Tuesday, January 31, 2017

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 01-02-17

Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15 / Mark 6:1-6

It is said that "home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in" (Robert Frost).

In many sense, that is true, that no matter what, when you go home, that is home and no other word resonates that deeply in our hearts.

Yet, there are also a number of homes that are like a "basket of crabs"; there is no need to put a lid on it because the crabs keep pulling one another down.

In the gospel, we heard that Jesus went back to His hometown but there His own people scrutinized Him and in the end, they did not accept Him.

In His own words, Jesus even said that "a prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house".

Which makes us reflect on what is the environment and the spiritual atmosphere in our own homes.

The 1st reading gives us the spiritual foundations and directions of a Christian community, but that can also be applicable in our own homes.

It said: Always be wanting peace with all people, and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord. be careful that no one is deprived of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness should begin to grow and make trouble; this can poison a whole community.

Certainly, what is applicable to the community is also likewise for the family and for the home.

Let us pray for peace in our homes and in our families so that we will grow in holiness and radiate the presence of God. May God's love be seen in our homes and may God be always present in our homes.

Monday, January 30, 2017

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 31-01-17

Hebrews 12:1-4 / Mark 5:21-43

Running as a form of exercise can be very refreshing and good for our well-being.

But competitive running as in a race can be quite exhausting as we push our bodies and stamina to try to win the race.

In a race, one has to be very focused in trying to catch up with the one in the lead, or if one is in the lead then he must maintain his position.

The 1st reading tells us to keep running steadily in the race that we have started and we should throw off everything that hinders us especially the sin that clings so easily onto us.

In other words, we must keep focus and not lose sight of Jesus who leads us in our faith so that with Him we will share the joy of victory.

But we must also be aware that there are many distractions that will make us lose focus on Jesus and these distractions will also cause us to doubt and to lose faith in Jesus.

In the  gospel, there were two persons who looked to Jesus in their distress. They "ran" to Him with a desperate need and hoped that their needs will be granted.

But there were obstacles and challenges and difficulties for them. The woman with the haemorrhage had to disregard public opinion and Jairus, the synagogue official, had to keeping hoping even when he was told that his daughter was dead.

But they kept focused on Jesus and believed in Him and won the race.

May we too keep running and keep our focus on Jesus and trust in Him. He will give us the joy of victory.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

4th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 30-01-17

Hebrews 11:32-40 / Mark 5:1-20

Modern warfare terminology does not use the term "legion" any more.

But just how many soldiers were there in a legion during the time of the Roman Empire?

It can range anything from 4000 to 6000 soldiers. So a legion at that time is a force to be reckoned with.

So we can imagine how many evil spirits were there in the possessed man in the gospel when he said that his name was legion for there were many of them.

How can it be possible for so many evil spirits to be in one person?

Well, possible or not is certainly not the question. The reality is the presence and the magnitude of the evil in that man.

In our modern day world, can we ever accept the possibility or even the reality of evil that has a strong influence on nations, governments, societies, organizations, corporations right down to families and individuals?

Jesus came to heal the sick and to free those possessed by evil.

Let us continue His mission by keeping ourselves free from sin and to heal the brokenness caused by the legions of evil doers in this world.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

4th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 29.01.2017

Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13 / 1 Cor 1:26-31 / Matthew 5:1-12

Most of us wake up to the sound of an alarm clock. Maybe on Saturdays and Sundays we can sleep in and tomorrow we can also sleep in since it’s a holiday.

But on weekdays, whether it is to go to work or to school, the alarm clock will be our wake-up call.

And that can be a very challenging time as our ears and our bodies keep protesting to the sound of the alarm clock as it persistently keeps bugging us.

And depending on how we want to start the day, there are many alarm tones that we can choose from.

There are those that sound like the fire alarm, such that even the neighbours at the next block can hear it. That is usually for heavy sleepers who want it loud.

Some choose to be awaken gently and so there is the radio-alarm where we can wake up to soothing music. And then there is a range of alarm tones to choose from. 

But the most traditional alarm tone is provided by nature and it comes from the rooster. But the cock-crow is something that we don’t hear in our highly urbanized surroundings.

But the rooster, often generally termed as chicken, is not often noted for its morning call. Rather it is thought of as food: fried chicken, curry chicken, essence of chicken, chicken nuggets, chicken soup, etc.

But in the Chinese zodiac, the rooster takes on a prominence as this year is the Year of the Rooster.

And in the Bible, the rooster makes its one and only appearance, and that was in the trial of Jesus.

When Jesus was being questioned by His persecutors, Peter was nearby as he tried to see what would happen to Jesus. Then some people identified him as being associated with Jesus. At this he began to vehemently deny it, and when he denied knowing Jesus for the third time, the rooster crowed.

At that cock-crow, Jesus turned to look at Peter. And as their eyes met, Peter suddenly realized what he had done and he went away and wept bitterly.

The crowing of the humble rooster was used by God to be a wakeup call for Peter. It was for him an awakening – an awakening of a sleeping heart.

In the face of persecution, the call of the rooster revealed to Peter who he was and who Jesus is.

In the gospel, we heard a teaching from Jesus which is often called the Beatitudes. Beatitudes means blessings.

So what Jesus is saying is that when we are poor in spirit, when we are gentle, when we are merciful, when we hunger and thirst for what is right, when we are persecuted because of Jesus, we are blessed. The gospel used the word “Happy” but it means blessed. 

And that word recurs throughout the passage. (9 times)

Another word in the passage that keeps recurring is the word “shall”. That word accompanies the word “Happy” and it reinforces it by making it into a promise.

In other words, when we are gentle, when we are merciful, when we hunger and thirst for what is right, when we are persecuted because of Jesus, then we shall be blessed. 

That is the promise that Jesus is making to us, and it is He Himself who will bless us.

And that is a wakeup call for us. When we hear the teaching of the Beatitudes, we wonder about it. Because it goes against our instinct and logic to think that by giving way, by not retaliating, by being humble, by being kind, we will be blessed.

We would be more inclined to go by the ways of the world and to go with the flow by keeping quiet and looking away from injustice and staying out of trouble, by playing safe, by going for what is advantageous and profitable to us.

But the Beatitudes keep calling us to us that when we follow the Way of Jesus, we will be blessed and rise from what the world can give us to what Jesus want to give us.

There’s a story of a chicken farmer who found an eagle’s egg. He put it with his chickens and soon the egg hatched.

The baby eagle grew up with all the other chickens and learned to imitate the chickens. He would scratch the ground for worms. He grew up thinking he was a chicken.

Since the chickens could only fly for a short distance, the eagle also learnt to fly a short distance.

He thought that was what he was supposed to do. So that was all that he thought he could do.  As a consequence, that was all he was able to do.

One day the eagle saw a bird flying high above him. He was very impressed. “Who is that?” he asked the chickens around him.

“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” the chickens told him. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth, we are just chickens.”

So the eagle lived and died as a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was. Or maybe he ended up as fried chicken or curry chicken.
So as the Lunar New Year begins with the Year of the Rooster, let us also hear the awakening call from Jesus. 

We are not called to be of this world, to be like mere chickens that scratch the ground for worms.

But we are called to lift up our minds and hearts and lives to God so that we can stretch our wings of blessings and soar high with God’s love.

Yes, that is what God is calling us to and that is what He wants of us.

St. Peter heard it and he became who God wanted him to be.

May we too hear God’s call and become who God wants us to be.

May the New Year bring about God’s blessings so that we will stretch out our wings and proclaim God’s wonderful love for us.
May we firmly believe in the promise of Jesus in the Beatitudes and receive blessings upon blessings.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Chinese New Year 2017, 28.01.2017

Numbers 6:22-27 / James 4:13-15 / Matthew 6:31-34

As we know, St. Peter was a fisherman. So the symbols that would be associated with him would probably be fishes, or a fishing net, or a fishing boat.

But as we know, St. Peter is often depicted holding two big keys in his hand, the keys of the Kingdom that Jesus gave him.
Another symbol that is often forgotten and occasionally associated with him is the rooster.

In some paintings and images, there is a rooster present nearby, and if we know the scriptures, then we will know why.

When Peter denied knowing Jesus for the third time, there was a cock-crow. And then Jesus turned to look at him.

At that moment, Peter knew clearly what he had done, and he went away and wept bitterly.

It was his darkest moment, a moment he will never forget.

It was a moment of reckoning, but it was also a moment of awakening where his life will change.

So the lowly rooster, which usually ends up as fried chicken or curry chicken, was the instrument of revelation for St. Peter.

Or specifically, the call of the rooster was for St. Peter the awakening call from Jesus.

Today marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year. In the Chinese zodiac, it is the Year of the Rooster.

Among other things, the rooster is known for its morning wakeup call, although in our urbanized Singapore, we hardly hear that call.

Somehow it is in the instinct of the rooster to sense the break of dawn and gives the call that a new day is approaching.

Yes, a new day is beginning, a new life is awakening, a new experience of God’s love and blessings is beginning.

So it was for St. Peter, so it is for us as we gather to offer God worship and praise and thanksgiving for the New Year, and to pray for God’s blessings for the days to come.

And in the days to come, let us pray that we will listen to the call of God and to know what He wants of us.

There’s a story of a chicken farmer who found an eagle’s egg. He put it with his chickens and soon the egg hatched.

The baby eagle grew up with all the other chickens and learned to imitate the chickens. He would scratch the ground for worms. He grew up thinking he was a chicken.

Since the chickens could only fly for a short distance, the eagle also learnt to fly a short distance.

He thought that was what he was supposed to do. So that was all that he thought he could do.  As a consequence, that was all he was able to do.

One day the eagle saw a bird flying high above him. He was very impressed. “Who is that?” he asked the chickens around him.

“That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,” the chickens told him. “He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth, we are just chickens.”

So the eagle lived and died as a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was. Or maybe ended up as fried chicken or curry chicken.

So as the Lunar New Year begins with the Year of the Rooster, let us also hear the awakening call.

We are not called to be of this world, to be like mere chickens that scratch the ground for worms.

But we are called to lift up our minds and hearts and lives to God so that we can stretch our wings of blessings and soar high with God’s love.

Yes, that is what God is calling us to and that is what He wants of us.

St. Peter heard it and he became who God wanted him to be.

May we too hear God’s call and become who God wants us to be.

May the New Year bring about God’s blessings so that we will stretch out our wings and proclaim God’s wonderful love for us.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-01-17

Hebrews 10:32-39 / Mark 4:26-34

Life is always changing, and yet the changes in life always fill us with a certain anxiety.

Because when there are changes, the future becomes uncertain and unpredictable.

It is not that we want to predict the future, but a certain stability is shaken.

Whatever the changes might be, one thing is certain, and that is there will be growth.

The gospel parables of today talk about growth - the seed sprouting and growing, the mustard seed growing into a big shrub.

How these changes occur, we are not that certain, yet in the end, the results are obvious - there is growth.

The 1st reading also talks about changes. But those changes were rather distressful and even painful.

People who embraced the faith and became Christians were exposed to insults and violence and stripped of belongings.

But just as the seed was sprouting and growing and growing into a beautiful tree, then we must also believe that situations can change and change for the better along with time.

As the 1st reading puts it, "Only a little while now, a very little while, the one that is coming will have come; he will not delay. The righteous man will live by faith."

Let us face the changes in life with faith, and let us persevere in our faith and await the blessings of the Lord.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sts. Timothy and Titus, Thursday, 26-01-17

2 Tim 1:1-4 / Luke 10:1-9

When Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła was elected Pope in 1978, he took on the name John Paul II.

He also had something peculiar in the design on his coat of arms.

Besides the usual emblem of the cross, there is the unmistakable blue-coloured letter M on the lower half of the shield.

In doing so, Pope John Paul II made a public demonstration of his devotion to Mary and of his constant need for her intercession.

Indeed the faith of Mary and of her intercession, as well as that of other women in the Bible, had been a pillar of strength in the Church.

In today's 1st reading, we hear of St. Paul affirming the faith of two women - Lois who was Timothy's grandmother, and Eunice who was Timothy's mother.

It was these two women who sowed the seeds of faith in Timothy.

In the current situation of the shortage of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, the role of women in the family and in the Church is highlighted.

If ever someone answers the call of God to serve as a priest or a religious, we can be quite certain that the answer to God's call was most likely influenced by the mother.

It is the faith of the mother that nourished and strengthened the faith of her child in answering God's call.

May mothers find their inspirations and their role model in Mary, who is Mother of the Church, and may their prayers strengthen the faith of the Church.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Conversion of St. Paul, the Apostle, Wednesday, 25-01-17

Acts 22:3-16 or Acts 9:1-22 / Mark 16:15-18

We believe that God is merciful and compassionate. We believe that He loves us and even sent His only Son to save us.

Yet as much as we believe in that, can we also say that some people are so stubborn and obstinate that short of being struck by lighting, they just won't change their views or opinions.

So having said that, will we be willing to say that God will bring us down to our knees in order that we turn back to Him?

As we heard in the 1st reading, Saul (before he changed his name to Paul) was breathing threats to slaughter the Lord's disciples and he was on his way to Damascus to do so.

Then, suddenly, there came a light from heaven and he fell to the ground and he heard the voice of Jesus asking him why is he persecuting Him.

Not only that, he was also blinded and later he was cured by Ananias, one of the disciples.

Undoubtedly it was a dramatic story of conversion in which the Lord showed so many signs.

Yet, Saul had to fall to the ground before he could rise up to believe in the Lord.

Similarly if the Lord has to bring us down to our knees in order for us to come back to Him, the Lord of love will do it.

"For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal." (Job 5:18)

Monday, January 23, 2017

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 24-01-17

Hebrews 10:1-10 / Mark 3:31-35

For those who are maturing in their prayer life and deepening their spirituality, one of the questions they will face will be that of God's will.

Essentially, the question will be what is God's will for them in their lives.

But before we want to know what is God's will in our lives, a more fundamental question is:  Do we know what we want for ourselves?

When we know what we want, then we will go and get it done. It is almost as simple as that.

In the gospel, we heard that the mother and brothers and sisters of Jesus were outside and they sent a message asking for Him.

The reply of Jesus was rather puzzling - "Who are my mother and brothers?" And then He said this - Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.

The mother and brothers and sisters of Jesus were asking for Him. But do they know what they want from Him? Do they know why they were asking for Him in the first place?

And that brings us to the 1st reading when it said - God, here I am! I am coming to do your will.

When we ask what is God's will for us, then we must be prepared to put our lives into His hands and like Mary at the Annunciation, we must be ready to say "Be it done according to Your will".

And like Mary who had to learn moment by moment how to be the mother of Jesus and to do God's will, may we learn moment by moment how to be brothers and sisters of Jesus and do God's will.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

3rd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-01-17

Hebrews 9:15, 24-25 / Mark 3:22-30

It is said that the things that we don't like about others could well be the very things that we don't like about ourselves.

And when we make a reflection about that, we could probably see that it could be true.

Or when we dislike what we see in others, could it be possible that it is also what others don't like about us?

Whatever it may be, we know that we are not perfect and the faults that we point out at others could well be our faults, whether we realize it or not.

In the gospel, the scribes made a very vicious comment. They said that it was through the prince of devils that Jesus was casting out devils.

Certainly that was a very disparaging statement. Yet Jesus did not retaliate. He even spoke to them in parables to help them see what was wrong with what they said. Whether the scribes got the point is another matter.

As for us, we know that Jesus came to save us from our sins. As the 1st reading puts it: Christ brings a new covenant, as the mediator, only so that the people who were called to an eternal inheritance may actually receive what was promised.

Yes, we are called to an eternal inheritance, but that also means that we have to acknowledge that we are sinners in need of Jesus who can save us from our sins.

May we not let the devil trick us into losing our eternal inheritance. The devil had already tricked Adam and Eve and he is still trying to trick us into sin.

Let us call upon Jesus to save us from our sins and to save us from the lures of the devil, so that we can see ourselves as children of God and others as children of the same Father.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

3rd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 22.01.2017

Isaiah 8:23 – 9:3 / 1 Cor 1:10-13, 17 / Matthew 4:12-23

Life is kind of strange and it has its absurdities. At times it sounds like a serious joke, and we can choose to laugh at it, but at times it can also make us frown and we wonder why it is like that.

For example, why does round pizza come in a square box? Why is it that people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

Why do we press harder on a remote control when we know the batteries are flat? Why do banks charge a fee on 'insufficient funds' when they know that there is already not enough money?

Enough of examples to tell us that we live in a strange world that at times look rather absurd.

There is this story that one day an elephant decided to go for a nice bath in the river. No sooner had he gone into the water when a little mouse ran up and down the river bank demanding that the elephant get out of the water.

The elephant protested and asked what the problem was. The little mouse was adamant that the elephant had to get out of the water first and then he would tell him.

The elephant gave in and got out of the water. Then the little mouse said: So sorry, Mr. Elephant. I was just checking. Someone took my swimming trunks and I was just checking if it was you who was wearing it.

That sounds like an absurd joke. But the strange thing here is that sometimes it takes a joke to bring out a point, or the moral of the story. And the moral of the story is this: 
It is easier to think that an elephant can fit into the swimming trunks of a mouse than for God’s plan to enter into the human heart. 

In other words, we can accept the absurdities of life more easily than we can accept the mysteries of God’s plan for us.

In the gospel, we heard about the beginnings of the ministry of Jesus. He heard that John the Baptist had been arrested and He went back to Galilee and settled in the lakeside town of Capernaum.

As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He called His first disciples – Peter and Andrew, and James and John – and all four of them were fishermen.

And that sounds like a joke already. Just what kind of strategy was that? If the mission was going to be anything serious and successful, then Jesus would need professionals and not amateurs. 

More so when it was about the proclamation of Good News of the Kingdom and curing all kinds of diseases and sickness among the people. He would need the media and communications people, as well as doctors and health care specialists on board.

But fishermen? Is there something that we have missed?

The gospel quoted a prophecy that was taken from the 1st reading: The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death, a light has dawned.
Yes, it was a great light, so great that it didn’t look normal; it looked strange and absurd. But for those that it beckoned and called, the light shines and reveals.

So it was for Peter and Andrew, for James and John, and for all those who follow the light that shines in a strange and absurd world.

One of those who followed the light was Vietnamese Cardinal Francois-Xavier Nguyen van Thuan (1928-2002)
detained by the Communist Government of Vietnam in 1975 in a reeducation camp for 13 years, 9 of them in solitary confinement.

To his non-Catholic fellow prisoners, who were curious to know how he could maintain his hope, he answered: "I have left everything to follow Jesus, because I love the defects (or absurdities) of Jesus."

Nguyen van Thuan said: "During his agony on the cross, when the thief asked him to remember him when he arrived in his Kingdom … had it been me, I would have replied: 'I will not forget you, but you must expiate your crimes in purgatory.' However, Jesus replied: 'Today you shall be with me in paradise.' He had forgotten that man's sins. Jesus does not have a memory, He does not remember sins, He just forgives everyone."

"Jesus does not know mathematics. This is demonstrated in the parable of the good shepherd. He had 100 sheep, one is lost and without hesitating he went to look for it, leaving the other 99 in the sheepfold. For Jesus, one is as valuable as 99, or even more so."

Jesus doesn’t know logic. Van Thuan’s evidence for this “defect” is the story of the woman who loses one of her ten silver pieces and who, upon finding it calls all her friends to celebrate with her. The celebration must have cost more than that one silver piece, perhaps even more than ten silver pieces. This, Van Thuan suggests, is completely illogical, except to the strange logic of the heart of Jesus.

He also said that Jesus is a risk-taker, a man with a publicity campaign that to human eyes is “doomed to failure.” A promise of trials and persecutions for those who follow him. No guarantee of food or lodging, only a share of His own way of life. “Jesus is the risk-taker for the love of the Father and of humanity, is a paradox from beginning to end, even for us who have become used to hearing it.”

Finally, Jesus doesn’t understand finance or economics, as evidenced by the story of the parable of the workers in the vineyard. Van Thuan points out that if Jesus were named the administrator of a community or the director of a business, the institutions would surely fail and go bankrupt. How can anyone pay someone who began working at 5:00pm the very same wages paid to the other person who has been working since early morning? Yet Jesus does.

Archbishop Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan also recalled.
"One day, one of the prison guards asked me: 'Do you love us?'" I answered: 'Yes, I love you.'
"'We have kept you shut in for so many years and you love us? I don't believe it ...'
"I then reminded him: 'I have spent many years with you. You have seen it and know it is true.' The guard asked me: 'When you are freed, will you send your faithful to burn our homes and kill our relatives?' 
'No, although you might want to kill me, I love you.' "Why?' the guard insisted. "Because Jesus has taught me to love everyone, even my enemies. If I don't do this, I am not worthy to bear the name Christian. Jesus said: 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'
'This is very beautiful, but very hard to understand,' the guard replied.

Indeed Jesus is hard to understand. To some, He is strange and absurd. To others, He is a light that is too bright to look at.

To us, He calls and beckons us to follow Him and His light will guide us through this strange and absurd world. 

We may look like “crack-pots” to follow Jesus. But only when there is crack that the light can shine in.

Friday, January 20, 2017

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 21-01-17

Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14 / Mark 3:20-21

If you have children of your own, then let us speculate on this scenario.

Let's say that one of your children tells you that he or she wants to go to some under-developed country to do missionary work and to help the people improve their lives and to share with them the love of Jesus.

What will be our reaction? Whatever our reactions might be, they are certainly more than mixed.

We might be asking questions like: Why can't you do something more normal like most people? What is there to gain from it? How does it help your future? What would people think?

Maybe that was why the relatives of Jesus were worried about Him and thought that He was not thinking right.

He had already done certain things that they were not prepared for and didn't know how to handle.

He threw away the security of a job and a home to become an itinerary preacher.

He hung up His safety when He took on the scribes and Pharisees. (You can't get away with that and in fact, He didn't.)

He didn't bother about what would people say regarding His company of friends.

Following Jesus involves taking risks. We may have to throw away our superficial security, hang up our flimsy safety precautions and turn a deaf ear to the criticisms and discouragement around us.

But when others think that we are out of our minds, or maybe when we wonder if we ourselves are out of our minds, then Jesus will come and take charge of us.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 19-01-17

Hebrews 8:6-13 / Mark 3:13-19

To be able to put something into a container, there are two obvious requirements - the container must not be full, and there must be at least some space to put that something in.

Similarly, to write something on a piece of paper, there must be a space in the paper to write, and also that the paper cannot have too amny things written on it such that a new addition becomes lost in that overwhelming content.

If that is the case, the same could be said of the mind and heart. To put something into the mind, it must be clear enough to receive it. And for the heart to accept something, it must be open to it.

In the 1st reading, the Lord said that He will make a new covenant with the House of Israel. He will put His laws into their minds and write them in their hearts.

And that covenant is this - The Lord declared that He will be their God and they shall be His people.

That covenant is renewed everyday with us especially in the Eucharist. But we have to clear our minds in order to understand what the Lord wants of us and to cleanse our hearts in order to receive the love that He wants to fill us with.

And just as Jesus called the twelve, Jesus is also calling us to offer to Him our minds and hearts.

May our minds not be distracted, and may our hearts be pure, so that our faith in God will be strengthened and that others will see us as the people of God.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 19-01-17

Hebrews 7:25 - 8:6 / Mark 3:7-12

We often call what we see around the "the reality".

We call it "reality" because we can see it, we can touch it, we can hear it, we can smell it and maybe even taste it.

So when a person talks about things that are beyond the empirical and the sensory, things that we can't comprehend or don't understand, we would feel like it is out of this world.

Yet the letter to the Hebrews talks about a reality beyond our grasp, a reality beyond our senses.

It talks about an eternity that is beyond our grasp.

It talks about an eternal high priest, an eternal sanctuary, an eternal sacrifice.

It calls all that the reality. And it makes sense.

Because if eternity is within our grasp, if heaven is within our reach, then there is no need for Jesus.

But in Jesus is our eternal mediator who reconciles us with God.

Because Jesus is the Son of God and our Saviour.

When we can truly understand that, then we will understand what reality is.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 18-01-17

Hebrews 7:1-2, 15-17 / Mark 3:1-6

One of the figures of the Old Testament that is shrouded with mystery is Melchizedek, who was mentioned in the 1st reading.

Melchizedek  is mentioned in two instances in the Old Testament - Genesis 14:18-20 and Psalm 110:4, but his origin still remains a mystery.

His name means "righteousness is my king" and he was king of Salem, which means that he was the king of peace.

He was described as the priest of the most high God and Abraham offered him tithes.

In Jesus was the fullness of righteousness and peace, and He is also our high priest.

Just as Melchizedek offered Abraham bread and wine, Jesus offers us Himself as our bread of life.

Just as Melchizedek symbolized righteousness and peace, Jesus gives us the faith to do good and to give life to others.

May our Eucharistic worship be expressed in our lives and may we be symbols of righteousness and peace to others.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-01-17

Hebrews 6:10-20 / Mark 2:23-28

Most religions have one main objective or one main goal.

That objective or goal can be stated in various ways, according to the precepts of whichever religion.

Simply stated, that objective or goal is salvation, or whatever similar word.

Christianity also has that some objective and goal.

And the beauty of Christianity is that it is God who offers salvation to mankind.

And God became man in the person of Jesus Christ to show us how far He would go just to offer us salvation.

In Jesus is our high priest who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins in order to save us.

So it is important to know the teachings of Jesus and what the Church tells us to do and not to do.

Yet, it is even more important to know who the Saviour is.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

2nd Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 16-01-17

Hebrews 5:1-10 / Mark 2:18-22

To have freedom is what we as humans really cherish.

In order to be free, people are prepared to fight and even die for it.

Yet to have absolute freedom is probably just a notion and exists only in the imagination.

Because true freedom lies in obedience, which may seem to be a contradiction of terms.

Jesus is divine and hence, He had the absolute freedom to do whatever He wants.

But when He was on earth, He submitted Himself humbly in obedience to His Father.

It was an obedience that even entailed tears and suffering.

Yet, it is in obedience that Jesus showed what true freedom is all about.

Because true freedom is found in doing the Father's will.

Whatever ideas of freedom we might have, let us look at Jesus our Master who taught us that obedience brings about true freedom.

That might not correspond to our ideas or thinking.

But when we obey and follow what Jesus is teaching us, then we are like new wine in fresh skins.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2nd Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 15.01.2017

Isaiah 49:3, 5-6 / 1 Cor 1:1-3 / John 1:29-34

According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the tail end of the Year of the Monkey. The Year of the Monkey began last year with the Chinese New Year and will end with the coming Chinese New Year.

As some will say, monkey business is coming to an end.

Of all the animals in the Chinese zodiac, the monkey is considered the most intelligent. 

And there is some theory that says that human beings were evolved from apes. Hmmm … if that is true, then why are there still apes?  ;)

But let us not go to that topic. No matter how intelligent the monkey is, it is certainly not a match against human intelligence.

The natives of an island have a way to catch monkeys in a very unusual way. 

Most of the monkeys are sold to zoos, so the hunters avoid using ordinary traps which can cause disfiguring injuries. Instead, they hollow out a football-sized coconut, leaving a hole in one end just big enough for a monkey to slip in its hand. Inside the hollowed-out coconut, the hunters put delicious green bananas, the monkey's favorite food. Then they fasten a chain to the other end of the coconut to a nearby tree. 

A monkey will pick up the baited coconut, put its hand through the hole in one end, and clutch the bananas inside with its fist. 

However, when it tries to pull out the delicious fruit, it quickly discovers that the hole in the coconut is too small for it to withdraw its banana-filled hand. All the monkey has to do to escape is open its fist and let go of the bananas. Then it can easily pull out its hand.

But the greedy monkey almost never does the logical thing. It tries to carry off the coconut, but of course, it is chained securely to a tree. It struggles, it screams, it rages, it tugs and pulls at the coconut until it is exhausted. Then the hunters come to put a sack over the monkey who's been caught by its own fist.

The monkey could, of course, let go of the bananas and run before getting caught. But it hangs on to the bananas until the sack goes over its head. Why? Because the banana has value to the monkey and the monkey is unwilling to let go of that value. So unwilling that it gets trapped for it. 

So much for a monkey trap. So even though the monkey can be quite intelligent, it can still fall for a simple trap.

In the gospel, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, John said: Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.

John the Baptist was called the greatest of all the prophets because it was he who pointed out the Lamb of God, the Saviour of the world.

But before Jesus came onto the scene, John the Baptist had the people in his hand. He preached about repentance, he baptized people, and the people even thought that he was the Saviour.

But when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he had to make a choice. He could look away and hold on to the limelight and the attention that he was getting from the people.

But he made the choice to let go and to be freed from the clutches of pride and ego. It was in letting go that he was able to point out the Lamb of God.

Therein lies his greatness. He was humble enough to let go and make way for Jesus when He appeared.

There is one statement from John the Baptist that expressed his understanding of the whole matter. He said: A man can lay claim only to what is given to him from above (Jn 3:27).

Indeed, we can only have what is given to us from above. As for the rest, we will have to let go.

It is only in letting go that we can be freed from the trap of the clutches of our own hand.

We have an intelligence higher than that of the monkey, and yet we often fall into the trap like how the monkey is trapped by the banana in the coconut.

John the Baptist said that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

So what is this sin that he is talking about? Certainly when it comes to sin in its broadest understanding, it is what separates us from God.

And when we look at how John the Baptist was able to let go of himself and point out Jesus as the Lamb of God, then we can see particular strand of sin is self-obsession. 

There is this story of the last three wishes of Alexander the Great. After conquering many kingdoms, he was returning home. On the way, he fell ill and it took him to his death bed. With death staring him in his face, Alexander realized how his conquests, his great army, his sharp sword and all his wealth were of no consequence. 

So, the mighty conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last.

He called his generals and said, "I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them out without fail.”

1) "My first desire is that", said Alexander, "My physicians alone must" carry my coffin."

2) After a pause, he continued, "Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave, the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury".

3) "My third and last wish is that both my hands be kept dangling out of my coffin".

Alexander's favorite general asked, "O king, we assure you that all your wishes will be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?"

At this Alexander took a deep breath and said: "I would like the world to know of the three lessons I have just learnt. Lessons to be learnt from last 3 wishes of King Alexander. I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realize that no doctor on this earth can save a person from the clutches of death. So let not people take life for granted.

The second wish of strewing gold, silver and other riches on the path to the graveyard is to tell people that not even a fraction of gold will come with me. I spent all my life greedy for power, earning riches but cannot take anything with me. Let people realize that it is a sheer waste of time to chase wealth.

About my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came empty handed into this world and empty handed I go out of this world". With these words, the king closed his eyes, and death conquered him and he breathed his last.

What you do for yourself, dies with you. But what you do for others will live forever. John the Baptist showed us how to let go so as to point out Jesus to others. May we do likewise. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 14-01-17

Hebrews 4:12-16 / Mark 2:13-17

The word "vocation" comes from the Latin word vocare which means "to call".

Whatever vocation in life we have embarked on is a response to a calling, whether the calling is to the married life, to the priesthood or religious life, or to the single state.

Every vocation is great, if greatly pursued.

Saul was called to be the first king of Israel. That was his vocation. He was also gifted to fulfill that vocation. But later he would waste it all.

Levi (or Matthew) was called by Jesus. His response was prompt and decisive.

But more importantly, he remained faithful to that vocation and to that call.

We are called to be Christians and our baptism is our response to that call from God.

At baptism we are immersed into the identity of Christ and hence, we are called Christians.

That is our first and fundamental call, because from that call flows the various vocations in life.

The test of our calling comes when we are tempted to be lesser than we are called to be, in other words, the temptation to be selfish, self-centered, greedy, etc.

But it is precisely in the midst of temptations that Christ reminds us of our vocation.

He calls out to us, just as He called Levi.

And if we should fall, then let us hear again those words of Jesus in today's gospel: I did not come to call the virtuous, but sinners.

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-01-17

Hebrews 4:1-5, 11 / Mark 2:1-12

One of the most powerful signs that humanity can ever exhibit is that of solidarity.

When individuals unite and agree upon an action with a common interest and giving each other mutual support, then it is certainly a solidarity to be reckoned with.

In the gospel passage of the healing of the paralytic, there are many points of consideration and reflection.

Yet, we must not forget how it all began. There were the four men who carried the paralytic on a stretcher and their solidarity also gave rise to creativity as they stripped the roof in order to lower the stretcher on which the paralytic lay to where Jesus was.

Certainly Jesus would be impressed by their solidarity. But He also saw more than that - He saw their faith.

It would not be too absurd to say that solidarity without the faith aspect could lead to a revolution of chaos.

As we look at Christianity as a whole, we have to admit that Christianity is divided among the various denominations, and also within the denominations.

Even within the Catholic Church and in our parish, we cannot deny that there are some divisions.

Christian unity may seem like quite a difficult task, but let us have recourse to our faith and pray for healing and peace and reconciliation among Christians.

Let us remember that Jesus prayed that we will all be one and united in faith (John 17). Let us keep praying and keep building Christian solidarity and unity with our faith.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-01-17

Hebrews 3:7-14 / Mark 1:40-45

Certain attributes go well and correspond with each other, while others may seem to be rather disjointed with each other.

For example, gentle and humble seem to be like peas in a pod, and so do strong and firm.

On the other hand, mighty and gentle seem to be as different as oil and water. The same can be said of courageous and humble.

The leper in today's gospel is certainly courageous. As a leper, he can't come into contact with people as leprosy was seen as a contagious disease and he could be stoned or driven away should he want to come into contact with people.

But in a rather desperate and near-hopeless situation, he took the courage to seek out Jesus and to come before him.

And here is where he also showed his humility as he dropped to his knees and pleaded with Jesus to cure him.

It took a dreaded disease like leprosy to bring out the courage and humility of the leper to seek out the Healer.

Leprosy was a physical disease but it also has a spiritual meaning for us, Because sin is the spiritual leprosy that afflicts our souls and causes our hearts to decay and rot.

And the Sacrament of Reconciliation is there for us to obtain forgiveness and healing for our souls.

But we must have the courage and humility to go for it and to seek the Divine Healer who will restore us back to health and life.

Jesus will tell us: "Of course I want to forgive and heal you!" Let us have to courage and humility to go on our knees if we really want to have peace and joy in our lives.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 11-01-17

Hebrews 2:14-18 / Mark 1:29-39

To step down from a position of power and authority is never an easy thing to do. At least one of the things that one has to get used to is the downsizing of the office.

Where once everyone is at your beck and call, now you will have to make your own coffee and get your own lunch and wash your own dishes.

What would be really difficult to accept will be that where once the final decision would lie with you, now you don't have a say anymore, and you would feel quite redundant and maybe even useless.

So when Jesus emptied Himself and took on flesh and blood and became like one of us, we can imagine what it was for Him.

But as the 1st reading puts it, it was essential that He should become completely like His brothers so that He could be a compassionate and trustworthy high priest of God, and to be able to atone for human sins.

So in emptying Himself, Jesus did not become redundant or useless; on the contrary, He was able to help those who are tempted and to save them from their sins.

In the gospel, we heard Him doing just that - He cured many who were suffering from diseases of one kind or another and He also cast out many devils.

Yet because He emptied Himself, Jesus had to rely on the power of God for His mission and so in the morning, long before dawn, He got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there.

If Jesus, the Son of God gave such an important priority to prayer, then we who are weak and wounded by sin, certainly cannot do with any lesser priority to prayer.

When we pray, we unite ourselves with Jesus, and like Him, we too empty ourselves so that we can be filled with the power of God to continue the mission of proclaiming the Good News of God's love.

Monday, January 9, 2017

1st Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 10-01-17

Hebrews 2:5-12 / Mark 1:21-28

In a highly urbanized country like ours, we live in a very noisy world. And in a small country-state like ours, there are not many places we can go to for a quiet moment.

Although we may say that peace is to be found within oneself, yet it cannot be denied that the noise of the world can affect our peace within.

More so if the noise is aggressive and hostile and confrontational; we will be tempted to react and then created a more disturbing noise all around us.

In the gospel, the unclean spirit that possessed the man shouted at Jesus, " What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God."

It was not just a noise, but a voice that is aggressive, hostile and confrontational; it was a voice of fear, a voice that was defensive because it felt threatened.

Yet Jesus, in a calm and authoritative voice, had only this to say: Be quiet! Come out of him!

So whenever we are faced with aggressive and hostile and confrontational situations, let us remember that Jesus is within us.

The 1st reading says that Jesus is our brother; He sanctifies us and grants us peace, so that we can be still and be quiet in the noisy world.

And with the peace of Jesus in our hearts, may we also help to quieten down the aggressive and hostile people we see around us.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Baptism of the Lord, Monday, 09-01-17

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 / Acts 10:34-38 / Matthew 3:13-17

The Christmas season is not just about the celebrating the birth of Christ.

We celebrated the birth of Christ on Christmas Day. The birth of Christ is then announced to the world in the feast of the Epiphany, when the wise men came to adore Jesus and present Him with the gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh, to symbolize His identity.

The mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas comes to its peak with the Baptism of the Lord.

And with the Baptism of the Lord, the mystery of salvation moves from the Incarnation to the Mission.

Christ came into the world to save sinners. At His Baptism, Christ was revealed to the world as the Beloved Son of the Father.

In this, we are also reminded of our own baptism, that we too, in Christ, are the beloved of the Father.

Indeed, love is the soul of mission. Without love, there can be no meaning or purpose or direction in life. Without love, there can be no mission.

Jesus came to save us by showing God's love for us.

Through baptism, we are united with Christ in His mission. May we show God's love for others. That is the meaning, the purpose and the direction of our lives.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Epiphany, Year A, 08.01.2017

Isaiah 60:1-6 / Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 / Matthew 2:1-12

By now we would have already opened up all our Christmas presents. 

If we were not surprised by the presents that we got, then we may not be aware of Murphy’s principle about Christmas presents – “we always get the most of what we need the least”. And maybe there is also another one – we never get what we want. The irony of Christmas presents.

Nonetheless, it is still quite exciting to tear away the wrappers and see what is the gift, even though we may already know that it is a box of chocolates, or a bottle of wine, or a shirt, or several pairs of socks, (seems like I am talking about what I got for presents …)

Anyway if we got our presents before Christmas Day, would we wait for that day to open our presents? Well, we should, but being pragmatic Singaporeans, we would open up the presents before Christmas Day and then see if we can “recycle” those presents!

But the spirit of Christmas is to give something precious isn’t it? 

A 5-year-old boy was telling his 3-year-old brother: “Let’s play Christmas. I’ll be Santa Claus and you’ll be a present, and I’ll give you away.” So much about giving away something precious …

To put it business-like, the deadline for giving Christmas presents is Christmas Day. 

Nonetheless, belated Christmas presents are still welcomed, but don’t wait till next Christmas.

Although it is not stated anywhere, but the last day for giving Christmas presents would be today, on the feast of Epiphany.

Today the Nativity Scene is a little more crowded than on Christmas Day because of three additional figurines. The three wise men have finally appeared, together with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

And their appearance is really a contrast to the rest of the figurines in the Nativity Scene. They have crowns on their heads, their robes are royal and elegant, their gifts are exotic and mystical.

These three wise men (let’s just take it at three) capture our attention, and they also stir up our imagination, and they also lead us on to a reflection.

Although they appeared at the end of the Christmas season, their journey actually began much earlier and they would give us something to think about at the start of Advent.

They saw a star, it was “His star” in their own words, and they began the journey to look for the infant king of the Jews.

The star stirred them to go on a journey of a search and to look for this king of the Jews. But it was not a straight-forward journey on first-class.

Because it meant crossing the harsh desert sands to Israel to look for this king.

Also the directions were not clear for them. The star was not there for them all the time. They had no clear indication of where the infant king of the Jews was. 

They came to Jerusalem thinking He was there. King Herod came to know who they were looking for and he schemed to make use of them to get to know the whereabouts of this infant king of the Jews.

Unlike the shepherds who had a vision of angels and were told in detail how and where to look for Jesus, the wise men had to be redirected to Bethlehem.

And it was in the final stages of their search that the star appeared again to lead them to their destination.

The wise men presented gifts of symbolic and mystical meaning. Gold points to the kingship of Jesus; incense points to the divinity of Jesus; and myrrh points to the humanity of Jesus. 

But the wise men are also gifts to us because we see in them the aspects of our faith. Our faith is one of searching and it also entails a struggling.

We too search of answers to our prayers. We search for answers to quell our doubts. We struggle with the fundamental questions of sickness, suffering and death, with hurting and broken relationships, with terrorism and wars and hunger and poverty, and recession and retrenchment. 

We search for answers to the things that say that there can’t be a God, if God is the one who allows miscarriages and babies to be born with severe defects and illness.

We struggle with the anxiety and worry of job security, financial security and emotional security.

Yes, we search and we struggle for the answers to life and its burdens, challenges and difficulties.

The wise men also had to search and struggle for answers and directions.

But they appear in this feast of Epiphany with a message for us. Epiphany means revelation. 

And their message for us is this: You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your greatest revelation.

Yes, like the wise men, we will face our darkness, our uncertainties, the Herods who will manipulate us.

But on this feast of Epiphany, the wise men had this message for us – they found what they are looking for; they found who they were looking for.

And so will we. Jesus will reveal Himself to us. That is His promise to us on this feast of Epiphany.

Friday, January 6, 2017

7th January 2017, Saturday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 5:14-21 / John 2:1-11

It is said that miracles always happen when you believe.

So the miracle in the gospel, when water is changed into wine, seems that it could only be a real event when we believe in the power of Jesus.

Some other contentions to it in order to explain away miraculous dimension  is that the neighbours came to the aid to the wedding couple by bringing wine from their home or that there happen to come about a new supply of wine.

But when we look at it and think deeper about it, the miracle is indeed the work of nature and the work of the supernatural.

Wine came from grapes which are grown in vineyards. The vines draw water from the ground in order to grow and produce grapes.

To put it simply, the water is eventually turned into wine by the work of nature and the work of man.

To put it simply again, the miracle of the water turning into wine is hastened by the work of the divine, the work of Jesus.

Indeed, miracles always happen when we believe. Miracles happen when we believe that God became man and gave Himself to us in the Eucharist.

Let us not wait for a miracle to happen. Jesus sends us to be a miracle for others so that their watery lives will be changed to sweet wine.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

6th January 2017, Friday, Weekday of Christmas Time,

1 John 5:5-13 / Mark 1:6-11

Christmas is celebrated in many countries as a public holiday. Even in countries where it is not a public holiday, it is seen as a Christian religious festival.

Regardless of how it is celebrated or how it is acknowledged, the religious aspect of Christmas is always there.

The "reason for the season" is often embellished with commercial overtones and secular festivities like parties, such that Christmas can be even devoid of any religious meaning.

But for us Christians, the reason for the season and the spiritual meaning of Christmas is such a profound and overwhelming truth that is often beyond our comprehension.

The truth is that God became man and took on our humanity and yet He remained divine. Even to understand Jesus as human and divine can be mind-boggling.

What is beyond the grasp of our understanding is that supreme divinity can allow itself to be lowered to the level of weak and sinful humanity.

For the Creator to become like a creature is almost like saying that we want to become like the pets that we love so much.

But that is the truth of God's love for us. God loves us so much that He sent His only Son Jesus to save us and to show His love for us.

That is the truth and the meaning of Christmas. May we always be aware of this truth and meaning so that Christmas can truly be celebrated as Christmas.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

5th January 2017, Thursday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 3:11-21 / John 1:43-51

Whenever we gather for family events, we would share stories about our relatives as well as recall events that that had happened.

Usually we would recall and share about the happy moments that had happened and reminisce the experiences that we had together.

However, we would want to avoid embarrassing moments or even tragic events because that would bring up the hurt and pain. We would rather forget those moments and events.

The 1st reading brings us way back to the book of Genesis and to the first murder committed in the Bible. The description is also rather graphic - that Cain cut his brother's throat.

It also delves into the reason for the murder - that Cain's own life was evil and his brother lived a good life.

And then it gives this teaching: you must not be surprised that the world hates you. So contrary to what we would think, when we live a good life, it does not mean that we will be trouble-free.

The evil one would give trouble and even make us commit evil like what happened to Cain.

But in spite of this, the 1st reading urges us to keep on living the good life and to love others even if they do evil to us.

Because if we refuse to love, then we are spiritually dead, and to hate is to be a murderer.

Jesus came to show us how to live a good life and to love even our enemies. When we follow His Way, then the stories of our lives would be testimonies of how God's love overcame the evil that so often threatens us.

4th January 2017, Wednesday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 3:7-10 / John 1:35-42

Generally speaking, the issues of life are not distinctly clearly black and white. If it is so then decisions are easy to make as the matter is clearly divided between black and white.

But as it is, life is a mixture of black and white and hence grey areas abound in areas like bioethics, sexuality, morality, etc.

But when it comes to the spiritual life, that is not the case at all. Because between good and evil, it is mutually exclusive and that good and evil cannot co-exist in one entity.

As the 1st reading puts it: to live a holy life is to be holy just as God is holy; to lead a sinful life is to belong to the devil.

And this is how the children of God are distinguished from the children of the devil - anybody not living a holy life and not loving his brother is no child of God's.

In other words, we can't be children of God and at the same time the children of the devil. It is either one or the other. There is no grey area in this matter.

And we shouldn't be giving ourselves concessions or excuses that we are weak and a bit of sin is alright because it was to undo all the devil had done that Jesus came to save us and to restore our dignity as children of God.

As we continue to celebrate the Christmas season, let us remember that God became man so that man can become like God.

God is holy. If we are to be children of God then we too must strive to be holy. There can be no grey area about this.

Monday, January 2, 2017

3rd January 2017, Tuesday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 2:29 - 3:6 / John 1:29-34

We may have heard of this term "a spiritual person". There can be many definitions and understandings to this term.

But generally speaking, the common expectation of someone who is "a spiritual person" is that he/she has got some spiritual gifts, eg. healing, miracles, prophecy, visionary, etc.

These manifestations are spectacular and may be associated with "a spiritual person". But a truly spiritual person may also be a rather common person that exhibits none of the above.

Nonetheless, by the life of the person, we will be able to see whether that person is essentially a spiritual person, just as a tree is judged by its fruits.

John the Baptist did not work any miracles of healing or give any spectacular signs. He only preached the Word of God as it came to him and he baptised people for the repentance of sins.

But he was someone who can be called a truly "spiritual person" because he was closely in touch with the promptings of the Spirit of God and it was he who pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Literally, God spoke to him and told him who Jesus was.

The 1st reading gives another expression of what a truly spiritual person is - everyone whose life is righteous has been begotten by God.

That life of righteousness is lived out with a purity of life, a purity that is rooted in Jesus, a life that avoids sin.

So when we live a life of righteousness and purity, we will be able to "hear" what God is saying to us. And then by our lives and our words, people will know whether or not we are a spiritual person.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2nd January 2017, Monday, Weekday of Christmas Time

1 John 2:22-28 / John 1:19-28

All of us will have at some point in our lives face a major change.

A major change would involve a change in direction or a call to higher responsibilities or to answer a higher calling.

That would mean a change in the state of life, like from being single to being married, from being a laity to being a cleric, from being backstage to being forefront, etc.

We may even call it a change in identity, because we tend to associate identity with what we do.

In the gospel when John the Baptist was asked "Who are you?" he initially answered with who he was not, and eventually he gave an enigmatic answer - a voice that cries in the wilderness: make a straight path for the Lord.

That is a rather strange answer to the question of identity.

But as we think about it, the question of identity is enigmatic isn't it. Because identity is a mystery.

Because for us Christians, our identity is not about ourself but our identity is in Christ.

That is what the 1st reading tells us: we are anointed with truth and so we must stay in Christ who is the fullness of truth.

Hence, our lives must be lived in the truth. To live a lie would mean that we would turn in shame when we asked who we are.

Let us put our confidence in Jesus who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Then we will know how to live our lives.