want to be like lighted oil lamps which shine through the darkness of foolishness in search of God's wisdom.

Then we will also be willing to be like the oil that is being offered to be burnt and give out light for others. And that is indeed true wisdom.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 25-08-16

1 Cor 1:1-9 / Matthew 24:42-51

Quite often we hear this phrase: History repeats itself.

But does history repeat itself? How can history repeat itself?

We can't go back to the stone-age and start life all over again.

No, history does not repeat itself. But the mistakes that were made in history tend to surface again and in a new packaging.

There were many moments in the history of humanity when modern man became like stone-age man.

Just to name a few: World War I, World War II, the Nazi holocaust, Bosnia genocide, Kosovo Conflict, Rwanda genocide.

And many more will be added to the list as the mistakes of history keep surfacing again and again.

Yes, the list of ugly moments of the history of humanity will continue to lengthen as long as we don't heed the call of Jesus to stay awake and to be vigilant.

Because the degradation and destruction of mankind begins with the corruption of the self.

It is the corrupted self who forgets that he is just a creature and a servant, and will one day stand before the Creator to account for his deeds.

Yes we must keep alert and stand ready.

The 1st reading reminds us that while we are waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ, it is He who will keep us steady and without blame until the last day.

Meanwhile as we journey towards that last day, let us make a history of mankind that is known for its beauty and not to make it ugly.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, Wednesday, 24-08-16

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

St. Bartholomew was one of the twelve Apostles called by  Jesus, and he was listed among the Apostles in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

He is usually identified as Nathaniel in the gospel of John as we have heard in the gospel passage.

He was introduced to Christ through St. Philip, another of the twelve apostles, and in their dialogue, we can see that the enthusiasm of St. Philip was met with the skepticism of Nathaniel.

Even though he didn't think much good can come out of Nazareth and Jesus, yet he accepted Philip's invitation to go along and see this person called Jesus.

And when Jesus saw him, He affirmed his frankness when He said that Nathaniel deserved the name "incapable of deceit".

And more than that, to be "under the fig tree" is a figure of speech to mean that one is reading and meditating on the Law.

So in essence, Nathaniel was a straight-talking and frank person. Yet he was one who keeps faith with the Lord and His Law.

So Nathaniel, or St. Bartholomew, tells us something about what we should be as disciples of Christ.

We may have our doubts or maybe we are skeptical about some things in life and maybe also about our faith.

Yet like St. Bartholomew, we need to be open to the mystery of life, and what we don't understand immediately cannot be thrown out immediately too. We need to "come and see".

Also we need to speak the truth always, and it's the truth that is rooted in Jesus.

Because openness to the truth, and living by the truth, will enable us to understand deeper the mysteries of heaven.

Monday, August 22, 2016

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 23-08-16

2 Thess 2:1-3, 14-17 / Matthew 23:23-26

Whenever we watch a movie or a tv series, or read a book, we should be feeling the build-up of the story line and the excitement and tension.

We won't want to go to the ending first and see or read what it is all about, and then begin watching the movie or the series or begin with the first pages of the book.

Yet, there is always this curiosity and impatience in us that want to know what the ending is.

But to give in to this curiosity and impatience would rob us of the experience and meaning of journeying through the movie or the book.

Going through life is very different from watching a movie or reading a book. We can never know the ending until we get there. So each moment in life is an experience to behold and to be treasured.

That is what the 1st reading is saying - as much as we know that there will be an ending, yet we don't have to hasten it or even leave everything aside and just wait around for it.

What is important is to ask God to strengthen us in everything good that we do or say so that every moment in life is a loving and joyful moment.

And the gospel would highlight a couple of areas in life that would require this goodness - the practice of justice, mercy and good faith.

And equally important are also the virtues of purity and chastity. Good morality is a sign of a life lived in the goodness of the Lord.

So we don't have to be overly worried about the end. Each moment lived loving and joyfully is a preparation for the end and also for eternity.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Queenship of the BVM, Monday, 22-08-16

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

We exalt and glorify Jesus Christ as the "King of kings, and the Lord of Lords".

So for the Church to confer onto Mary the title of "Queen" is certainly fitting, since at the Visitation, Elizabeth called Mary "mother of my Lord", and hence she is also mother of the King.

Indeed from the earliest Church traditions, Mary has been given the title "Queen" and subsequently "Queen of Heaven", and from that title there are other expressions of her queenship.

The feast is a follow-up to the Assumption and is now celebrated on the octave day of that feast.

God assumed Mary into heaven, body and soul, and in doing so, He bestowed upon her the queenship of all creation, after Jesus Christ who is the King of all creation.

As Jesus exercised his kingship on earth by serving His Father and His fellow human beings, so did Mary exercise her queenship by praying for us.

As the glorified Jesus remains with us as our king till the end of time, so does Mary, who was assumed into heaven and crowned queen of heaven and earth and she continues to be the mother of the Church.

So as the Church celebrates the queenship of Mary, let us remember what she told the servants at the wedding at Cana - "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5)

But in order to do what Jesus is telling us, we have to have the spiritual sensitivity of Mary who knows what the will of God is for her and submits herself to it.

Let us consecrate ourselves to her Immaculate Heart and unite ourselves in a devotion to her, be it the praying of the Rosary of other forms of Marian devotion.

And like Mary our Mother, we too will say with her: Let it be done unto me according to Your Word.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 21.08.2016

Isaiah 66:18-21 / Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 / Luke 13:22-30

Today the 2016 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, comes to a close. The Games started on the 5th August.

It is a major international multi-sport event with more than 11,000 athletes taking part and 306 sets of medals were given out.

The Olympic Games are held every four years and hence for some athletes, it’s a “now or never” opportunity.

And certainly it can be a great ecstasy to win a medal at the Olympics, and we Singaporeans knows how it feels as Joseph Schooling won for Singapore the first Olympic gold medal.

Singapore won only one medal but it was enough for an overwhelming celebration for our nation.

But let us also remember that Joseph Schooling had to overcome the disappointment of finishing last in the men’s 100m freestyle semi-finals, which was the other event that he competed. So winning the gold in the 100m butterfly in record time is really an achievement for him.

And if we think that Usain Bolt, aka “Lighting Bolt”, has always been the winner, well, he too knows how it feels to come in at last place in a race, although it was due to injury.

Still, to come in last on the world stage is like being an extra in a movie set; you are just there for decoration and it’s like self-humiliation.

In the gospel, Jesus said something interesting about being first and being last.

He said that those now last will be first, and those now first will be last.

He seems to be using a sporting competition as an analogy, where there is a first place and a last place.

And then He seems to be talking about a reversal of fortunes, where the first become last, and the last become first.

He could be talking about a race, a race of another nature, a spiritual race. 

As how 1 Cor 9:23-25 puts it - in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize. They run in such a way as to win the prize. Everyone who competes in the games trains with strict discipline. They do it for a crown that is perishable, but we do it for a crown that is imperishable.…

So it is a race where we want to win but it is not to be in the first position.

It is a race where from the last position we want to encourage others to go on ahead of us so as discover for themselves their own strengths and abilities.

It is a race where if there are others behind us, then we want to motivate them to be better than us so that they won’t feel dejected and rejected.

It is a race where we run but for a very different objective.

And it will take a lot of training in humility to see the spiritual objectives and to do it for a crown that is imperishable.

And this kind of spiritual training in humility is certainly not easy because it goes against our instinct to be in the first position and to be a winner, and not a loser.

But as the 2nd reading tells us: The Lord trains the ones that He loves and He trains all those that He acknowledges as His sons. 

Suffering is part of your training; God is treating you as His sons.

The suffering that is part of our training is to help us let go of what is perishable so as to win what is imperishable. 

The race of life is a race uphill. To win it without a struggle is perhaps to win it without honour. If there were no difficulties, there would be no victories. If there is nothing to struggle for, there would be nothing to achieve.

And the first race would be in our own thinking. Let’s say that there is a race and there are only three runners and you are one of them. 

You would want to go for the first position, the gold medal, and if not then it will be the silver.

Would you settle for the third position, the bronze medal, which is as good as being the last?

But to accept the third position means that you let two other people go ahead, and that is Jesus, others and then you – J,O,Y. Indeed there is joy in being third, or last. So it’s not about gold or silver or bronze. Rather it is about Jesus, others and then you. J-O-Y. That’s the joy of the race.

Joseph Schooling won an Olympic gold medal but he also brought joy to a 12-year old Pathlight student who dedicated a “mouse with medal” drawing to him.

For 12-year-old Jolie Lim, who is autistic, Joseph Schooling's historic win is an inspirational story about overcoming life's challenges. 

To express how she felt, Jolie produced an A3-sized drawing under the encouragement of her mother.

Jolie had hoped to meet Schooling to pass him the artwork during his victory parade on Thursday, but she had to sit for her PSLE exam in the morning.

After the exam, she and her mum could only rush down to Raffles City Shopping Centre, the last stop of the victory parade, at around noon. However, Jolie is afraid of crowds and was unable to catch a glimpse of the swimming star.

At her mother’s request, The Straits Times helped to pass on Jolie's drawing to Schooling's minders. The drawing, which took Jolie three hours to complete, depicts a mouse with a gold medal, beating its larger competitors including an eagle, a cat and a dog.

On Thursday night, Schooling responded in an 11-second video, thanking Jolie for her drawing. It was a simple gesture, but one that meant much to Jolie.

Schooling is a winner, but he also helps others to be winners. 

The joy of winning is when Jesus and others go before you. It’s a joy that all the medals in the world cannot give.

Friday, August 19, 2016

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 20-08-16

Ezekiel 43:1-7 / Matthew 23:1-12

Whenever it comes to a task, it is always easier said than done. Just looking at something that needs to be done, we may have ideas and give suggestions about how to do it.

But when it comes to carrying out those ideas and suggestions, it may be far from easy and simple.

Sowing a button back onto a shirt may seem simple. But when we can't find the correct needle or thread, then we will just be stuck with a seemingly simple task.

Doing a corporal or spiritual work of mercy may seem simple and we can talk and discuss about it and have profound reflections, but doing it can be another matter altogether.

So when we give ideas and suggestions, let us also put our hands on the task and feel for ourselves what is required of it. It may not be as easy as we think.

In the gospel, Jesus told the people to listen to what the scribes and Pharisees tell them since they occupy the chair of Moses, but not to be guided by what they do, since they do not practice what they preach.

When we don't practice what we preach, then we will just be giving a lot of ideas and suggestions and even comments and criticisms!

Let us be humble and let our actions speak and bring help to those in need.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-08-16

Ezekiel 37:1-4 / Matthew 22:34-40

The summary of the faith of the Catholic Church is expressed in the 12 Articles of Faith in the Apostles' Creed.

In these 12 Articles of Faith, what is essentially expressed is who God is and who we are.

Article 11 states the belief in "the resurrection of the body". From the Catholic perspective, a human being is a union of body and soul, so death is just the temporary separation of body and soul until the end of the world, the Second Coming of Christ, the General Judgement, and the resurrection of the dead. The virtuous go, body and soul, into heaven, and the damned go, body and soul, into hell.

Whether virtuous or damned, their mortal remains are in this world as they wait for the Last Day when this resurrection of the body will happen.

The 1st reading gives the vision of the prophet Ezekiel and it is also a prophecy for the House of Israel. There is a vivid description of the valley full of dry bones but with Ezekiel proclaiming the prophecy over the bones, they began to have flesh growing on them and skin covering them.

The prophecy was for the God's people then, the House of Israel. But in a way, it is also for the People of God now, the Church.

The reality of the prophecy will be fulfilled  on the Last Day, and we believe in that as we profess in the Creed about the "resurrection of the body". Hence the remains of the deceased must be given respect and dignity.

But it is not just about the deceased. Just as the prophecy in the 1st reading is for the House of Israel, it is also for us the Church.

We are called to be a people that walk in ways of the Lord as expressed by the commandments that Jesus expressed in the gospel.

We are to be a people of love and it is love that will give life. Without love, then we are just like dry bones without any flesh and skin.

But when we love God and love our neighbour, then we have truly expressed our faith in the resurrection of the body.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 18-08-16

Ezekiel 36:23-28 / Matthew 22:1-14

If we find ourselves dreaming of staying in the countryside and living a relaxed and peaceful life, it may be because our present busy and stressed lifestyle is choking us.

We may get away from it all and go to the countryside to have a breath of fresh air and away from the hustle and bustle, but it is always back to reality.

Yet, this longing for peace and serenity only points to something deeper, something that our spirit is yearning for .

In essence, it points to our yearning and longing for God who can give peace to our hearts and renew our strength to face the challenges of life with a deeper understanding.

Yes, if only we understand that God is prompting us always. If only the people of the 1st reading understood that God was prompting them to turn back to Him, then they will get new heart and a new spirit in them.

If only those who were invited to the wedding feast as we have heard in the gospel parable, had understood and responded to the king's invitation.

But in turning to themselves, and turning away from an invitation to celebrate, they only turned to tragedy and the destruction of themselves.

The God who prompts us is the God who created us. We are more spiritual and mystical than we think we are.

And very often we act as if there is no God and that we saw and heard nothing.

Let us make time for prayer and hear the Spirit of God calling, and we will be lead to rest in the green pastures of God's love.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 17-08-16

Ezekiel 34:1-11 / Matthew 20:1-16

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

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

We get jealous of others instead of rejoicing with them in their good fortune, and we get envious about almost anything.

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

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

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

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

Yes, resentment is the product of jealousy and envy.

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 16-08-16

Ezekiel 28:1-10 / Matthew 19:23-30

It is said that the higher you climb, the harder you will fall. But that is if you are not careful.

Anyone who climbed up a high ladder would know that. If fact, we have to be sure that the foot of the ladder is firmly secured and when we are up there at the top rungs, it would be better to secure ourselves with safety belts and other necessary safety equipment.

But somehow, this reality does not seem to be obvious as one rises up in power and gain fame and might.

This was what happened to the ruler of Tyre in the 1st reading. As he gained great wealth and fame, he became swollen with pride and his heart grew arrogant. He even began to think that he was a god, or considered himself the equal of God.

And because of that, disaster and tragedy was awaiting the ruler of Tyre. But this was not just the case of the ruler of Tyre.

Many kings and rulers in the past had thought bigger of themselves and swelled with pride and arrogance. But the higher up they went in wealth and power, in pride and arrogance, the harder they fell.

In the gospel, Jesus said that it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, and it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle.

In any case, if wealth and riches are not used to help those in need, then it would be like lugging them up the ladder and eventually they will be the cause of a hard and heavy fall.

Let us remember that Jesus had taught us that our lives are not made secure by what we own, even when we have more than enough.

In order to follow Jesus and climb up the ladder into eternal life, it would be wiser to leave our excess wealth and riches at the foot of the ladder. That will also help to secure the ladder.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 15-08-16

Ezekiel 24:15-24 / Matthew 19:16-22

Sin is a fracture or a break in our relationship with God. Yet it must be said that it is us who initiated that fracture or break by our committing sin.

The words "fracture" or "break" are certainly expressive enough when we experienced before how painful it can be when our bones are fractured or broken.

 It may be sad to say this, but human beings do not quite know the consequence of sin until they feel how painful it can be.

Moreover, if we have other ways to numb the pain, we would have recourse to that, be it alcohol or drugs or whatever that may give us some temporary escape from facing the reality.

What we heard in the 1st reading was rather drastic. The prophet Ezekiel lost his wife but he was told by God not to mourn or grief.

It was to be a sign to a stiff-necked and hardened people who still thought that as long as the Temple of God was standing, He will come to their rescue sooner or later.

But God has a painful shock for them. Because the Lord said this, "I am about to profane my sanctuary, the pride of your strength, the delight of your eyes, the passion of your souls." In other words, God will allow His Temple to be destroyed by enemies.

Yes, it was a painful shock and an even more painful awakening for the people to know that this is the consequence of their sin. Yet, it was they themselves who brought that tragedy.

In the gospel, we heard that the young man went away sad after hearing what Jesus said about giving his money to the poor.

We should feel sad for that young man because he could not see what was only temporal and what was eternal.

But we should be sadder still if we still can sin and think it is not going to be that painful. For all we know it may just be an eternal pain, if we do not repent and turn back to God.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Assumption of the BVM 2016, 14.08.16

Apocalypse 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 / 1 Cor 15:20-26 / Luke 1:39-56

Can you make a guess what is the happening news over the past week?

There is also the National Day celebrations held for the first time at the Sports Hub. There is the Olympics in Rio with the Singapore swimmers making some waves. 

But earlier in the week, the thing that is capturing all the attention is a game, a game that is played using the mobile phone, a game that is called “Pokemon Go”. 

And the craze over that game is almost like incredible. There are hordes of people walking around looking at their mobile phones, instead of looking out for the traffic, and then stopping all of a sudden and then swiping on their phones.

I see this as I stand at the front of the church. Then I was told that the church is one the Pokestops. In fact, the whole stretch of Tank Road has Pokestops at the Teochew Building and the Hindu temple and also the SHRM college.

And then I was told that all landmarks are Pokestops, and that includes religious, cultural and historical places. It seems like the purpose is make people go to these places and to learn more about these places and also to make friends along the way who are also playing the game. So that’s why the game is called Pokemon Go – to go to these places and catch those Pokemons and make friends.

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game, meaning it meshes the virtual world with the real world on the smartphone. Players navigate their neighborhoods and parks using the game's built-in maps. The maps are real, based on Google Maps. On the map, virtual characters known as Pokemons appear. Players try to catch these Pokemons by traveling to the character's location on the map. 

Once there, they must "capture" the Pokemons by hitting it with a virtual ball. The entire virtual world is experienced through the smartphone. 

It is interesting that people get so caught up with this game, maybe because it is the blending of the virtual reality and the real world. 

But if people get so caught up with this augmented reality, then do they know of another reality, and that is the mystical spiritual reality?

The 1st reading gives us a glimpse of this mystical spiritual reality. 

The sanctuary of God in heaven opened, and the ark of the covenant could be seen inside it. A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman, adorned with the sun, standing on the moon, and with twelve stars on her head for a crown.

What would we think about that? Is it real? Just as the game would need a smartphone in order to enter into the augmented reality, we also would need something to see and enter into that mystical spiritual reality. We need to have eyes of faith to see what the 1st reading is telling us.

We not only need eyes of faith, but we would also need to have ears that would listen to the sound of the Good News.

In the gospel, when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb, and filled with the Holy Spirit, she made this pronouncement to Mary: Of all women, you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.

Today we celebrate this blessedness of Mary in her Assumption into heaven. Having completed the course of her earthly life, Mary was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory by the grace of God.

Jesus, by His Resurrection, conquered sin and death, and He ascended into heaven to open the gates for us and Mary is the first to receive the fruit of His salvation. Mary believed that the promise made to her by the Lord would be fulfilled. That promise is also made to us who believe.

But just as Elizabeth proclaimed that Mary is blessed, we too must ask for that blessing and be a blessing for others.

Last Saturday, the Pokemon Go game was launched in Singapore and there were people at the front of the church doing their catching. 

One of our Year of Mercy helpers was at the front waiting to receive a pilgrimage group coming to our church. She saw a young man doing his catching, and not being too sure what he was doing, asked him what it was about.

It turned out that he is a Catholic and his family lives in Oxley Rise but they don’t come to this church.

He himself has not stepped into this church before and so she gave him a “tour” of the church and explained a few things to him. He noticed the statue outside but he didn’t realise it was the statue of Mother Mary until she told him. And he kept commenting how beautiful the church is and that he will come here for Mass since it is so nearby.

It is not an unusual story of conversion or miracle, but that young man came here for an augmented reality. But he left here with an experience of a mystical spiritual reality.

That Year of Mercy helper was a blessing for him and I believe that God will also bless her for her service to God and to the church for being a helper in the Year of Mercy.

Being one of the Pokestops has its pros and cons. Some of us might think that it would be a nuisance when these gamers wonder around outside the church. (We made it clear that they can’t do their catching in church).

But can we also be a blessing for them by helping them to realize that there is more to life than just that augmented reality in their smartphones?

Yes, there is the mystical spiritual reality that is waiting to be encountered and we can help them experience this reality by being a blessing to them.

Let us pray that we be blessed just as Mary is blessed. Let us serve the Lord and do whatever He tells us so that we will receive His blessings. And with God’s blessings, let us also be a blessing for others.

Friday, August 12, 2016

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 13-08-16

Ezekiel 18:1-10, 13, 30-32 / Matthew 19:13-15

The gospel passage of today is very heart-warming, yet at the same time, rather perturbing and maybe also disturbing.

It was heart-warming to see that people were bring their little children, and probably even the infants in  their arms, to Jesus for Him to lay His hands on them and say a prayer.

It goes to show that people see Jesus as a holy person, as one who has the heart of love, and so they ask Him to pray and bless their children.

What is perturbing and disturbing is that the disciples were turning them away. Why would the disciples want to turn away such humble and commendable requests?

Well, if anything, the preceding passage was about marriage and divorce and the difficulties of marriage.

With the discussion of such a serious topic being broken by such commendable, mundane requests, the disciples thought it was an appropriate time for such thing.

Yet Jesus deemed it important enough to attend to such requests. And indeed it was important enough, and just as important as the topic on marriage and divorce.

Children are the fruits of love of a marriage union, and certainly the parents would want their child to walk the right path and grow into a good and God-loving person, and hence, their request for Jesus to bless their children.

But if ever the parents view their children as security for the future and with other selfish motives, then it would not be likely that they would ever care about their children's spiritual growth.

So by all means bless your children, and whenever possible, have them blessed by the priests too.

Although the proverb in the 1st reading is ruled out by the Lord Himself (the fathers have eaten unripe grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge), yet another way of looking at it can be this ...

The parents have tasted the sweetness of the Lord's blessing, and may their children continue to taste the sweetness of the Lord.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 12-06-16

Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63 / Matthew 19:3-12

Just as love is "many a splendored thing", so can we say the same for marriage; or at least on the day of the wedding.

A couple enters into a marriage covenant and they certainly want it to last a life-time, be it good times or bad times, in sickness or in health.

Yet when a marriage fails, and the couple separates, one of the questions that will be asked is that can there be a divorce and will that be accepted in the eyes of God.

That is the current question for our times, and that was also the question in the gospel when the Pharisees posed it to Jesus, although they had the other motive of trapping Jesus in what He would say.

Jesus pointed it out that it was the plan of God from the beginning that marriage was a covenant, and that the man and woman are intimately joined in marriage by the love of God.

Yet as much as it was the plan of God that marriage should be as such, that plan was also one that God Himself commits Himself to in the covenant with His people.

The 1st reading describes how God entered into a covenant with His people, binding Himself in love with a lowly and despised people, and yet blessing them with dignity and wealth and status.

Yet, they became proud and infatuated, and became unfaithful and turned away from God.

We can hear the anger of God when He told Ezekiel: Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her filthy crimes.

But in the end, God wanted to pardon His people for all those filthy crimes they committed against Him.

Love may be many a splendored thing, but love is most splendidly manifested in forgiveness. God showed it to us. May we also show it in our lives, in our relationships and especially in our marriage.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 11-08-16

Ezekiel 12:1-12 / Matthew 18:21 - 19:1

During the time of Jesus, the rabbis would teach the people about forgiveness.

They taught people to forgive those who offended them, but only to forgive three times.

They reckoned that after three times, the offender does not deserve any more forgiveness.

In the gospel, Peter thought he was exceptionally noble when he asked Jesus if seven times were enough.

Once again, Jesus showed that to be His disciples, we cannot count the times nor count the cost.

What Jesus said to Peter was simply this - forgive and keep forgiving.

And that is also what He is saying about our sins.

God will forgive us and He will keep forgiving us, because God is love and forgiveness.

There is this story about a man who was skeptical about going for confession.

So he told the priest: The next time you pray, why not you ask Jesus what was my greatest sin. If Jesus can tell you my greatest sin, then I might consider coming for confession.

A few days later, he met the priest and so he asked: So did Jesus tell you what was my greatest sin?

The priest answered: Oh, I did ask Jesus. He said that He has already forgiven you that sin. But He said that you still must go to confession for it.

It may be a witty reply but it is nonetheless the reality.

God is sure to forgive; but we must also ask for forgiveness and want to be forgiven.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, Wednesday, 10-08-16

2 Cor 9:6-10 / John 12:24-26

St. Lawrence was a deacon of the Church of Rome when Pope Sixtus was martyred along with four other deacons during the year 258.

St. Lawrence, who was temporarily in charge of the administration, was told by the authorities that if he wanted to be spared, he was to surrender all the treasures of the Church in three days time.

So during the next three days, St. Lawrence went around gathering the poor and the needy who were supported by the Church.

Then he brought them before the authorities and he told them: These are the treasures of the Church.

Needless to say, he was taken away to be tortured to death. The account of the execution scene was morbid.

St. Lawrence was stripped and tied to a wire-mesh to be roasted over the fire.

One account has it that St. Laurence said to his torturers: You can turn me over, I am well done on this side.

But martyrdom is certainly no laughing matter, but yet even as the blood of the martyrs was poured out, the Church grew especially in those terrible times.

Because it was a blood that was willingly poured out, willingly given for the glory of God.

As the 1st reading puts it, St. Lawrence and the other martyrs sowed with their blood and their lives and they reaped the harvest of eternal life.

And as the gospel puts it, St. Lawrence gave up his life in witness to Jesus and by his death the Church reaped a rich harvest of faith.

The martyrdom of St. Lawrence reminds us that our lives are to be poured out for others so that they can grow in faith and love and be the treasures of the Church.

Hence, every sacrifice we make is like a dying to ourselves, and yet the harvest that will be reaped will make it all worth it.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Singapore National Day, Tuesday, 09-08-16

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

Today, our nation celebrates 51 years of independence and we give thanks to God for blessing us with peace and progress.

This year’s theme, “Building our Singapore of Tomorrow”, seeks to unite Singaporeans in the next chapter of nation-building.

Certainly, after last year's grand celebration of SG50, we need to look forward into the future and think about what we want to be as a nation in the future.

But it is also important to know what are the foundations that are necessary for us to move on as a nation for tomorrow and beyond.

Certainly as a country, we have progressed and prospered and we can even say that we have been successful as a nation.

In his National Day's message, the Archbishop William Goh said that we cannot truly call ourselves a successful, wise and great nation if we are not also known as a people of compassion and mercy.

The 1st reading urges us to sing the praises of the Lord's goodness and of His marvellous deeds for all that He has done for us and for the great kindness He has shown us in His mercy and in His boundless goodness. Certainly we must do that on this day of our nation's celebration.

And the Archbishop echoed what is said in the 2nd reading: You are God's chosen race, His saints; He loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience.

Hence, on this day, let us also pray for our nation that our concerns will not just be about what to eat or what to wear, for life means more than that.

God our Father well knows we need them. Let us set our hearts on His kingdom and all these other things will be given to us and to our nation as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

19th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 08-08-16

Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28 / Matthew 17:22-27

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

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

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

So Jesus had to pay the half-shekel, and He indeed did pay that Temple tax from the coin that was in the mouth of the fish that Peter caught.

But He also revealed a bit about His true identity when He said that kings collect tax from foreigners and not from their own sons.

In doing this, Jesus taught us a lesson on humility and obedience.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 6, 2016

19th Ordinary Sunday, Year C, 07.08.2016

Wisdom 18:6-9 / Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 / Luke 12:32-48

Nowadays the word “security” is used not just for big establishments and organizations.

Security has been implemented in the things that we use in daily life like computers and mobile phones, in ATMs and internet banking, in cars and offices and shops.

Besides going all the way to national security, there is no doubt that first and foremost, we must take care of our domestic security.

Gone are those “kampong” days when we don’t need to lock our doors and the neighbours will keep an eye for us.

At home we have sophisticated electronic security systems like security cameras and fingerprint sensor-and-lock system, etc.

Nonetheless, some old-fashioned security systems can still do the job, as this story will show us. 

From the shadows in the distance, the man watched as the family packed their bags in the car, locked the doors and then drove off for their holidays. The man waited till it was dark and then he emerged from the shadows and he went to the front door and rang the door-bell of the house.

When there was no answer, the man, a seasoned burglar picked the lock of the front door and got in. Then just to be sure that no one was in the house, he called out, "Is there anyone in?"

Hearing nothing, he was about to move on, when he was stunned by a voice, "I see you, and He sees you!" The burglar panicked and called out, "Who's that?" And again, the voice came back, "I see you, and He sees you!"

Terrified, the burglar switched on his torchlight and pointed it towards the direction of the voice. He was relieved to see that it was a parrot in a cage and it recited once again, "I see you, and He sees you!"

The burglar laughed to himself and said, "Oh, shut up stupid bird. 

Anyway, who is this “He”? Is it another bird friend of yours?"

And the parrot replied, "He is right below me!" And the burglar shined his torch at what was below the parrot's cage. And there he saw this “He”, a huge Doberman, looking at the burglar with those eyes, and growling. And then, the parrot said, "He sees you, and He will get you."

Yes, we all need some kind of security against theft and burglary and other threats. As Jesus said in the gospel: You may be quite sure of this, that if the householder had known at what hour the burglar would come, he would not have let anyone break through the wall of his house.

But in the beginnings of Israel as the People of God, it was God Himself who broke through the walls of their enemies. When they were oppressed and under slavery in Egypt, God worked through Moses to break the chains of slavery and broke down the walls that imprisoned the Israelites and set them free from bondage.

The climax of this event was the parting of the Red Sea where the Israelites crossed into safety and the Egyptians perished in the waters of the sea.

In a mighty and marvelous way, God showed that He was their Saviour. He is their only security and He will fight their battles for them.

We fast-forward from that Exodus event to 700BC, when Jerusalem was laid siege by the ferocious Assyrian army that threated to exterminate them, just as how they had exterminated the other nations earlier.

Sennacherib, the king of Assyria sent a letter to taunt king Hezekiah of Judah. At this taunt, Hezekiah was crushed, recognizing his hopeless position. In great grief, Hezekiah took Sennacherib's letter to the Temple, spread it out for the Lord God to see, and prayed over it. The Lord God responded by inspiring the prophet Isaiah to write a long poem about Sennacherib's defeat. The Lord promised that Sennacherib would be unable to attack the city. 

That night, a plague struck the Assyrian army surrounding Jerusalem, and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers died. Sennacherib, spooked by this, withdrew from Jerusalem. Not long after, he was assassinated. 

Once again, the Lord God showed that He was the security of His people as long as they had faith in Him and trusted in Him alone. 

And what God has done for His people, He is still doing whenever His people is under a threat.

We may remember the 1986 People Power Revolution in the Philippines. It was a peaceful and non-violent revolution as the people, together with priests and nuns knelt in front of tanks and armoured vehicles and prayed the Rosary.

We may also remember that on the 7th Sept 2013, Pope Francis led a global prayer vigil at St. Peter’s Square against a military attack on Syria and for peace in Syria. God heard the prayer and the attack was averted.

And in this current atmosphere of fear and tension of terrorist attacks, with security on high alert, we the Church has a mission.

We must be dressed for action and have our lamps lighted. Prayer is to be our action so that the light and power of prayer will scatter the darkness of violence and terror.

Just as Moses and Hezekiah called upon God, just as the people of the Philippines and Pope Francis called upon God to intervene and to dispel the threat, let us do likewise.

All the security measures and safeguards can only be effective when we call upon God to be our security and to fight our battles for us.

If we don’t stand by God, we will not stand at all. But when we stand by God in prayer, then there is no need to be afraid. God will stand by us to protect us and to fight our battles for us.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Transfiguration of the Lord, Saturday, 06-08-16

Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 / 2 Peter 1:16-19 / Luke 9:28-36

The word "new" is an attractive and exciting word.

When it is applied to things, e.g., new house, new office, new computer, it gives a feeling of a new beginning without the limitations of the old settings.

When it is applied to persons, e.g., new boss, new president, new priest, then it's going to be a process of discovering and adjusting to the new attitudes and styles of new person at the helm.

But as with time and tide, all things new will also become old, or familiar, or gotten used to, or just loose its shine and sparkle.

When Jesus began His ministry and called His disciples to follow Him, He was seen as an exciting and attractive "item" by His disciples and the people following Him.

But as time went by, His disciples also slowly got used to Him and He lost His "shine" for them.

But in the Transfiguration, Jesus showed His glory, but it was not meant to bring back the shine or the attention.

It was a profound moment of proclamation and revelation as Jesus reveals again to Peter, James and John His true identity.

Jesus did not lose His "shine"; rather it was the disciples who may have thought they knew everything about Jesus and was beginning to take Him for granted.

But for us, the Transfiguration is also a reminder of who we really are - we are the beloved children of God.

No one can ever take that "shine" from us. Yet, we may just take ourselves for granted and lose that "shine" altogether.

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 05-08-16

Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7 / Matthew 16:24-25

For an empire to last about 1500 can be said to be quite remarkable by modern standards. But even in the ancient world, for an empire to last that long is certainly impressive.

The Assyrian empire lasted for more than 1500 years and its capital Nineveh was in modern day Iraq. The empire started to collapse in 612BC with the rise of the Babylonian empire.

The 1st reading is taken from the prophet Nahum. His name means "comforter". He prophesied about the end of the Assyrian empire and the destruction of its capital Nineveh.

He proclaimed peace to Judah and to celebrate their feast because Assyria will fall and be destroyed, as how he prophesied in the 1st reading.

But for the people of Judah, it would take a lot of faith and courage to believe that prophesy because they had seen how Assyria annihilated Samaria in 722BC and deported all its inhabitants such that the Northern Kingdom of Israel ceased to exist. And so the Southern Kingdom of Judah was waiting in fear of their turn.

So as with the rise and fall of kingdoms and empires, the Assyrian empire fell and what is left of it now are some artefacts of a bygone kingdom.

It only reiterates what Jesus said about what does a main gain by winning the whole world but losing his life and what can a man offer in exchange for his life.

All our achievements and accomplishments and awards would come to nothing and mean nothing if it is not done according to the will of God.

The will of God is for us to renounce ourselves and take up our cross and follow Jesus. In the cross is our comfort and also our glory. No material gains can be offered in exchange for that. It is in the cross that we find our peace and our salvation.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 04-08-16

Jeremiah 31;31-34 / Matthew 16:13-23

If we are to look at some of the pictures of St John Vianney (patron saint of parish priests), we might come to think that as far as looks are concerned, he does not make an impression.

But not just looks, as far as intellectual capacity and ability is concerned, St John Vianney was also not that impressive. Because he had difficulties with his priestly studies and didn't do well in his exams.

He was eventually ordained as a priest, but initially on the condition that he did not preach at Mass or even teach catechism, for fear that he would end up teaching something heretical.

But how did a priest like St John Vianney eventually be proclaimed by the Church as the Patron Saint for Priests?

Firstly, it was in the confessional that he received the grace of spiritual insight and helped people in repentance and conversion.

St John Vianney spent many hours everyday in the confessional, helping people see their sinfulness and experience the mercy and forgiveness of God.

Later when he was allowed to preach, he spoke in simplicity about the love of God, and he also spoke with passion.

He worked himself tirelessly to serve the people by bringing them closer to God, besides having to face temptations from the devil, and also persecutions from members of the clergy and others.

Indeed, St John Vianney was a model of dedication, of holiness, of prayer and of faithfulness.

Like the prophet Jeremiah in the 1st reading, St. John Vianney helped people to realize what God has planted and written deep within their hearts, and the gates of the underworld can never lock it out.

But we must put our faith and trust in the Lord who is merciful and compassionate and grants us forgiveness and healing through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

As we celebrate this feast, let us pray for our priests that they too will remain dedicated to God, faithful to God, and strive for holiness and be models of prayer to us.

When priests serve the Lord like St John Vianney did, then the Church would indeed be a priestly and holy people.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

18th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 03-08-16

Jeremiah 31:1-7 / Matthew 15:21-28

The prophet Jeremiah was known for his cut-and-dry prophesies, most of which foretell disaster and doom to a people who had turned away from God.

Yet, in today's 1st reading, comes a statement from the same prophet about how much God loves His people.

From his mouth came these words of the Lord: "I have loved you with an everlasting love".

It is a verse is that often quoted to express the eternity of God's love.

But what is the reality of this love in our lives? Have we ever experienced God's love even in the temporary?

It might be difficult for us to understand this love of God until we have had the experience of being forgiven for committing a grave wrongdoing.

We may not understand this love of God until we had the experience of being saved from a great danger.

God's love for us is not only eternal, it is also a stubborn and persistent  love that probes us in order to make us respond to His love.

God's eternal love empowers us to live in love here on earth so that we will have the foretaste and the experience of what it means to live in love eternally.