Tuesday, October 31, 2017

All Saints, Wednesday, 01-11-17

Apocalypse 7:2-4, 9-14 / 1 John 3:1-3 / Matthew 5:1-12

At the end of all movies, there will be the credits roll, which most of us won't be bothered to look at.

After all, we have already sat through almost 2 hours watching the movie, and it's not important for us to know who is who in the movie or where it is filmed or other non-entertaining details.

So in order to make us sit right through to the end, some movies will show some cuts that are not in the movie, and these are usually the bloopers and blunders.

And these might include goofs by the actors or some funny incidents and some behind-the-scenes in the making of the movie.

So we usually only see the end-product - the polished, well-directed and well-acted movie. But we don't see the bloopers and blunders and the goofs and whatever.

Today we the Church celebrate All Saints Day. We honour all the saints in heaven, not only those who are officially canonized, but also the countless other saints that we may not know by name.

We acknowledge their presence in heaven, and we also acknowledge their intercession and communion with us.

We read about the inspiring stories of their lives and how they became saints.

But that could be like watching a good movie and be entertained and moved by it.

Because there is no doubt that in the lives of the saints, famous or not, there were those bloopers and blunders, and if we knew about it, we would probably be bewildered and surprised.

But that only goes to show that these saints who are now in heaven were as human as we are, with those human flaws and failings.

They too fell into temptation and sin, but they rose to the call of repentance and conversion, and as the love of God grew deeper in them, they strove for holiness and followed Jesus in doing the will of God.

The saints let Jesus direct them with the power of the Holy Spirit. When we let Jesus direct us the power of the Holy Spirit, we too will want to be humble, gentle, merciful, pure in heart, hunger and thirst for what is right and be peacemakers.

Then like at the end of a movie, when the credit roll is over, our bloopers and blunders, our flaws and failings might be shown, but it will only go to show that God has the power to turn sinners into saints.

Monday, October 30, 2017

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 31-10-17

Romans 8:18-25 / Luke 13:18-21

We know what a watermelon is. We have eaten it before and there are those seeds that we dig out. Anyway it's better that we don't eat the watermelon with its seeds.

Each of those seeds is a wonder in itself. Each has the capacity to grow up to 200,000 times or more of its size and become yet another watermelon.

We may not be that familiar with mustard seeds or with yeast and dough, but certainly the watermelon seed and the watermelon will give us an adequate picture of what Jesus is talking about in the gospel.

In the two parables which is about the kingdom of God, Jesus talked about a growth that is beyond imagining.

Yet, the 1st reading tells us that growth is not without struggle or suffering.

We and the whole of creation are "groaning" as we strive to grow and to be set free from the slavery of sin and decadence.

Yes, we yearn to live in the freedom and the glory as children of God, and as such, we have to accept the struggle and suffering as part of the process in our growth to freedom.

At the same time, we must also remember that the suffering in this life can never be compared to the glory that is awaiting us.

So in faith and hope, let us persevere and persist, because God will reward us for our faithfulness. And that reward is for eternity.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

30th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 30-10-17

Romans 8:12-17 / Luke 13:10-17

The act of generosity and compassion is indeed a noble act.

But it is also an act which demands sacrifice, a sort of self-giving.

And it may also entail some risks, in that the act may not be appreciated, or it may be misunderstood.

When Jesus healed the woman who was bent double for 18 years, it was an act of compassion and a sign of the generosity of God's love.

That act was greatly appreciated by the woman who gave glory to God, and the people were overjoyed at the wonder that Jesus worked.

But His adversaries, on the other hand, criticized Him for breaking the Law, or the so-called Law.

Yet, Jesus did not stop showing compassion or love just because of these criticisms.

Maybe we ourselves have experienced criticisms and ingratitude, and these may have weighed us down and bent us into indifference and apprehension.

But we are reminded in the 1st reading that what we have is not the spirit of slaves that bring fear into our lives.

What we have received is the Spirit that makes us children of God and with the Spirit, we bear witness to God's love in spite and despite the criticisms and the ingratitude or even the hostile reactions.

In doing so, we share in the sufferings of Christ, and when we share in the sufferings of Christ, we will also share in His glory.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

30th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 29.10.17

Exodus 22:20-26 / 1 Thess 1:5-10 / Matthew 22:34-40
There was a board-game that children used to play in the past, but that board-game doesn’t seem to be around nowadays. Maybe it became extinct with the high tech toys like Xbox and PlayStation.

That board-game is called “Snakes and Ladders”, provided for the children of the past, simple enjoyment and excitement.

It is actually a very simple game. On the game-board there are numbered and gridded squares. A number of "ladders" and "snakes" are pictured on the board, each connecting two specific board squares. The object of the game is to navigate one's game chip, according to dice rolls, from the start (bottom square) to the finish (top square), helped or hindered by ladders and snakes respectively. 

So each player has a coloured chip and he moves on with the throw of a dice. If he is lucky, he will reach the end of a ladder and then he will move up many squares. But if he happens to reach a square in which there is the head of a snake, then he will slide right down to its tail end.

The game provided for the children of the past, a source of simple enjoyment and excitement. The game is a simple race contest based on sheer luck. 
But the game seems to have roots in morality lessons, where a player's progression up the board represented a life journey which is complicated by virtues (ladders) and vices (snakes).
In the gospel, the Pharisees may not know about the game of “Snakes and Ladders”, but what they played was a game of “snakes and blunders”. That is because the gospel mentions about the Pharisees getting together to disconcert Jesus.

To disconcert is to upset someone, to make someone flustered so that he will make a blunder. The Pharisees wanted Jesus to make a blunder, then like snakes they will swallow him up. No wonder John the Baptist called them “you brood of vipers”.

They not only wanted to disconcert Jesus, they even wanted to trap Him in order to get rid of Him. This was obvious when on other occasions they asked Him to pronounce judgment on the adulterous woman and also about the issue of paying taxes to Caesar.

This time around, they wanted to see if Jesus knows His stuff by asking a seemingly trivial question: Which is the greatest commandment of the Law?

It was a trivial question because it is not like as if they don’t know, and so it was quite obvious that the Pharisees were trying to disconcert Jesus. And here, Jesus showed once again how He could turn an ulterior motive into something positive.

Jesus didn’t get Himself swallowed into the small details of the Law. Rather He gave the big picture of the Law; He gave the fundamental, the essence of the law.

It was so simple but yet so profound: you must love God with your whole being; and you must love your neighbour as yourself.

To a disconcerting question that was meant to disturb and unsettle Him, Jesus gave an answer, and if the Pharisees were to think about it seriously, an answer that would make them tremble.

Because attached to the law of loving God and loving neighbour, there is this word “must”. It is a serious word, an imperative, a command, and it gives us no options actually.

And so without exposing them outright, Jesus was indirectly asking the Pharisees, if what they were doing was out of love for God, and out of love for the neighbour who was standing there before them and whom they were trying to disconcert.

If the Pharisees had thought seriously about it, they would have trembled. Because they were like snakes waiting to swallow up Jesus if He fumbled.

Yet, Jesus did not play into their little snake games. Rather, He held out to them a ladder, a ladder of love, to help them climb from their ulterior motives and their evil intentions, to the level of the commandment of love.

And to us who are listening to what Jesus is saying in the gospel, He is also holding out to us a ladder of love.

Because we have also played those little snakes games, games to disconcert others, to mislead others, to discredit others, to cheat others, to use others. Oh yes, we have played all these games, and maybe still playing these games.

Especially when our security and comfort is threatened in these difficult economic times. And with the fears of insecurity, we begin to selfishly guard our survival. We become like snakes that will bite at anyone that comes our way or seems threatening to us.

So we, as the people of God, how are we going to respond to the external factors that seem to disconcert us? Are we going to let external situations make us fumble and tumble and be swallowed up by the snakes of fear and insecurity?

Well, Jesus showed us how He turned a disconcerting situation into a reminder of love and salvation. He turned the game of vice into a teaching of virtue.

There are the snakes of evil that we could succumb to and be swallowed up by the vices around us. Yet, Jesus is here to hold out to us the ladders of love. With the ladders of love, we can climb out of our fears and insecurities

So where are these ladders of love, and how are we going to climb these ladders of love. Well, this could be how:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives ; be kind anyway 
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies ; succeed anyway
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you ; be honest and frank anyway
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway
If you find serenity and happiness, people  may be jealous ; be happy anyway
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow ; 
do good anyway
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough ; give the world the best you’ve got anyway 

So we just have to keep climbing the ladders of love so that as we climb towards God, we too will be able to love our neighbours as Jesus has commanded us.

Loving God and loving neighbour is certainly not a game. And the gospel is the only story where the hero dies for the villain. 

In other words, the Saviour died for the sinner, so that the sinner can begin to love. So let us love God and neighbour so that the gospel story will continue in our lives.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sts Simon and Jude, Apostles, Saturday, 28-10-17

Ephesians 2:19-22 / Luke 6:12-19   (2010, 2019)

Some ancient Christian writings have it that St. Simon and St. Jude went together as missionaries to Persia, and were martyred there.

This may explain the lack of historical information on them and also why their feastdays are usually put together.

Even the gospel accounts do not say much about them.

St. Simon is called the Zealot (or Zealous) maybe because of his patriotism and nationalism.

St. Jude is traditionally depicted carrying the image of Jesus in his hand or close to his chest, which according to some accounts, was used to preach the Good News

Devotional prayers to St. Jude helped people, especially newly arrived immigrants from Europe to the US, deal with the pressures caused by the Great Depression and World War II and other political and economic and social changes.

St. Jude is also invoked as the patron saint of desperate cases.

So even though we may not know much about the historical facts of these two saints, we know that they are praying for us.

We also have recourse to them in our needs, especially to the intercession of St. Jude.

They also remind us that we have to keep faith in Jesus and trust in Him always.

They even laid down their lives for Jesus in order to witness to Him.

May we also put forth our needs through the intercession of St.Simon and St. Jude, and may we also offer our lives to God in this Mass.

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 27-10-17

Romans 7:18-25 / Luke 12:54-59

All of us have a conscience and it would be helpful to know how it is described:

- the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, and directing one towards right action

- the combination of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.

- an inhibiting sense of what is right and good

As much as the above definitions of conscience tell us what it is, they do not tell us how the conscience is formed or where it comes from.

And if we go by the principle of acting according to conscience, then there will be a situation of two persons acting according to conscience and yet the resultant actions may not be the same.

In the gospel, Jesus asked a rather seemingly simple question - Why not judge for yourselves what is right?

We may know what is the right and good thing to do, but knowing is one thing, and doing it is another.

As St. Paul says in the 1st reading: "for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not, with the result that instead of doing the good things I want to do, I carry out the sinful things I do not want. When I act against my will, then, it is not my true self doing it, but sin which lives in me."

Sin has distorted and contorted our conscience such that it can become numbed to the wrong and bad things we do.

But we are not just left to our conscience. St. Paul tells us in the 1st reading tells us that Jesus Christ our Lord comes to rescue us and to purify our conscience so that we can conform our will to the will of God.

Then we will be able to do what is good, right and just, and help others to do likewise.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 26-10-17

Romans 6:19-23 / Luke 12:49-53

Whenever we face a problem, the tendency is to solve it quickly. In doing so, we may even look for compromising solutions.

For example, in order to handle a problematic child, we tend to use material and financial gifts in order to quell the problem of the child.

In the workplace, when we see something not right being done, we would rather not see and don't bother.

Yes, we rather compromise rather than to challenge ourselves to face the problem.

It is in that sense that Jesus said that He didn't come to bring peace. In fact, He said that He came to bring fire to the earth and how He wished it were blazing already.

To compromise on a solution would only mean that we are faking the peace and sweeping things under the carpet.

To compromise is to be like slaves of sin because we tend to hide from the problem until it burns out of control and resulting in dire consequences.

When we challenge ourselves to face the reality of the problem then we let the fire of  Christ burn away the impurities of our intentions.

Then like what the 1st reading said, we will be at the service of righteousness and also for our sanctification.

When we become slaves of God working for sanctifying solutions to life's problems, then we will indeed experience true peace.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 26-10-17

Romans 6:12-18 / Luke 12:39-48

We, the members of the Church are often referred to as instruments of God in which He will manifest His presence in the world.

Besides that we are also called channels of His peace and love, as the hymn "Make me a channel of Your peace" would put it.

All those descriptions give a picture of gentleness and docility, and it also gives the picture that we have to work and build the kingdom of God.

But the 1st reading gives us another image of being a Christian. It describes Christians as weapons.

It also gives the scenario of a battle, and the Christian has to make a decision as to what kind of weapon he/she is to be used for.

The 1st reading urged Christians not to let any part of their bodies turn into an unholy weapon fighting on the side of sin.

Rather, Christians should offer themselves to God and make every part of their bodies into a weapon fighting on the side of God.

So the spiritual life of a Christian is not just about being an instrument or channel of God and working and building the Kingdom of God under calm and  peaceful conditions.

There is also the need to protect the Church and the Kingdom of God by being weapons of God to fight evil and wickedness.

It is also by being instruments and channels of God's peace and love that we protect the weak and poor and helpless from harm and exploitation and oppression.

So whether it is being an instrument of God or weapon of God, we must be alert and always stand ready on God's side.

Monday, October 23, 2017

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 24-10-17

Romans 5:12, 15, 17-21 / Luke 12:35-38

The word "tomorrow" is a common word. But it is also a very versatile and a volatile word.

It is versatile in the sense that it can make us look ahead to the next day, to a fresh beginning and a new start.

But it is volatile in that we can begin to delay and procrastinate the things that we must do today.

The word "tomorrow" can give us this notion that we still have time and we begin to lose the sense of urgency.

In the gospel, Jesus reminds us about the sense of urgency, especially in doing the necessary.

No doubts about it, when we make a serious reflection on our lives, we will know what is necessary.

Yet, that is precisely the problem. We keep delaying in making time for a serious reflection in prayer.

Our excuse is that we are too busy and hence we have no time.

And we put off to tomorrow what we need to do today. Unknowingly, we have fallen into the trap and the seduction of the devil.

Yet the 1st reading reminds us that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom 5:20)

Sin lures us to say that we will pray more tomorrow ; grace urges us to pray now.

Indeed, God's time is now. He is knocking at our hearts. May we open our hearts to Him ... now!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

29th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 23-10-17

Romans 4:20-15 / Luke 12:13-21

It would not be too presumptuous to say that all of us have desires in life.

And these desires can be anything from the material to the physical to the spiritual.

So whether it is the things we want, or the state of our health, or the happiness that we are yearning for, all that can be considered as desires.

Yet for all that we desire, we may forget that we already had a fulfillment.

We may forget that God has fulfilled His promises of eternal life in Jesus.

In the 1st reading, we heard that because God made Abraham a promise, Abraham refused to deny it or even doubt it, but drew strength from his faith in God's promise.

He waited till he was 100 years-old before that promise was fulfilled. Yet for Abraham, God's promise was his treasure.

In other words, God was his treasure and his desire. And God should also be our treasure and desire.

In God alone we have everything. But without God, then all is nothing.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mission Sunday, Year A, 22.10.2017

Isaiah 2:1-5 / Ephesians 3:2-12 / Mark 16:15-20
There is one thing that we all have in common right now, and that one thing comes in pairs.

That one thing that we have in common right now is that we are wearing a pair of shoes. No one came here barefooted. Even if we have taken off our shoes a bit for whatever reason, we will still put them on again.

Shoes are not just something we put on to walk about and to protect our feet. Shoes reveal quite a bit about the person actually. And quite often we make shoe contact first before we make eye contact.

And although it is not that polite to stare, but to stare at a pair of gorgeous shoes can be quite a compliment.

For men, shoes show who they are, because shoes change the way they walk and the way they carry themselves, such that it can be said “If I ever let my head down, it will be just to admire my shoes”

For women, they will go by this saying: “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy shoes, and that’s more or less the same thing!” So most women will say this: Roses are red, violets are blue, keep the flowers, I rather have shoes.

We can remember the fairy tale of Cinderella. Well, Cinderella is a story of how a pair of shoes can change your life.

So what do shoes have to do with Mission Sunday, which the Church is celebrating this weekend?

The gospels begins with this: Jesus showed Himself to the Eleven and said to them, “Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation … “

And the gospel ends with: And so the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven. There at the right hand of God, He took His place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.

Jesus commanded His apostles to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation, and they went, preaching everywhere.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and that would be to step into a pair of good shoes.

Shoes, no matter how gorgeous they look, the most important part of the shoe is often not visible, and that part is the sole of the shoe.

We may not realise how important it is until when the sole begins to disintegrate and leave crumbs all over the place. It often happens to those spongy running shoes or tennis shoes.

Or when the sole just separates from the shoe without much of a warning. They really become like flip-flops. No matter how good they look on the top-side, when the shoe loses its sole, that’s the end of the shoe.
In a way, the sole of the shoe is quite like the soul of a person. When the soul of a person starts to crumble or disintegrates, then the person also loses direction in life and it is the beginning of the end.

Mission Sunday reminds us that our primary task as Christians is to save souls, a term which we seldom hear of nowadays. We don’t hear much of the “salvation of souls” and hence we seldom speak about it and so after a while it is also forgotten.

So we slowly forget to pray for the salvation of the world, the salvation of souls, we slowly forget that we have mission to bring souls to heaven.

We even might forget to pray for the departed. In the past, there is this prayer invocation: “May the divine assistance remain always with us, and may the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.” We seldom hear of it now.

Yes, we must pray for those who are in living here in this world, as well as for the souls in Purgatory.

Because heaven is for real, and Jesus wants us all to be in heaven with Him, and we have that mission of bringing souls to heaven.

But how real is heaven for us? Do we long to go there, and will we help others to go there too?

There is this book “Heaven is for Real”, which was also made into a movie with the same title.

It is about a true story (true or not it is left us to believe) of a young boy's astounding story of his trip to Heaven and back. The book documents the report of a near-death experience of the four-year-old boy Colton Burpo.

Todd Burpo is a pastor and his son Colton had a life-saving emergency surgery on March 5, 2003 at the age of four. During the months after surgery, Colton began describing events and people that seemed impossible for him to have known about. Examples include knowledge of an unborn sister miscarried by his mother in 1998 and details of a great-grandfather who had died 30 years before Colton was born. Colton also said how he met Jesus riding a rainbow-coloured horse and sat in Jesus' lap while angels sang songs to him. He also saw Mary kneeling before the throne of God and at other times standing beside Jesus.

Among the many profound and intriguing dialogues in the movie was this:
Colton: "Mommy"
Sonja: "Yes, Colton"
Colton: "Did you know I have a sister?"
Sonja: "Don’t you know that Cassie's your sister?"
Colton: "No, I have two sisters. You had a baby die in your tummy, didn't you?"
Sonja: "Honey, who told you I had a baby die in my tummy?"
Colton: "In heaven, this little girl came up to me. She told me she died in your tummy."
And then when the mother asked her son what was that little girl’s name, Colton replied: She didn’t have a name. You didn’t give her a name.
It is a good story to read and a good movie to watch. To believe the story or not is another matter.

But as the title says it “Heaven is for real”. And that’s the Good News that is proclaimed on Mission Sunday. 

We must believe that Jesus wants us to be in heaven and He also wants us to help others go to heaven.

We may not have a great or dramatic story to tell but our mission is to walk with others and to even walk in their shoes so that together we walk in the paths of the Lord and journey towards heaven.

Let us share with others the good shoes of faith and walk with them that journey of a thousand miles. Let us remember that the salvation of their souls are our responsibility.

Friday, October 20, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 21-10-17

Romans 4:13, 16-18 / Luke 12:9-12

The Chinese (as well as other races) have this tradition of having a family name, or what is called a surname.

By the surname, one would be identified with a family or with a clan, even though in the present times, two persons having the same surname would not necessarily have any family connection whatsoever.

The surname is not just some kind of identification with a family or clan or group of people.

It is also an indication of the blood ties between the members of that family or clan or group.

And from there the genealogy or the ancestry of the members can be traced.

The 1st reading recalled the promise made by God to Abraham and his descendants.

God promised Abraham that his descendants will be as many as the stars in heaven.

When we refer to the genealogy list in the gospel of Matthew, we see the descendants of Abraham going right down to Jesus, and from there the inheritance of the descendants of Abraham was expressed as the Church and in Christians.

So Abraham is our father in faith and we are his descendants. We carry the name of Christian and we are united in faith in that name and bear witness to the faith that Abraham had in God.

As Jesus said in the gospel, when we bear witness for God, we also bear witness to our faith and to the Church that we belong to.

On the other hand, when we counter-witness to God, we also counter-witness to our faith and to the Church.

May the Holy Spirit always help us bear witness to God in truth and in love so that we can worthily be called descendants of Abraham and receive our eternal inheritance.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 20-10-17

Romans 4:1-8 / Luke 12:1-7

If we ever get into heaven, we ought to be surprised, maybe because we should be surprised that we could ever get there in the first place.

Indeed, how many of us can say that we truly deserve to be in heaven.

We may be baptised, live religious lives, are good people and maybe even doing service and great things for the Lord.

But does that mean that we can claim for ourselves a place in heaven?

The 1st reading says that if a person has work to show, his wages are not considered as favour, but rather his due.

But when a person has nothing to show except his faith and trust in God, then that person is truly blessed.

Abraham was given as an example of a man who put his faith in God, and hence his faith was a blessing for him.

Indeed, faith is truly a gift from God. It is because we see faith as a gift from God, that our deeds are acts of thanksgiving and to glorify God.

Then our deeds would not be for selfish and self-glorifying motives.

We would not want to be hypocritical because we know that God sees everything and knows what is deep in our hearts.

Finally, when we see God face to face, there is no need to talk about the good we have done.

We just want to give thanks to God for our faith and Him and for letting us be with Him forever.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 19-10-17

Romans 3:21-30 / Luke 11:47-54

The prophetic voice is a voice that consoles as well as disturbs.

It consoles the oppressed and it disturbs the oppressor.

But besides having the double-edged sword of consolation and desolation, the prophetic voice calls for justice.

The 1st reading tells us that the Law and the Prophets had made known the justice of God.

But it is by faith that this justice of God is revealed to the one who believes in Jesus Christ.

This justice of God is essentially His mercy and compassion that leads us to be reconciled with Him.

So whenever Jesus preached about God's mercy and compassion, it brought consolation to the oppressed.

But for the oppressors like the Pharisees and scribes, it disturbed them.

Because if they were to practice mercy and compassion in their lives, they would have to act justly and humbly.

It may also disturb us if we were to have mercy and compassion on those who do not deserve it.

But in being disturbed, we will be awakened to act justly and humbly, and we will also be able to speak with a prophetic voice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

St. Luke, Evangelist, Wednesday, 18-10-17

2 Tim 4:10-17 / Luke 10:1-9

St. Luke was not one of the 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus, but he is venerated as the Evangelist who wrote the fourth gospel as well as the Acts of the Apostles. This is the traditional view of the Church.

Although he was not mentioned in the gospels, he was featured in the epistles of St. Paul of  the New Testament.

He was mentioned in St. Paul's Epistle to Philemon, verse 24. He is also mentioned in Colossians 4:14. And he was also mentioned in the 1st reading of today. St. Paul mentioned about him in only five words - Only Luke is with me.

And that said volumes about St. Luke because St. Paul was suffering persecution and abandonment and his only source of consolation was that he had the company of St. Luke, and by mentioning that, it showed how much St. Paul appreciated him.

Furthermore, it was nearing the end of St. Paul's life in Rome that St. Luke was keeping him company and that was a testimony of how much St. Luke was involved in the ministry of the early Church as well as of his faith and character.

St. Luke knew first hand the challenges and difficulties of the mission of proclaiming the Good News and also the commitment and the sacrifices that are involved.

So as we read about his account in the gospel of Jesus sending out His disciples, we can sense that it was from the depths of his missionary experience that he wrote it.

Yes, we are being sent out to proclaim the Good News but it is like lambs being sent among wolves.

Yet in the midst of danger and difficulties, let us keep in mind how St. Luke kept St. Paul company.

It is in keeping company with each other in unity and peace that we are able to face the wolves and proclaim the Good News of God's saving love.

Monday, October 16, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 17-10-17

Romans 1:16-25 / Luke 11:37-41

The use of sacramentals in the Church is a meaningful practice.

Sacramentals are blessed objects such as holy water, crucifix, rosary, holy pictures and statues.

Most Catholics will use such sacramentals during prayer and some will even kiss the holy pictures and touch the statues.

But of course, we are clear that we don't worship statues or use holy pictures as some kind of talisman.

But as much as we know the meaning and the purpose of sacramentals in our religious life, when it comes to our secular life, we get it all mixed up.

We fall into this problem of making things the centre of our lives.

For example, some get so absorbed with their personal computers or gadgets that they could not see that those things are now controlling them.

Some get so absorbed with another human being that they create a personality cult and that's why pop singers, movie stars and sports stars have a fan club.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul pointed out the the impiety and the depravity of man have caused them to exchange the glory of the immortal God for a worthless imitation of mortal man, of birds, or animals, or of whatever.

All this happened because the truth of God is suppressed and imprisoned by the wickedness of man.

Indeed, human beings have that ability to suppress God's truth in themselves and deny God's sovereignty.

Let us ask Jesus to cleanse our hearts, so that the truth of God will set us free to worship the one true God.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

28th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 16-10-17

Romans 1:1-7 / Luke 11:29-32

As we begin a new day, we may already have in our minds a list of things to do.

Yes, for us who live busy lives, there are indeed many things to do everyday.

And when the day comes to an end, we might still have things that are not done yet, or not finished yet, and we have to bring them over to the next day.

Yet as Catholics, we have to ask ourselves a deep question. It is not about how much we are doing, but rather what is the purpose and the meaning of what we are doing.

In the 1st reading, St. Paul tells us of what should be the purpose and the meaning of what we are doing and what our lives should be all about.

Indeed, in whatever we are doing, we show others a sign of the presence of Jesus, be it His love, His care, His mercy and compassion and forgiveness.

Just as Jesus took on human nature in order to be a sign of God's incarnate presence, we are now called to be signs of the presence of Jesus in the world.

Hence, in all we do, others must be able to see a sign of God's presence in us.

That is what is meant by sanctifying the day with our work. It is about holiness in all that we do.

And that is the sign that others will be looking for in each of us.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

28th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 15.10.2017

Isaiah 25:6-10 / Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 / Matthew 22:1-14

This year is dedicated to the celebration of the centennial of the Marian apparitions at Fatima.

By now, we would know what it is all about. It has been a hundred years since Our Lady appeared to the three peasant children at an obscure village called Fatima in Portugal.

And to mark the occasion, a statue of the Pilgrim Virgin is in Singapore and it went to some parishes, schools and centres, and many people participated in the prayers, the vigils and the devotions.

But to begin with, Fatima is a rather unique and maybe odd-sounding name. It somehow doesn’t sound quite like the usual Catholic or Christian names. For all that is connected with it, Fatima is not that popular when it comes to choosing a name for baptism.

According to some sources, the town of Fatima was named after a Moorish princess who was kidnapped by a Portuguese knight, but later they fell in love and the rest of the story is just for reading pleasure. But at least we now know where the name came from.

As to why God would choose a town with such a peculiar name for Mary to make her apparitions, it can only be said that God uses jagged ways to give His messages.

And today’s gospel parable can be said as one of the jagged ways that God uses to give us a teaching, although it may leave us rather puzzled and scratching our heads.

The parable begins with a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to all those who had been invited, but they would not come. No reason was given for their refusal.

The king invited them again, but they were not interested. One went to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized the servants, maltreated them and even killed them. The king was furious and he sent his troops to destroy those murderers and also destroyed their town.

It is quite jarring as we hear invitation turning to destruction, and celebration turning to violence.

And then the king sent his servants to the cross-roads to invite everyone they could find to the wedding, the bad and the good alike. 

At this point, the parable is already jagged enough with all that violence and contradictions. And as if that is not enough, a man without a wedding garment had to be thrown out into the dark, where there was weeping and grinding of teeth.

It is such a jagged parable that it can be quite difficult to understand. Its jaggedness disturbs us, but it calls for our attention. And that’s how God speaks to us.

Taking the parable literally does not make much sense. But when its jagged edges cut into our hearts, then we get glimpses of what Jesus is telling us in the parable.

Last Friday, 13th October, was the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady to the three children at Fatima. 100 years ago that day, our Lady promised a sign that will prove that her messages are from heaven, messages that must be heeded for the conversion and salvation of the world.

In what is termed as the “miracle of the sun”, the storm clouds parted, revealing the sun as an immense silver disk shining with an intensity never before seen, though it was not blinding. Then the immense disk began to "dance." The sun spun rapidly like a gigantic circle of fire. Then it stopped momentarily, only to begin spinning again. Its rim became scarlet; whirling, it scattered red flames across the sky. All this lasted about 10 minutes, and witnessed by the 70,000 crowd gathered there, as well as by numerous witnesses up to twenty-five miles away from the place of the apparition.

We would think that with such a sign, there would be mass conversions and that people would believe in God and be God-fearing and lead religious lives from then on.

But it doesn't seem to be the case. From 1917 to this day, the world has seen two world wars, and many other hostilities that seem to snub those signs from heaven and snub the call to repentance.

If the gospel parable sounds jagged, the world has shown that it is like a hacksaw blade that cuts deep into the flesh of humanity and caused much bloodshed.

So the call to prayer and penance, to repentance and conversion, which is the essential message at Fatima was not heeded, even after a hundred years.

But it is not all hopelessness and jaggedness. 
Last Friday, the 13th October, we had our monthly Rosary at Mary’s shrine. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of Our Lady at Fatima, the catechists of our parish asked the parents of the children in the catechism classes to bring their children along because we wanted the children to lead the Rosary.

Well, the parents brought their children along; or is it that the children brought their parents along? Whatever it might be, the children and the youth led the Rosary with the help of their catechists.

With children leading the Rosary, it may not be that polished, there were some jagged edges here and there, but it was heart-warming to hear the chirpy voices of children reciting the Rosary, and with that it brought about a renewed hope for the future of our parish and for the Church.

Because the 1st reading mentions of this mountain, and this mountain is the Church. On this mountain (the Church)
the Lord of hosts will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food. 
On this mountain He will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples, and the shroud enwrapping all nations, He will destroy Death for ever.
The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek; He will take away His people’s shame everywhere on earth,
for the Lord has said so.

So the Lord of hosts invites each of us come to His holy dwelling, to His holy mountain, to offer prayer and praise, and not to be silent like the man without the wedding garment in the gospel parable.

We bring our children along and we must teach our children to pray and to worship the Lord.  

Together with their prayer, the conversion and salvation of the world is not just a possibility. It will be a reality. We have waited a hundred years. Let us wait no longer.

Friday, October 13, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Saturday, 14-10-17

Joel 4:12-21 / Luke 11:27-28

It is a fact that babies have a special attention and intimate affiliation to their mothers' voices.

In other words, babies respond more readily to their mothers' voices, because it is a voice that they had heard since the time they were in the womb.

At the same time, we can also say that the mother will have a special attention to her baby's cry.

In a room that may have other babies making all sorts of sounds, a mother can instinctively pick out her baby's cry and attend to it immediately.

Such is the level of attention and intimacy that Jesus is talking about when He said that blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it.

It is like that of a baby who has a special attention to its mother's voice because of the intimate relationship with the mother.

Yes, the Word of God resonates and calls for a deep intimacy in our hearts so that when God speaks to us, we will listen and act on it.

Yet, we also know that communication is not a one way relationship. God also listens when we cry out to Him.

Just as mothers will immediately respond to their babies' cry, God will also respond immediately when we cry out in our distress.

And when God responds, it will be like what the 1st reading described: The Lord roars from Zion, makes His voice heard from Jerusalem.

The Lord's voice is loud enough if we really want to listen. Just as we speak to God, God will also speak to us.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 13-10-17

Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2 / Luke 11:15-26

Today is the 100th anniversary of the last apparition of our Lady to the three young children at Fatima. 100 years ago this day, our Lady promised them a sign from heaven to prove that her messages are to be heeded for the conversion of sinners.

At this last apparition of our Lady, there was this miracle of the sun. The clouds parted, revealing the sun as an immense silver disk shining with an intensity never before seen, though not blinding. Then the immense disk began to "dance." The sun spun rapidly like a gigantic circle of fire. Then it stopped momentarily, only to begin spinning again. Its rim became scarlet; whirling, it scattered red flames across the sky. All this lasted about 10 minutes, and witnessed by the 70,000 crowd gathered there, as well as by numerous witnesses up to twenty-five miles away from the place of the apparition.

We would think that with such a sign, there would be mass conversions and that people would believe in God and be God-fearing and lead religious lives from then on.

But it doesn't seem to be the case. From 1917 to this day, the world has seen two world wars, and many other hostilities that seem to snub those signs from heaven and the call to repentance.

And that was what happened to Jesus after He had cast out a devil. Instead of being awed by the power and authority of Jesus over evil spirits, some people can even say that He cast out devils through the power of Beelzebul, the prince of devils.

At times, we may wonder how much longer will God tolerate the stubbornness of man before He turns His hand and punishes all those who do evil and refuse to repent.

But let us also not be complacent and think that we are better than those evil and bad people and hence we will escape the punishment from God.

If we have turned away from sin and evil, then we must keep walking towards God and be united with Jesus.

Because Jesus gave this warning: When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one, it says, "I will go back to the home I came from." But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and brings seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and set up house there, so that the man ends up by being worse than he was before.

That is certainly a grave warning for us not to be complacent. The devil will never cease in his attempts to make us stray from the Lord, and that is why Jesus says, "He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters."

Let us heed those signs from God calling us to a deeper repentance and to grow in holiness of life so as to prepare ourselves for the day of the Lord.

Let us fast and do penance and cry out to the Lord, not just for ourselves, but also for the salvation of the world. That is what Jesus meant when He asks us to gather with Him. That is also the message of our Lady at Fatima.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 12-10-17

Malachi 3:13-20 / Luke 11:5-13

It is difficult to find someone who has not had a complaint. In fact we can say that there had never existed anyone who never had a complaint.

We can even say that to complain is to be human - I complain therefore I am  :P :)

And we know in what forms the complaints come in - letters, email, phone calls, etc.

But have we ever heard about God complaining? In the 1st reading, the Lord God has this to say: You say harsh things about me.

And why did God say that? It was because the people were saying that it was useless to serve God and to keep His commandments.

Yes, the arrogant and evil doers prosper; they try God's patience and yet go free. Hence, those who try to stay faithful to the Lord God complain and say harsh things about the Lord.

And that was why the Lord God complained that the people say harsh things about Him.

But God's complaint does not stop there. He will act for those who fear Him and take refuge in His name.

The evil and the arrogant will be punished, but those who are faithful to the Lord will be rewarded.

Similarly as much as we have complaints, let us keep asking, knocking and searching for God's promises to be fulfilled.

May our complaining be turned into thanksgiving.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 11-10-17

Jonah 4:1-11 / Luke 11:1-4

One of the sports that is really amazing is gymnastics.

The graceful and yet gravity-defying movements are really astonishing and wonderful to see.

We will certainly admire the gymnasts for what they can do on the exercise floor, the parallel bars and the roman rings.

Yet, we can also be sure that they have put in many hours of practice, many hours of sweat and pain.

All that just for the sake of sports and maybe for a medal.

Jesus was looked upon by  people as a teacher with authority, a healer, a miracle-worker and some may even see the divinity in Him.

More than that, when the disciples saw Him praying, they also knew that the wonderful work He was doing flowed from His prayer.

They too wanted to feel that power and hence they also wanted to learn how to pray and what prayer He used.

Jesus taught them the prayer of the "Our Father" or the "Lord's Prayer".

That is the heart of all the Church's prayer. Obviously it is not meant to be said occasionally or sporadically.

We have to "practise" that prayer constantly - we have to pray it. And it has to go from just saying that prayer to living out that prayer.

We will have to have rigours of "practice" - the monotony, the boredom, the frustration, the doubt.

But when we are faithful to it, we too will experience power flowing out of our prayer, the  power of love that flows through our lives towards God and others.

Monday, October 9, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Tuesday, 10-10-17

Jonah 3:1-10 / Luke 10:38-42

It's one thing to know that we have a bad habit, or an addiction, but yet it is another thing to kick it out or to change our habits.

One simple example is watching TV.

We can get into the habit of just sitting in front of the TV and let time fly, and slowly it becomes an addiction.

And short of throwing away the TV, we might find it real difficult to kick this bad habit or the addiction of wasting time and watching rubbish.

So what is the key to change, to conversion, to repentance?

Relying simply on will-power might be out of the question, because we know how often will-power has failed us when it comes to an addiction.

But yet the key is also in the will-power.

The will-power must be empowered by the truth; only then can the will-power respond to the call for conversion and repentance.

The people of Nineveh repented because they heard the truth from Jonah, and they responded.

That is also what Jesus is highlighting in today's gospel.

The one thing needed and which is necessary is to listen - to listen to the truth and to be open to it.

Listening to the truth and being open to it is what is needed if we are to respond to God's call to conversion and repentance.

May our hearts be opened to that truth.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

27th Week, Ordinary Time, Monday, 09-10-17

Jonah 1:1 - 2:1, 11 / Luke 10:25-37

The late Cardinal John Henry Newman struggled to understand the mystery of his own life, as well as the meaning and purpose of life.

As he prayed, he came to this conclusion: God has created him to do some definite service. God has committed some work to him which He has not committed to another. Hence, he has a particular mission in life.

Cardinal Newman was an Anglican cleric, but after researching and studying Scriptures and Church doctrines, he felt that he had to return to the roots of the Church.

Subsequently, he became a Catholic and devoted his life and intellectual talents to teaching and explaining the Catholic faith.

That was what he felt was his mission and meaning of his life.

As we reflect on today's readings, we also see two characters who had to struggle with their mission and finding the meaning of their lives.

The prophet Jonah tried to avoid his mission but God's call was just too strong to evade.

In the gospel, Jesus portrayed the Samaritan as someone who faced the basic human mission of helping another human being who was in need, and that called for the putting aside of the discrimination and the animosity.

So God has a mission for us, for each one of us.

Certainly, each of us has a particular calling to a particular service to God.

But let us also not forget our basic human mission, and that is to be a neighbour of love to those in need.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

27th Ordinary Sunday, Year A, 08.10.2017

Isaiah 5:1-7 / Philippians 4:6-9 / Matthew 21:33-43

It is said that today’s children is tomorrow’s hope. There is nothing new or profound about that. We all know that the future belongs to the children and the youth of today.

For those of us who have children, what would we have to say about them? The general feedback from parents will tell us this: children can be a joy, but at times they can be a pain.

They can be a joy especially when they come back from school and they tell us what they have learnt, and then they ask us all those funny corny questions like:
- Which bird wears a wig? – the bald eagle
- What do you call a fly without wings? – a walk
- What has four wheels and flies? – a garbage truck.

And when you try to teach them something, they can come up with something else. A father was trying to teach his young son about the evils of alcohol. He put one worm in a glass of water and another worm in a glass of whiskey. The worm in the water lived, while the one in the whiskey curled up and died. So the father asked his son, “Now what does that show you?” The son replied, “It shows that if you drink whiskey, you won’t have any worms!”

And children can be a pain because with each having their own rooms, they will close the door and you don’t know if they are in or not? Even knocking on the door might not get any response. But to find out, you just have to turn off the wi-fi, and they will appear suddenly.
But that is not as painful and hurting as the song of the vineyard in the 1st reading. The prophet Isaiah sings of a song of a man’s love for his vineyard: “My friend had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. He dug the soil, cleared it of stones and planted choice vines in it. In the middle he built a tower, he dug a press there too. He expected it to yield grapes, but sour grapes were all that it gave.”

But it is not just about a man’s love for his vineyard and the sour grapes that it produced. It calls for the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the men of Judah to look at themselves as the People of God, and what kind of fruits they were producing.

And in case they were still wondering what it all meant, the final verses of the 1st reading says it all: Yes, the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah that chosen plant. He expected justice, but found bloodshed, integrity, but only a cry of distress.

The 1st reading reveals the pain and hurt of God over His people. If that is a sad story, then the gospel parable is a rather violent one. It is also about a vineyard but it is a blood-soaked vineyard, as the bad and evil tenants maltreated and even killed the landowner’s servants and even the landowner’s son.

Jesus told this parable to the chief priests and the elders of the people and in case they didn’t get it, Jesus tells it straight to them: ‘I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’
In both the 1st reading and the gospel parable, God expected from His people justice and integrity, but what He got was cries of distress and bloodshed.

God demands an accountability for the blessings He bestowed on His people, and after many warnings and in the time of reckoning, when instead of finding justice and integrity, He gets cries of distress and bloodshed, then God will punish, He will turn His hand against His people, though He will not turn His heart from them.

We are God’s people, His children. He expects from us justice and integrity, He expects from us an accountability.

But that is also what we expect from our children. We expect from them justice and integrity. We expect from them an accountability of the values and principles that we have taught them.

And we must teach them and correct them when they go wrong, just as God will correct us when we go wrong.

A little boy came up to his mother in the kitchen one evening while she was preparing dinner, and he handed her a piece of paper that he had been writing on. After his mom dried her hands on an apron, she read it, and this is what it said:
For cutting the grass: $5.00
For cleaning up my room this week: $1.00
For going to the store for you: $1.50
Baby-sitting my kid brother while you went shopping: $1.25
Taking out the garbage: $1.00
For getting a good report card: $5.00
For cleaning up the porch: $2.00
Total owed: $14.75

Well, his mother looked at him standing there, and the boy could see the memories flashing through her mind. She picked up the pen, turned over the paper he'd written on, and this is what she wrote:

For the nine months I carried you while you grew inside me: No Charge.
For all the nights that I've sat up with you, doctored and prayed for you: No Charge.
For all the trying times, and all the tears that you've caused through the years: No Charge.
For all the nights that were filled with dread, and for the worries I knew were ahead: No Charge.
For the toys, food, clothes, and even wiping your nose: No Charge.
When you add it up, my son, the cost of my love is: No Charge."

When the boy finished reading what his mother had written, he hung his head down and then he looked straight up at his mother and said, "Mommy, I love you."
And then he took the pen and in great big letters he wrote: "PAID IN FULL".

Children’s Day was celebrated last Friday. And when we think about it, children are living messages we send to a time we will not see.
And so what are we teaching them? What are we telling them?
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. And since children are great imitators, then we must give them something great to imitate. Children may close their ears to advice but they open their eyes to example.

The month of October is called the Month of the Rosary and the call is to pray the rosary. 

The spiritual crisis that the Church is facing is that families don’t pray the Rosary, and much less, pray at all. We have a duty to be examples of prayer and to pray the Rosary as a family at home. It is a duty that we will be held accountable for.

Our children are the Church’s most valuable resource and her best hope for the future.

We must teach them to pray and be examples of prayer for them, so that they will show the world what is justice and integrity, so as to put a stop to the distress and bloodshed we see now.

And if we think that the prayer of children doesn’t amount to much by worldly standards, then Psalm 8 has this to tell us: How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth! Your majesty is praised above the heavens;
on the lips of children and of babes you have found praise to foil your enemy, to silence the foe and the rebel.

That’s the power that children have, and may they always have that power as they grow into the future. That power flows from prayer. Let us pray and they will follow.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Our Lady of the Rosary, Saturday, 07-10-17

Acts 1:12-14 / Luke 1:26-38

Today, the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the yearly feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. This feast commemorates the 1571 naval victory which secured Europe against Turkish invasion. Pope St. Pius V attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was invoked on the day of the battle through a campaign to pray the Rosary throughout Europe.

Crew members on more than 200 ships prayed the Rosary in preparation for the battle - as did Christians throughout Europe, encouraged by the Pope to gather in their churches to invoke the Virgin Mary against the daunting Turkish forces.

Some accounts say that Pope Pius V was granted a miraculous vision of the Holy League's stunning victory. Without a doubt, the Pope understood the significance of the day's events, when he was eventually informed that all but 13 of the nearly 300 Turkish ships had been captured or sunk. He was moved to institute the feast now celebrated universally as Our Lady of the Rosary.

“It has always been the practice of Catholics in danger and in troubled times to fly for refuge to Mary.” (Pope Leo XIII)

“This devotion, so great and so confident, to the august Queen of Heaven,” Pope Leo continued, “has never shone forth with such brilliancy as when the Church of God has seemed to be endangered by the violence of heresy, or by an intolerable moral corruption, or by the attacks of powerful enemies.” Foremost among such “attacks” was the battle of Lepanto, a perilous and decisive moment in European and Church history. That is why the Church commemorates that event in a celebration of a feast.

The development of the rosary has a long history. First a practice developed of praying 150 Our Fathers in imitation of the 150 Psalms. Then there was a parallel practice of praying 150 Hail Marys. Soon a mystery of Jesus’ life was attached to each Hail Mary. In 2002, Pope John Paul II added five Mysteries of Light to this devotion, known as the Luminous Mysteries.

The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. The main focus is on Jesus - His birth, life, death, and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that God the Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Marys remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of His earthly and heavenly existence. The Glory Bes remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.

The Rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We can feel that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Friday, 06-10-17

Baruch 1:15-22 / Luke 10:13-16

When things go wrong, there is the tendency to pin the blame on someone or something.

But this tendency also reveals the self-defence mechanism of avoiding any blame on ourselves, especially when it seems that there is no involvement on our part.

And even if we have some involvement in it, we would want to point fingers at the main culprit. The last thing that we would do would be to point fingers at ourselves.

In the 1st reading, the book of Baruch states this: We have sinned in the sight of the Lord, have disobeyed him, and have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord has ordained for us.

Baruch goes on to say that the disasters and the curse which the Lord pronounced through Moses have sized up them, disasters they had experienced one after another.

Baruch and his people could have succumbed to the tendency of pushing the blame to everyone else, God included, for these disasters.

But as Baruch acknowledged, integrity belongs to the Lord God, and to them the look of shame. Pushing the blame around is not going to help them; they need to repent in humility.

Similarly for us, when problems and bad things start to happen, let us not look around for scapegoats to pin the blame on. In one way or another, we have a share in contributing to the problems when things go wrong.

Let us listen to the voice of the Lord who calls us to repent. Rejection of His voice and denial of any wrong-doing will lead only to disasters.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Thursday, 05-10-17

Nehemiah 8:1-12 / Luke 10:1-12

The cutting edge of our faith is this teaching of Jesus - Love your enemies.

That teaching alone encompasses forgiveness and compassion.

It is the cutting edge of our faith because precisely that teaching cuts and opens up our convictions in the teaching of Jesus.

If "Love your enemies" is the cutting edge, then the forward thrust  of our faith is this teaching of Jesus in today's gospel - I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.

We can call it the forward thrust because Christianity by nature is not passive ; it is active ; it is missionary.

And it moves out, not into friendly territory, but into hostile lands, into places where Christianity is not welcomed.

It is precisely in the forward thrust of being sent like lambs among wolves that we have to use to use the cutting edge of loving our enemies and returning good for evil.

So Christianity is not a joy ride in a theme part, in that it looks dangerous, but actually it is quite safe.

No, Christianity is about blood, sweat and tears, and the stories of the martyrs, saints and missionaries tell us that.

Yet, despite the fear of the wolves and the repulsion of loving our enemies, we are assured of this.

The joy of the Lord is our stronghold, the joy of the Lord is our strength.

The Lord will go with us to face the wolves, and with His love, they will change from ravenous wolves into meek lambs.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

26th Week, Ordinary Time, Wednesday, 04-10-17

Nehemiah 2:1-8 / Luke 9:57-62

An employee is entitled a certain number of days of annual leave. If those days are taken up and the employee still needs more leave, then the employee may request for unpaid leave and it is up to the company to grant.

But given the tight job market in Singapore, requesting for unpaid leave is certainly quite risky and it will affect the appraisal of the employee, to say the least.

In the 1st reading, we heard that Nehemiah, a Jew who was  the wine-cup bearer of the Persian king Artaxerxes, requested to take leave of his services to the king so as to go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down by the enemies.

More than just asking to take leave, he also asked for the letters of authorisation and even for supplies to re-build the walls of Jerusalem.

Certainly, it was a very bold request for a mere servant to ask of his king.

But before making the request, Nehemiah called on the God of heaven and then made reply to the king and made the request.

And the king granted Nehemiah's request. And that shows us once again, how wonderful it is when we put our needs first into the hands of God and to ask for His blessings.

And more so when we take this direction in our work, then we will find joy and meaning in our work and through our work we will give glory to God.