Wednesday, September 20, 2017

St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Thursday, 21-09-17

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

We know that God planned creation and everything goes according to the law of nature and that everything happens for a reason.

That being said, we can also see that everything is graced by God to fulfill His will.

More so for persons; as the 1st reading puts it: Each of us, however, has been given his own share of grace, given as Christ allotted it.

In the gospel, we heard the call of St. Matthew when he was sitting by the customs house.

Yet, it sounded rather abrupt and sudden. There was Jesus, walking by and he saw Matthew sitting by the customs house and He told him to follow him and he got up and followed Jesus!

There seemed to be no dialogue, no discernment, no questions asked, nothing to indicate why Jesus chose to call Matthew and why Matthew got up immediately and followed Him.

But just as there is an order and a plan in creation, and everything happens for a reason, there was certainly a lot going on in St. Matthew before Jesus called him.

Being a tax collector, which already categorized him as a sinner and despised as an outcast and a traitor, God's grace in him was probably making him look at himself and asking questions about his life.

So when Jesus looked his way, the grace of God prompted him to get up and follow Jesus.

And St. Matthew went on to write a gospel that tells of the fulfillment of God's grace in the person of Jesus.

Yes, each of us has been given his share of grace, given as Christ has allotted it. What our mission is will be revealed to us along the way.

What we need to do now is to let God's grace act in us and to get up and follow Jesus, who came not to call the virtuous but sinners.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 20-09-17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 19-09-17

1 Tim 3:1-13 / Luke 7:11-17

Most of our values have been shaped and formed since our years as a child. In fact, it is said that the first six years of a child are the most important years as those are the crucial years of formation and learning.

So we inherit values from our parents and from those who are tasked to teach us and also from those who make an impression on us.

And in many ways we reflect the values of our parents and what they believed in and also the values of our family.

That's why when we behave contrary to the values and beliefs that we were brought up in, then among those who will be disappointed will be our parents. And our parents might even be blamed for not giving us a good upbringing.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul talked about the importance of choosing church leaders and he listed out the criteria for the choice.

The requirements are certainly very high, but that's because they have this responsibility of forming and nurturing the members of the church in the areas of faith and morality.

And what if they stumble and fall? When this happens, then almost everyone will be blamed - the disgraced leader, his superiors, the Church and everyone and everything connected to it.

A kind of spiritual death happens as those who fell and failed are left in the dust of guilt and shame.

In times like these, regardless of whether it is a church leader, a leader of the community, an educator or a law enforcement officer, etc., let us commend that person into the hands of Jesus.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus raised the dead man and gave him back to his mother. For those who fell and failed, and for those whose faith were shaken by what happened, may Jesus show His mercy and compassion and raise up all from a spiritual death and from a shattered faith.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

24th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 18-09-17

1 Tim 2:1-8 / Luke 7:1-10

The Church is founded on prayer and in all its undertakings and directions, the prayer factor cannot be missing or diminished.

Hence, the mission of the Church is to pray for the needs of the Church and all the faithful and also for the needs of the world and its salvation.

Yes, the Church is not separated from the world and its affairs and needs and concerns. In fact, we need to be an integral part of the world in order to proclaim the Good News to the world.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul emphasized to Timothy the need for prayers to be offered for everyone.

And then he made a particular mention of prayers for the rulers and those in authority, so as to be in harmony with them.

The Church cannot see the world as a hostile opponent but rather as a friend to build a relationship with.

In the gospel, Jesus showed His favour to the request of the centurion by healing his sick servant.

Jesus even affirmed the faith of the centurion by saying that not even in Israel had He found faith like that.

The Church no doubt has faith. But the faith of the Church should be the catalyst to stir up faith in the world.

May we pray fervently and reverently so that the Church with the world will give glory to God.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

24th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 17.09.2017

Ecclesiasticus 27:30 – 28:7 / Romans 14:7-9 / Matthew 18:21-35

In this parish, as well as in the other parishes, there is this regular occurrence. There will be individuals wandering into the premises and asking for money.

If they are asking for money in order to have some food for the day, then we are obligated to help them, for that is our Christian duty. And we will help them in their sustenance for a day or two, and we would also see if the SSVP can give them further assistance.

But more often than not, there are people who come to ask for money and they say it’s for their rent, or their medical bills or utility bills and they are asking for at least $100. And they will make promises to repay it back as soon as they have the money. In effect they are asking for a loan, which of course the church is unable to do so.

But on a personal level, we have the experience of people like family members, relatives, colleagues and friends coming to us with a sob-story and begging us to lend them some money for an urgent need, and the amount that they are asking is a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars!

And we also have the experience of being soft-hearted and we lend – a few hundred or a few thousand dollars – our hard-earned money. And we also have the experience that when we ask for our money back, we only get empty promises and excuses. 

And those who borrowed money from us and have not repaid us, we will always remember them. (So if we want someone to remember us, just borrow money from them and don’t return it :) They will certainly remember us always, although not for a good reason :( )

In the gospel, Jesus told a parable that we can immediately understand, especially if we had lent people some money and they haven’t return it to us.

What the servant owed the king – 10 thousand talents – was an enormous amount and impossible for the servant to repay it.

The servant pleaded with the king – “Give me time and I will pay back the whole sum”. We too have heard this from those who borrowed money from us – “Give me some time and I will repay you”, and we wait and wait and wait.

In the parable the king had pity on that servant and wrote off that enormous debt. But the reality for us is that it is so difficult to write off a debt, especially if it is a large sum of money. It is like a knife that is stuck in our hearts.

But the gospel parable uses the imagery of a monetary debt to point to a spiritual debt. When others do wrong to us, how willing are we to forgive, especially when they don’t seem to deserve it.

There is this book “The Sunflower” written by a Nazi holocaust survivor, Simon Weisenthal. His pain was extremely intense: 85 members of his family died in the concentration camps.
In his book, he tells of this story that one day when he was in the concentration camp, a nurse came and told him to follow her. He was led to a make-shift hospital and into a very small room, which had a single bed and lying on the bed was a person almost completely wrapped in bandages.

It was obvious that this person was about to die soon. Simon was left alone with this person and then the dying person began to speak and he told his story. 

He was a young man, 21 years-old, a member of the dreaded SS troops. He had been raised a Catholic but was swayed over to the Nazis and he joined the elite SS troops. 

When he was in the eastern zone, he was given the assignment to deal with the Jews in the zone, which actually meant killing them by any means. This incident troubled the young SS soldier as his early faith formation rebelled against what he did. He grew careless and was distracted and during a battle, he was wounded to this state. 

One of the things that were on his mind was that above all, he wanted forgiveness from a Jew. And so it happened that the nurse called in Simon Weisenthal, and there he was, listening to the young man’s story and heard his plea.

The dying young man said that he was not born a murderer and he didn’t want to die a murderer, and he begged Simon, on behalf of his people, for forgiveness. Simon Weisenthal says in his book that the only response he could give was to get up and leave the room without saying a word, without granting forgiveness.
He wrote that much later on, his non-response began to trouble him. Should he have granted forgiveness to that dying young man? He could think of many reasons not to, but he still cannot come to terms with his non-response to the pleading of the dying man. He concluded the story by asking the readers to put themselves into his shoes and ask themselves the question: What would I have done?

When people owe us money and they don’t pay up, or when they won’t pay up, it is painful. And whenever we think about it, the knife of resentment and anger twists in our hearts and it becomes more and more difficult to forgive them. 

But when others do wrong to us, it can be more painful because the knife goes round and round in our hearts making a big hole in our hearts and all kindness and compassion are drained away.

The antagonist could be an abusive parent, an unfaithful spouse, a scheming sibling, a back-stabbing colleague, or even a gossip-mongering parishioner.

The hurt and the pain may not be so intense as that of Simon Weisenthal’s, but still it is a twisting cutting pain that hurts the heart and makes it so difficult to forgive.

But the 1st reading reminds us of this: Resentment and anger, these are foul things, and both are found in the sinner. Forgive your neighbour the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven. Jesus said likewise in the gospel: forgive each other from your heart.

Which makes us look at the other side of the coin. Have we been like that dying young soldier who took the wrong path and was careless and did all the wrong things? 

Of course we can be obstinate and rationalize away our guilt, but one day we will have to come face to face with our sins, and then it will be our turn to plead for forgiveness.

For this, the 1st reading has this profound teaching: Remember the last things and stop hating, remember dissolution and death, and live by the commandments. Remember the commandments, and do not bear your neighbor ill-will; remember the covenant of the Most High, and overlook the offence.

Yes, let us remember that the gospel is about forgiveness. Just as Jesus forgives His enemies, we too must forgive others. Just as Jesus forgives, our sins are also forgiven.

And as we remember the last things, let us stop hating and start forgiving. And as we forgive those who trespass against us, the Lord will also forgive us our trespasses.

Friday, September 15, 2017

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 16-09-17

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

In almost every religion, food is used in worship as a sign of communion with the deity.

That is why in the worship, something is offered for sacrifice.

It can be an animal, or some produce of the land, or some cooked food.

It is offered to the deity, and then the devotees partake of some of the food as a sign of communion with the deity.

Even in our Eucharist, the bread and wine are offered and through the consecration of the priest, we partake of the Body of Christ in communion.

But we need to be reminded of this great mystery because familiarity can be the death of reverence.

We too can forget that we are in communion with Christ in the Eucharist and that Christ lives on in our hearts.

From the words that come out of our hearts, we will know how aware we are of the presence of Christ in us.

As Jesus said in the gospel: For a man's words flow out of what fills his heart.

By our words, others will know whether we truly worship God or not.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Our Lady of Sorrows, Friday, 15-09-17

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

Today we commemorate one of the titles of Mary - Our Lady of Sorrows.

We may wonder why the Church picks those moments of grief and sorrow and suffering and remembers it in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. Today we remember yet another paradox - the grief and the sorrow of our Lady.

Maybe there are certain things in life that can be revealed and learnt only through sorrow and suffering.

The cross, a symbol of shame and death, is turned by Jesus into a symbol of life and glory.

In Mary's case, as she stood by the cross, and in the depths of her sorrow, she was also transformed, as she received a revelation and a mission.

In that moment of her greatest sorrow, Christ transformed her and commissioned her to be the Mother of the Church.

In dying on the cross, Christ gave life to us and gave Mary to be our Mother.

When sorrow and suffering are put into the hands of God, something is transformed and something beautiful and glorious happens.

Let us stay by the side of our Mother as she stands at the foot of the cross, and hold her close to our hearts.

And when we meet with troubles or distress, and when we, like Mary, sink into the depths of sorrow, let us turn to Jesus on the cross.

Jesus assures us that something beautiful and glorious is about to happen. As long as we stay by the side of our Mother and hold her close to our hearts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Thursday, 14-09-17

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

To say that God sent His only Son to die for our sins is certainly correct, but there is more to it.

As a matter of fact, Jesus did die for our sins and He died a cruel death by crucifixion.

Jesus was nailed to the cross and was flaunted before the face of God as if to mock God for sending His Son to earth.

If it had all ended on the cross, then evil would have scored a victory because God did nothing to prevent or save Jesus from the cruelty and death on the cross.

Yes, God did not save Jesus from death. But since God did not save Jesus from death, then how would Jesus dying on the cross save us from our sins.

Well, God did not save Jesus from death. But God saved Jesus out of death (Hebrews 5:7). And that gave the whole twist to that cruel death by crucifixion.

It  is because God saved Jesus out of death by raising Him from the dead, then by the resurrection of Jesus we too are saved from our sins.

St. Paul, in the 2nd reading reiterates that when he said Christ did not cling to His equality with God but emptied Himself, and He was humbler yet even to accepting death on the cross.

But God raised Him high and gave Him the name above all other names and all creation will bend the knee at the name of Jesus.

So for St. Paul, the death of Jesus on the cross is the essence of our hope, although the cruel death on the cross seems to exclude any kind of hope.

But more than just a sign of hope, the cross is also the sign of love. Although that seems to be pushing the meaning of the cross to its limits already.

But the gospel tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.

For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world but so that through Him the world might be saved.

So saying that God sent His only Son to die for our sins is correct but it is not the whole picture.

God sent His Son to love us and the price of that love is death on the cross.

But that love was so powerful that even the meaning of the cross was changed, for the cross of death has now become the cross of love that triumphs over sin and death.

So the holy and precious cross is now raised aloft for the Church and for all the world to see.

For in the cross is life and love, forgiveness and healing, redemption and salvation.

Let us kneel before the Holy Cross and venerate it for it protects us and the powers of evil and darkness cower and flee before it.

Let us also pray with the Cross so that we will faithfully and courageously follow Jesus in His way of the Cross and may we also glory with Him in the Cross.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 13-09-17

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

To be focused would usually mean to keep our eyes fixed on a target or on the object of our concentration.

To get an idea of what it means to be focused, we just have to see those documentaries on the wild life and see how the big cats were hunting their prey; their predator eyes were fixed on their prey in the chase and nothing would seem to distract them.

In a deeper sense, it also means more than just having a fixed line of sight on our targets or objectives.

It would also mean that our hearts are directed and fixed on what we desire in order to achieve our goals.

St. Paul told the Colossians in the 1st reading that they must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is.

Their thoughts must be on heavenly things and not on the things that are on the earth.

The imagery is powerful in that when they get distracted and start to turn their eyes to the things of earth, then they will be lured by the things of earth - fornication, impurity, guilty passion, evil desires and greed.

But in the gospel, it is Jesus who was fixing His eyes on His disciples as He taught them about the kingdom of God.

His focus is also on us as He calls us to strive to live the teachings of the kingdom of God in our lives.

May we also be focused on Jesus so that we commit our lives to Him here on earth, our reward will be great in heaven.

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 12-09-17

Colossians 2:6-15 / Luke 6:12-19

What we would put at the top of our priorities in life would be our independence and freedom.

We treasure our independence and our freedom and as a matter of fact it is a human right.

We would not normally surrender our independence and freedom to anyone that easily, no matter how great that person might be.

When Jesus summoned His disciples and picked out twelve of them to be His apostles, would they have understood that He was asking them to surrender their independence and freedom to Him?

Because that would mean that they would also have to surrender their will and do only what Jesus commands of them.

As much as it sounds rather demanding, yet that is also the meaning of "apostles"; because an apostle is one who is sent to do the will of the one who sent him.

It also means that the apostle must be united with his master and has the mind of the master and knows his master's will.

Hence St. Paul exhorted the Colossians by saying: You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received - Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.

We are not called to be just followers of Jesus. We are called to be His disciples. Hence we are also called Christians.

In order to truly understand the meaning of our independence and freedom, we must be deeply united with Jesus so that in surrendering ourselves to Him and doing His will, we will find true fulfillment in our lives.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

23rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 11-09-17

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

No one would normally think of suffering as something pleasant or would welcome it.

Much less would anyone sincerely say that it makes him/her happy to suffer for another person.

To suffer for yourself might make sense in that it is either in reparation for your own wrong doing or maybe there is something to gain from it.

But to suffer for others and to suffer willingly and happily does sound strange and puzzling.

But when St. Paul told the Colossians in the 1st reading that it makes him happy to suffer for them, he states the reason for it.

In his suffering, he hoped to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church.

In this suffering, St. Paul said that he will struggle wearily on, helped only by the power of Christ driving him irresistibly.

Jesus came to heal us of our sicknesses and take away our infirmity. Yet, He too had to suffer for it.

In the gospel, He healed the man with the withered hand, but it only made the scribes and Pharisees furious and that eventually got Him nailed to the cross.

We may think that we can't be that noble to suffer so that others can be healed. But like St. Paul, may the power of Christ drive us irresistibly so that we will undertake this suffering lovingly and joyfully.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

23rd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 10.09.2017

Ezekiel 33:7-9 / Romans 13:8-10 / Matthew 18:15-20
The ways we understand and perceive the world around us are through our senses. We have five traditional senses known as sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. These senses take the information from our environment and send it to our brain, which then processes the information and tells us how to respond.

The sense of sight develops the ability of visual recognition and develops more quickly than the rest of the other senses. 

But from our earliest days, the sense of hearing develops our ability to communicate. That’s how we learn our mother tongue. That’s also how we develop the way we speak and our accent. And maybe that’s why we have two ears and one mouth, so as to listen twice as much as we speak.

So hearing is one of the body’s five senses, but listening is a skill that needs to be developed further. Because most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.

So even as we listen to someone talking to us, our brains are already formulating a reply even before the other person has stopped speaking.

And often, we are so eager to express our opinions that we interrupt the other person in mid-speech, which is quite rude, and at times the other person gets irritated and tells us off with “Can you let me finish what I am saying?” Well, we can let the other person finish what he needs to say, but it doesn’t matter much to us because we already have a reply ready and hence, we are not listening anymore.

That’s usually how an argument begins. It starts off as a discussion, and then into a debate and then when it gets fast and furious, it will dive into an argument where everybody is speaking (or shouting) and no one is listening.

What Jesus stated in the gospel is like a process for addressing a wrong-doing or conflict management: “If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two or three witnesses is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community; and if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.

That’s a logical process that is applicable in addressing a wrong-doing or a resolving a conflict. But all that depends on one important factor – listening. That is also the keyword in that passage.

For any dialogue, or discussion or even a debate, listening to the other party is necessary, otherwise it will just become an argument which can even turn violent.

So is this just about addressing a wrong-doing or resolving a conflict? Maybe, but more than that, the teaching is at the last sentence of the paragraph, i.e. “if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.”

That is interesting because the gospel passage is taken from the gospel of Matthew, and Matthew as we know was a tax-collector before Jesus called him.

In the context of the gospel, a pagan is understood as one who doesn’t know God and a tax-collector is one who is concerned only with material gain.

So to treat a person as a pagan or as a tax-collector is to understand that the person does not know the voice of God and does not know how to listen to Him.

This weekend is “Catholic Education Sunday” and also “Catechetical Awareness Weekend”. Whether as teachers or as catechists, they teach children how to listen to God.

But the voice of God is not something so unfamiliar that we have to learn it through an academic process. Rather Catholic teachers and catechists help their students to listen to the voice of God within.

The word “catechism” at its core, is the word “echo”. God speaks to everyone, and His voice echoes in our hearts. We only need to know how to listen.

A son and his father were walking in the mountains.
Suddenly, his son falls, hurts himself and screams: "AAAhhhhhhhhhhh!!!" To his surprise, he hears the voice repeating, somewhere in the mountains: "AAAhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
Curious, he yells: "Who are you?" He receives the answer: "Who are you?" Angered at the response, he screams: "Coward!" He receives the answer: "Coward!"
He looks to his father and asks: "What's going on?"
The father smiles and says: "My son, say something nice."
And so the son shouts to the mountains: "I like you!"
The voice answers: "I like you!"
Again the son shouts: "You are strong!"
The voice answers: "You are strong!"
The boy is surprised, but does not understand.
Then the father explains: "People call this ECHO, but really this is LIFE.
It gives you back everything you say or do.
Our life is simply an echo of our words and actions.
If you want more love in the world, create more love in your heart.
If you want more competence in your team, improve your competence. When your words are kind, the people you speak to will also be kind.
This relationship applies to everything, in all aspects of life; Life gives you back everything you have given to it."

Catholic teachers and catechists are like the father. He does not impose his voice but he lets his son hear the echo of his own voice, and helped his son realize that the voice of God is heard in the kind words that he spoke.

But in this noisy world where people want to have their say and so many words are spoken, how do we listen to the voice of God?

That’s where prayer comes in. Jesus said, “I tell you solemnly once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.”

Before even embarking on addressing a wrong-doing or resolving a conflict, we must be able to pray with the other person first, otherwise nobody will be listening to anything that is spoken.

When we pray together, we listen to echoes of our own voices as well as the echo of the voice of God within us.

And the voice of God will never contradict the Word of God, for Jesus is the Word of God and where two or three gather in His name, He will be there.

That is His promise to us. Let us believe in His promise, and we will be able to listen to the voice of God.

Friday, September 8, 2017

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 09-09-17

Colossians 1:21-23 / Luke 6:1-5

As much as heaven is a reality for us, let us not forget that hell is also a reality.

And as much as we are promised eternal salvation and the inheritance of heaven, the dark lurking shadows of damnation and eternal punishment of hell must not be ignored

Jesus warned us :“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Mt 7:13-14)

"Only a few find it". Jesus is certainly serious when He said that. And if that doesn't jolt us, then St. Paul would reiterate it when he says "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12)

Even St. Paul would say this of himself: I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. (1 Cor 9:27)

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells the Colossians: Now you are able to appear before Him holy, pure and blameless - as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News.

So as much as we are promised salvation and we should be heading for heaven, let us not take it for granted and become slack.

The devil will work on our indifference for we might just slide down the broad road and slip into the wide gate of destruction.

Let us stand firm on the solid base of faith and work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Jesus is our Saviour and Master. Let us heed His warnings and do as He tells us as we put our salvation into His hands.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Friday, 08-09-17

Micah 5:1-4 or Romans 8:28-30 / Matthew 1:1-16, 18-23

If we have to think of a gospel passage or a bible passage to dedicate to someone on his/her birthday, we would certainly think of a profound passage that might include God blessing the person, etc.

But to celebrate the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the passage is chosen from the gospel of Mathew and it talks about Joseph wanting to divorce Mary and the angel had to intervene.

The gospel passage sounded too human, a bit too profane even.

Yes, Mary's fears came true in that Joseph wanted to divorce her and that might leave her to face an uncertain future.

Yet, the humanity, the humaness, of Mary and Joseph are highlighted, to show us that they too had to face their fears and worries when it comes to doing God's will.

In fact, fear has that ability and that potential to paralyse us from doing God's will and glorifying God.

But, at the Annunciation, God told Mary "do not fear"; in today's gospel passage God tells Joseph "do not fear".

As we celebrate this Eucharist, God is also telling us "do not fear'.

Yes, do not fear because God is with us. Do not fear because we also have a heavenly Mother who is always praying for us.

Yes, Mother Mary prays for us, that we too, like her will bring Jesus to others so that they will know that God is with them.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 07-09-17

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

We use the term "give up" so often and we accept the understood meaning without questioning.

The term "give up" is used to mean to abandon or to surrender, e.g. to give up the effort; to give up the idea; to give up on answering the question.

In the gospel, we get the impression that Simon Peter had given up for the day. He had worked hard all night long and caught nothing and were washing his nets with tiredness and disappointment.

Then Jesus came along and got into his boat and taught the crowds from the boat. After that He asked Simon Peter to put out into deep water and pay out his nets for a catch.

Simon Peter could have given up that idea as he had already given up on the day. He was not going to be disappointed again.

But it can be said that Simon Peter did not gave up to disappointment, rather he gave in to Jesus, and his life changed with that. In the end he gave in all to Jesus and followed Him.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul urged the Colossians not to give in to their disappointments or difficulties. He reminded them that they would have the strength of the power of God to bear anything joyfully.

Like Simon Peter, they just had to give in to Jesus who would pull them out of the power of darkness and disappointment.

Let us also give in to Jesus and follow Him and we will see wonderful things happening in our lives.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 06-09-17

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

Martial arts movies and kungfu movies usually has a novice learning martial arts, and there is always this underlying important lesson or principle that is always emphasised.

It is expressed in different ways like: be focused; have only one mind; do not be distracted, etc.

These are simple lessons and principles that are necessary for any great achievement, but they are not that easy to adhere to, simply because we lose focus and get distracted easily.

Jesus had many people looking for Him. He was in great demand. He was famous and popular. He was needed by people.

Yet, He did not lose focus. He only had one mind, and He was not distracted.

That was why in the gospel we heard Him say: I must proclaim the Good News to other towns because that was what I am sent to do.

The love Jesus had for His Father kept Him focused with one mind and that kept Him from being distracted.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul also affirmed the Colossians for being focused in their faith which they expressed in their love for each other.

So whether it is about our secular life or about our spiritual life, if we want to make any progress or attain any achievement, the simple lessons of being focused, having only one mind and not being distracted have to be strictly adhered to.

More importantly, let us keep our eyes on Jesus alone, because He will show us what our lives are all about and what we need to do.

Monday, September 4, 2017

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 05-09-17

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

There is a game that is played often in parties, or functions, or in radio and tv shows.

Generally, that game is called " Name the tune", and the contestants try to guess the title of the song with the fewest notes or bars that is played.

When Jesus spoke, His words carried authority and power.

But more than that, His words also carried a peculiar resonance, and the evil spirits immediately recognized that it was from the Holy One of God.

In short, the words of Jesus carried a holy and sacred resonance.

The evil spirits were repulsed by it. But we should be impulsed by it, meaning to say, we should immediately recognize it and respond to it.

But if like what St. Paul said in the 1st reading, if we were living in the dark and are spiritually asleep, then the words of Jesus would not resonate in us.

But we would know if the words of Jesus resonate in us or not.

Because if it does, then we would be able to name the tune, the spiritual tune, that God is playing for us.

In the ups and downs of the music of our lives, there is also a spiritual tune that God is playing gently and softly for us.

When we can recognize that spiritual tune, then we will know what God's will for us is.

That tune is nothing less than holy, because God's will is holy.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

22nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 04-09-17

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

A pattern in the spiritual life is that after a spiritual experience of God's love, what will follow is a challenge.

In the brightness and warmth of a God-experience, there is the dark and ever-lurking shadows.

From the 1st reading, we can know what was bothering the Thessalonians.

Their faith in Jesus have lifted them and given them hope and meaning in life.

Yet the deaths of their fellow believers also grieved them, and maybe even shook their faith because they were expecting Jesus to come back soon and reward them for their faith.

So St. Paul had to encourage them and tell them to keep their eyes fixed on heaven.

Even for Jesus, when He began His ministry, was filled with zest and the zeal of the Spirit.

Yet, in His own hometown, He met with rejection and even His life was endangered.

So for every experience of God's love, let us give thanks to God and let us deepen our faith in Him.

But when the shadows of doubt and crisis start to loom over us, let us do as what St. Paul told the Thessalonians.

Let us keep our eyes fixed on heaven, and our hearts fixed on God who loves us.

For nothing can ever separate us from the love of God as long as we focus our faith on Him.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

22nd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 03.09.2017

Jeremiah 20:7-9 / Romans 12:1-2 / Matthew 16:21-27

Last week, the primary and the secondary schools celebrated Teachers Day. Officially, Teachers Day is on the first Friday of September. But because last Friday is a public holiday, the school holiday is on Thursday and so Teachers Day is celebrated on Wednesday. (sounds rather complex)

But whether it is on Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday, it doesn’t really matter to teachers. Because only Sunday is a teacher’s day of “rest” – rest of the laundry, rest of the housework, and mark the rest of the papers.

On Teachers Day, the teachers would get gifts from their students, and get all sorts of gifts. So what would be a meaningful gift for a teacher? A candle would be meaningful, because a good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.

It is said that teaching is a profession that teaches all other professions. But teaching is not just a profession or a job. Teaching is a pillar of society, and we acknowledge that teachers make up that pillar of society.

A rather funny way of looking at a secure profession is to be a history teacher, because in the future there is so much of it to teach. 

Teaching children to count is also good. But teaching them what really counts is best. (Bob Talber)

So is all this a promotion of the teaching profession? Maybe yes, and yet maybe not really.

Yes, teachers are always needed and teaching is a demanding profession. But we may also recall that Jesus was often addressed as “Teacher” and indeed He is the Teacher, and He did acknowledged Himself as a teacher. Jesus Himself used the term when He said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and rightly so, for that is what I am.” (John 13:13).

In the gospel, we see Jesus showing what it means to be a teacher. He gave a teaching about being His disciples and taking up the cross. He also taught the values of life and what really counts in life.

He also showed His firmness as a teacher when He sharply reprimanded Peter about being an obstacle, because the way Peter thought was certainly not God’s ways.

Jesus was a teacher who taught with a difference and He taught with authority. Jesus was a teacher who wanted to make a difference in the lives of people as well as in our lives.
There is a story that at a dinner, the guests were sitting around the table discussing life.  One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What’s a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers, "Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
To emphasize his point he said to another guest; "You’re a teacher, Mary.  Be honest. What do you make?" 
Mary, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make?" She paused for a while, then she began. 
"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.  I make a D student feel like a diamond that needs to be polished."

"I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can’t make them sit for five minutes without an iPad, or Playstation or Xbox, or glued to their mobile phones."   

She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table, and continued, "You want to know what I make?" 
- "I make kids wonder." 
- "I make them question."
- "I make them apologize and mean it." 
- "I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions."
- "I teach them to write and then I make them write. Keyboarding isn’t everything."
- "I make them read, read, and read books that are good."
- "I make them show all their work in math.  They use their God-given brains, not the man-made calculator."
- "I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe."
- "I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life."

Pausing one last time, Mary continued, "Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, with me knowing money isn’t everything, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant.  You wanted to know what I make. Well, I make a difference.”
"What do you make, Mr. CEO?" The CEO was stunned, and he was silent. 

Good teachers want to make a difference in the lives of their students. They teach them good values and what really counts and really matters in life.

Good teachers follow the example of Jesus who came to seek out and to save what was lost and to make a difference in our lives.

Jesus taught us to think like God and not to think in the ways of the world. So like a candle that consumes itself to light the ways for others, we take up our cross to serve others and lead them to Jesus who will teach them about life. 

In one way or another, we are all teachers. Teachers teach best not by words but by examples. As disciples of Jesus, we too teach best when we carry our crosses.

The cross carried with love will make a difference in our lives and in the lives of others. Jesus carried His Cross and with His Cross He made a difference in our lives.

It was on the cross that Jesus gave His greatest teaching. Let us also carry our cross and follow Jesus our Teacher. And let us also teach others how to follow Jesus. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 02-09-17

1 Thess 4:9-11 / Matthew 25:14-30

There is a story of a rat who fell into a bin of rice. At first it tried to get out but it was not possible as the walls of the bin are steep.

Since there was rice all around, it began to feed itself. And after a while, it was enjoying itself inside the bin.

There was food, there was security, and all it needed do was to literally eat and sleep.

But one day, the rice ran out, and the rat, by then obese and over-weight, realized that it couldn't get out of the bin any more and would eventually die of starvation.

One of the lessons about life that we can learn from this story is that when things are going easy and there are no difficulties and challenges, we got to be careful.

Because we will be getting careless and lax and we might be sliding into a hole in which we would not be able to get out.

In the gospel parable, the servant who buried his one talent in the ground was called "wicked and lazy" by his master.

We may think that the master was rather harsh with his words and in his treatment of that servant.

But it is a pointed reminder for us who are servants of God that we must labour in the field of love and to bear harvest for the Lord, as St. Paul would remind the Thessalonians in the 1st reading.

Not to struggle and labour for love of God and neighbour would mean that we slowly dry up and waste away the love that God has given us.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 01-09-17

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

When we talk about needs and what we really need in life, it would be helpful to go back to the hierarchy of needs and to look at what are the basic needs.

Essentially, the basic needs of a human being is the physiological needs and those are food, water and shelter.

When that is achieved and attained, then we move up to the next level of needs which is the security needs like safety and protection.

From here, things get a little muddled up. In principal, after the physiological and security needs, and moving up it will be the social needs, the esteem needs and at the top will be self-actualisation. That is how Maslow's hierarchy of needs puts it.

But often in the reality of life, things get a bit fuzzy after the needs of food, water, shelter, safety and protection are attained.

Because we turn our focus from what we need to what we want. Because when all the essential needs are taken care of, we tend to look for creature comforts and the pleasures of life.

And that sense, that's where the trouble begins. In looking for our own comforts, we tend to be selfish and disregard others in their need.

In seeking for pleasures in life, we tend to use others for pleasure and make them give in to our immoral desires.

That's why St. Paul urged the Thessalonians to keep away from fornication and to use the body that belongs to God that is holy and honourable, and not giving way to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God.

St. Paul also stated that God wants nobody at all ever to sin by taking advantage of another person, and that God always punishes sins of that sort.

Over and above, God wants us all to be holy. That is our fundamental calling as Christians - that we are called by God to be holy and not to give in to our immoral desires and pleasures.

If we are sensible enough, then we would always want to come to the Eucharist and be filled with the bread of life so that our lives will be lighted by the oil of holiness and the darkness of sin will be scattered.

And in honouring the Sacred Heart of Jesus, let us offer to Him a pure and holy heart. Jesus will always provide for our needs.

With a pure and holy heart, may we go forth to win hearts for the Jesus, for it is in His Sacred Heart we will find peace and contentment.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 31-08-17

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

Riddle: What is it that you cannot touch or see and yet it can be broken? Two possible answers to it. One is silence. The other is a promise.

In our baptismal promises, we pledged to renounce evil in all its forms and professed our faith in God.

So our faith is also about our promise to God that we will be faithful to Him and that we cannot keep silent or hide our faith.

Others should be able to see our faith in the good works that we do and they should also be touched by our faith.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians: Brothers, your faith has been a great comfort to us in the middle of our own troubles and sorrows.

He continued by saying, "Now we can breathe again, as you are still holding firm in the Lord." So the faith of the Thessalonians was a faith that was like a bright light that touched others and brought comfort and relief to St. Paul.

Faith can also be said to be like an active and alert servant who is ready for the coming of his master. That is how Jesus put it in the gospel parable.

So as much as faith is a great gift from God, yet it also has its duties and responsibilities. Today's readings tell us that faith should be alive and active, it should bring comfort and relief to others.

In other words, our faith should point others to Jesus. We cannot be silent or hide our faith. By our faith, Jesus will be made present.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 30-08-17

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

Child development refers to the changes that occur as a child grows and develops in relation to being physically healthy, mentally alert, emotionally sound, socially competent and ready to learn.

The first five years of a child's life are fundamentally important. They are the foundation that shapes children's future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life in general.

Children learn more quickly during their early years than at any other time in life. They need love and nurturing to develop a sense of trust and security that turns into confidence as they grow.

St. Paul truly understood this. That is why he said in the 1st reading to the Thessalonians: You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what is right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of His kingdom.

As new Christians, St. Paul knew how important it was to form them as Christian disciples, so that they in turn will form the Christians coming after them.

In the gospel, Jesus had sharp words for the scribes and Pharisees who said that they would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets had they lived in their fathers' day.

Jesus pointed out that they were the very sons of those who killed the prophets. And so what they had seen and learnt, they will continue in their day, because that was their formation.

That brings us to think about how we are living out and witnessing our faith to our young and to the next generation of Catholics.

We must be aware that our young children and the new Catholics (adults who went through RCIA) are looking at us and learning from us.

May we teach them what is right, and encourage them to live a life worthy of God so that as Catholics we will truly be able to form the world in the ways of God.

Monday, August 28, 2017

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

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

We may wonder how Jesus felt when He heard about the death of His cousin, John the Baptist.

Not much is said about their relationship, but we can guess they knew each other from their earlier days, probably played together, talked about life.

Both knew they had a mission.

And both also knew that the mission could not be accomplished without putting their lives on the line.

John the Baptist was the first to do it and that line was drawn across his neck.

For Jesus, it was drawn at the cross.

And for us, that line will also be drawn for us.

A line that will cut across the various aspects of our lives when we have to decide between whose side to stand on.

To stand on God's side, will result in some scars and wounds.

But it is through those scars and wounds that God will continue to save the world.

For it is by Christ's wounds that we ourselves have been healed and saved.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

21st Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 28-08-17

1 Thess 1:1-5, 8-10 / Matthew 23:13-22

When we look at any institution or organization, whether religious or secular, there are usually these stages of development.

It started with a dream or vision; then it becomes an organization; then it develops into an institution.

It is when it has reached the stage of being an institution that problems can arise.

Because if it does not have the original vision as its foundation and motivation, then formalization and stagnation will creep in.

And when it is ignored and left unchecked, the fossilization will take place.

Jesus challenged the institutionalized religion of His time.

Because the scribes and Pharisees had made religion so formalized that it had lost its vision and purpose and became fossilized.

We, the Church are also constantly faced with this challenge.

Our faith is not just about keeping laws and observing commandments and obligations.

Of course all that have a purpose, and it is meant to remind us that our faith must be expressed in concrete acts of love.

But it is not just about how well we keep to the laws and commandments and obligations.

It is also about how much we have expressed the laws and commandments and obligations in love.

When faith is expressed with love, then we the Church will grow and increase.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

21st Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 27.08.2017

Isaiah 22:19-23 / Romans 11:33-36 / Matthew 16:13-20

Today is a milestone for 15 of our teenagers, a milestone in their faith-formation. After almost 10 years of coming for catechism classes on Sundays, today they will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

To be “Confirmed” means to be strengthened by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. But for what purpose? That’s the question that those 15 teenagers will have to answer for themselves.

And they must find the answer to that question, otherwise this milestone could well be the tombstone, as in the journey of faith has come to an end, since there will be no more catechism classes to attend.

But faith and life is not so much a question but it is more like a riddle. So we have to think “out of the box” and it can be quite challenging to solve it, be it a question or a riddle.

Let us do some riddles and see if we can think out of the box: 
- I am tall when I am young, but I am short when I am old. What am I?

- I have keys but no locks. I have space but no room. You can enter but you can’t go outside. What am I? 

- You can break me easily without even touching or seeing me. What am I?  

So much for riddles. Now let’s go back to the gospel. In the gospel, Jesus asked His disciples two questions.

The first question is “Who do people say I am?” The disciples replied that people say that He is John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

Then Jesus asked them, “Who do you say I am?” As the disciples were thinking about what is the best and correct answer to give, it was Simon Peter who spoke up: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

And he was correct! But as Jesus stated, it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to Simon Peter but it was God the Father who revealed this to him.

We may remember that Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit to be our Advocate and it is the Spirit who will reveal things to us and lead us to the whole truth.

Yes, it is the Spirit who will defend us, help us, guide us, work in us and reveal to us the mysteries to the questions and the riddles of life.

And it is this same Spirit who will fill the hearts of our 15 teenagers in the Sacrament of Confirmation, and to strengthen them to face the gates of the underworld.

One of the expressions of the Sacrament of Confirmation is to be commissioned as a soldier of Christ, though it is seldom spoken of nowadays. 

“Christ Himself declared that he was marked with his Father’s seal. Christians are also marked with a seal:  “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has commissioned us; He has put His seal on us and given us His Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” This seal of the Holy Spirit marks our total belonging to Christ, our enrollment in his service for ever, as well as the promise of divine protection in the great eschatological trial.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1296)

The catechists of these Confirmands thought about it and then we came up with this idea of a survival kit to equip these teenagers as they go on mission for Christ.

So what is this missionary survival kit all about? Well, it’s all packed into a lunch-box but there are no edibles in it. So what are in it then? There are two sticks of cotton buds, a box of matches, a tea-light, a piece of Band-aid, a mirror, a petition form, a 5-cent coin, and a crucifix.

We call it the “Missionary kit”. And in it is a note that reads:

Now that you are Confirmed, you will need this:
2 sticks of cotton buds – one for you to clean your ears so that you can listen clearly to God’s Word, and the other for you to help others clean their ears so that they too can listen ...

When it gets dark and cold, the box of matches is for you to light the tea-light so that you can bring some light and warmth for others.

The Band-Aid comes in handy because in this world, people get some cuts and hard knocks along the way. You are to bind up their wounds and bring healing.

When you look into the mirror, you need to ask yourself, “Do I look like Jesus to others?”

Prayer must be the first option, the last option and the in-between option. That’s what the green Petition Form is for. 

The 5-cent coin is to remind you that you must remain little and humble always, and it also reminds you of the 5 wounds of Christ who died to save you.

It was on the Cross that Jesus died for you. He carried the Cross for you. Now you must carry your cross for the salvation of others

And it ends off with “Know that I am with you always, yes, till the end of time” (Matthew  28:20)

Those 15 teenage Confirmands must know that Jesus is always with them, till the end of time, as they go forth to serve Him in whatever and wherever the Spirit leads them.

And for us, Jesus is asking us who do we think He really is in our lives. And at the same time He is also asking us do we know who we really are. 

When we know who we really are, that we are marked and sealed with the Holy Spirit to serve Jesus in the mission of salvation, then we will know who Jesus really is.

Then we will be prepared to face the gates of the underworld as we go forth to save souls for Jesus.

(Ans: Candle, Computer keyboard, Silence/Promise)

Friday, August 25, 2017

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 26-08-17

Ruth 2:1-3, 8-11; 4:13-17 / Matthew 23:1-12

Everyone who is in the preaching ministry knows the necessity of practising what he preaches.

Yet, the complementary aspect can also be to preach about what one practises.

Because when one preaches about what one practises, then the premise is the reality of life and not just from precepts or concepts.

Then the preaching becomes related with life, with the struggles and failures, the disappointments and pain, the tears and sweat.

Jesus tells us in the gospel to get down to the reality of life and not to expect from others what we ourselves cannot do or won't do.

He told the people not to be guided by what the scribes and Pharisees do, since they do not practise what they preach.

But He also said something important before that - You must therefore do what they tell you and listen to what they say.

To preach about what we practise may have a connection to the reality of life but yet it may also limit the challenge to grow in spirituality and discovery of self.

We must remember that God has called us to be holy, just as He is holy.

To follow Jesus is not to be contented with what we are doing now but to discover what He wants us to do.

Indeed, the precepts of Christianity opens our eyes to the depth of the reality of life.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

20th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 25-08-17

Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22 / Matthew 22:34-41

For us Catholics, when we make the sign of the cross, it has many meanings.

When we begin our prayer, we will make the sign of the cross. Or we also make the sign of the cross when we feel afraid or for whatever reason.

When we make the sign of the cross, one meaning could be that we bless ourselves in the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It could also mean that we are saved by Christ who died on the cross for us.

Today's gospel passage may give us yet another meaning when we make the sign of the cross.

Jesus spelt out what the greatest commandment is: You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.

And He continued with this: The second resembles it - You must love your neighbour as yourself.

So in making the sign of the cross, we mark ourselves on the head to mean that we love God with all our mind; on the chest to mean that we love God with all our heart and soul.

And when we mark our shoulders, it means to love God with all our strength, and that love must be shown to our neighbours on our left and right.

So making the sign of the cross is a deep and profound sign of our love for God and neighbour.

It was that kind of love that Ruth, in the 1st reading showed to Naomi when she said, "wherever you go, I will go, wherever you live, I will live. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God."

So the sign of the cross is a sign of love. When we make it, it is a sign that we love God and our neighbour. May the sign of the cross also be a reality in our lives.

St. Bartholomew, Thursday, 24-08-17

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

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

From the gospel, we can make a presumption of what kind of character he was.
For one, he was a straight-forward person, who said what he meant and meant what he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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