Monday, July 31, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 01-08-17

Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-8, 28 / Matthew 13:36-43

In life there are many choices - from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, to words we use, to what we choose to do.

In our spiritual life, we also have to make a fundamental choice, and that is the choice between good and evil.

And when we do an examination of our lives, then we will see that there are times we chose to do good and there are times we chose to do evil.

So in our lives, there is a good harvest of wheat, but there are also the weeds of sin.

And till the last day of our life on earth, there will be wheat and weeds in our hearts.

As Jesus talks about the final judgement in today's gospel, let us pray for the ears to listen .

As we listen to God's Word, may we also make a choice for God.

So that in all we do and say, we will want to choose to do the good and right and loving thing.

The 10 Commandments tell us about the way to life. Jesus offers us the choice between life and death.

Let us choose life, and death will be slowly pulled out and burnt away.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

17th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 31-07-17

Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34 / Matthew 13:31-35

Babies and very young children have this peculiar tendency.

They will cry out in distress when they don't see their parents around them.

Their parents are certainly still around; just that they are momentarily out of sight.

This tendency is especially manifested on the first day of nursery, when the parents leave their children under the care of teachers.

The reaction of the children can be anything from frowning to hysterical cries.

Such is the need of children for a visible presence of their parents.

We see a similar situation with the Israelites in the 1st reading.

Moses had left them to go up to Mt Sinai, and they began to feel abandoned and insecure.

They needed a sense of security and they turned to a thing to satisfy them.

Yes, we might criticize them for being idolatrous, etc.

But what they felt only illustrates the human desire for the presence of God in order to feel secure.

The presence of God is like the mustard seed and the yeast parables that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of God.

Where God is made present, there is the Kingdom.

We are like the mustard seeds and the yeast.

God is within us and He is waiting.

He is waiting for us to make His kingdom present in the world.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

17th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 30.07.2017

1 Kings 3:5, 7-12 / Romans 8:28-30 / Matthew 13:44-52
Let us begin with a question about our health, and maybe let us look at our dental health. When was the last time we went to the dentist? It is recommended that we go to the dentist for a check-up every six months. That’s the recommendation. But our assessment is “no pain, no need”.

But as it is, we don’t like to visit the dentist because it means two things. Either it is a filling for a cavity, which at times feels like a brain surgery, because of all that drilling and the pain shoots up the brain. Or it will be an extraction, i.e. to pull out the teeth.

For those of us who have an upcoming dental appointment, here is a little story to prepare you to meet your dentist. A man went to a new dentist to remove a wisdom tooth for the first time. The man told the dentist, “I am afraid … it’s my first time taking out a wisdom tooth.” The new dentist told him, “Me too … it’s my first time.” 

By and large, the dentist wouldn’t want to do an extraction unless it is really necessary. But when it comes to the wisdom tooth, it’s quite another matter.

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Maybe when we start to get wiser, those wisdom teeth will grow as well. Sometimes these teeth can be a valuable asset to the mouth when healthy and properly aligned. But more often, they are misaligned and require removal.
So it doesn’t mean that the more wisdom teeth we have or try to keep, the wiser we are. In fact, it would be wiser to remove those wisdom teeth if they are giving us teething problems.

In the 1st reading, the Lord appeared in a dream to Solomon and said, “Ask what you would like me to give you.”

Now, that’s like a blank cheque, isn’t it? If the Lord were to appear to us and ask us that same question, just how would we reply? Because there are so many things that we want – health, wealth, happiness, security, good looks, etc.

As a young king, Solomon could have asked for more “teeth”, not more wisdom teeth, but more “teeth” to have more “bite”, so that he can control his subjects and his kingdom, victory over his enemies, long life, prosperity, security.

But he asked the Lord for this: Give Your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for who can govern this people of Yours that is so great?

And the Lord replied: I give you a heart wise and shrewd, as none before you has had and none will have after you.

And truly, Solomon was noted for his wisdom. There was this instance of two mothers living in the same house, each the mother of an infant son, and they came to Solomon. One of the babies had died, and each claimed the remaining boy as her own. Calling for a sword, Solomon declared his judgment: the baby would be cut into two, each woman to receive half. One mother thought the ruling fair, but the other begged Solomon, "Give the baby to her, just don't kill the baby!" The king declared the second woman the true mother, as a mother would even give up her baby if that was necessary to save his life. (1 Kings 3:16-28) This judgment became known throughout all of Israel and was considered an example of profound wisdom.

Solomon asked the Lord for wisdom to govern God’s people because he was aware and humble enough to admit that he was young and unskilled in leadership.

So the Lord is also asking us what we want for Him. Certainly it would be something that we have to think carefully about.

It would be something like the treasure hidden in a field, or like that pearl of great value that the gospel speaks of. In both cases, the two finders sold everything they own and bought it.

But also like the fishermen who hauled in the dragnet and then collected the good fish in a basket and threw away those that are of no use, we also need the wisdom to discern what is good and what is fleeting and temporary.

There is this story of a bus-station attendant who was handed a wallet that someone had lost. He looked inside the wallet. There were a few dollars and a holy picture of Jesus in it. But there was no identification of the owner.

After a while an elderly man came to claim the wallet. The attendant asked him to prove that it was his before he would give it to him. The old man smiled and said, “There is a picture of Jesus in it.” But the attendant was not satisfied. He said, “That is no proof. Anyone can have a picture of Jesus in his wallet. And why is your photo or IC not in there like the others.”

The old man took a deep breath and explained. “My IC is with me. As to why my photo is not there, this wallet is given to me by my father when I was in school, and I used to put a photo of my parents in it.

When I was a teenager, I was proud of my looks and so I replaced my parents’ photo with my own. Then I got married and I replaced my photo with a photo of my wife. Then my first child was born and then I replaced my wife’s photo with my baby’s photo.”

Then his voice began to quiver. “My parents passed away many years ago. Recently my wife passed away too. My children are too busy with their families to look after me.

All that I ever held close to my heart is now far away from my reach. I have this picture of Jesus in my wallet because it is only now that I realized that He is always with me and He will never leave me alone. If only I had realized this earlier, I would have His picture when I first got this wallet.” 

Whether we have a picture of Jesus in our wallets or not, we should realize that we are created in His image. And His image in etched in our hearts so that we can reflect and share this divine image with others so that they can see the true treasure that is within us.
Yes, we already have that treasure. What more do we need to ask for or search for?

St. Thomas Aquinas, the great Christian philosopher and theologian, wrote many works that influenced the Church. It was he who wrote the lyrics of the great Eucharistic hymns like “Humbly we adore Thee”.

There is a story that he had a vision of Christ on the Cross and was asked by the Lord what reward he wanted for all he had done and written. St. Thomas answered, “Non nisi te, Domine.” (Only you, Lord.)

Jesus is our only reward and our eternal reward. We don’t need to have the wisdom of Solomon to realize that.

St. Martha, Saturday, 29-07-17

1 John 4:7-16 / John 11:19-27

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only St. Peter had made that similar proclamation.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

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

Exodus 20:1-17 / Matthew 13:18-23

Can we think of anyone who has done us a great favour? It may be that this person saved our life from some near tragedy. Or helped us when everyone else have turned their back on us. Or stood by us when we were alone and in need.

Whatever the situation or circumstance might be, we can only be grateful and thankful to that person. What else more can we ever do for that person?

Certainly, it would never cross our minds that since this person has done us such a great favour, we would ride on that and see what other favours we can get from that person. We can't be that ungrateful or go so low as that.

In the 1st reading, the Lord God declared to His people: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

God was reiterating that it was not by their abilities that they broke away from slavery and are a free people now.

He was their Deliverer and it was He who rescued them from slavery and gave them freedom. But it was not a freedom to do as they wish. He gave them the 10 commandments to guide them because with freedom comes responsibility and accountability.

The 10 commandments were God's way of telling His people how to live their lives so that they can truly be a people who will cherish their freedom and live by the ways of the Lord.

Not to live by the 10 commandments would be to allow rocks and thorns to clutter their hearts and eventually lose their freedom again and be slaves of the devil.

We too have been freed by Jesus from the slavery to sin. We can only give thanks and live by His ways. We certainly don't want to be slaves of the devil and lose the joy of our freedom and peace of heart.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 27-07-17

Exodus 19:1-2, 9-11, 16-20 / Matthew 13:10-17

Much has been said about the attitude of some Catholics who come for Mass on Sundays.

Besides being late, some come in all sorts of dressing that would make others blush and some would busy themselves with other activities other than pray.

With such attitudes, we wonder what is the understanding of the Eucharist and what is the House of God being turned into.

In the 1st reading, God told Moses - I am coming to you in a dense cloud so that the people may hear when I speak to you and may trust you always.

God also told Moses - Go to the people and tell them to prepare themselves today and tomorrow. Let them wash their clothing and hold themselves in readiness for the third day, because on the third day the Lord will descend on the mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people.

When the day came, there were peals of thunder on the mountain and lightning flashes, a dense cloud, and a loud trumpet blast, and inside the camp all the peoples trembled.

The people had to be prepared to meet the Lord as He comes to them. And the Lord made His presence felt with enough of signs to make the people tremble.

How we wish that such signs would be present at every Eucharist. Then all those inappropriate attitudes would certainly disappear.

But if we prepare ourselves well enough, we will see the signs of God's presence. We wash not just our clothes but we cleanse our hearts so that God will come and dwell in our hearts and make His dwelling in our hearts.

As Jesus said - Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear. I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

Yes, we will see, and we will hear, as long as our hearts are prepared.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

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

Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15 / Matthew 13:1-9

Now and then, we hear of this phrase "the good old days". This brings about a nostalgia for the past, and memories of the not-the-distant past are revived, romanticized and even glorified.

No doubt, there were some good in those old days, but it was not always the "good old days". And to keep saying that would mean that we keep living in the past and the present is not good enough.

Exodus 12:40 declared that the Israelites were in Egypt for 430 years. That was a very long time, and to think that at least for the latter half of that time, they were slaves in Egypt.

But after they were freed from slavery in Egypt and were wandering in the desert, and faced with hunger and thirst, their common complaint was "back in Egypt". Somehow the days of slavery and suffering and oppression seemed like the "good old days" compared with freedom, although it was in the harsh environment of the desert.

As we heard in the 1st reading, the Israelites complained - Why did we not die at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, when we were able to sit down to pans of meat and could eat bread to our heart's content!

Somehow the trials of the present make the past seems rosy and cosy. And because of that we miss counting the blessings of the present.

So as much as God is blessing us here and now, if our hearts are like that of various types of ground that are described in the gospel, then we need to re-look at our hearts.

Let us present our hearts to the Lord and ask Him to make our hearts like rich fertile soil so that His blessings will bring about a harvest of thanksgiving and so we can say "The Lord is good to us"

Monday, July 24, 2017

St. James, Apostle, Tuesday, 25-07-17

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

During His life on earth, Jesus singled out three apostles out of the twelve apostles to be with Him in the special and unique moments of His ministry.

They were Peter, John and James, whose feast day we celebrate today.

They were with Jesus in His healing ministry as well as at the Transfiguration.

Although James had the privilege of being in the inner circle of the apostles, he did not quite understand the mission and purpose of Jesus.

As we heard in the gospel, he and his brother John had ideas about getting special positions in the earthly kingdom that they thought Jesus was going to establish.

But for all his misconceptions, James wanted to be with Jesus.

He had found the one whom he wanted to follow, even though he had yet to understand fully that his Master came to serve and to eventually give His life as a ransom for many.

Nonetheless, in the end, St. James would be the first among the apostles to give up his life in witness to his Master.

So even though St. James was in the inner circle of the apostles, he was an earthenware jar that holds the privilege of being chosen by Jesus.

The 1st reading reminds us that like St. James, we are also earthenware jars holding the treasures of God.

Like St. James, let us pour out these treasures in love and service to God and neighbour.

We can only inherit the kingdom of God when we give up our lives for others.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

16th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 24-07-17

Exodus 14:5-18 / Matthew 12:36-42

There is a story of a man who fell off a cliff  in the dark but he managed to catch on to a branch and was left dangling there.

So he cried out "O God, help me! Help me!". And then a voice came from heaven "Do you really want me to help you?"

And the man said, "Yes, Lord, yes!" And the voice from heaven said, "Then you must do what I tell you. Now let go off the branch!"

And the man thought for a while and then he said in a softer voice, "Is there anybody else up there?"

Whenever we are faced with desperate situations and God is giving us difficult solutions, we tend to look for other options. In those kind of situations, we don't trust God enough to believe that the difficult solution is the solution.

Such was the situation of the Israelites in the 1st reading. Faced with the sea before them and the Egyptians coming up behind them, they were terrified and they cried out to the Lord.

They were so desperate that they spoke against Moses and they even said this "Better to work for the Egyptians than die in the wilderness!" For them the only other option was to go back to slavery.

Because they were told to march on into the sea, which was as good as death by drowning.

The parting of the sea and the Israelites crossing dry-footed and the subsequent drowning of the Egyptian army was the greatest act of salvation that God worked for the Israelites. But we have to admit that it was difficult to trust in the Lord God especially when the situation is desperate and our minds do not accept the Lord's ways.

Anyway the earlier story did not end there. The next morning the rescuers came across a strange sight. The man was frozen to death with his arms still hanging on the branch and his feet was only six inches from the ground!

In desperate situations we need to let go of ourselves because we will fall none other than into the arms of God our Saviour.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

16th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 23.07.2017

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 / Romans 8:26-27 / Matthew 13:24-43

One of the rather tedious things to do is house-keeping, which is also known as spring-cleaning. But whether it is spring or summer or autumn or winter, cleaning the house is not something we look forward to, and it is not something we like to do often, much less every day.

We can actually tolerate quite a bit of dust and we will only realize that it is getting too much when we start writing notes and phone numbers in the dust on the table. Then maybe it’s getting too much.

And some people can give funny reasons for not doing housekeeping or spring-cleaning:
- My room is not dirty. I clean it every other day. Just that today is not every other day.
- My room is not untidy. I just have everything on display, just like a provision shop.

And when it comes to housekeeping, it is not only physically tiring, it can be mentally taxing. We have to think carefully about what we want to throw away as junk. Because junk is sometimes defined as something we throw away three weeks before we realise we need it. So to throw or not to throw, that’s the question.

The question in the gospel parable is kind of similar – to weed it out or not to weed it out. That was with reference to the darnel, a kind of weed that looks similar to wheat in the early growing stages, but can only be distinguished when it is matured.
Not only can darnel choke out the wheat, its seeds are also poisonous. So we can imagine how tedious it can be to harvest wheat that has got darnel with it. It is like trying to sort out between sugar and salt.

But to begin with, what was sown was wheat, and it was good wheat. And then when everybody was asleep, the enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat and made off.

And it was only when the wheat sprouted and ripened that the darnel appeared as well. And weeding out the darnel was out of the question.

This parable can be used to explain the origins of sin and evil, and the conclusion can be this: The devil did it!

But that would only be highlighting an obvious problem. But what about the solution?

In the parable, the solution is given at the harvest time – the wheat and the darnel will be separated, the wheat going to the barn, the darnel going to be burnt.

That is the end-time solution to the problem of evil. In the end, evil will be held accountable, and evil will be punished. That is the end-time. But for us, what is it for the meantime?

To begin with, as much as the parable distinguishes between wheat and weeds, between good and evil, the reality of this world is not separated into two camps.
Because the fact is that no one is absolutely good and no one is absolutely evil. In each of us, there is a mixture of both, some more, some less.

But we must also realise that God has sown good seeds in us, so that we can bear a good harvest. And we also have to realise that there are some poisonous weeds crawling within us that would make us forget who we are and what we are called to be.

There is a reflection on our current lifestyle that somehow causes a distortion in our lives. The reflection is this:

  • When TV came to my house, I forgot how to read books. 
  • When the car came to my doorstep, I forgot how to walk. 
  • When I got the mobile in my hand, I forgot how to write letters. 
  • When computer came to my house, I forgot spellings. 
  • When the air-con came to my house, I stopped going under the tree for cool breeze
  • When I stayed in the city, I forgot the smell of the countryside. 
  • By dealing with banks and cards, I forgot the value of money. 
  • With the smell of perfume, I forgot the fragrance of fresh flowers. 
  • With the coming of fast food, I forgot to cook traditional cuisines.
  • Always running around, I forgot how to stop. 
  • And lastly when I got WhatsApp, I forgot how to talk.

One of the consequences of the weeds of our lives is that they make us forget who we are and what we are called to be.

The 1st reading reminds us that like the man who sowed good seeds, God has sown goodness in us and the reading says this: By acting thus, You have taught a lesson to your people, how the virtuous man must be kind to his fellowman, and You have given Your sons the good hope that after sin, You will grant repentance.

So even before asking why there are wicked people, why there is evil, let us do some spiritual housekeeping and spiritual heart-cleaning, and to admit that we have allowed the weeds of sin to enter into our hearts and choke out the wheat of goodness.

So repentance is about cleansing our hearts of the weeds of sin so that that when we are faced with the wickedness and evil of this world, we won’t resort to that kind of “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” reaction. Anyway fighting fire with fire only creates a bigger fire.

Rather we fight evil with the goodness and kindness that are planted in our hearts by God, and Jesus reminds us of this in today’s gospel parable.

So let us remember who we are and what we are called to be. That is the meantime direction, and it is also the end-time solution.

Friday, July 21, 2017

St. Mary Magdalene, Saturday, 22-07-17

Songs 3:1-4 or 2 Cor 5:14-17 / John 20:1-2, 11-18

Every now and then, we see in the newspapers a notice about a missing person, with the person's photograph and some details.

Whether the person was eventually found or not, we cannot be certain because very often there are no follow-up reports on the case in the newspapers.

What is certain is that when a loved one is missing, the anxiety is painful and the search is relentless.

Such was the depth of the emotion expressed in the 1st reading in the search for the one whom the heart loves deeply.

It may also express the pain and grief of Mary Magdalene as she looked for the One she loved in the tomb.

And not finding Jesus in tomb, Mary Magdalene searched relentlessly and persistently for Him.

Mary's deep love for Jesus was because it was He who loved her first and healed her of her sufferings and sins.

In life, Mary Magdalene loved Jesus. Even in death she searched for Him in order just to be with Him.

Mary Magdalene is remembered because of her deep love for Jesus and her relentless and persistent search for Jesus when others seemed to have given up.

From our priorities and what we are searching and longing for, we will know how deep our love is for Jesus.

There is this saying for St. Augustine in his book "Confessions" : You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there I searched for you.

God is within us. From within He calls out to us. If we are not listening to Him from within, then we might just be looking for the wrong things.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 21-07-17

Exodus 11:10 -12:14 / Matthew 12:1-8

If there is a great offer or a not-to-be-missed kind of sale, we would certainly not want to miss it.

Especially if it is something that we really wanted, and so we would hurry and try to be among the first in line.

It won't be a time to ask the unnecessary questions like "How long must I wait?' or "Don't know if I can get it". We won't waste time. As it is said "The early bird catches the worm".

In the 1st reading, the people were given instructions on how to eat the first Passover meal. And they were told specifically "You shall eat it hastily: it is a passover in honour of the Lord".

So the moment to be freed from the bondage of slavery had come, and the passover meal is to commemorate it.

But it is not to be eaten leisurely, and the instruction is "You shall eat it like this: with a girdle round your waist, sandals on your feet, a staff in your hand".

It was not a time for small talk and unnecessary questions. And those who don't follow those instructions will probably never see freedom again.

Yes, it was God's mercy that freed the Israelites from the bondage of slavery. And it is God's mercy that continues to free us from our sins and save us from the grasp of evil.

So we need to understand the meaning of the words "What I want is mercy, not sacrifice". And let us not waste time in understanding those words. Because it is too great and too good to miss it.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 20-07-17

Exodus 3:13-20 / Matthew 11:28-30

Throughout the course of history, there are wicked kings, tyrants, dictators, rulers and those with authority and might who will resort to oppressing people.

And most of the time, the people are quite helpless and powerless against such oppression and they can only hope and wait for deliverance.

Such was the case of the Israelites in the 1st reading. They suffered under the oppression of the Pharaoh and the Egyptian slave-drivers and they cried out to God for deliverance.

And God did hear their cry, and as God said, "For myself, knowing that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless he is forced by a mighty hand. I shall show my power and strike Egypt with all the wonders I am going to work there. After this he will let you go".

But someone has to be the deliverer and Moses was the chosen one. But he was not too willing to take on the task and he tried to find ways to get out of it.

After all he was a free man, but his people were held under the bondage of slavery in Egypt. It would mean that he will have to make the sacrifice to go back to Egypt and to face Pharaoh.

It comes back to the recurring situation in life where everybody wants to benefit but no one is willing to make the sacrifice.

But Jesus tells us in the gospel to shoulder His yoke and to learn from Him. He made the sacrifice of His life so that we can be free and be saved.

So when our charity is spreading thin and we are not that willing to make the sacrifice for the good of others, let us go to Jesus with our fatigue and burdens.

We will find rest for our souls, and with a gentle and humble heart, we will follow Jesus to lift the oppression and the burdens of others.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 19-07-17

Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12 / Matthew 11:25-27

As much as we have the ability to see and to hear, yet the power of observation is like a variable factor.

So as much as we see and hear a lot of things, we also exercise selective seeing and selective hearing.

Then from what we want to see and want to hear, the next thing is what is it that captures our attention or our interest, and that will be the object of our observation.

In the 1st reading, what captured the attention and interest of Moses was the bush that was blazing but it was not being burnt up.

His curiosity led him towards the burning bush, and that was when the Lord God called out to him and revealed His plan for him.

Of course it was the strange sight of the bush that was blazing but not being burnt up that caught the attention and interest of Moses and he went further to observe it.

We may not have this unique experience of seeing a burning bush as what Moses had.

Nonetheless God still reveals Himself to us in what we see and hear, and what catches our attention and interest.

And when we "observe" all these signs in prayer, then God will reveal Himself to us and prompt us to discover His will for us.

So we need to have the heart of a little child to observe and look deeply at the things around us. Then we will know that God speaks to us all the time, and reveals Himself to us in those situations where He wants His will to be done.

Monday, July 17, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 18-07-17

Exodus 2:1-15 / Matthew 11:20-24

Indifference is generally defined as a lack of interest or concern. But the degree of it depends on the situation and the circumstances.

Indifference to the untidiness of our work station is not the same as indifference to an act of evil or wickedness.

In the 1st reading, the mother of Moses could just be indifferent and lamented that God was not protecting His people by letting the Egyptians kill their baby boys.

But she did something to protect her baby from the impending evil.

Similarly, the adult Moses did not look away neither was he indifferent to the violence an Egyptian inflicted on his countryman.

In the gospel, Jesus made a pointed reproach on the indifference of the towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida and Capernaum.

Indifference is a sign of internal decay and as such the three cities mentioned in the gospel are now in ruins.

Indifference is also a sign that our faith is decaying and that we are not sensitive to the promptings of God in our hearts.

May our hearts be softened by God's love and may we be aware of the needs of others around us.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing about it." (Edmund Burke)

Sunday, July 16, 2017

15th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 17-07-17

Exodus 1:8-14, 22 / Matthew 10:34 - 11:1

We have accomplishments that we are proud of. Those accomplishments are not just a proof of our abilities but we are proud of them especially when those accomplishments have helped others in their difficulties and solved their problems.

Those accomplishments are not just like feathers in our caps or medals on our coats, they also remind us that people were grateful to us for the help that we rendered to them in their time of need.

But we also have to accept that over time and over generations, the good that we have done are forgotten and our names may not even be remembered by those who benefited from us.

Such was the case in the 1st reading. There came to power in Egypt a new king who knew nothing of Joseph. Yes, times have changed. The generation that knew what Joseph did for Egypt is gone. And what Joseph did was forgotten. And the people of Israel has become a threat to the Egyptians. Furthermore Egypt was not their homeland.

And it is futile for the Israelites to say to the Egyptians, "Don't you remember Joseph and what he did for you? How can you be so ungrateful?"

The people of Israel will now have to think of a way out of this. They will have to fend for themselves. But they themselves must not forget that God had also done great things for them.

Obviously, the help of man is in vain, but the mighty works of God will be from age to age and from generation to generation.

So let us not expect others to remember the good that we have done for them or want to have them beholden to us. And neither should we expect them to come to our help when we are in some kind of trouble.

Let us remember that our accomplishments are of no value if it is for self-gain. Whatever good that we do must be for the glory of God and for the good of our neighbour. And in our time of need, God will come to our help.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

15th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 16.07.17

Isaiah 55:10-11 / Romans 8:18-23 / Matthew 13:1-23

Over the course of this week, there were a couple of incidents that would have caught our attention. Not only would they have caught our attention, they would have also stirred our emotions.

On Tuesday, the front page of the newspapers had a picture of a man in his 60s standing over the slumped body of another man, with by-standers at a distance looking on.

The man had stabbed the victim who later died of his wounds. It turned out that the victim was the son-in-law of the attacker.

It was certainly a family tragedy as two lives came to a different end, and our hearts certainly would feel for the family in their grief and pain.

Then on early Friday morning, a viaduct undergoing construction collapsed, killing one worker and injuring 10 others. Again, one life was ended and probably many other lives will be changed.

In the face of these two tragedies, and the other tragedies of life, we could only utter a single-worded question – “Why?”

Yes, “Why?”. And we may probably ask further questions like “Why must resort to killing?” and “Why can’t they build things safely and properly?”
Many other questions can also be asked but not many answers can be given. And most of the time, there are no answers.

And as we listen to the gospel parable and think deeper about it, we may also want to ask “Why?”

The sower went out to sow. Some seeds fell on the edge of the path and the birds came and ate it up.
Others fell on patches of rock and didn’t grow for long.
Yet others fell among thorns and got choked.
And then others fell on rich soil and produced a harvest.

But why is the sower so careless in sowing the seeds? There seems to be so much loss and wastage and maybe only a quarter of what is sowed produced a harvest.

Logically and mathematically, this is not productive or effective. On paper, it is a failure.

So logically on paper, the sower is a failure. So why this kind of parable? Is there any meaning to this?

Logically and on paper, it is a failure. But spiritually and on prayer, there is a sublime power.

We have to listen to what the Lord said in the 1st reading: As the rain and the snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for eating, so the word that comes from my mouth does not return to me empty, without carrying out my will and succeeding in what it was sent to do.

The Lord has sowed the seeds of His Word on us and have the seeds produced a harvest? 

Well, in little and simple ways, they have. Last Monday, we began a new journey for the RCIA. We started the journey rather late, maybe we are the last church to start the RCIA. We didn’t expect many Inquirers, maybe just a handful at most.

But we prayed, silently though, because we didn’t want to sound like we were so desperate, but in a way we were. Well, the Lord sent, more than just a handful, 16 Inquirers to be exact. Which is actually very good, considering we started very late, and we are a rather quaint little church. So there is much work to do now, and our prayers are needed for these Inquirers and the RCIA team.

As for the 1st Friday Mass and Devotion to the Sacred Heart and the 13th-of-the-month Rosary, it is not with overwhelming attendance but certainly it is edifying and encouraging to see that people have responded to the call of prayer and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to the devotion to Our Lady in the Rosary.

Yes, in little and simple ways we are bearing a harvest and more so when we come for Mass each Sunday, we want to offer to the Lord a bountiful harvest of prayer.

More than just praying for ourselves and for the petitions offered to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we are called to pray for the Church, for the world, for all peoples.

The tragedies that we see around us are more often than not, man-made. Because when we think about it, it is man that created the problems, and when the problems become too serious, they end up in tragedies.

But where tragedies result in suffering, the remedy is in the praying.

The 2nd reading tells us that the suffering in this life cannot be compared to the glory that is waiting for us in the next life.

But while on this earth, while in this life, we are called to face that suffering with our praying. 

And we must believe that there is much more that we can ever imagine that is accomplished by prayer-power than by any human power.

That is why God wants to sow the seeds of His Word in us. So that we can produce a harvest of prayer, and signs and wonders will rain down from heaven, and bring healing and reconciliation on earth.

Friday, July 14, 2017

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 15-07-17

Genesis 49:29-33; 50:15-26 / Matthew 10:24-38

Death is a reality that we see every day, whether it happens to our loved ones or in the obituaries.

As it is, death is the finality in life, and whether there is a hereafter depends on what we believe in.

In the 1st reading, we hear of two deaths - the death of Jacob and then later on the death of Joseph.

Both had one final wish as they see their death approaching, and that is that they be buried in the land that God had promised to Abraham, Issac and Jacob, or as we call it "the Promised Land".

It was their final desire that their earthly remains be brought back to the land promised to them and be buried there.

It is there that they belong, whether in life or in death. It is there that they know that upon death, they have come back to God.

As much as we will have to encounter death one day, we must also believe in that we pass on from this world to the other world where Jesus is waiting for us.

He promised us that He has gone to prepare a place for us and that there are many rooms in His Father's house, and that will be our eternal inheritance.

When we truly believe that, then we need not worry and fear of the things of earth, especially death. Because there is something much greater and more glorious waiting for us above.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 15-07-17

Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30 / Matthew 10:16-23

When it comes to father and son relationships, what we often hear is the tension, the differences, the generation gap and all those aspects that paint a bleak picture of such relationships.

So essentially, the matter is about the love between father and son, and the fact that it is often a strained love, resulting in father-and-son tensions.

But in the 1st reading, we hear of a very moving story of a father and son relationship.

Joseph was separated from his father for more than 20 years and now, finally, Jacob was united with his son whom he thought was dead.

And all this while, Jacob had not forgotten Joseph, and Joseph was eager to see his aged father after all those years.

That tearful reunion brought about joy and peace for Jacob and Joseph, and for Jacob it was the final fulfillment of his life.

Yet in the gospel, the tension between father and son is brought up again, and this time it's even more heart-rending because it has sunk deeper into betrayal and hate.

It's a reality which we read about in the papers and which we may even see around us or even happening to us.

Let us pray that God who is our Father may pour forth His love into those hurting father and son relationships and that there may be healing and reconciliation.

Like Jacob and Joseph, may fathers and sons also see each other as their fulfillment in life and may the love between Jesus and His Father be the model of their relationships.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 13-07-17

Genesis 44:18-21, 25-29; 45:1-5 / Matthew 10:7-15

If we had been cheated in a business deal and lost a considerable sum of money, we would certainly be very angry and we would use whatever legal means to recover our loss.

And if our fortunes are restored, we would certainly be happy that justice is done.

But we would not think of restoring the relationship with the other party or try to understand why that party cheated us in the first place.

In fact, we would want that other party to be punished for cheating us and suffer for what was done.

In the 1st reading, Joseph not only had his fortunes restored, his brothers who had treated him badly and even sold him off as a slave, were now begging for his mercy and compassion.

It could have been a pay-back time for Joseph's brothers and when Joseph revealed his identity to them, this was what they feared.

But Joseph in his mercy and compassion wanted to be reconciled with them and restore back the sibling relationship.

He even told them not to grieve or reproach themselves for having sold him as a slave because it was God's plan to send him to Egypt so as to preserve their lives.

The Good News of Jesus Christ is not just about having our fortunes restored. It is fundamentally about relationships being restored - our relationship with God and our relationship with one another.

When we have received without charge, then we in turn must give without charge. That is the restoration that Jesus came so that we can truly experience the joy of reconciliation.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 12-07-17

Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24 / Matthew 10:1-7      (2011)

The story of Joseph whom we heard about in the 1st reading is a moving and inspiring story.

Jacob had 12 sons and Joseph was his favourite son, and his brothers were jealous and they called him "the dreamer" and they were not at all pleased with his dreams and despised him.

And they eventually found an opportunity to get rid of him by selling him off to some traders and then told his father that he was killed by wild animals.

But Joseph's dreams eventually came true when his brothers came before him and bowed low before him, although they did not recognise him.

Joseph could have taken this opportunity to settle scores with his brothers who did such harm to him in the past.

Yet, Joseph did not return evil for evil but instead he slowly revealed his identity to his brothers as we will hear in the readings of the next few days.

Maybe we can say that blood is thicker than water and that family is still family for better or for worse, although it also cannot be denied that it is in the family that we can experience the deepest hurts.

Nonetheless, if charity begins at home, then it is in the family that love must be nurtured and nourished and forgiveness must be the thread that binds family members together.

With love and forgiveness, the family will be a sign of the kingdom of God in which the home is a place of love and care, and of forgiveness and healing.

Monday, July 10, 2017

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 11-07-17

Genesis 32:23-33 / Matthew 9:32-38

One popular medal among Catholics is the St. Benedict's medal because of the prayer engraved around the medal is a prayer to ward off evil and hence it is also used to protect against devil and evil influences.

The translation of the Latin prayers are : "Let not the dragon be my guide" and "Begone, Satan, do not suggest to me thy vanities — evil are the things thou profferest, drink thou thy own poison"

St. Benedict whose feast day we celebrate today was born in AD 450. Although he lived and studied in Rome, he could not take the meaningless life of the city and he went to live a life of deep solitude as a hermit in the mountains.

His reputation spread, and some monks asked him to be their abbot, but when they could not take the discipline he imposed, they tried to poison him.

But his later followers were more matured and sincere and disciplined and with them, St. Benedict began founding communities which developed into monasteries.

Eventually he founded the famous monastery of Monte Cassino which became the roots of the Church's monastic system.

His beliefs and instructions on religious life were collected in what is now known as the Rule of Saint Benedict and it is still directing religious life after 15 centuries.

St. Benedict realized the strongest and truest foundation for the power of words was the Word of God itself: "For what page or word of the Bible is not a perfect rule for temporal life?"

St. Benedict instructed his followers to practice sacred reading. In this lectio divina, he and his monks memorized the Scripture, studied it, and contemplated it until it became part of their being. Four to six hours were set aside each day for this sacred reading.

We who live such a hectic stressful urban life will even wonder if we can ever manage to have four to six minutes a day to read scripture and we could hardly remember what we have read as busyness overwhelms our minds.

But just as Jesus cast out demons and overcame evil and had compassion on the harassed and dejected, through the Sacred Scriptures, Jesus is also calling us to be workers in His harvest and to care for the weak and lowly and rejected and to overcome evil with charity and compassion.

In St. Benedict's words : "For what page or word of the Bible is not a perfect rule for temporal life?" May we take some time out in the temporary life to be workers for God's harvest and to prepare for eternal life.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

14th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 10-07-17

Genesis 28:10-22 / Matthew 9:18-26

The circumstances that led Jacob to leave Beersheba for Haran, that we heard in the 1st reading, was far from anything exciting or adventurous.

With the help of his mother Rebekah, Jacob was actually fleeing from his brother Esau, from whom he stole the birthright and blessings.

And if we bother to read the whole story, then we will see that there was a lot of cheating, manipulating, lying and deception.

There was nothing edifying about all this and we might even wonder why it was recorded in the Sacred Scripture in the first place.

And neither was did the place that Jacob stopped over for the night have anything special about it.

Yet it was there that God revealed Himself to Jacob.

But we can reflect deeper on what Jacob exclaimed: Truly the Lord is in this place and I never knew it!

And as far as we are concerned, the places that we find ourselves in are certainly nothing special, and our situations and circumstances might be far from anything edifying or motivating.

As it was in the case of the official and the woman suffering from haemorrhage that we heard about in the gospel.

But they had the faith to believe that God was there in their situations.

Indeed God is with us in the ordinary places that we are in and more so God is with us in the adverse situations of our lives.

May we, like Jacob, also realise that God is with us, and that He is always with us in whatever situations and circumstances that we face in life.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

14th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 09.07.2017

Zechariah 9:9-10 / Romans 8:9, 11-13 / Matthew 11:25-30

Last week, the priests of the archdiocese went for their annual clergy retreat, which was from Monday to Friday.

Going for a retreat may sound like a relaxing time and some people may think that the priests do nothing there but eat, sleep and pray.

And if that is really the case, then it sounds rather strange that we are asking you to pray for us priests as we go for the retreat!

But even before going for the retreat, we had to ensure that things are in order in the parish – that bills are paid so that the electricity and water won’t be cut-off, the rubbish is cleared, the stove is switched off, etc.

And then comes the things to pack – toothbrush, toothpaste, shaver, soap, clothes, medicine etc.

So even as we began the retreat on Monday morning, the mind was still whirling and wondering if we had forgotten something or left out something important.

Letting go is certainly easier said than done, because whether priest or lay person, we are still human and we tend to be anxious and worry and fret over so many things.

And so we began the retreat with the phrase that we heard in the gospel, as Jesus says: Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.

The word “rest” could almost inevitably conjure up ideas of lying around or lazing around doing nothing, with no worries, no anxieties, no problems, no pain, no illness.

But is that the kind of rest that Jesus is talking about? Because to fully understand what Jesus meant, we also need to hear the rest of what He said – Shoulder My yoke and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, My yoke is easy and My burden light.

St. Augustine understood what Jesus meant as he wrote in his prayer-reflection: O Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

So the “rest” that Jesus is talking about is not merely a physical bodily rest as in like some kind of couch potato.

The rest that Jesus is talking about is the stillness of the heart, the stillness that is an experience of peace, and it’s a peace that the world cannot give but only Jesus can.

And that was why the crowds followed Jesus. He gave them an experience of peace when He spoke about the mercy and compassion and forgiveness of God with parables like the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, the Good Shepherd, the 11th-hour workers in the vineyard.

Jesus showed the people the heart of God, the heart of love and mercy and compassion.

And He invites us to come and rest in that heart of God. And if our hearts desire for that rest, then He also tells us what our hearts should be like. 

Our hearts must be like that of Jesus – gentle and humble – then our hearts will be at rest in the heart of God.

All this sounds well and good, and the people followed Jesus and they believed that He was the Messiah, the Saviour.

They believed until Jesus was arrested, tortured, nailed to the cross and crucified to death.

With that, all is shattered, including that invitation “Come to me …” Because if Jesus who is gentle and humble of heart was killed by evil and wicked men, then the “Come to me” is just a big joke. There is no point in being gentle and humble of heart.

But if Jesus died and nothing more, then there is nothing else to talk about.

But Jesus died and He rose from the dead. And that changed everything and turned everything around. His invitation to “Come to me” are not just human words but they are risen words, words that have power, words from the Risen Jesus who overcame evil, sin and death.

And because of that, the 2nd reading has this to say: Your interests are not in the unspiritual, but in the spiritual, since the Spirit of God has made His home in you. In fact, unless you possessed the Spirit of Christ, you would not belong to Him, and if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, then He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to you.

The priest who conducted the retreat for the priest is Fr. Olivier Morin SJ, a man full of life and peace. He has a prosthetic foot (artificial foot) and it was obvious in the way he walks, and he wears sandals.

To quell our curiosity, he told us that he had an accident and his foot had to be amputated. He recalled that when he was on the operating table and the doctors were trying to save his foot, he was in intense pain, so painful that tears were rolling down from his eyes.

In that intense pain, he suddenly felt a hand holding his hand. He opened his eyes a bit and he could see that it was one of the nurses who reached out to hold his hand to comfort him.

No words were spoken, just a firm grip of the hand but that was enough for him to withstand the pain and brought him comfort and to know that someone cares.

Jesus comes to us through people we know as well as people whom we don’t, to comfort us in our pain and distress. No words may be spoken, but we know it is His healing touch.

May we also be the hands and the heart of Jesus to bring about comfort and healing to others, as well as bring those who labour and are overburdened to Jesus. 

May we all find rest in the heart of Jesus, and may we also be gentle and humble of heart. That is the healing and comfort that the world needs from us.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Annual Priests Retreat 2017

My dear brothers and sisters,

The priests of the Archdiocese of Singapore will be having their annual retreat from 3rd July Monday to 7th July Friday.

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

As such, the next homily post will be for 14th Ordinary Sunday, 9th July 2017.

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

Thank you. May God bless you!

Fr. Stephen Yim

Saturday, July 1, 2017

13th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 02.07.2017

2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16 / Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 / Matthew 10:37-42

If we were asked to name an Old Testament prophet, then depending on our Bible knowledge, we may be able to come up with some names.

And if we had been attentive enough at Mass, then we might be able to remember some of the prophets’ names like Isaiah, Samuel, Ezekiel and Elijah.

And talking about Elijah, he had a successor and his name is almost like that of Elijah, ie. Elisha. This is the Elisha that we heard about in the 1st reading. The woman saw in him a holy man of God, and she gave him food and lodging whenever he passed by that way.

And then in exercising his prophetic role, he told the woman, “This time next year, you will hold a son in your arms.”

So a prophet not only proclaims the Word of God and interprets the signs from God, he is also called to be the channel of God’s blessings for the people.

One rather obscure act of Elisha is in the 2 Kings (2:18-22) when the people told him that the water was bad and causing the land to be unfruitful, and affecting the people because they drink it.

Elisha then went up to the source of the stream and invoked the Lord’s blessings and then sprinkled salt into the water, thereby cleansing it and brought healing to the land and the people.

That is why in the Church’s Rite of Blessing of Holy Water, blessed salt is sprinkled in the water in the form of a cross, so that Holy Water is used for purifying, cleansing and healing.

So although Elisha may not be a big-name prophet, his prophetic action is repeated in the prayer of blessing of Holy Water.

In as much as prophets have names, there are also some prophets who are not named, and some others may not be prophets but nonetheless had a prophetic role.

We may remember that on one occasion, when Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon, there was a Syro-Phoenician woman who came up to Jesus asking Him to heal her daughter who was tormented by a devil.

Initially, He answered her not a word, and when she knelt and begged Him, Jesus said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the house dogs.”

To which she replied, “Ah yes, Lord, but even the house dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith; it shall be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed at once.

That Syro-Phoenician woman may not be a prophet but in humbling herself to the likeness of a house dog, she brought about healing for her daughter.

And that is one of the primary roles of a prophet: to bring about God’s blessings and healing for others.

And talking about house dogs, or pet dogs, some of us keep dogs as pets, or wish to have a pet dog. And if we have a dog as a pet, we would surely love our dog.

And if dogs can talk, have we ever wondered what they would say to us? I came across this write up called “The things dog-lovers should not forget”?

Here are some points extracted from that write-up, and it is put in a way that our pet dog is speaking to us.

1. Please don’t be annoyed when I jump all over you the minute you walk through the door. I have a lot less time on this earth and I’m happiest when I’m spending that time with you.

2. Talk to me. We may not speak the same language, but just the sound of your voice always brightens my day.

3. Comfort me when I am scared. I’m not used to a lot of noise or new things, and you make me feel safe.

4. Give me time to understand what you want from me. I promise I’ll try my best.

5. Please don’t stay angry with me for too long. You have your family and friends to make you happy. I only have you.

6. Show me that humans can be loving and are not filled with hate.

7. If you treat me well, I promise to be your best friend forever.

8. I love it when you teach me new tricks. It gives me the chance to impress you and I love it when you are proud of me.

9. When I get old, please love me as much as you did when I was young. I might not be a sweet little puppy anymore, but I love you as much as I did then.

10. Please be at my side when I take my final breath. I know it won’t be easy, but I really need you with me when my time on this earth comes to an end. I will be scared, but you are the only person I can trust to be with me.

11. When I am gone, please remember these words: People are born to learn how to lead a good life and be a good person every day. Dogs already know how to do that. So that’s why they don’t need to live so long.

Yes, if only dogs can talk, that might just be what they would say to us.

But actually we hear that every day. It may be from our children, our parents, our family members, our friends, our colleagues, even from strangers.

We hear those words that have a prophet voice in them. Let us welcome those prophet words and we will receive a prophet’s reward.

And the reward is this: as we listen, so we will speak and like a prophet, we will bring about God’s blessings and healing for others.